Can CBD Help With CTE?

  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is characterized by the harmful accumulation of tau proteins in the brain(1). An inflammatory response, known as neuroinflammation, is thought to be a key contributor to CTE development(2).
  • The cannabis-derived compound, cannabidiol (CBD), has been reported to possess properties that can combat neuroinflammation(3).
  • CBD is reported to bind to the CB1(4) and CB2 receptors(5), which researchers believe allows the compound to exert neuroprotective effects in the body.
  • Still, there is still a lack of human clinical data to prove that CBD can benefit individuals with CTE.

Why People Are Turning to CBD for CTE

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive hits to the head. It is commonly found in athletes and people with a history of repeated brain trauma.

In CTE, a type of protein, known as tau, begins to accumulate and slowly spread throughout the brain, destroying brain cells along the way(6).

Memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion, and progressive dementia are some of the indicators of CTE

The cognitive signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy usually appear later than the other symptoms.

Neuroinflammation, an inflammatory response within the brain, is believed to play a critical role in the development of CTE(7).

Microglial cells of the nervous system used for immune defense are said to contribute to the accumulation and spread of the tau protein. 

When activated, these cells bring about a neuroinflammatory response that researchers believe can be targeted for therapeutic interventions(8).

The cannabis constituent, known as CBD (cannabidiol), has been reported to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties(9).

A review published in 2017 assessed several studies on CBD’s effects on animal models of Alzheimer’s disease.

The studies revealed that CBD was able to reduce neuroinflammatory response and cell damage while promoting neurogenesis(10). Neurogenesis is the process wherein neurons are made in the brain.

Furthermore, the review showed that cannabidiol was able to reverse and prevent the development of cognitive deficits in rodents(11). Cognitive impairment is one of the primary symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  

In 2019, a study published by Frontiers in Pharmacology found that consuming CBD oil restored behavioral alterations in a mouse model of traumatic brain injury(12). The study’s authors suggested that CBD may be used to improve neurological functions caused by trauma.

Although studies have hinted at CBD’s potential health benefits for CTE, there is still a lack of human evidence to prove that it can effectively treat the condition.

How CBD Oil Works to Help with CTE

Studies conducted on animals and humans revealed that CBD exerts therapeutic benefits for brain function and protection by how it affects the endocannabinoid system (ECS)(13).

The ECS is a system in mammals that is said to maintain homeostasis or balance in the body.

CBD reportedly binds to the CB1 receptors of the ECS(14). Numerous studies have shown that this type of receptor plays a neuroprotective role against neuronal damage(15).

Another study examined the neuroprotective effects of CBD and found that the compound provides potent neuroprotection through an anti-inflammatory CB1 receptor mechanism(16).

Furthermore, authors in a 2010 study learned that CBD induced robust neuroprotection in the brain of newborn mice by acting on another group of ECS receptors called CB2(17).

The activation of CB2 receptors has been linked to a delayed progression of neurodegenerative events, particularly those involving microglial cells(18).

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for CTE

The Pros

  • Studies previously mentioned have shown that CBD possesses neuroprotective effects that could benefit patients with CTE.
  • CBD was found to engage with various receptors of the body, particularly CB1 and CB2, which have been implicated in neuroprotective roles.
  • Many places in the United States have legalized the purchase and consumption of cannabidiol. People can obtain CBD products even without a prescription.
  • CBD is non-psychoactive. It does not cause a euphoric “high” to its users when consumed.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the potential opportunities that cannabis and cannabis constituents may offer(19).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the safety and non-addictiveness of CBD(20).

The Cons

  • There is a knowledge gap concerning CBD’s effectiveness in treating neurodegenerative conditions. A lack of human clinical trials has made it difficult to determine whether or not the compound benefits CTE patients.
  • Using CBD is not risk-free. Studies on human subjects have shown that the compound can cause diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and drowsiness(21).
  • Epidiolex, a medication for treating two unique forms of epilepsy, is the only CBD product approved by the FDA. No other marketing applications have been found for cannabis and its constituents(22).
  • Researchers in a 2018 study found that CBD products are likely to be mislabeled, especially those sold online(23).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for CTE

Taking vitamins and minerals, such as D, E, and zinc, are believed to help with traumatic brain injury(24).

In a clinical trial, a combination therapy consisting of vitamin D and progesterone was found to reduce neuroinflammation in an animal model(25).

Animals treated with vitamin E showed a significant attenuation or reduction of learning deficits(26).

Vitamin E is considered an essential antioxidant primarily because of its ability to protect from oxidative stress damage. Oxidative stress is regarded as a significant contributor to neurodegeneration(27).

A study on zinc supplementation also hinted that the mineral might be an effective treatment for improving cognitive impairment and depression, following traumatic brain injury(28).

Like these supplements, CBD has beneficial neuroprotectant effects, as shown in the studies mentioned previously.

Also, people can find CBD products infused with vitamins D, E, and zinc today. 

These items are usually available in the form of CBD tinctures and are advertised to improve overall health.

