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The Promising Effects of Cannabidiol in Stroke Recovery

The Promising Effects of Cannabidiol in Stroke Recovery

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, you lose 1.9 million brain cells per minute when suffering from a stroke. Strokes hit seemingly at random and can target anyone: young, old, men, women, even children. Strokes affect around 33 million people worldwide, with nearly 17 million people experiencing their first stroke per year (as of data from 2010).

A stroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack, happens when there is an instantaneous interruption of blood and, consequently, oxygen to the brain. Even when caught and treated quickly, strokes still cause some serious long-term problems. Brain cells begin dying off within six minutes after being deprived of oxygen, meaning in all cases, people end up with at least some amount of brain damage. The survival rate for stroke has increased over the years so that now, approximately 80 percent of people who suffer from stroke survive. But just because they have survived does not mean their struggle is over. Half of the people who have had a stroke will require assistance performing normal daily activities for the rest of their lives.

Stroke patients and their support networks often must live with mild to severe disability, including physiological, emotional, cognitive and behavior issues. The road to recovery is steep and often plagued with setbacks. A team of researchers at Fukuoka University in Japan recently made a breakthrough in stroke treatment.

Their research study investigated whether a cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant, called cannabidiol (CBD), could be an effective treatment option during rehabilitation. This theory has been supported by other preliminary research studies, which all have found that CBD shows encouraging signs as a potential post-stroke therapy for ischemic strokes (one of two types of stroke, along with hemorrhagic).

The current body of research seems to show speedier and broader recovery in patients and incredible neuroprotection. Only two treatment options are available, so having another effective option for stroke recovery is compelling news for both stroke victims and their families. There is now hope that CBD therapy could allow more people to live an independent life after suffering a stroke.

Ischemic Stroke vs. Hemorrhagic Stroke

Strokes can occur at any moment. While the risk of stroke does increase with an individual’s lifestyle and age, nothing is preventing any of us from getting a blood clot at any time. The two types of strokes are ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. 

An ischemic stroke is by far the more common of the two, affecting 87% of those experience a stroke. It is caused by a blood clot that prevents blood flow to the brain. Ischemic stroke is also called a transient ischemic attack. Many people believe the blood clot must form in your brain to trigger a stroke, but did you know you can have a blood clot anywhere in your body and have the same results? If a major neuronic artery clogs, it very quickly can cause restricted blood flow to and from the brain. Blood clots easily can make their way to these vital neuronic arteries. This means that even a blood clot in your big toe eventually could cause an ischemic stroke.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs much less frequently, and it is generated by a hemorrhage in a major artery within the brain. A brain hemorrhage will cut off oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. While less common compared ischemic stroke, it is still the primary cause of disability in the United States.

CBD Therapy for Strokes

Cannabidiol is already under intense investigation for its ability to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's disease. Through this valuable research, CBD has been shown to have some neurogenerative properties, which means it can trigger brain cell repair and generation. So, CBD also is thought to hold significant promise in stroke treatment, especially in the crisis period immediately following the onset of symptoms.

In stroke recovery, speed is the key component to treatment. There are now two main options for treatment, both of which need to be used immediately after diagnosis. Tissue plasminogen indicator is used for ischemic strokes and endovascular surgery is used for hemorrhagic strokes. These treatments need to be applied within three hours and six hours respectively.

A therapy involving CBD would be no different, speed would be essential.  Cannabidiol has been shown to have a powerful capability to increase cerebral blood flow, which means it more quickly restores oxygen and nutrients to the areas of the brain damaged during the stroke. It is thought to be beneficial only to people who have suffered an ischemic stroke because, while it can help restore blood flow and dissipate the blood clot, it cannot help correct a ruptured artery as found in hemorrhagic strokes. Tissue plasminogen indicator is used in much the same way that CBD would be used. They both increase blood flow and help to disintegrate the clot.

Current research shows that CBD helps to improve motor skills, and cognitive ability if given shortly after the onset of symptoms. It also has been shown to offer protection to other areas of the brain, reducing the potential area of brain damage significantly. Again, this all depends on when CBD is administered because, just like with the other options, time is crucial in mitigating brain damage.

Part of the reason scientists are so enthusiastic about using CBD as a new stroke therapy is it does not have any adverse side effects and doesn’t create either tolerance or dependence in its users. It continues to offer positive neuroprotection to all cells, healthy or damaged, over long periods of time. Plus, it is known to be a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which could offer other medicinal benefits to stroke victims.

References

https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_470704.pdf

https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/stroke-report/strokereport2017en.ashx?la=en&hash=67F86E4C3338D5A7FE7862EA5D0DD57CA8539847

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