The Healing Effects of CBD On Brain Injuries
Neurodegenerative disorders are on the rise. In the United States alone, nearly 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, and another 500,000 have Parkinson’s. As the American population ages, these numbers only are going to increase.
These numbers don't even take into account the number of people estimated to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Although less well known than Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, CTE is equally as damaging. It’s caused by excessive and repeated exposure to brain trauma, such as concussions. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, the numbers are staggering. Perhaps as many as 89 percent of former National Football League players have signs of CTE.
Brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and CTE have some of the highest disease burdens. Disease burden, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to the number of healthy years that are affected by disability and death.
Neurodegenerative disorders are considerably more burdensome because they not only affect the individual, but also have a huge financial, emotional, and practical effect on families. The disease burden for neurodegenerative disorders is higher than even that for cancer.
Exploring CBD for Concussions and other Neurodegenerative Disorders
Spurred on by the pressure of an aging population, researchers are seeking appropriate treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. It goes without saying that the current pharmaceutical solutions are not getting the job done. But what about more natural compounds?
Patients, physicians, and families alike are beginning to wonder if cannabidiol (CBD) can succeed where more conventional therapies have failed. Use our
Beginner’s Guide to CBD, to get up to speed on the basic facts of CBD oil.
RELATED: What Is CBD Oil? A Beginner's Guide to Cannabidiol
Even if the federal government is dragging its feet on studying CBD oil, it hasn’t stopped prominent voices from speaking up. Most recently, former NFL players have lent their voices to the chorus calling for the increased study of the effects of CBD on the brain.
CBD and the NFL
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon calls himself “old school,” and is well known to have relied on marijuana both during and after his NFL career. Yet McMahon’s stab at self-medicating through medical marijuana could be ahead of its time.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland plan to test whether CBD — and its notorious cousin, THC — prove as useful in treating brain injuries as testimonials claim.
Some former football players believe cannabidiol, or CBD, could help millions who suffer from brain injuries each year due to CTE. This little-known disease is degenerative, caused by repeated blows to the brain. It has been found in the majority of former NFL players whose brains were autopsied after death.
“I don’t think any of us regret what we did,” said Jake Plummer, a ten-year NFL veteran, who retired in 2007. “But there’s no question it comes at a real cost.”
Along with a handful of other retired players, Plummer felt strongly enough about the benefits of using CBD to appear in a public-service campaign titled “When the Bright Lights Fade.” It was sponsored by Realm of Caring, a nonprofit research organization, and CW Botanicals, a dietary supplements company specializing in hemp products. It was released as part of National Brain Injury Awareness month (March 2018), with the goal of raising $100,000 to begin the Johns Hopkins study.
“I’ve had friends, guys I played alongside, whose mood changed from night to day. I know others who’ve replaced hellacious amounts of painkillers with CBD … and I hope this gets even more guys involved,” Plummer said.
“The bigger the number, the better chance we have to get in front of (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell and say, ‘You need to fund this.’ Not just for football players, but for the millions of others it could help.”
Real Stories of CBD Oil for Neurodegeneration
In the last three years, encouraged by a CNN documentary on medical marijuana, thousands of parents whose children’s diagnoses ranged from autism to epilepsy mounted a Facebook campaign to sing CBD's praises.
They soon were joined by others suffering from illnesses as varied as cancer to Parkinson’s disease. Many reported better pain management, impactful mood changes, and significant decreases in seizures. Some families even relocated to Colorado to use CBD legally.
McMahon, the former Chicago Bears quarterback, was diagnosed with early onset dementia and struggles with many of the common symptoms: depression, memory loss, vision and speech impairment, and severe headaches. He says medical marijuana — he still prefers a high THC strain — helped him kick a 100-Percocet-a-month habit to cope with the lingering pain in his shoulders, neck, and arms after a 15-year NFL career.
Beyond the experience of McMahon kicking a Percocet problem, CBD has shown promise through some initial research for treating
opioid addiction as well.
RELATED: CBD and Opioids: Is CBD A Solution to The Opioid Epidemic
The Effects of CBD on the Brain
Neurodegenerative disorders affect more than just professional football players. Progressively debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have a profound effect on both the patient and their families.
Considering many of these neurodegenerative diseases share the same neurological characteristics, researchers already have started exploring CBD as a potential therapeutic agent.
CBD and Alzheimer's Disease
Because current pharmaceuticals have proven to be inadequate for treating moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer's, cannabis extracts might hold the answer. As noted in one study, cannabis extracts helped relieve some of the most difficult to manage symptoms, such as agitation and aggression. There were also improvements to delusions and emotional apathy according to The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
In a small clinical trial of cannabis oil, all patients showed demonstrative results in the treatment of their behavioral and psychoactive dementia. There is a strong suggestion that the non-psychoactive cannabinoids in cannabis, such as CBD, offer neurological protection through antioxidants and anti-inflammatory capabilities. There is clearly a lot to uncover about how CBD could slow down the progression of Alzheimer's.
RELATED: CBD & Alzheimer's: Is It a Better and Safer Option?
CBD and Parkinson's Disease
In small preliminary trials, Parkinson’s patients who inhaled cannabis (containing both THC and CBD), reported drastically reduced tremors, rigidness, and slowness of movement. They also reported sleeping better and a reduction in overall pain. Other studies have shown that Parkinson’s patients who suffer from sleep behavior disorder, which causes both nightmares and disrupted sleep, can treat it effectively with CBD oil.
CBD and Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s Disease causes a slow neurological decline, with symptoms such as tremors, reduced mobility, and reduced cognitive function. The available research on CBD as a valid treatment option for Huntington’s Disease is in even earlier stages than that for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Cannabidiol, as mentioned earlier, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, and directly affects the function of the endocannabinoid system. The smooth functioning of this system begins to deteriorate after the onset of Huntington’s Disease. In preliminary trials, mice with Huntington's-like symptoms were treated with CBD and their condition improved.
CBD and Concussions
Researchers at the University of Miami have launched into a five-year study of CBD and concussions. They were motivated in part by earlier studies that demonstrated CBD could prevent brain cell death following a concussion. From the initial research, it looks as if CBD disrupts a certain neurotransmitter reaction after a concussion, and thereby has a neuroprotective effect.
Cannabidiol also could be beneficial through other mechanisms, its antioxidant properties and powerful anti-inflammatory nature. Considering 1.28 million Americans report to the emergency room every year with a concussion, the possible therapeutic applications for CBD as a concussion recovery drug are enormous.
Conclusions on CBD for Neurodegeneration
Cannabidiol and THC have been found to have anti-inflammatory characteristics specifically in cases of chronic brain inflammation. They also have been found to target oxidative-stress and cellular dysfunction.
They have a demonstrative effect on the overall function of the endocannabinoid system and provide neurotrophic (brain cell) support. According to at least one recent study, CBD slowed down brain aging, a primary suspect in many neurodegenerative diseases.
As with most current research into CBD benefits, more desperately is needed. Which is why researchers at Johns Hopkins are seeking funding to explore the relationship between CBD and concussions, and the effects of CBD on the brain more broadly. As CBD becomes more widely accepted, and governments across all levels remove legal barriers, scientific study is becoming more viable.
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