Concussions & CBD Oil: What to Know About the Research & Best Products
Written by Jason Brett — Edited by Cathy Rozyczko on April 1, 2021 — Reviewed by ayesharashid
Concussions are the most common type of brain injury and can have dangerous consequences if misdiagnosed or left untreated. Trouble is, doctors don’t have many options available to them for treating concussions and they are often quite difficult to diagnose.
Recent research has identified CBD as a potential candidate to help with concussions as well as post-concussion syndrome. CBD’s neuroprotective properties are opening up doors for doctors trying to treat concussions. With more research and a better understanding of how CBD oil works, perhaps the lasting damage of a concussion could become a thing of the past.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Concussions
Depending on the severity of trauma to the head, doctors currently have a few different options available to treat a concussion. Most often, a regimen of physical and mental rest will be prescribed. If the suspected trauma is severe enough, doctors will often prefer the patient stays at the hospital so that they may monitor the symptoms.
The trouble with treating concussions is that it’s not possible to repair or reverse any damage that has occurred. Current treatment options are meant to provide damage control, keeping the brain from being harmed further in its fragile state, while trying to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.
While doctors may suggest pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to minimize discomfort, it is not particularly effective.
CBD oil may be exactly what doctors have been looking for. Research on cannabidiol looks promising and it is actively being explored as a treatment option that may be able to halt, or even reverse, the damage caused by a concussion.
CBD has very few side effects, and The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “no public health problems… have been associated with the use of pure CBD” making it a relatively safe treatment option.
Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil to Treat Concussion Symptoms
Researchers have found CBD oil to hold potential neuroprotective properties. What this means for doctors and those who have suffered from recent brain trauma, is that it may be an option in the future to treat, or even reverse brain damage.
CBD Oil Neuroregeneration & Neuroprotection
One way in which CBD oil may be able to repair damage caused by head trauma is through a process called neurogenesis, which is the growth and development of neurons, or nerve cells in the brain and nervous system. CBD has shown the potential to stimulate this brain process, where neurons regenerate in response to damage caused by injury or age.
A scientific review from 2015 examined CBD’s effect on neurodegenerative conditions. One study from the review found that administering CBD to pigs with newborn hypoxic-ischemic (HI) encephalopathy, brain damage caused by a lack of blood and oxygen, reduced neuron death, preserved brain activity, prevented seizures, and improved neurobehavioral performance. When CBD was administered to rats with HI, it resulted in long-lasting neuroprotective effects, a reduction in brain damage, and the restoration of neurobehavioral function only weeks after the original injury. The review concludes, “The neuroprotective effect of CBD included the prevention of necrotic [caused by disease or injury] and apoptotic [cell-programmed] cell death and was related to the modulation of excitotoxicity, inflammation, and oxidative stress.” The promising results of the studies from this review support the current hypotheses and research on cannabinoids’ ability to help treat neurodegenerative disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
A report from 1998 found cannabidiol to actually prevent cell death in rats induced with glutamate neurotoxicity. After seeing the results, researchers made the conclusion that CBD, and even THC, were powerful antioxidants with neuroprotective qualities.
CBD Oil for Brain Inflammation
CBD oil has become well known as an anti-inflammatory agent. One of the most damaging elements of a concussion is brain inflammation. By reducing this inflammation, CBD may be able to mitigate some of the impacts of concussion-related trauma, preventing increased damage.
In one study, CBD was found specifically to treat brain inflammation, which allowed neuropathways to repair themselves following an injury. The study concluded that “CBD as well as other phytocannabinoids which do not bind cannabinoid receptors, represent promising molecules to treat TBI [traumatic brain injury].”
CBD Oil for Nausea and Vomiting
One of the unpleasant side effects of a concussion is nausea and vomiting. CBD oil contains antiemetic properties and may be able to help.
It is believed that nausea is caused by an increase in serotonin. CBD binds to serotonin autoreceptors, inhibiting the release of serotonin. By reducing the amount of serotonin in the body, and CBD may help control nausea.
CBD Oil for Headaches
Headaches are one of the most common post-concussion symptoms. CBD oil has pain relieving properties that could help to reduce the experience of headache pain.
In a study on cannabis and migraine headaches, the frequency of migraines in the 121 adults who participated was reduced from 10.4 to 4.6 per month with the use of medicinal cannabis. While this study is not related to concussion headaches and does not examine the use of cannabidiol alone, it does paint a promising picture for the use of cannabinoids in treating headache pain.
Another way CBD oil can be used to reduce headaches and headache pain is by reducing inflammation. Chronic pain and headaches are caused, in part, when inflammation is present. By limiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter adenosine, CBD increases the amount available in the brain and creates activity at the adenosine receptors. It is these receptors that are believed to play an active role in regulating inflammation throughout the body.
CBD has also been found to activate the glycine receptors in the central nervous system. These receptors play a significant role in the perception of pain. By increasing the activity of these receptors, CBD may help combat the pain of a headache.
How to Use CBD Oil to Treat Concussion Symptoms
While there are no off-the-shelf medications available to treat concussion symptoms at this point, CBD oil products may be useful in minimizing discomfort. BUT, before proceeding, talk to your doctor. While CBD is largely safe, it can interact with some commonly prescribed medications. The safest way to use CBD oil and reduce the likelihood of negative effects is to get your physician involved in the process.
