Strokes not only appear without symptoms, but also wreak havoc on the brain long after they’ve occurred. Stroke patients suffer from inflammation, restricted blood flow, and neural cell death days, months, and even years after the event. Research has shown that a combination of cannabinoids found in cannabis can drastically reduce the damage done after a stroke, especially if consumed immediately after the stroke.
Inflammation is a biological response to heal damaged cells by calling upon immune system cells to repair damage and remove the foreign substance. After a stroke, the cell receptor TLR4 interacts with a protein called galectin-3 which exacerbates inflammatory responses. High levels of this protein sustain and continue the inflammation leading to more brain damage.
Studies have shown that stimulation of CB2 cell receptors part of our endocannabinoid system reduce brain damage associated with post-stroke inflammation. CBD, specifically, inhibits the acute inflammatory reaction after a stroke by inhibiting glial activation. Glial activation exposes the brain to cytotoxic and cytoprotective inflammatory mediators. In essence, CBD can prevent inflammatory responses from creating more damage to the brain.
Immediately after a stroke, the neurotransmitter glutamate is released into the brain. Normally, glutamate affects our ability to learn and create memories. When there is too much glutamate in the brain, like during after a stroke, the glutamate affects not only the damaged neurons but also healthy neurons as well. Glutamate works by over-exciting neural cells making them open their pores allowing large amounts of substances in like sodium.
Water rushes in to dilute the sodium which contributes to cell swelling, reduced blood flow, and eventually cell death. THC and CBD can help reduce the level of glutamate and prevent cell death. Studies show that THC reduces the levels of glutamate through activation of the CB1 cell receptor. CBD has also been found to reduce glutamate toxicity proving it can have effective and potent neuroprotective responses, even if taken alone.
In stroke patients, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are released into the brain to remove foreign substances which result in an imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant defenses. Too much ROS can be toxic and contributes to DNA damage and cell death.
Free radicals help by removing waste products that result from stress or exposure to toxins. Because they contain only one electron, they seek to pair with other molecules. What started off as a way to remove waste results in a snowball effect that damages healthy cells. Antioxidants are released to prevent further damage to molecules by donating their electrons to the free radicals. When naturally produced antioxidants aren’t enough cannabis can help. Both THC and CBD have been proven to improve neuroprotection, reduce toxicity, and improve energy supply to cells.
More research still must be done to learn more about how these cannabinoids protect stroke patients from further damage after the event. CBD oils and tinctures along with high CBD flower can improve the quality of life for stroke patients and prevent further strokes from occurring.