Cannabinoid drugs exert their effects primarily through activation of cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors have been implicated in a number of cardiovascular processes, including vasodilation, cardiac protection, modulation of the baroreceptor reflex in the control of systolic blood pressure, and inhibition of endothelial inflammation and the progress of atherosclerosis in a murine model. These effects are mainly mediated through central and peripheral nervous system CB1 receptors, vascular CB1 receptors and immune cell CB2 receptors. Relevant cellular effects include: the inhibition of neurotransmitter release in the nucleus tractus solitarius and in peripheral adrenergic neurons; regulation of NOS activity in vascular beds; inhibition of vascular smooth muscle cell excitability; regulation of endothelial cell migration and proliferation; and effects on immune cell proliferation, activation, and inflammatory functions. We review the pre-clinical evidence for beneficial effects of cannabinoid drugs in a range of vascular and cardiovascular pathologies. We also discuss the clinically relevant potential of cannabinoids.
Keywords: Cannabinoid, cardiovascular, CB1 receptor, CB2 receptor, endocannabinoid, vascular