CBD oil comes in many forms: Tinctures, edibles, vaporizers, topical creams, and capsules are all effective ways to enjoy the benefits CBD has to offer.
If you are looking to take advantage of CBD’s neuroprotective potential to manage the symptoms of a concussion, tinctures and capsules are excellent choices. These products are easily administered, and are available in a variety of strengths, making dosing easy. A CBD oil capsule will provide a consistent dose, while tinctures allow for easy dose adjustments, should you require them.
While taking a capsule is simple enough, taking a CBD tincture can be a bit confusing for a first time user. To use a CBD oil tincture, or CBD oil drops, simply apply a dropper-full or two under your tongue and hold it there for 60 seconds. The CBD in the tincture will quickly absorb through the thin skin under your tongue, resulting in fast-acting relief, often showing effect in 30 minutes and lasting 2 to 4 hours.
CBD Oil Dosage for Concussions
Your CBD product of choice should come with dosing recommendations—start with the lowest recommended amount and work your way up from there. If your CBD product doesn’t contain dosage instructions, we at CBD Oil Review have come up with the following suggestion to get you started:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily
This dose is enough for most to notice relief from the headaches and pain caused by a concussion, though some patients may need more. Try sticking to this dose for 3 to 4 weeks, and if your symptoms don’t improve, you might try increasing your dosage by 25 mg. Continue with this dosage timeline, and make adjustments where necessary, until you find the results you’re after.
It will take some experimenting to find your perfect dose, but you can rest easy knowing that overdose should not be a concern. According to the National Cancer Institute, “cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.”
For more dosing recommendations, check out our dosage guide or speak with a naturopathic doctor who can evaluate your individual symptoms and provide a treatment regimen specific to your condition.
Best CBD Oils for Concussion Symptoms
When it comes to finding the best CBD oil products for concussion symptoms, the long-lasting effects of a CBD oil tincture, capsule, or edible will probably provide the most relief. No matter what type of CBD product you choose, it is important to purchase one that contains only high-quality ingredients.
Because the CBD oil industry is largely unregulated at this time, it is ultimately up to you to verify the product you’re buying is safe and effective. Here are some quick tips to help you shop:
- Buy organic. Buying CBD oil derived from organic hemp means the final product will be clean and free from harmful pesticides and herbicides.
- Read the ingredients. Always read the ingredients list on any CBD product before you buy it. A quality CBD oil will contain natural ingredients, like a carrier oil (e.g. hempseed oil or MCT oil) and essential oils for flavor, and no artificial additives or preservatives.
- Look for a Certificate of Analysis. Trustworthy brands will test their CBD extracts in an independent laboratory and post the results in a Certificate of Analysis. This analysis will verify that the CBD concentration labeled on the product is accurate, that the THC concentration on the label is accurate, and reveal if there are any harmful chemicals or heavy metals in the final products.
- Check the THC content. The federal limit is 0.3% THC content or less in CBD products, but each state has the final say on how much THC is allowable. If you live in a state with strict cannabis laws, it may not be legal for you to buy or consume certain CBD oil products that contain any THC at all. If you’re avoiding THC, look for products derived from broad-spectrum CBD oil, which contains all the cannabinoids of the hemp plant except THC, or CBD isolate.
CBD oil’s neuroprotective qualities and ability to repair damage caused by traumatic brain injury are well-documented, but will require further investigation. Researchers in both animal studies and clinical trials are currently examining the use of CBD oil to treat concussions, so it won’t be long before we have a better understanding of all the ways CBD oil can treat both the symptoms and the damage caused by head trauma.
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Concussions can cause real and lasting damage to the brain – but can CBD oil provide protection, or even reverse the damage done?
Cannabis Research and Clinical Trials
Current research is pointing towards CBD serving as a neuroprotectant, possibly helping the brain heal from concussions. Findings also indicate that CBD and/or medical cannabis (marijuana) can be effective for pain management, anxiety, and insomnia, all of which are common symptoms of concussions and Post-concussion Syndrome.
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Please read our Cannabis Health & Safety page. There appears to be a consensus among researchers that cannabidiol is relatively benign. Consumers typically purchase CBD made from hemp, which contains no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
There are numerous contraindications to be aware of for cannabis containing THC (marijuana), meaning that there are circumstances when marijuana could be detrimental. Additionally, people with brain injuries may be more vulnerable to substance abuse, including abuse of marijuana.
Some research focuses specifically on CBD (cannabidiol), which is the nonpsychoactive element of cannabis, and other research focuses on medical cannabis, with various ratios of CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, and THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid.
CBD products are extracted from hemp or marijuana, which are essentially the same cannabis plant but are cultivated differently, hemp plants being grown to contain less than 0.3% THC.
Concussion patients are using CBD oil from hemp, which has virtually no THC, or marijuana products (vape, tincture, etc.) with various ratios of CBD and 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.
In the United States, the first big 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.” See also the Miami Herald article.
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, an element of cannabis) and Dexanabinol (HU-211) which is synthetic cannabinoid which 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.”
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: an interview with Dr. Hoffer.
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.
A pre-clinical trial on animals is in progress. Dr. Hoffer expects this phase to last around 9 to 12 months. He hopes to transition to human clinical trials and file the treatment with the FDA in early 2021.
In 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.
In Australia, 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. More information is found in our newsletter 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.
Highlighting research and clinical trials around the world for use of CBD for concussion and post-concussion syndrome treatment, neuroprotection, and pain, insomnia, & anxiety management.