What you’ll learn:
- How a concussion or more properly termed, traumatic brain injury (TBI), affects your brain
- Your body’s natural defense against TBI
- How CBD reinforces this defense and can help heal TBI
What is TBI?
We’re hearing a lot more about traumatic brain injury in recent
years, with increasing diagnoses among many prominent
figures from military combat veterans to figures in such high
impact sports as football and boxing. There has also been
attention focused on child and teen sports, where the injuries
can be even more damaging to their more vulnerable bodies.
Fortunately, TBI is being taken a lot more seriously now than
In TBI, the head is impacted by an external force that
causes the brain to swell within the confines of the skull, thus
decreasing blood flow, and causing other chemical changes
that adversely affect brain function. In many instances, the
brain fully recovers. Far too often, however, patients are left
with lasting issues such as memory problems, depression,
motor impairment, anxiety, migraines, vision problems, trouble
processing, and much more.
Standard Medical Treatment of TBI
The biomedical standard of care for TBI consists of these doctor’s orders:
- Rest in a dark room
- Don’t spend time in front of screens
- Lay off the books, the job, the studying
- Don’t do excessive thinking
This, in addition to surgery and occupational therapy for more
severe cases, is about all doctors have to offer those with a
traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as concussion.
Then, it’s a game of watch and wait. The brain is left to
heal largely without any specific therapies to support the body’s
natural healing processes.
Functional Medical Treatment of TBI
In contrast, those of us who use an integrative or functional
medicine approach which focuses on treating underlying
issues, have found that there is a better way to treat TBI. There
are a number of anti-inflammatory herbs, such as curcumin,
that help heal the brain. There are modalities, like hyperbaric
oxygen (HBOT), which rescue brain cells by enhancing the flow
of blood and oxygen. Then there is neurofeedback to train the
brain in forming new pathways. Add in acupuncture, an ancient
but still powerful treatment for TBI. All these treatments already
take us beyond the mainstream standard of care.
A treatment that is (too slowly) gaining more mainstream
acceptance are orally administered omega-3 fatty acids that
reduce the inflammation and thus, lessen the swelling in the
brain. You can read more about this in When Brain Collide,
written by my colleague, Dr. Michael Lewis. His omega protocol,
in which patients take a mega-dose of fish oil over the course of
a few weeks, has had remarkable results. It has restored brain
function in many including bringing people out of coma. Some
years ago, my friend JJ Virgin’s son, Grant, had a devastating
head injury, and I saw personally how high doses of fish oil was
instrumental in bringing him back. This was even covered by Dr.
Sanjay Gupta on a special on the topic for CNN.
CBD for TBI
Now we have a new modality: the administration of CBD for brain
repair. Like many of us, Dr. Lewis is not only enthusiastic about
its use, but fortunately is using his platform as a recognized TBI
expert to educate the public and doctors alike about the benefits
of adding CBD to the protocol.
The proof? Animal studies have demonstrated that
cannabinoids can not only reduce the acute effects of TBI,
mitigating neurological damage, but can also help with the
secondary effects, including those frustrating cognitive deficits
that can linger after even after a “minor” TBI.
CBD takes us from “There’s nothing we can do,” to “We
definitely can help you!” How does this happen? Here is some
of the science behind the phenomenon.
First of all, as mentioned, TBI causes the brain to swell
and induce a potentially toxic level of activity of the excitatory
neurotransmitter, glutamate. This can lead to varying amounts of cell death in significant portions of the brain. Inflammatory
compounds and free radicals are also released, creating
oxidative stress. These acute effects of TBI can lead to a host
of secondary effects, potentially killing off more brain cells,
weakening the blood brain barrier, and contributing some of the
hallmark symptoms of TBI like brain fog, mood disruption, and
In my blog on the endocannabinoid system,
you know that the ECS, the bodily system controlled by
cannabinoids, is responsible for relaxing your body and
returning it to balance in times of stress. It is also your body’s
natural defense against TBI.
The ECS has two main receptors: CB1 and CB2. When
activated, CB1 decreases excitatory glutamate activity. Excessive
glutamate is toxic to brain cells, and the ECS has evolved to
fight against it.
CB2, on the other hand, when activated revs up the immune
response. It helps repair cells and promotes the creation of
new neurons. This directly combats brain damage caused by
cell death. Notably, CBD also preserves memory by preventing
neuronal loss in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.
Brain Damaged Mice and CBD
In one study, researchers inflicted a TBI on mice genetically
engineered to lack either CB1 or CB2 receptors. Their injuries
were more severe compared to those of mice that had both
receptors. Moreover, studies have shown that after a TBI, ECS
activity increases to enact healing.
