Someday CBD (cannabidiol) may be given as first aid for stroke and brain injuries to lessen the brain damage caused by lack of blood flow. In fact, there is increasing evidence for CBD’s protective effects on brain and nerve cells exposed to damage from many different types of injuries due to inflammation, lack of oxygen, or toxins. But until recently we didn’t understand exactly how CBD acted to protect neurons. A recent Chinese study discovered that the CBD’s neuroprotection is due to its effects on mitochondria, the furnaces that produce energy in our cells. And this means CBD might be able to help mitochondrial function in other conditions like fibromyalgia, too.
This study reproduced a stroke-like injury in mouse neurons by first depriving them of oxygen and glucose (what happens when the brain is not getting enough blood flow during a stroke), and then added back glucose and oxygen (simulating reperfusion when blood flow returns to brain). Both parts of this process are damaging to brain cells, initially due to absence of oxygen and nutrients, and then by a massive release of inflammation and toxic chemicals when blood flow returns.This type of damage is called an ischemia/reperfusion injury and results in significant cell injury and cell death.
However, when these researchers added CBD to neurons it dramatically reduced how many neurons were damaged or destroyed, as you can see in the figures from the study. The study concludes “administration of CBD during reperfusion markedly attenuated the morphological damage and the cells maintained a normal appearance.”
CBD protected cells from death and damage in two ways, the study found. First, CBD stimulated mitochondria to produce energy more efficiently from glucose, essentially extending the amount of time brain cells could survive during an “energy crisis.” CBD also enhanced the mitochondrial production of antioxidants, which defend against the type of damage created during a stroke. According to the study authors, “These data suggest that CBD is a mitochondria-targeting drug that markedly enhances mitochondrial function and bioenergetics, thus exerting potent protective effects against pathological conditions.”
In addition to the huge potential application in emergencies such as stroke, the ability of CBD to boost mitochondrial function has relevance for fibromyalgia treatment as well. Poorly functioning mitochondria due to excessive fight-or-flight nervous system signals are key contributors to the fatigue and fog in fibromyalgia. It is possible that CBD might have similar energy boosting effects for our mitochondria, resulting in long-term benefits to lessen brain fog and improve brain function. CBD needs to be studied for its effects on the fibromyalgia brain. Lady Gaga, I am looking at you for help in funding research on this!
Learn more about boosting mitochondrial function in fibromyalgia in Chapter 13 of The FibroManual.