Since the endocannabinoid system is comprised primarily of two nerve receptors (CB1 and CB2) and the cannabinoid molecules that activate them it stands to reason that CBD’s greatest impact and potential benefits have to do with conditions that affect the nervous system. Though much of the research on CBD in human disease is still in preliminary stages, there is much to be hopeful about. Here are several neurological conditions for which CBD shows promise:

 

Seizure Disorders

One of the most well-documented benefits of CBD is its effects on seizure disorders. CBD has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in severe epilepsy syndromes that are difficult to control with conventional drugs. In one study, the frequency of drop seizures was reduced by 44% during the 14-week study period[1]. To date, a CBD- based epilepsy drug is the only CBD drug to gain FDA approval.

 

Cognitive Loss Following Stroke and Heart Attack

CBD may help lessen the effects of stroke on the brain[2]. In a laboratory study, when CBD was administered prior to a stroke it resulted in less swelling and lower levels of inflammatory and tissue-destroying molecules[2]. CBD may also help prevent damage to the blood brain barrier, a selective filter that prevents potentially harmful substances in the bloodstream from reaching the brain.

Similarly, CBD shows promise as a way to prevent loss of cognitive function resulting from brain cell death following heart attack [3]. It is thought that CBD’s protective effects may be due to its ability to protect astrocytes—the most prevalent type of brain cell. Astrocytes provide nutritional and structural support to neurons, the information-transmitting cells of the brain. Astrocytes ensure that messages travel properly across the synaptic spaces, exert anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and maintain metabolic balance in the brain.

There is even some evidence to suggest that CBD might restore cognitive function well after cognitive loss in neurodegenerative conditions. A single dose of CBD was reported to reverse cognitive deficits and restore memory in a 2012 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology [4]. And among human cannabis users, those who consume high-CBD cannabis have been found to show no impairment of memory, implying that CBD may have protective effects that mitigate some of THC’s detrimental cognitive effects[5].

 

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Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention and Treatment

One of the causative factors in Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation in the brain of tangled proteins, known as beta-amyloid peptides. Early research models show that CBD may reverse the detrimental effects of amyloid deposits in the hippocampus, restoring its function[6].

CBD’s ability to slow or stop the cascade of neuroinflammation and oxidative stress that damages and kills brain cells has also been noted as a potential mechanism to improve Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and slow the progress of the disease [7].

 

Psychiatric Disorders

By modifying blood flow and acting on serotonin receptors, CBD has been found to improve symptoms of social anxiety disorder[8]. Its activity on the endocannabinoid system as well as its balancing effects on calming serotonin and excitatory glutamate pathways may decrease withdrawal symptoms in substance abuse patients.

CBD has also been found to reduce symptoms in schizophrenics by increasing activity of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid that has several beneficial effects on brain function, including mood regulation, cognition, anti-inflammation, and promotion of nerve growth [8].

Many patients who’ve recently experienced their first psychotic episode misuse cannabis in an attempt to self-medicate and CBD may offer an important management solution. CBD modifies brain function without the intoxicating effects of THC and it also reduces some of the potential detrimental effects of THC, such as its anxiety-provoking and cognition-impairing effects. This leads some researchers to believe the CBD may be helpful at gaining control over psychosis in its early stages[9].

 

Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral nerve damage from a variety of conditions can cause chronic debilitating pain. Early studies indicate that CBD may alleviate symptoms of peripheral neuropathy patients with advanced osteoarthritis by reducing activity of pain receptors, thereby decreasing the number of pain messages travelling to the brain[10]. Additionally, when administered earlier in the disease process CBD has been found to prevent nerve damage in joints affected by osteoarthritis[10].

 

Autoimmune Conditions Affecting the Nervous System

CBD might slow the progression of autoimmune diseases by virtue of its immune-modulating effects[11].  One example is multiple sclerosis, which attacks myelin, the fatty insulation that surrounds and protects nerve cells and helps speed nerve impulse transmission. In a preliminary experiment, CBD reduced levels of inflammatory markers, decreased invasion of immune activating cells into the brain and profoundly increased activity of a particular type of immune-suppressing cells. Clinical scoring tests showed decreased paralysis correlating to the change in blood markers.

 

Managing Spinal Cord Injuries

CBD’s anti-inflammatory activity may be useful for managing some of the common consequences of spinal cord injury, such as hypersensitivity of the skin to extreme temperatures. According to a laboratory study published in the July, 2018 issue of the journal Cellular Immunology thermal hypersensitivity occurred in fewer instances when CBD was administered via spinal cord injections.[12]

 

Preventing Damage in Traumatic Brain Injury

Anxiety, depression and chronic pain syndromes are among the lesser known long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury. Oral CBD has been found to restore the brain neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate to their normal levels and improve behavior changes indicative of anxiety, depression and pain in laboratory animals[13].

 

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References:

  1. ‘Golf’s not-so-secret fascination with CBD oil’https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/27147006/golf-not-secret-fascination-cbd-oil
  2. ‘Cannabidiol in patients with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (GWPCARE4): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial’. Lancet, 2018. 391 (10125): p. 1085-1096https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29395273
  3. ‘Intra-cerebral cannabidiol infusion-induced neuroprotection is partly associated with the TNF-alpha/TNFR1/NF-small ka, Cyrillic B pathway in transient focal cerebral ischaemia’. Brain Inj, 2017. 31(13-14): p. 1932-1943https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28872345
  4. ‘Protective effects of cannabidiol against hippocampal cell death and cognitive impairment induced by bilateral common carotid artery occlusion in mice’. Neurotox Res, 2014. 26(4): p. 307-16https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24532152
  5. ‘Memory-rescuing effects of cannabidiol in an animal model of cognitive impairment relevant to neurodegenerative disorders.’ Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2012. 219(4): p. 1133-40 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21870037
  6. ‘Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study: naturalistic study [corrected]’. Br J Psychiatry, 2010. 197(4): p. 285-90 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20884951
  7. ‘Cannabidiol Reverses Deficits in Hippocampal LTP in a Model of Alzheimer’s Disease’. Neurochem Res, 2019. 44(3): p. 703-713 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29574668
  8. ‘In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease’. Front Pharmacol, 2017. 8: p. 20 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28217094
  9. ‘Pharmacological properties of cannabidiol in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a critical overview’. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci, 2018. 27(4): p. 327-335 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29789034
  10. ‘The Potential of Cannabidiol Treatment for Cannabis Users With Recent-Onset Psychosis’. Schizophr Bull, 2018. 44(1): p. 46-53 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29083450
  11. ‘Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis’. Pain, 2017. 158(12): p. 2442-2451 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28885454
  12. ‘Cannabidiol Attenuates Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Model of Multiple Sclerosis Through Induction of Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells’. Front Immunol, 2018. 9: p. 1782 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30123217
  13. ‘The non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) attenuates pro-inflammatory mediators, T cell infiltration, and thermal sensitivity following spinal cord injury in mice’. Cell Immunol, 2018. 329: p. 1-9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29784129
  14. ‘Oral Cannabidiol Prevents Allodynia and Neurological Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury’. Front Pharmacol, 2019. 10: p. 352 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31040777