How to Choose the Right CBD for CTE

Since there is a lack of studies on CBD for CTE, there is no official recommendation on the type of CBD to use.

However, understanding the different forms of the compound may help users identify the most appropriate CBD for their needs.

There are three types of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.

The CBD in full-spectrum form is known for the “entourage effect,” a synergistic action that occurs among cannabis constituents(29).

It is labeled “full-spectrum” because this CBD variant contains all of the phytocannabinoids that are naturally present in cannabis plants

Full-spectrum CBD may be considered as the most potent form of cannabidiol available.

Quality full-spectrum CBD products are generally high in cannabidiol, with trace amounts of other cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Broad-spectrum CBD is cannabidiol that has been extracted from cannabis along with the other compounds, except for THC. This type of CBD contains terpenes and other cannabinoids found in the plant.

Some individuals prefer to purchase the broad-spectrum variety due to its lack of THC.

CBD isolate is the purest type of CBD that can be bought today. This form of CBD only contains pure cannabidiol.

CBD isolates are often referred to as crystals because it is sold in crystalline form. These crystals can be crushed into powder for easier consumption.

Whichever form of CBD buyers select, choosing only the highest quality available is important.

The following are tips to help users obtain only the best CBD oil:

  • Buy organic, non-GMO CBD that has been extracted from hemp plants. Industrial hemp is a reliable source of obtaining cannabidiol.
  • Get a copy of the certificate of analysis or COA of the chosen CBD product. This laboratory report indicates that the item contains the exact specifications mentioned on its label.
  • Be sure to know the legalities concerning the use of CBD in the state where one plans to purchase the compound. Awareness is crucial to avoid legal repercussions.
  • Browse and read testimonials of a store before purchasing online. If deciding to buy from a dispensary, check to see if they have the proper authorization to sell cannabidiol products.
  • Talk to a healthcare professional, preferably a doctor knowledgeable in medical cannabis.

Additional Advice to Obtain the Best CBD Oil Products

  1. Avoid brands that claim their CBD was extracted from the seeds and stalks of the hemp plant. The seeds of hemp do not have cannabidiol, and the stalks only have trace amounts of the compound.
  2. Ensure that CBD edibles, such as CBD gummies, are assessed carefully before buying. Some CBD companies may sell snacks containing artificial or sub-standard ingredients that can be harmful.
  3. Feel free to switch to another CBD brand if the present company does not respond appropriately to questions concerning their products.

CBD Dosage for CTE

No official guidelines exist on CBD dosage for chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Although the FDA recognizes cannabidiol’s potential, it has not yet found another marketing application for CBD.

However, one can look at past research to find a dosing range that may be beneficial for their needs.

A 2019 study found that CBD appeared to provide a wide range of activity between 1 and 50 mg/kg per day(30). The study’s authors also noted that the side effects of CBD are generally mild and infrequent.

How to Take CBD Oil for CTE

There are many ways to take CBD hemp oil. Users can find tinctures, edibles, topicals, and even vapes.

CBD oil tinctures allow users to apply drops under the tongue. These products come with droppers that make it easy to measure the amount of CBD desired.

Edibles, such as gummies and cookies, are a more direct way of taking cannabidiol. There are also CBD capsules and tablets that can be administered similarly to supplements.

Applying topicals by way of creams, balms, and salves are ideal for massage therapies.

CBD vaping pens used with liquids containing various flavors are also available. However, vaping is not recommended, as it can lead to the worsening of lung disorders(31).

What Causes CTE?

Repeated head impacts can damage the fibers coursing through the brain. This brain injury can lead to a buildup of a protein known as tau, which is thought to cause cell death(32).

Losing brain cells can interfere with the brain’s normal functions, causing neurological problems, like memory loss, aggressiveness, and depression.

Several types of head injuries may lead to tau accumulation in the brain. These head injuries include:

  • Mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions
  • A series of mild hits with no symptoms
  • Serious brain damage, like traumatic brain injury (TBI)

CTE is common in contact sports(33). Football players, former NFL players, boxers, and military veterans have a high risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

How Is CTE Diagnosed?

At this time, chronic traumatic encephalopathy can only be diagnosed by analyzing the brain tissue of a dead patient.

Doctors who specialize in brain diseases remove the brain tissue and use chemicals to identify tau protein clumps. They then search the brain systematically for patterns related to CTE.

The process can take several months to be completed. The analysis is often not part of the normal autopsy.

Treating a disorder that can only be officially diagnosed after the patient has died is difficult. However, there are steps available that may address the symptoms and provide relief.

Many CTE treatments involve the identification of these symptoms and treating them with targeted therapies.


CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive hits to the head. It is often present in athletes and individuals who continuously experience repeated head traumas and brain traumas.

The inflammatory response of the brain, called neuroinflammation, is thought to contribute significantly to the development of CTE.

CBD is believed to benefit patients with CTE due to its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.

Several studies have shown the benefits of CBD as a neuroprotectant. The chemical was found to engage with cannabinoid receptors of the ECS to exert its therapeutic effects.

