The brain is one of our most vital and important, yet delicate, organs. The brain sits at the center of the central nervous system and acts as a control system for the whole body. The most complex organ, it is also the seat of our moods, feelings, thoughts, and personalities. Neurons are the functional cells of the brain specialized for sending electrical messages, while glial cells exist to take care of the neurons and to provide the optimal environment for neuron function.
The term neuroprotection refers to the preservation of the structure and function of neurons and promoting protection against oxidative stress, iron, excitotoxicity, protein aggregation, organelle damage, and inflammation. All of these processes are associated with various disorders, including depression, anxiety, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and multiple sclerosis. For the most part, once a neuron is damaged beyond repair, it is not going to be replaced, so we must strive to take good care of our brain cells.
How Can CBD Help Protect the Brain?
There is a lot of evidence that CBD plays multiple roles in helping to protect the brain. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory molecule and a powerful antioxidant. There is evidence that CBD can help the brain to cope with oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammatory changes, excitotoxicity, iron accumulation, and protein aggregation – all features of neurodegenerative processes.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY ACTION: As part of its anti-inflammatory role, CBD can inhibit the production of cytokines by microglia. Since prolonged, excessive activation of microglia are implicated in disorders like Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, and even HIV-associated dementia, CBD may play a role in reducing further damage in these types of disorders. There is further evidence that CBD can help to control microglia cell movement within the brain tissue, which further contributes to its anti-inflammatory effects.
ANTIOXIDANT ACTION: CBD is also neuroprotective because it can cause cells to turn on several anti-oxidative genes which produce enzymes that help to remove free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. When a cell in the body is exposed to too many free radicals (or too much inflammation), it can undergo a self-imposed suicide called apoptosis. One study showed that CBD was able to prevent inflammation-induced apoptosis in a type of glial cell called oligodendrocytes. CBD can also enhance cellular autophagy which allows a cell to recycle free-radical damaged organelles to help promote its survival. And CBD’s powerful antioxidant abilities also help it to protect neurons from toxicity caused by overactivation of certain types of receptors (called excitotoxicity). CBD’s ability to protect against inflammation and oxidative stress seem to be mediated by its actions at CB2 and 5-HT1A receptors.
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of neurons due to an accumulation of protein clumps inside and outside of the neurons. The extracellular clumps of beta-amyloid protein are called beta-amyloid plaques and the internal clumps of tau protein are called neurofibrillary tangles. CBD has been shown to decrease damage caused by the beta-amyloid plaques by acting through PPAR receptors and by causing an increased recycling of the protein that is used to make the beta-amyloid protein. In mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease, CBD was able to protect cells from the beta-amyloid plaques due to a combination of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic actions. CBD also weakened the activity of another enzyme which helped to prevent the formation of neurofibrillary tangles. Injections of CBD in mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease also helped to reverse some of the cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s. While more clinical studies in humans are needed, it is encouraging evidence that CBD may be able to help protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
PARKINSON’S DISEASE: Parkinson’s Disease is another neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons and an accumulation of the alpha-synuclein protein into clumps called Lewy bodies. In one animal model of Parkinson’s Disease CBD was able to help reduce the dystonia associated with that disease[Ligresti2017]. CBD has also been shown to be neuroprotective in other animal models of Parkinson’s and helped to prevent the death of the dopamine-producing neurons. In a human clinical study, the administration of CBD to Parkinson’s patients resulted in an improvement in scores and significantly decreased accompanying psychotic symptoms. In another human study, CBD resulted in significant improvements in measures of well-being, but did not result in any improvements in motor symptoms.
STROKE: A stroke is caused when blood flow to a particular area of the brain is cut off, either through a blood clot or hemorrhaging. The lack of blood flow is caused ischemia and it results in a shortage of oxygen (hypoxia), a shortage of nutrients, and a build-up of waste products – all of which can lead to cell death. Following a stroke, the affected tissue becomes inflamed and neurons can die from the inflammatory response, excitotoxicity, or the continued lack of oxygen. In a mouse model of brain hypoxia and ischemia, CBD helped to greatly reduce the resulting inflammation, prevented excitotoxicity, and increase the survival of the neurons. CBD also helped to prevent the decrease in cerebral blood flow that normally follows a stroke. Part of the ability of CBD to help reduce stroke damage lies in its activities at the 5-HT1A receptor and its ability to inhibit adenosine uptake by the cells. Also shown in animal models of stroke, CBD was able to help reverse the stroke damage by restoring normal blood flow, improving brain cell metabolic activity, and reducing edema and seizures associated with ischemic damage. Another model showed that CBD could reduce the area of damage (called an “infarct”) following a stroke by action at 5-HT1A and PPAR receptors. While more studies in humans are needed, the evidence for CBD’s ability to help mediate stroke damage is promising and encouraging.
There is substantial evidence that CBD is neuroprotective and can protect the brain from a variety of insults – from protein aggregations to oxidative stress to inflammation to excitotoxicity. There is already a CBD-based drug on the market (Sativex) for treating multiple sclerosis and another one (Epidolex) for treating severe forms of epilepsy. And several more CBD-based drugs are under clinical study and will likely be introduced to the public soon. Our brain is an important organ that needs protecting, and CBD shows great promise for providing that protection. You can order a bottle of CBD Oil from Wai Natural today to start protecting your most precious organ!