How Does Cannabis Help With Concussions and Brain Injuries?

Although concussion and traumatic brain injury (or TBI) awareness has increased dramatically in the past twenty years or so, the efficacy of treating concussions with CBD has only quite recently become a part of the discussion. In fact, in 2003 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was granted a patent on “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”


Several medical studies have looked into treating Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) with CBD. These types of injuries are often associated with sports and are very common—it’s estimated that 1.6-3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the U.S. each year. Concussions and other brain injuries are usually treated with self-care, rehabilitation and sometimes prescription pain medications. Rather than numbing the pain with prescriptions, we suggest looking into the potential neuroprotective properties of CBD.


There’s plenty of interest surrounding the use of CBD for Concussions, and as a result, it is one of the most heavily researched areas concerning the cannabinoid. Still, more research is needed before CBD can be established as an official treatment for brain injuries. In order to understand CBD’s neuroprotective effects, we turn to a series of medical studies that have been conducted over the past twenty years. These studies evaluated CBD’s medical efficacy in treating those who suffer from various types of traumatic brain injuries. We will address the results below.

What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Concussions and Brain Injuries?

CBD was discovered far before researchers actually took an interest in it, but in the past decade, many health benefits have been attributed to the cannabinoid. Research has since identified many of the processes regulated by the endocannabinoid system, or the mechanism by which CBD interacts with the body. Many of these processes are directly involved with the brain and various neurological functions, as well as with immune system responses of inflammation and pain. 


Now, researchers are particularly interested in the effects of CBD in the area of brain injuries, and many studies show a clear connection between CBD and the brain, with most of the emphasis on the neuroprotective properties of cannabidiol. 


Further research suggests that cannabidiol may be effective in reversing some types of brain injuries, or preventing further damage from severe brain injuries as they heal. This is because CBD may promote the growth of new neurons, which act as replacements for neurons damaged during the injury to increase brain functioning. 


Research also shows that the mechanism through which CBD interacts with the body, the Endocannabinoid System, has a direct impact on most brain functions, including the processing of signals of pain and inflammation. Research outlining the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD suggest that it could also be useful in managing the side effects of injuries to the head, like swelling and discomfort. 


Because of the strong connection between CBD and brain function, research efforts regarding the use of CBD for brain injuries are expected to continue to grow, which is a necessary step towards officially establishing CBD as a treatment for concussions and other brain injuries. For now, though, the following studies help us understand the impact that CBD has on the brain and the role that the cannabinoid plays in neuroprotection and healing:

1. Cannabidiol and (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants.

The first study we address is actually the very same study that the U.S. Government used to substantiate their patent claim proving CBD as neuroprotectants. The 1998 study found that “cannabidiol prevented cell death” in rats induced with glutamate neurotoxicity. It goes on to conclude, “cannabidiol and other cannabinoids such as THC are potent antioxidants that protect neurons from glutamate-induced death without cannabinoid receptor activation.”

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2. Cannabidiol administration after hypoxia-ischemia to newborn rats reduces long-term brain injury and restores neurobehavioral function.

A 2012 study concluded that, “CBD administration after HI [hypoxia-ischemia] injury to newborn rats led to long-lasting neuroprotection, with the overall effect of promoting greater functional rather than histological recovery. These effects of CBD were not associated with any side effects. These results emphasize the interest in CBD as a neuroprotective agent for neonatal HI.”

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3. Neuroprotection and reduction of glial reaction by cannabidiol treatment after sciatic nerve transection in neonatal rats.

A 2013 study evaluated the neuroprotective potential of CBD on lab rats experiencing degeneration of both motor and sensory neurons. The study “revealed both motor and sensory neuron rescue following treatment with CBD (15 and 30 mg/kg)…The present results show that CBD possesses neuroprotective characteristics that may, in turn, be promising for future clinical use.”

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4. Protective effects of cannabidiol against hippocampal cell death and cognitive impairment induced by bilateral common carotid artery occlusion in mice.

A 2014 study found that CBD reduces cognitive impairment artificial induced in mice. The study suggest a “protective effect of CBD on neuronal death induced by ischemia and indicate that CBD might exert beneficial therapeutic effects in brain ischemia.”

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5. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids

A 2018 review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids sums it best, “Animal studies indicate that post-head injury administration of exogenous CBD reduces short-term brain damage by improving brain metabolic activity, reducing cerebral hemodynamic impairment, and decreasing brain edema and seizures. These benefits are believed to be due to CBD’s ability to increase anandamide.”


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6. Cannabidiol reduces brain damage and improves functional recovery in a neonatal rat model of arterial ischemic stroke.

