Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a major cause of death and disability in the United States, accounting for over 2 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths every year, according to the CDC.
In general, brain injuries are complex and dangerous conditions characterized by progressive inflammation of the brain tissue, death of nerve cells, acute cerebral blood flow issues (ischemia, and hemorrhage, for example), and long-term impairment of cognitive function.
Scientists all around the world are researching cannabidiol (CBD) as an additional method for TBI treatment, with studies reporting varying results.
The available studies on CBD and brain injuries
- In 2018, a comprehensive review of the neurological effects of phytocannabinoids reported that CBD may protect the brain by decreasing the production of inflammatory molecules, support cerebral bloodflow, and boost local levels of anandamide, one of the body’s main endocannabinoids. The same study highlighted that CBD can increase adenosine levels, which were associated with neuroprotection and decreased brain inflammation after injury
- In 2017, a review of available studies on the potential of CBD for a wide spectrum of neurological disorders (including brain trauma, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases) highlighted that cannabidiol can reduce local inflammation levels and modulate the activity and signaling in the astrocytes (a type of cell in the neural tissue)
- Another animal study from 2017 reported that CBD could improve brain function and recovery after ischemic stroke. Specifically, CBD seems to be able to reduce the apoptosis (programmed cell death) of nerve cells and enhance local reparatory processes. Although ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury are very different conditions, the ability of CBD to promote brain regeneration could be extremely useful during brain injuries as well
- An animal study from 2017 reported that CBD may reduce neuroinflammation, enhance neuroplasticity, and promote recovery in models of brain ischemia (tissue damage due to lack of blood supply). Brain ischemia can be the result of blood clots in the brain arteries, embolism, or compression of the blood vessels by inflammation or foreign objects—events that often accompany TBI
- Brain injuries are often accompanied by injuries to the spinal cord, and an animal study from 2012 reported that CBD could improve motor scores after spinal injury
- The fact that CBD has neuroprotective and antioxidative potential has been known since studies from 1998
At the moment, there are no available human studies on the safety and effectiveness of CBD during traumatic brain injuries. Theoretically, it could provide a certain range of benefits based on the results received from animal and laboratory studies, but more trials will be needed to make any sort of definitive recommendations.
Traumatic brain injury is a dangerous and fairly common health condition, particularly among children and teenagers as a result of sports and game-related activities, and among the elderly as a result of falls. The conventional therapy of TBI includes a wide range of neuroprotective, antioxidative, and blood flow supporting medications, and CBD isn’t one of those at the moment.
However, several animal studies have reported about the beneficial potential of CBD for a wide range of health issues of the brain and nervous system, so more trials are being conducted to shed light on this matter.