Endocannabinoids and Stroke Prevention: Review of Clinical Studies

Eugene L. Scharf, Jon O. Ebbert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The societal burden of ischemic stroke suggests a need for additional therapeutic categories in stroke prevention. Modulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a rational target for stroke prevention because of its effects on inflammation, vascular tone, and metabolic balance, all well-described stroke risk factors. In this article, we summarize the existing ECS clinical studies in human subjects' research as they relate to conventional vascular risk factors associated with ischemic stroke. To date, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) derivative endocannabinoids are consistently reported to be elevated in insulin resistance, whereas the N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) endocannabinoid derivatives are elevated in obesity. The ECS role in metabolic health should examine the effects of 2-AG reduction and AEA augmentation as a means of stroke risk reduction. Cannabinoid receptors are reported on macrophages within atherosclerotic plaques and suggest a role for immunomodulation as a therapeutic for atherosclerosis through both peripheral immune cell CB1 antagonism and/or CB2 agonist. The effects of ECS on hypertension, smoking, physical activity, obstructive sleep apnea, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation are incompletely described and deserve further study. A limitation to ECS research is significant overlap with noncannabinoid molecular targets. Further exploration of the ECS needs to include the larger metabolomics context for a greater understanding of its therapeutic potential. Clinical translational studies in stroke prevention should be directed at ECS in metabolic balance and atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalCannabis and Cannabinoid Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • 2-AG
  • AEA
  • anandamide
  • cannabinoid receptors
  • endocannabinoid system
  • stroke prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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