The potential role of cannabis in managing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is an area of ongoing research, and findings are not conclusive. Cannabis contains compounds known as cannabinoids, and some studies suggest that these compounds may have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, which could potentially be relevant in the context of CTE. Researchers are hopeful that cannabis may help relieve pain, anxiety, and sleep disturbances in CTE patients. However, individual responses can vary.
What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a type of traumatic brain injury that was first recognized in boxers . Because of this, it was first called being “punch drunk” or “boxer’s dementia (dementia pugilistica).” Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is believed to be caused by repeated head injuries, particularly concussions or subconcussive blows to the head. Repeated closed-head injuries and repeated concussions occur most often in athletes who participate in sports like boxing, rugby, football, and hockey. However, military veterans and domestic abuse survivors have also been diagnosed with CTE.
Approximately 17% of people with a repetitive concussion or mild traumatic brain injury develop CTE . The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but the accumulation of an abnormal protein called tau and the development of neurofibrillary tangles in specific brain regions are key characteristics. An inflammatory cascade causes tau to accumulate and form neurofibrillary tangles, which can disrupt normal brain cell function and lead to the degeneration of brain tissue over time. Symptoms of CTE may vary and may not appear until decades after the initial head injuries. Common symptoms include:
- Memory Loss: Progressive loss of memory and cognitive function
- Impaired Judgment: Difficulty making sound decisions and assessing situations
- Confusion and Disorientation: Feeling disoriented and having trouble understanding one’s surroundings
- Mood and Behavioral Changes: Aggression, irritability, impulsivity, depression, and anxiety are common
- Motor Impairments: Problems with coordination, tremors, and difficulty with movements
- Speech and Language Difficulties: Communication problems, including slurred speech
- Dementia: Advanced stages may involve severe cognitive decline and dementia
There is no specific cure for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and treatment primarily focuses on managing symptoms. Supportive care and strategies to address specific cognitive and behavioral issues can include cognitive rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, and medications to relieve depression or anxiety.
Medical Cannabis for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), along with cannabis terpenes (caryophyllene) can have direct activity on the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 (tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, caryophyllene) . They can also indirectly modulate the body through other receptors like peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR) and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors (CBD, CBDA). THC and CBD have been used in combination for the relief of headaches, nausea, insomnia, dizziness, agitation, substance abuse, and psychotic symptoms associated with CTE. However, these studies have mostly been anecdotal/informal, or performed in cell or animal models. It is thought that the neuroprotective properties of CBD may be especially beneficial to CTE patients, but the use of high-THC marijuana is less common.
Researchers have examined the use of cannabinoids more broadly in traumatic brain injury and have found that the endocannabinoid system may be a mechanism for alleviating symptoms and preventing conditions from worsening. In mild cases of traumatic brain injury, early treatment (within 24 hours) to elevate endocannabinoid levels has been shown to reduce neuroinflammation and improve recovery . While little research exists on the treatment of CTE with cannabinoids, early treatment of the initial traumatic brain injury may help prevent CTE development. Ultimately, patients looking to treat Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy with cannabis will need to work closely with a medical cannabis doctor to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Best Cannabis Strains for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Due to the complexity of CTE, patients may want to utilize a pharmaceutical cannabinoid prescription like Sativex (1:1 THC:CBD) or Epidiolex (CBD). If your doctor has deemed it appropriate to use marijuana in its herbal form, there are a few factors to consider. First, be aware that high-THC cannabis may have adverse effects on mood in some individuals. Second, consider starting use with high-CBD hemp flower or cannabis with higher CBD levels that curb the intoxicating effects of THC. Finally, start with just small amounts and observe how you react. Cannabinoids can affect individuals differently, so be aware that trial and error is inherent to finding the right strain for you. With that in mind, here are some cannabis strains to consider trying.
- Ringo’s Gift
Ringo’s Gift, a strain rich in CBD, originates from the genetic fusion of Harle-Tsu and ACDC strains. Dedicated to the late Lawrence Ringo, a revered cannabis activist and CBD pioneer, this strain showcases diverse phenotypes and varying CBD-to-THC ratios. Notably, the “one-for-one” variation represents an equal balance between CBD and THC, while Ringo’s Gift can also present striking ratios, occasionally soaring to an impressive 24:1 CBD/THC.
This strain offers a harmonious combination of cerebral stimulation and profound full-body relaxation, all achieved without inducing sedation. Marked by the terpenes myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, Ringo’s Gift possesses distinct characteristics that contribute to its overall appeal. In terms of flavor, it presents a fusion of nutty earth and tobacco notes, accompanied by subtle hints of pine and lime, creating a uniquely enjoyable experience.
