Cannabis and CBD Research
Current research points towards cannabinoids serving as a neuroprotectant, and clinical trials are looking at CBD alone and CBD+THC for concussions. Findings also indicate that CBD and THC may be effective for pain management, anxiety, and insomnia, all of which are common symptoms of concussions and persistent post-concussive symptoms.
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Please read our Cannabis Health & Safety page.
Cannabis: There are numerous contraindications to be aware of for cannabis (marijuana) because of its THC content. Cannabis can interact with other medications, especially blood thinners. Federal agencies advise against using cannabis while pregnant or nursing. Check your state guidelines and talk to a medical professional before using these products. People with brain injuries may be more vulnerable to substance abuse, including abuse of marijuana.
CBD: There is a consensus that CBD (cannabidiol) “has a good safety profile.” CBD products are made from hemp and contain no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Some research focuses specifically on CBD (cannabidiol) which is not nonpsychoactive, and other research focuses on cannabis (marijuana), with various ratios of CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
CBD products are extracted from hemp plants and the finished product must contain less than 0.3% THC.
We use the term medical cannabis (or medical marijuana) because that is what is being used in research studies. The critical point is that where marijuana is legal, either as medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, the products are regulated and you can purchase marijuana with specific ratios of CBD to THC.
Clinical Trials – CBD for concussions
Researchers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia are investigating the efficacy of CBD (cannabidiol) for the acute stage of concussion (when the injury is new) and for persistent post-concussive symptoms.
As of February 2022, a research team in Canada will be studying the efficacy of CBD and THC for concussions; the NFL awarded the research team $500,000 for this study.
In the United States
The University of Miami
An ongoing study on cannabinoid treatment for concussion is being done by the University of Miami which received a $16 million grant for the research. The study is a five-year, three-stage study that will “assess the effectiveness of a new cannabinoid-based pill to treat concussion injuries. This partnership aims to propel this research and potential treatment forward by using two classes of drugs in a combination that scientists believe will reduce brain inflammation and the immune response.”
As reported in UHealth in July 2018, the “findings of a pre-clinical pilot study were recently released, and they show that the combination therapy improved the cognitive functions of animals, compared with those treated with a single vehicle. In addition, there were no adverse effects from either the combination therapy or the individual components.”
The cannabinoid combination therapy is made up of CBD (cannabidiol) and Dexanabinol (HU-211) which is a synthetic cannabinoid that is an “anticonvulsant and neuroprotective, and is widely used in scientific research as well as currently being studied for applications such as treating head injury, stroke, or cancer.” The medicinal CBD for the study is sourced from BOL Pharma.
Phase 2 of the study is currently underway. The University of Miami is testing the cannabinoid-based pill on a small pilot study with people, including “a control group and two groups of TBI patients, acute and chronic.” More information can be found on our blog post, an interview with Dr. Hoffer. Dr. Hoffer had planned to transition to human clinical trials and file the treatment with the FDA in early 2021, but this was likely delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Hoffer began a new study in February 2020 to research if “using a pill form of cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychedelic drug psilocybin effectively treats and possibly prevents symptoms of two conditions that commonly occur together: mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)… Up to 40% of people impacted by mTBI [or TBI] also suffer from PTSD,” according to a University of Miami press release.
The University of Regina (Saskatchewan Province, Canada)
In February 2022, the NFL awarded the University of Regina $500,000 to “try to optimize the formulation of cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) for pain management in those suffering from post-concussion syndrome and chronic pain, and for a neuroprotective treatment for concussions.”
The U of R study will be led by Patrick Neary, who “expects their CBD/THC formulation to show significant and positive changes to the brain that will reduce pain and use of prescription medications, such as opioids, and reduce concussions during athletic competition. It will be “really exciting” to see whether the formulation they’re working on can reduce the incidence and/or the severity of concussions, he said.
Neary said when a person gets a concussion, there are chemical changes that are occurring in the brain to try and help it rehabilitate and recover from the trauma that it’s gone through. With the disruption in the cells in the brain, there will often be an influx of more chemicals than are needed initially and that creates inflammation, he said.
‘We know that CBD is anti-inflammatory, so it can help to reduce the inflammation while still allowing the brain to recover from those good chemicals that are coming in,’ he said. ‘So that’s the whole premise here. Can we use CBD? I believe we can.’”
Phase 1 will be “dedicated to figuring out the optimal formulation and amount of CBD athletes doing resistance training can take on a daily basis to treat inflammation.”
Phase 2 will “occur during football season, will have some players from the participating universities take the new optimal formulation and compare it against a placebo group to study its impacts.”
Phase 3 “will look at using a combination of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and nutritional supplements to reduce prescription pain medications, particularly opioids.”
NEEKA Health Canada
A new study led by NEEKA Health Canada will “test if CBD-based therapies can reduce the severity of post-concussion brain disorders in former NHL players.” The National Hockey League Alumni Association and Canopy Growth Corp. (a cannabis and hemp company) are partnering with NEEKA for the clinical research; approximately 100 former players will be enrolled in the randomized, double-blind study. Researchers hope to finish the study by the end of 2020 according to an article in Green Entrepreneur.
The medical cannabis company Impression Healthcare began a new clinical trial in mid-2020 to access its new cannabinoid formula IHL-216A on “its ability to protect the brain against the main injury mechanisms which cause cell death and other negative consequences in the days and weeks following head trauma.” Impression will test IHL-216A with in-human and animal trials.
