Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a term that is being used increasingly, thanks in part to the recognition of the consequences of concussions sustained in amateur and professional sports, notably American football. Beyond injuries in sports, however, the consequences of falls, car accidents, traumas incurred in and around the house, at school, even at work–how many ways can we hurt our heads?–the effects of severe and continued episodes of concussion have presented as major factors to health, happiness and vitality going forward in life.
So, I’ve been keeping my eye on what I have seen to be some of the most promising support once a person has sustained an injury like this (and, in at least one of the items I’ll be mentioning, actually protecting the brain from greater injury if such an accident happens!) While healthy nutrition, a balance of sleep/exercise/meditation and other adjunctive therapies such as acupuncture and medicinal grade essential oils are all part of what I would consider as part of this picture, the following modalities really, really shine in their support of brain health.
CBD Oils Cannabis oils (which I’ve referenced in another post), have shown tremendous support to the neural system both before injury, and after brain injury has occurred. As mentioned before, this type of nutritional support is about pain relief and recovery–the use of standardized CBD oils from the hemp plant do not impart a psychoactive effect–but they do offer wellness support like nothing else I’ve seen.
(From the Medical Marijuana, Inc. educational portal): Cannabinoids have been shown to act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannibinoid system, which in turn prevents the release of proinflammatory cytokines that are released after brain trauma and cause damage (Panikashvili, et al., 2006). Activating of the CB1 and CB2 receptors also has been shown to stimulate the release of minocycline, which reduces brain swelling and neurological impairment, and diffuses further injuries to the brain’s axons (Lopez-Rodriguez, et al., 2015) (Biegon, 2004).
In one study, cannabinoid administered to mice with brain injuries caused a significant reduction of brain swelling, as well as better clinical recovery, reduced infarct volume, and reduced brain cell death compared to the control group (Panikashvili, et al., 2001). In another, CBD was found to reduce acute and apoptotic brain damage (Castillo, et al., 2010). Piglets with brain injuries given CBD experienced less excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation (Pazos, et al., 2013).
Mice that had suffered an impact brain injury showed marked recovery in object recognition and in performing a specific task after CB1 receptors were activated (Arain, Khan, Craig & Nakanishi, 2015). Cannabinoids have even shown to be effective at offering neuroprotection in newborn babies that have experienced a brain injury (Fernandez-Lopez, Lizasoain, Moro & Martinez-Orgado, 2013).
Often, when there is a brain injury, there may be a spinal injury in conjunction–again, from the Medical Marijuana, Inc. education portal:
Cannabinoids have demonstrated that they can help limit the neurological damage if administered shortly after a spinal cord injury. Following trauma, a series of pathological events contribute to the spread of spinal cord damage and further provokes neurological losses (Arevalo-Martin, Garcia-Ovejero & Molina-Holgado, 2010). However, administering cannabinoids soon after the injury has been shown to reduce proinflammatory cytokines and delay neuronal atrophy and degeneration, thus preserving the white matter around injured area and protecting the myelin sheath that surrounds the cord (Latini, et al., 2014) (Arevalo-Martin, Garcia-Ovejero & Molina-Holgado, 2010).
In one study, a reduction in swelling and a preservation of white matter and myelin were shown when cannabinoids were administered 20 minutes following a spinal cord injury (Arevalo-Martin, et al., 2012). In another, rats with spinal cord injuries saw improvements in locomotor functional recovery (Kwiatkoski, Guimaraes & Del-Bel, 2012). A third study found, in addition to an improvement in neurological function, saw a decrease in compression lesion volume (Hong, et al., 2015).
By acting through the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, the cannabinoids provide a neuro-protective response, prompting researchers to conclude that they can be a useful treatment for acute spinal cord injuries (Arevalo-Martin, Garcia-Ovejero & Molina-Holgado, 2010) (Arevalo-Martin, et al., 2012) (Arevalo-Martin, Molina-Holgado & Garcia-Ovejero, 2016).
In addition, cannabis has long been determined as effective for addressing neuropathic pain. Its use has been found to be among the most effective pain relief treatments for people with spinal cord injuries (Wilsey, et al., 2013) (Heutink, Post, Wollaars & van Asbeck, 2011)…For spinal cord injury patients experiencing spasms, cannabis may offer relief. Along with pain, muscle spasm is the most common reason that medical cannabis is recommended and prescribed by medical professionals (Borgelt, Franson, Nussbaum & Wang, 2013).
Studies have demonstrated that medical cannabis offers significant improvements in muscle spasticity, both in mice trials and in human subjects (Borgelt, Franson, Nussbaum & Wang, 2013) (Baker, et al., 2000). Spinal cord injured persons have reported that cannabis use decreased spasticity (Malec, Harvey & Cayner, 1982).
If you wish to purchase standardized, nourishing, purity-tested and potent CBD oils from hemp, you can do so here.
LED and Near-infrared Light Therapy: This is a non-invasive, comfortable therapy that I use with all my patients, whether there is TBI or not. It is a unique therapy that harnesses the healing powers of infrared light, emitting noted wavelengths of light energy that dramatically increase circulation to injury sites and areas of chronic pain, resulting in a rapid relief of discomfort, improved sense of wellness, and regeneration of damaged tissues.
Flexible pads embedded with multiple infrared and visible red and blue diodes, are placed directly in contact with the skin over the area of pain or injury. Light energy from the diodes penetrates beneath the skin and is absorbed by proteins within cells that lay beneath the skin, which releases nitric oxide, the body’s natural vasodilator. After just 20 minutes of treatment, blood flow is increased to nerves and other tissues, and this boost in local circulation persists for several hours after the pads are removed. My patients LOVE this therapy–and thankfully the units are available for home purchase. Please send me an email if you’d like information on having your own system. Here’s an incredible video showcasing the power of the lights when there has been injury to the brain.
Earthing As was shared in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health in 2012, the impact of connecting with the earth’s surface electrons is one of the most healing activities we can undertake. And while this seems easy enough to do, how many of us actually walk barefoot outdoors, or lie in direct contact with the earth (both activities our ancestors did daily–and so our bodies are expecting this connection) on a regular basis? Personally, I live, sleep and work in a second-story setting–and for a good portion of the year it is so chilly that I wouldn’t dream of stepping out without my shoes. So, my contact with the earth in this manner is GREATLY impacted (and I know better!) Thankfully, there is technology that works with the actual electrical model of our homes and workplaces that can help us stay grounded through the electrons of the earth. One company that has a great selection of well-made products is Earthing.
Whether you’ve experienced a bad concussion at some time in your life, or you are wishing to support someone in your life who has, I hope these novel and impactful suggestions help to recover the health and vitality that is the birthright of each of us–injury or none.