Though even the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse admits marijuana may have medicinal benefits, there’s no scientific consensus around what cannabis does to the heart. However, at least one researcher is hopeful some of the compounds in cannabis can help treat heart disease. The researcher even believes the compounds may reverse the disorder.

Alexander Stokes, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, gained a U.S. patent for a unique plant-based therapy for heart disease in 2015. As Medical Xpress reported, Stokes thinks by activating a particular receptor, the heart can be made to work harder to pump blood, without eventually failing. In the past, this receptor has been activated by capsaicin, a component in hot chili peppers. According to Stokes’s research, marijuana-derived compounds may work just as well as hot peppers. Currently, a Nevada-based company called GrowBox Life Sciences is crafting a cannabis-based pharmaceutical drug to do just that.

Marijuana’s active compounds are known to activate receptor proteins and are found throughout the body. One specific receptor, called TRPV1, is a “major cellular receptor involved in the progression to heart failure,” Stokes stated to Medical Xpress. Stokes said, figuring out how to control what the receptor does is the trick, but so far, experimental treatments derived from whole-plant cannabis have shown the most promise. It’s not clear how long it will take GrowBox to develop a drug, but it will be years. The FDA process is long, with multiple studies of increasing size needed before a drug can be marketed to the public.

There is other disappointing research to overcome. Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston discovered that cannabis use escalates the risk of a heart attack to five times the normal risk rate in the first hour after use. The risk is short-term but can be scary for someone who suffers from paranoia while high. Other research have suggested a link between cannabis use and serious heart conditions, though there’s no consensus on whether marijuana use escalates long-term fatality. Whether GrowBox can discover a drug and can find the money to analyze it is yet to be seen.

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