Updated on August 26, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is now legal in many states throughout the U.S. This is excellent news for patients struggling with several debilitating disorders that medical marijuana can effectively treat. However, this does raise more questions about the effect it might have on certain conditions, especially those that require patients to take other medications, as well.
One of these medications is blood thinners. Since the anticoagulant effect of blood thinners can be increased with cannabis, many medical professionals refuse to recommend cannabis for patients who are on this type of medication. What they don’t realize is that cannabis naturally acts as a blood thinner, so it could be a suitable replacement for anticoagulant meds.
The lack of knowledge surrounding the use of medical marijuana leads some doctors to advise patients using blood thinners for their clotting deficiency or other cardiac medical conditions not to use cannabis oils. The medical world does not yet fully understand the benefits of medical marijuana.
This shortage of information stems from the fact that the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I, illegal substance, so research about possible complications that can arise from drug interactions is insufficient. However, as marijuana’s stigma as a “stoner drug” is lifted, more people are understanding its true potential.
Medical Marijuana’s Healthful Benefits
The reason cannabis is such a useful treatment is its ability to naturally interact with an incredible number of bodily functions. It’s well known that medical marijuana helps patients struggling with nausea, glaucoma, chronic pain and seizures, but why is that? How can it do all that and potentially serve as a replacement blood thinner?
The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance in many of our biological functions. Your body is continually striving to achieve homeostasis, where all systems work together to keep you operating at your full potential. To help this balance, the ECS has receptors found in cells in every major bodily system.
Cannabis binds to these receptors. So, if you’re experiencing an adverse side effect due to a medical condition, marijuana can help restore balance. This includes bringing analgesic relief if a patient is in pain, or calming over-excited electrical activity in the brain if they’re experiencing a seizure. It also affects our blood cells on the cellular level, which is why it could be an effective alternative to blood thinners.
Blood Thinning Properties of Cannabis
Your body needs to have blood flowing freely throughout every part. This is one of its most important processes, and we don’t even think about it — until something goes wrong. Blood clots prevent blood from flowing as it should. They occur when specific blood cells, called platelets, build up inside an artery or vein.
Blood clots are an essential bodily function that stops you from bleeding out when you have a wound, but they can be quite dangerous when they form inappropriately. That’s when doctors prescribe blood thinners. Blood thinners don’t actually change the consistency of the blood, they simply inhibit how the blood clots. There are two types of blood thinners:
Antiplatelet: These prevent platelets from clumping together and forming a clot.
Anticoagulant: Creates a chemical reaction that extends how long it takes to develop a clot.
Cannabis has anticoagulant properties. It directly affects the platelets in the blood, specifically the anticoagulant properties of platelets. There aren’t many studies on this component of medical marijuana, so researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes this. But the reason it increases the anticoagulant effect of blood thinners seems to be related to the fact that marijuana inhibits the drug’s metabolism and displaces it from its protein binding sites.
Switching to Cannabis as a Blood Thinner Alternative
More studies on cannabis are needed for the medical world to support the using of medical marijuana rather than traditional blood thinning meds. However, if a patient is on blood thinners and would like to switch to medical marijuana treatments, it should be done under the watchful eye of a physician.
It’s advisable that the oil blend should be high THC and high CBD (2 ounces of THC to 1 ounce of CBD). Patients should avoid the use of oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements without coordinating with your physician. The oils may increase the effects of blood thinners.
Cannabis treatments are very good for many illnesses and conditions and have properties that react on almost any part of the body. Unfortunately, because of the years of withholding medicinal treatments derived from the plant from the general population, skepticism has built up — not just from medical doctors, but also from patients. For this reason, many still prefer the use of lab fabricated medicines which have many adverse side effects and are far more harmful to the body.
Contact a Marijuana Doctor to Pursue Cannabis Treatment Options
The full potential of medical marijuana can’t be understood until more scientific studies are allowed to be performed. Because of this lack of knowledge, patients fear to take the plunge and contact their physician about cannabis treatment options.
If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, make an appointment to speak to a medical professional near you, or contact a medical marijuana dispensary to talk to a budtender. They can address your individual concerns and point you in the right direction.
Our advice shouldn’t replace that of a qualified professional. If you’re on blood thinners and would like to use cannabis, we still advise doing so under the supervision of a medical doctor who knows the benefits of medical marijuana to avoid complications.