Naturally Occurring Cannabinoids and their Role in Modulation of Cardiovascular Health

J Diet Suppl. 2020;17(5):625-650. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1790708. Epub 2020 Jul 17.


In recent years, the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in various cardiovascular conditions has been a subject of great interest. The ECS is composed of cannabinoid receptors, their endogenous ligands, also known as endocannabinoids, and enzymes responsible for the synthesis and degradation of endocannabinoids. Several lines of evidence suggest that the ECS plays a complex role in cardiac and vascular systems; however, under normal physiological conditions the functions of the ECS are limited. Overactivation of components of the ECS has been associated with various cardiovascular conditions. Intriguingly, activation of the ECS may also reflect a cardioprotective compensatory mechanism. With this knowledge, a range of naturally occurring and synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists, as well as inhibitors of endocannabinoid metabolic enzymes have emerged as promising approaches for the treatment or management of cardiovascular health. This review will first focus on the known role of the ECS in regulating the cardiovascular system. Secondly, we discuss emerging data highlighting the therapeutic potential of naturally occurring non-psychoactive ECS modulators within the cardiovascular system, including phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and the endocannabinoid-like molecule palmitoylethanolamide.

Keywords: cannabidiol (CBD); cannabinoid receptors; cannabis; cardiovascular disease; endocannabinoids; endocannabinoid system; palmitoylethanolamide; phytocannabinoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amides / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Palmitic Acids / pharmacology
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Amides
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Ethanolamines
  • Palmitic Acids
  • Terpenes
  • palmidrol