Nearly 3 million Americans rely on blood thinners each year to prevent and control blood clots, but some people are now looking to medical marijuana as a potential replacement or supplement. The compounds found in cannabis may hold great promise for individuals with heart and blood vessel conditions, but medical experts still have some concerns.
What Is a Blood Thinner?
A blood thinner doesn’t actually thin your blood; it’s a substance that has anticoagulant or antiplatelet properties. These medications are designed to prevent blood clots, which is important as clots can clog arteries, prevent oxygen from reaching vital organs, and even lead to life-threatening events like a heart attack or stroke.
Anticoagulants are compounds that prevent clots from forming and prevent existing clots from getting bigger. Medicines like warfarin and heparin are examples of anticoagulants.
Antiplatelet substances prevent platelets in your blood from sticking together to form clots. Over-the-counter aspirin is an example of a medication with antiplatelet properties.
Blood thinners—whether anticoagulant or antiplatelet—are used to treat a variety of conditions that are caused, threatened, or exacerbated by blood clots. Examples include:
- Abnormal heart arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation
- Congenital heart disorders
- Certain chronic blood vessel diseases
- Ischemic heart disease
- Heart valve replacements
In addition, if you’ve undergone a surgery that may increase your risk of clotting, your physician may recommend a blood thinner as a preventive measure.
Is Marijuana a Blood Thinner?
Marijuana has been shown to have some anticoagulant properties and may act as a natural blood thinner. Not much research has been done to examine the reasons why, but cannabinoids appear to impact the ways in which platelets clot.
As a result, some patients are turning to marijuana as a replacement for their conventional blood thinner, as marijuana doesn’t have the side effects of many pharmaceutical drugs. Even aspirin can damage the stomach if used regularly, but cannabis appears to have no such long-term effects.
Still, doctors advise caution, especially for patients with a significant heart condition. The full anticoagulant effects of marijuana are not fully understood, and some patients may benefit more than others. In addition, each strain of cannabis has a unique profile of cannabinoids and terpenes, and not all cannabis plants affect the blood in the same way.
Can Medical Marijuana Replace Your Blood Thinners?
More research is needed to determine if marijuana can safely replace blood-thinning medications. We do know that marijuana has anticoagulant properties, but it’s yet to be determined whether cannabis can prevent clotting with the same effectiveness as conventional medications.
If you want to pursue medical marijuana as a natural alternative to blood thinners, you should always do it under the supervision of a physician. Your doctor can monitor your blood pressure, platelet levels, and other vitals, and they can perform other tests to check for clotting. They might also make specific dosage recommendations and monitor the effects of different marijuana strains that you try.
Is It Safe to Use Medical Marijuana With Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners and cannabis are both well-tolerated on their own, but combining them can have unexpected outcomes. That’s why it’s so important to speak with your doctor before mixing the two.
Some medical professionals are concerned about the potential dangers of mixing pharmaceutical blood thinners with cannabis. It appears that marijuana inhibits the metabolism of the blood thinner, thereby increasing the anticoagulant effect.
While more blood-thinning might sound like a good thing, remember that a certain amount of clotting is necessary. Without it, we would bleed uncontrollably at the slightest blood vessel injury. Excessive bleeding and internal hemorrhages can result from high anticoagulant levels in the body.
A knowledgeable physician can help you to find the right dosage to stay safe. It depends on the marijuana strain and the type of blood thinner. For instance, a recent case review found that people using marijuana while on warfarin should reduce their drug intake by 30% to avoid a bleeding risk.
Is CBD Oil a Blood Thinner?
Cannabidiol (CBD) may also have blood-thinning properties, even when it’s derived from hemp instead of cannabis. This is of particular concern because CBD requires no subscription, is not subject to federal regulation, and is typically not consumed under a doctor’s supervision.
If you’re not on blood thinners, CBD won’t likely present any risk. However, once again, there is some concern for individuals who use CBD and traditional blood thinners concurrently. CBD has been shown to interact with blood-thinning agents like naproxen, ibuprofen, and warfarin. As with cannabis, CBD appears to block the drugs’ metabolism, leading to higher levels of the drug inside the body.
This seems to suggest that CBD is partly to blame for marijuana’s effect on blood thinners. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis, and it interacts with the same cannabinoid receptors as THC.
How to Consume Marijuana When You’re On Blood Thinners
The manner in which you consume marijuana—smoking vs. edibles vs. vaping, etc…—can impact your level of risk if you have a heart condition that requires blood thinners. CDC data suggests that smoking accounts for nearly 80% of adult marijuana use, but inhaling smoke into the lungs can be hazardous for someone with a heart or blood vessel condition.
Marijuana affects the cardiovascular system regardless of how it’s consumed, but smoke-free ingestion is the safest bet for someone at risk. Edibles, tinctures, and capsules are available, offering all the anticoagulant properties without the smoke inhalation. Just note that when consuming edibles, you must be very careful about your dosage. Because edibles are partially digested and metabolized by the liver, they are far more potent than smoked marijuana flower.
Making Sound Decisions Regarding Marijuana & Blood Thinners
To recap, medical marijuana has some blood-thinning properties, but it can be difficult to predict how it will fare when used alongside or in place of traditional blood thinners. If you’re thinking of using marijuana for its anticoagulant qualities:
- Always do so under the supervision of a doctor
- Be especially cautious if you have an existing heart condition
- Avoid smoking if other consumption methods are available
Finally, note how marijuana affects your heart. If you notice palpitations, increased heartbeat, or other heart-related symptoms, see your doctor right away.
Green Health Docs has physicians located in states throughout the U.S. Our doctors can help you to make an informed decision as to whether medical marijuana might be right for you. Our doctors are authorized to provide medical marijuana certifications in their respective states, so you can register as a patient and discover the benefits for yourself. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to obtain your medical marijuana card online.
As long as you maintain professional supervision, follow your doctor’s advice, and watch out for any unusual symptoms, you should be able to consume safely whether you’re already on blood thinners or looking to preserve your cardiovascular health naturally.