Can CBD Repair Damage From a Brain Injury?
What is a traumatic Brain injury? Can CBD Help one?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury.”
Symptoms of a TBI may range from physical, to emotional, to mental. Physically you could experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, or have trouble balancing. Mental symptoms include difficulty concentrating, feeling fuzzy, or slow. Plus, your mood can become irritable and angry. People often report difficulty sleeping after an acquired brain injury.
Depending on the severity, and the nature of the injury, your symptoms may last only a few days or months.
As we learn more about TBIs, they become easier to diagnose. Still, we have much to learn about how they unfold and the best methods of treatment.
In a fascinating turn of events, we are also learning more about cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD). There may be a connection between the inflammation triggered by a TBI, and the anti-inflammatory effects of the plant. It’s why CBD may be a novel new option for treating the effects of a TBI.
The Mechanism of Inflammation in Brain Injuries
In response to an acquired brain injury, your body kicks into high gear. It attempts to protect the brain by launching a strong inflammatory response. What we now realize, is the more inflammation you experience following a TBI, the worse the injury is. Because neuroinflammation plays a role following such an injury, it is also a new approach to treatment.
Our endocannabinoid system is responsible for much of this inflammatory response. This body-wide network of receptors receives chemical transmissions in response to stressors. When it comes to a TBI, the primary mechanism our body has to combat an acquired injury is through an endocannabinoid-issued immune response.
It’s the CB2 cells specifically which regulate inflammation. As one of the two primary endocannabinoid receptors, the CB2 receptor lives everywhere in our body. Very recently, scientists discovered CB2 receptors within our neurons. CB2 receptors, therefore, are a new target for neuroinflammation studies.
Exciting New Evidence
Some exciting new evidence supports this hypothesis of CB2 receptors for neurological inflammation. Medical studies using mice reveal that the number of CB2 receptors increases 72 hours after a TBI. It seems as if increasing CB2 receptors is our body’s method of producing a powerful inflammatory response in the area.
We also know that after a brain injury, our body naturally increases the release of natural endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG. Both of these chemical transmissions play a role in managing inflammation and pain.
In summary, when there is a brain injury, our body increases inflammation. It tries to manage this response through an increase in CB2 receptors and a flood of 2-AG and anandamide. What else can we do to mitigate the long term damage of an acquired brain injury, outside of the normal scope of biological response?
If the early research is correct, CBD and other cannabinoids may be our best bet to help with TBIs.
How Cannabis May Improve Cognitive Functioning
CBD is the quiet and nonintoxicating sister cannabinoid to THC. It seamlessly integrates into our endocannabinoid system. To some degree, it mimics the 2-AG cannabinoids mentioned earlier. If you recall, these molecules regulate inflammation. CBD is also an anti-inflammatory agent, and just like 2-AG, it works with the CB2 receptor.
It could be a perfect addition to the TBI recovery process.
Early studies show short-term CBD treatments reduce neuroinflammation in mouse models. The evidence also indicates that it improves neuroplasticity (reforming connections post-injury), and helps with function recovery following a stroke. The early studies are piling up about how useful CBD is for the treatment of acquired brain injuries.
As detailed in more depth in another RxLeaf post, there may be even more ways that CBD can improve brain function. In a controlled study of medical cannabis patients (who abstained before the trial for two full years) cognitive function improved with cannabis. While this might fly in the face of all stereotypes of the plant, the science says these stereotypes are false. Cannabis seems to stimulate cognitive function.
This study highlighted measurable improvements to executive functioning among the participants. Executive function describes the cognitive control over behaviors. Brain injuries, especially to the frontal lobe, commonly trigger issues with executive function.
Based on how much misinformation we’ve been fed about cannabis over the years, it seems counter intuitive to use it as a treatment for brain injuries. It’s exciting to see sound scientific research proving these stereotypes wrong. As we slowly uncover the possible therapeutic applications of the plant, it seems better and better for brain health.
CBD for Traumatic Brain Injury, What We Know So Far
CBD is one of the most exciting aspects of medical cannabis because it has such widespread application. Its non intoxicating nature is very appealing. When it comes to TBIs, there is already a significant body of research looking at CBD for neurological inflammation.
There is already a growing consensus that CBD could be a valuable tool for treating the effects of a TBI. It’s led to a lot of media attention and convinced many patients to self-medicate following one. Moreover, even former NFL stars are throwing their resources behind the idea.
If you haven’t already read the headlines, Rob Sims and Calvin Johnson, ex-NFL players and the founders of Primitive, are joining forces with Harvard University to study CBD for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This medical condition is common in the NFL due to increased risk for traumatic head injuries.
It will be very exciting to see where this partnership leads, as Harvard expands on the early research into CBD for TBI. Having Harvard, out of all places, backing the study puts even more credibility behind the already exciting prospects of cannabis for TBI. With this new round of robust research, TBI patients will have a novel, natural option for the treatment of their symptoms.