Up to 50 Australian MMA fighters who “receive head knocks and show symptoms of moderate to severe head concussions” will participate in the study. Participants will either receive IHL-216A or a placebo. The effectiveness of the CBD formula will be tested by participants’ baseline neurocognitive tests, which will be repeated throughout the study in both the experiment and placebo groups, and EEG and blood biomarker assessments. Impression Healthcare hopes to have IHL-216A fully approved for market by 2024.
Research indicates medical cannabis improves concussion symptoms
A study published in Brain Injury in October 2019 found that even though cannabis use didn’t affect concussion recovery time, cannabis use was associated with a lower symptom burden in the third and fourth weeks after injury. See our blog post, Study shows cannabis use decreases symptom severity after a concussion.
A December 2018 study in the journal Neurology indicates that medical cannabis (marijuana) helps concussion patients with concussion symptoms, especially pain, mood, sleep, and quality of life. The study also specifies the optimal forms of medical cannabis for the patients in the study, in terms of rations of CBD to THC, and methods of intake, such as a tincture (oral) or a vapor pen (inhaling). Read more in our blog post, Study finds medical marijuana improves concussion symptoms.
How Can CBD Capsules Help Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injuries?
As there is more research carried out into the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids such as CBD, the use cases for the plant and its derivatives grows.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a particular type of traumatic injury, typically caused by direct impact to the head i.e, getting punched or falling on the ground. The concussion itself is actually caused by the brain rattling around within the skull, damaging brain cells.
What Are the Symptoms of Concussion?
There are a wide range of diverse symptoms that concussion can cause. As a result, it’s imperative that you keep an eye on the possible symptoms and immediately seek medical advice if you have identified any of the following:
- Slurred speech
- Sensitive to light
- Blurred vision
- Behavioural changes
- Difficulties balancing
- Difficulties concentrating
- Ringing in ears
In fact, it is also strongly recommended that you always seek medical help even in the absence of the above symptoms. This is because it can often take days, or even weeks, for the symptoms to manifest.
The wide ranging nature of the symptoms reflects the complexity of the brain and highlights the sheer level of control it has over every facet of our body.
How Do You Diagnose Concussion?
Frustratingly, concussion cannot be diagnosed by any type of brain scan. The most likely path for diagnosis as it stands is the answering of a standardised questionnaire related to potential symptoms.
While a brain scan does not flag concussion, it can be reassuring to confirm that there is no bleeding on the brain.
Therapeutic Advantages of Cannabis
Cannabidiol more commonly known as CBD is one of over 150 cannabinoid compounds that is found in the cannabis plant. While research into CBD is still in its infancy, many therapeutic benefits can be achieved by using CBD. There are some clinical studies that support the use of CBD in health conditions such as epilepsy and symptoms relating to multiple sclerosis. There is also emerging evidence that supports using CBD to manage chronic pain conditions, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease. However, there is still a lack of understanding about how CBD could prospectively treat concussion and post-concussion syndrome.
Cannabis & Concussion
The vast majority of research carried out into the relationship between cannabis & concussion has been limited to animal studies. A 2012 study on rats discovered that administering CBD after a brain injury had a long-lasting, positive effect on the brain and it reduced the severity of the injury. It also helped to restore neurological function.
This was backed up 3 years later in a study published in 2015 that reviewed all existing experimental evidence of the neuroprotective properties of CBD. They stated that “cannabinoid-based medicines may serve as a novel therapy able to delay/arrest neurodegeneration in acute and chronic neurodegenerative conditions.”
More specifically, a 2017 study found that CBD was an effective treatment for headaches caused by brain injury. Not only does it work directly by reducing the inflammation that causes the headache, but also reduces the severity of the pain. We know that our endocannabinoid system directly impacts the response to pain of our central nervous system, as well as our immune system. The research states that any exogenous stimulant of the endocannabinoid system (i.e. CBD) “have been shown to alter pain in acute, chronic and neuropathic conditions, including migraine and are expected to play a large role in the headache and other pain conditions resulting from concussion.”
An additional study, also published in 2017, found that CBD protects the brain through its anti-inflammatory properties. Concussion generally causes inflammation of the brain, which in turn can lead to severe headaches. The study found that CBD is effective at reducing inflammation in the brain, allowing the neuropathways to heal post TBI.
In recent years, medical cannabis is becoming more widely used in humans. A 2018 study found that medical cannabis may present an option to treat concussion related chronic pain and specifically headaches.
Future Cannabis-Concussion Research
There are numerous researchers that are interested in advancing the treatment of concussion and head injuries. There is an ongoing study into CBD in combination with anaesthetics for people with traumatic brain injuries.
What are CBD Capsules?
CBD capsules are a convenient way to take CBD and are consumed in the same manner as a normal capsule or pill. Typically, CBD capsules are taken in the morning and at night and the dosage typically varies between 10mg and 30mg of CBD per capsule. The CBD is often combined with MCT oil or coconut oil in order to maximise efficacy. Cannacares Capsules are vegan and 100% natural. You can purchase the CBD capsules in units of 30 capsules or 60 capsules.
CBD capsules are great for head injuries and concussions as you can simply take a CBD capsule like you would a standard tablet or painkiller.
CBD is often considered to be a promiscuous compound as it produces various effects through dozens of molecular pathways. CBD has been shown to reduce brain damage and improve recovery in animals who have had strokes and TBI.
CBD produces no intoxicating side effects and does not get the user high. It is THC that causes users to get high. Long-term CBD use does not lead to a tolerance.
The existing evidence suggests that CBD should at least be a consideration in terms of a treatment for TBIs and concussion. While more research is of course required, the early signs are indeed promising.