Cannatonic, a hemp strain dominated by CBD, is the result of a precise crossbreeding of MK Ultra and G13 Haze genetics. It delivers a gentle and tranquil initial buzz, establishing a foundation for relaxation. Recognized for its exceptional stress-relieving properties, Cannatonic has become popular among medical marijuana patients seeking relief from migraines, pain, muscle spasms, and anxiety. The strain boasts an earthy aroma that transforms into a woody citrus flavor when smoked. Distinguished by its terpene composition, with a notable presence of myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, Cannatonic provides therapeutic benefits without causing an overwhelming psychoactive impact.
“The Wife,” also known simply as “Wife,” is a hemp strain renowned for its high-CBD content, boasting an impressive 20:1 CBD to THC ratio. What sets this CBD-rich strain apart is its reputation for inducing a profound sense of relaxation and its distinctive floral cherry flavor. The delightful flavor profile is achieved through the harmonious combination of major terpenes, such as myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, along with minor terpenes like limonene, humulene, linalool, and bisabolol. The predominant and most noticeable effect of the Wife strain is a potent wave of tranquility that envelops users, accompanied by an increased sense of calm and soothing relief from bodily aches and discomfort.
- Royal Highness
Royal Highness, a hybrid cannabis strain leaning towards sativa dominance, is the result of a meticulous crossbreeding of Dancehall and Respect strains. This strain achieves a nearly balanced ratio of THC to CBD, producing effects that are notably less psychoactive compared to strains dominated by THC. The Royal Highness experience begins with a surge of cerebral energy, instilling motivation and focus, encouraging active engagement. It features a clear-headed and functional cerebral euphoria accompanied by a gentle, soothing body sensation.
The flavor profile of Royal Highness is captivating, offering a smooth and delightful blend of fruity, spicy, and subtly skunky notes. Medical marijuana patients often choose this strain to alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety and pain. The dominant terpenes, including myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, not only contribute to the strain’s flavors but also play a role in its therapeutic effects.
- Blue Dream
If you have an appreciation for cannabis, chances are you’re familiar with Blue Dream. This sativa-dominant hybrid, born from the union of Blueberry and Haze, delivers a harmonious and euphoric experience. It holds broad appeal among recreational and medicinal users, catering to both novices and seasoned enthusiasts. Upon breaking open a nug of Blue Dream, you’re met with a delightful burst of sweet, berry-like aroma accented by earthy undertones. This inviting and invigorating scent owes its allure to the dominant terpenes myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene.
When smoked or vaporized, Blue Dream imparts a smooth, sweet, and fruity flavor complemented by subtle herbal notes. The true brilliance of this strain lies in its effects. Blue Dream presents a well-balanced high suitable for any time of day. It initiates with a euphoric cerebral rush that is both creative and uplifting, capable of elevating your mood, sparking motivation, and enhancing focus. Additionally, Blue Dream incorporates just enough indica influence to provide a gentle body relaxation that harmonizes with its cerebral effects.
Lavender, also known as Lavender Kush, is renowned for its soothing and tranquilizing effects. This indica-dominant hybrid is a result of crossing Super Skunk, Big Skunk Korean, and Afghani Hawaiian, resulting in delightful floral, spicy, herbal, and sweet flavors and scents. Lavender’s dominant terpenes include myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, with a smaller proportion of linalool. With an average potency ranging from approximately 17% to over 20% (typically below 20%) Lavender offers a balanced experience. Despite its indica dominance, it doesn’t induce excessive sedation, making it suitable for daytime or evening use when consumed in moderation. This strain is also considered friendly for less experienced cannabis users, contributing to its versatile appeal.
- Jenny Kush
Jenny Kush stands out as a perfectly balanced hybrid, maintaining an equal 50% sativa and 50% indica genetic composition through the crossing of Amnesia Haze with Rare Dankness #2. This cannabis strain serves as a tribute to Jenny Monson-Frieda, a cannabis activist tragically lost in a drunk driving incident in 2013. Renowned for its potent effects, Jenny Kush delivers a blend of relaxing and uplifting sensations that encompass both the cerebral and physical realms.
The strain’s calming attributes have made it a favorite among medical cannabis users seeking relief from conditions such as chronic pain, mild to moderate depression, chronic fatigue, and inflammation. Caryophyllene, terpinolene, and humulene contribute to Jenny Kush’s distinctive terpene profile. While the strain initiates with soft and floral undertones, continued smoking reveals robust notes of lemon and pine, adding to its overall appeal.
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- Russo, E. B. (2018). Cannabis therapeutics and the future of neurology. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 12, 413977. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnint.2018.00051/full?&field&journalName=Frontiers_in_Integrative_Neuroscience&id=413977