Another 2017 found that cannabidiol (CBD) reduces brain damage and improves functional recovery. More specifically, “CBD administration after MCAO led to long-term functional recovery, reducing neuronal loss and astrogliosis, and modulating apoptosis, metabolic derangement, excitotoxicity and neuro-inflammation.”


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7. Plastic and Neuroprotective Mechanisms Involved in the Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol in Psychiatric Disorders

A 2017 study “found that CBD modulates cell fate regulatory pathways such as autophagy and others critical pathways for neuronal survival in neurodegenerative experimental models, suggesting the potential benefit of CBD treatment for psychiatric/cognitive symptoms associated with neurodegeneration.”


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8. Cannabidiol, neuroprotection and neuropsychiatric disorders.

A 2016 medical review succinctly stated that, “CBD affects synaptic plasticity and facilitates neurogenesis” (the growth of new neurons).

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As outlined above, the connection between CBD and brain-related injuries and concussions is clear. CBD may help boost the healing process and protect brain functions during healing, making it a suitable therapeutic option for treating brain injuries. 

Which CBD products help with concussions and brain injuries?

As you decide how you will incorporate CBD to manage the symptoms related to your brain injury or concussion it’s important to remember that the benefits of CBD for concussions have not yet been proven. Still, many people are interested in trying a plant-based method. In order to get the most out of cannabidiol, you should use it daily as a preventative measure. It may also be useful for managing acute flares as needed, but establishing a baseline concentration is most important in the treatment of most conditions. 

There are multiple options that may prove useful, but for managing brain injuries, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules

These two products are alike by formula, both containing full spectrum CBD oil as the main ingredient. They offer totally different dosing styles—easy to swallow pills or sublingual drops—that may make them more appropriate for some users. No matter which you choose, ensure that you choose a brand that combines CBD with a high-quality MCT oil, a substance crucial to the body’s ability to break down and absorb cannabidiol. 

After implementing this routine for daily management, some people find that they still need to use CBD to manage sudden flares. There are multiple CBD products that may be suitable for these flares, and choosing is also based on preference. 

No matter the cause– we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute flare-ups. CBD isolate is 99% pure, with other cannabinoid removed. The benefit of vaping CBD is the near-immediate onset—vaporized CBD can provide relief to the entire body in as little as 10 minutes. 

If you prefer, you can just stick to another dose of the CBD tincture or gel capsule you chose for daily use. Keep in mind that these ingestible products have a significantly longer onset, up to 90 minutes before you experience the full effects

Many people discover that the best way to manage these effects is by combining multiple CBD products in a way that provides constant preventative and therapeutic coverage, like by combining topicals and ingestible products.

What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat concussions and brain injuries?

There are a number of factors that will affect the amount of cannabidiol needed to provide you with relief from symptoms, including the type and severity of ailments, as well as your weight and tolerance to cannabinoid-based medicines.

We suggest those suffering from brain injuries start with 15mg per day of CBD. If this isn’t enough to provide relief, we suggest increasing by 5-10mg until the desired effects are achieved. A tincture makes this easy because it can be precisely measured in small increments. 

Alternatively, gel capsules offer a convenient, pre-measured dose. You can start with the lowest available dose, like a 10mg capsule, with no hesitation because CBD poses no risk of severe side effects or fatal overdose. 

Then, you can simply adjust your dose as needed, but keep in mind that these ingestible products often provide extended effects that can last all day! Just remember that ingestible CBD products have a delayed onset of up to 90 minutes, so give plenty of time in between doses to monitor the full effects. 

Vaping is a bit different because the amount of CBD in each puff varies based on the product and equipment used. Luckily, the effects of vaping kick in quickly. Within 10 minutes you should feel the full extent of effects, and then you can decide if you need to take another quick vape hit to manage residual symptoms. 

A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions

CBD’s safety profile is consistent across most accounts, and even the World Health Organization has suggested it’s low-risk status. However, there is one area of concern for people who already take other medications: the risk of drug interactions. CBD is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme group, the same group of enzymes needed to process the majority of prescription medications. In some circumstances, CBD may reduce the number of enzymes available to metabolize other substances, reducing the efficacy of other drugs. 

Interactions could include some of the prescription medications taken for brain injuries and related pain, which utilize cytochrome P450 pathways for absorption. There’s no need for alarm unless the medications are prescribed to treat life-threatening symptoms, in which case a decrease in efficacy could be serious. 

CBD only briefly impacts these enzymes and many people circumvent the problem by taking their CBD at a different time than other medications. Many people can even take CBD alongside medications with no issue, but it’s always best that you talk to your doctor about CBD to weigh the benefits and identify potential risks.