Another study showed that after a head injury was inflicted on
a group of mice; when half of them were untreated and the other
half received a single dose of plant derived endocannabinoid
called 2-AG, there was a definite difference in outcome.
The mice who received treatment improved in cognitive
function, motor function and every parameter examined,
even months later—a remarkable success. Of course, in
a lab setting the scientists had the advantage of being
able to administer the dose of 2-AG shortly after brain
injury, so while it proved the point, it may be harder to do
this in everyday head injuries.
CBD works best if administered in the “window of
opportunity,” the critical moments after a brain injury,
in which intervention can actually prevent brain damage.
Typically, this window is a matter of minutes, 10 minutes,
maybe an hour. CBD widens this window of opportunity.
It works best up to 12 hours after an injury.
However, even if you had a brain injury, months
or even years ago, CBD can still help by reducing
brain inflammation and treating the secondary effects
mentioned above, just not as well as if treated at the
time. As long as you have symptoms from a TBI, CBD
can have a positive effect.
How does it work?
CBD is what’s called a “promiscuous compound,” i.e.,
a chemical that binds to a variety of different receptors.
That means CBD not only binds to the receptors of the
ECS, but other receptors such as the serotonin receptor
5-HT1A and the PPAR-gamma nuclear receptor. These
two receptors, when activated, protect the essential
blood brain barrier which can be damaged during TBI.
The blood brain barrier is a network of blood vessels and cells
meant to keep unwanted substances out of the brain. It’s
exceedingly difficult to pass through, and any weakening of it
can allow otherwise unwanted substances to enter the brain.
This can lead to inflammation and other brain conditions.
Serotonin, as you may know, is a major regulator of
mood, and is the purported target of popular antidepressant
medications, the SSRIs. CBD is known to boost mood not
only through its impact on serotonin, but also dopamine, the
pleasure or “reward” neurotransmitter, and GABA, the calming
neurotransmitter. Thus, CBD can ease the depression and
anxiety that can be so troublesome for those recovering from
More Brain Benefits
And it doesn’t stop with mood. CBD can also improve memory
and lift brain fog. As mentioned, CBD can promote neuron
growth in the hippocampus. It also regulates acetylcholine,
which boosts memory and mental acuity.
One more huge benefit is the effect of CBD on PTSD (Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder). It acts in the area of the limbic
system, the seat of emotions, to help “forget” the fearful
emotions associated with the traumatic event. This is important
since PTSD is difficult to treat successfully by conventional
means. There are specific trauma treatments such as EMDR,
somatic experience, tapping and more, and they all work well,
but even better in conjunction with CBD.
With all of its healing ability, CBD has yet become a standard
treatment for brain injury. We hope that with more studies on its
use, and simply, more experience by the public and the medical
profession, it will become better accepted.
Luckily, you don’t have to wait for researchers to construct the perfect clinical trial in order to start using CBD.
Choose a full spectrum hemp oil extract which delivers
the remedy as nature intended, with other cannabinoids
and terpenes, so you get the best effect possible, known
as the “entourage effect.”
How to Take CBD
Start out with a small dose and increase gradually, using
your own response as a guide. Typical doses are 25–100
mg daily in divided doses 1–3 times daily. Doses are quite
individual, based on your unique ECS activity.
Interactions with medications:
Even though CBD has a good safety profile, if you are
taking medication, you should check with your doctor
before trying it. Both CBD and most pharmaceuticals
are detoxified by the liver’s cytochrome P450 enzyme
system. As a result, certain medications, including
chemotherapy agents, anti-epilepsy drugs, and the blood
thinner coumadin may be affected. In some cases, you
just have to have the drug dose decreased. For a list of
potential drugs that may interact with CBD, see this link: https://cbdorigin.com/cbd-drug-interactions/
The fact is, though, we have found that doses under 100
mg a day generally do not interfere with medications.
In addition to taking CBD, take large doses of omega-3
oils. I also agree with the conventional wisdom to rest
your brain until medically cleared to become more
active. You can enhance this rest with meditation and breathing
exercises as well as good nutrition. Steer clear of all processed
foods and sugar, and eat a plant-based diet that is also high in
healthy omega-3 fats in such foods as avocados and wild caught
(or sustainably raised farmed) salmon.
Other integrative supportive measures include
neurofeedback, low level laser, PEMF, hyperbaric oxygen,
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and acupuncture.
The bottom line here is that while we still have a lot to learn,
there are increasing resources for treating this serious condition.
Most exciting right now is the promise of CBD or more properly,
Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Extract for treating TBI.