Individuals with TBI frequently suffer from behavioral issues, anxiety, and depression.
The hours and months following TBI are a critical time of ever-changing biochemical events in the brain. Research has discovered that the endocannabinoid system modulates several of the key secondary injury cascades following TBI.
The potential benefits of CBD oil for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) includes:
1. Protects The Brain Cells From Damage
Patients with TBI can benefit from a multifaceted approach to treatment, with therapies including:
Chronic neuroinflammation, which can be one of the side effects of brain injuries, leads to prolonged microglial activity. This results in increased oxidative stress and neuronal damage or death.
The GCS is a neurological scale, in which patients are scored on the basis of clinical symptoms, and the resulting overall score classifies their injury as:
In TBI, an immediate inflammatory response occurs, causing significant neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration — neuro, as in neurons in the brain. Damage to the brain causes activation of microglial. These specialized cells are macrophages that clean up any dead neurons and release inflammatory chemicals. Acute neuroinflammation is meant to limit further injury to the brain and start the repair process.
Because full-spectrum CBD contains a variety of phytocannabinoids, it produces an “entourage effect” that engages both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain — as well as other cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid receptors throughout your body — for maximum neuroprotective and overall health benefits.
Although CBD has shown promise for brain injury treatment in the research lab, anecdotal evidence also is strong — especially among some former professional athletes in sports with a high risk of head injuries, such as boxing and football.
Many professional athletes have spoken out about the benefits of CBD for the treatment of TBI and CTE symptoms, saying that it helped to regulate their mood, improve physical function, and reduce or eliminate their use of prescription painkillers and other medications.
The Benefits of the “Entourage Effect”
And, CBD may also affect your glial cells, which insulate your neurons and facilitate your brain’s immune response after injury. Research shows that CBD seems to have the strongest effect on two types of glial cells: astrocytes and microglia. A 2017 animal study showed that CBD suppressed the activity and swelling caused by astrocytes;  another 2017 study showed that stimulating cannabinoid receptors in the brain suppressed inflammation caused by microglia in rats.
Activating another cannabinoid receptor in the brain, called CB2, has been shown to promote the creation of new brain cells, as well as regulate inflammation after brain injury. A 2014 animal study found that mice that were genetically engineered to lack a CB2 receptor had worse outcomes after TBI when compared to mice that had a CB2 receptor. The study also found that the lack of a CB2 receptor impaired the creation of new brain cells.
Other animal studies also have shown that activating the cannabinoid receptors in your brain may help to limit nerve cell damage and promote healing by enhancing blood flow to the brain.  In a 2002 study, researchers found that mice that were genetically engineered to lack CB1, a cannabinoid receptor found in the brain, had more severe brain damage and cognitive deficits after a TBI when compared to mice that had the CB1 receptor.
Although further research is needed, some studies suggest that when CBD is used shortly before or within 12 hours of a brain injury, it may help to prevent or limit the damage that occurs after a TBI during the secondary injury cascade.
The future of cannabis-concussion research
In addition, one of the first double-blind studies exploring the effects of cannabis and concussion is expected to be conducted this summer by NEEKA Health Canada, the NHL Alumni Association and Canopy Growth Corporation, a cannabis company. This exciting new study will explore the efficacy of cannabis on reducing post-concussion syndrome impairments, such as depression, PTSD, and progressive dementia, among 100 previous NHL players. Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital working in the Canadian Concussion Centre says that he is “reasonably hopeful” for the potential of cannabinoids and post-concussion issues. In the future, Tator plans to explore the role of CBD on treating post-concussion headaches (9).
Recently, many researchers have been interested in advancing these emergent findings and investigating this alternative concussion intervention. In fact, Dr. Gillian Hotz is currently embarking on an ongoing study investigating the effects of CBD in combination with an anesthetic for individuals with traumatic brain injury. Her preliminary findings suggest that this treatment improves cognitive function in mice (8).
Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital working in the Canadian Concussion Centre says that he is “reasonably hopeful” for the potential of cannabinoids and post-concussion issues.
Majority of the existing research on CBD and concussion has been limited to animals. Most notably, a 2012 study on rats revealed that administration of CBD after brain injury had long-lasting, positive effects on the brain, including reducing the severity of the injury and restoring overall neurological function (1).
Cannabis and concussion: What we know so far…
More recently, however, this research has been shifting toward humans. A 2018 study reviewed previous hospital charts and displayed that medicinal cannabis may pose as an option for treating concussion-related chronic pain, specifically headaches (7). However, these novel findings are quite preliminary and more studies are needed to validate the results.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD has been shown to have many potential therapeutic benefits, including neuroprotective effects (1). Results of clinical studies support its use in some conditions associated with difficult to treat epilepsy and for symptoms related to multiple sclerosis (2,3,4,5). There is emerging support for its use in other areas such as chronic pain, anxiety, and Parkinson Disease to name a few (6). Currently, however, little is known about the role of cannabis in treating concussions and post-concussion syndrome.