However, no human clinical trials on CBD for CTE have been completed. This lack of data means that CBD has not been proven to be an effective solution for treating the disorder.

People should consult a doctor before deciding to incorporate CBD in their daily regimen.

  1. Concussion Legacy Foundation. What is CTE? Retrieved from:
  2. Cherry JD, Tripodis Y, Alvarez VE, et al. Microglial neuroinflammation contributes to tau accumulation in chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2016;4(1):112. Published 2016 Oct 28. doi:10.1186/s40478-016-0382-8
  3. Booz GW. Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011;51(5):1054-1061. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.01.007
  4. Laprairie RB, Bagher AM, Kelly ME, Denovan-Wright EM. Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. Br J Pharmacol. 2015;172(20):4790-4805. doi:10.1111/bph.13250
  5. Castillo A, Tolón MR, Fernández-Ruiz J, Romero J, Martinez-Orgado J. The neuroprotective effect of cannabidiol in an in vitro model of newborn hypoxic-ischemic brain damage in mice is mediated by CB(2) and adenosine receptors. Neurobiol Dis. 2010;37(2):434-440. doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2009.10.023
  6. Concussion Legacy Foundation. op. cit.
  7. Cherry JD, Tripodis Y, Alvarez VE, et al. op. cit.
  8. Makinde HM, Just TB, Cuda CM, Perlman H, Schwulst SJ. The Role of Microglia in the Etiology and Evolution of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Shock. 2017;48(3):276-283. doi:10.1097/SHK.0000000000000859
  9. Booz GW. op. cit.
  10. Watt G, Karl T. In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:20. Published 2017 Feb 3. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00020
  11. Ibid.
  12. Belardo C, Iannotta M, Boccella S, et al. Oral Cannabidiol Prevents Allodynia and Neurological Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:352. Published 2019 Apr 16. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00352
  13. Maroon J, Bost J. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surg Neurol Int. 2018;9:91. Published 2018 Apr 26. doi:10.4103/sni.sni_45_18
  14. Laprairie RB, Bagher AM, Kelly ME, Denovan-Wright EM. op. cit.
  15. Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):833. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3390/ijms19030833
  16. Hayakawa K, Mishima K, Nozako M, et al. Delayed treatment with cannabidiol has a cerebroprotective action via a cannabinoid receptor-independent myeloperoxidase-inhibiting mechanism. J Neurochem. 2007;102(5):1488-1496. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.04565.x
  17. Castillo A, Tolón MR, Fernández-Ruiz J, Romero J, Martinez-Orgado J. op. cit.
  18. Fernández-Ruiz J, Pazos MR, García-Arencibia M, Sagredo O, Ramos JA. Role of CB2 receptors in neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2008;286(1-2 Suppl 1):S91-S96. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2008.01.001
  19. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, August 3). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from:
  20. World Health Organization (2018). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from:
  21. Huestis MA, Solimini R, Pichini S, Pacifici R, Carlier J, Busardò FP. Cannabidiol Adverse Effects and Toxicity. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):974-989. doi:10.2174/1570159X17666190603171901
  22. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, August 3). op. cit.
  23. Freedman DA, Patel AD. Inadequate Regulation Contributes to Mislabeled Online Cannabidiol Products. Pediatr Neurol Briefs. 2018;32:3. Published 2018 Jun 18. doi:10.15844/pedneurbriefs-32-3
  24. Lucke-Wold BP, Logsdon AF, Nguyen L, et al. Supplements, nutrition, and alternative therapies for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. Nutr Neurosci. 2018;21(2):79-91. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2016.1236174
  25. Tang H, Hua F, Wang J, et al. Progesterone and vitamin D combination therapy modulates inflammatory response after traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj. 2015;29(10):1165-1174. doi:10.3109/02699052.2015.1035330
  26. Conte V, Uryu K, Fujimoto S, et al. Vitamin E reduces amyloidosis and improves cognitive function in Tg2576 mice following repetitive concussive brain injury [published correction appears in J Neurochem. 2004 Sep;90(6):1541]. J Neurochem. 2004;90(3):758-764. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2004.02560.x
  27. La Fata G, Weber P, Mohajeri MH. Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrients. 2014;6(12):5453-5472. Published 2014 Nov 28. doi:10.3390/nu6125453
  28. Cope EC, Morris DR, Scrimgeour AG, Levenson CW. Use of zinc as a treatment for traumatic brain injury in the rat: effects on cognitive and behavioral outcomes. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2012;26(7):907-913. doi:10.1177/1545968311435337
  29. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  30. Millar SA, Stone NL, Bellman ZD, Yates AS, England TJ, O’Sullivan SE. A systematic review of cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;85(9):1888-1900. doi:10.1111/bcp.14038
  31. Chand HS, Muthumalage T, Maziak W, Rahman I. Pulmonary Toxicity and the Pathophysiology of Electronic Cigarette, or Vaping Product, Use Associated Lung Injury. Front Pharmacol. 2020;10:1619. Published 2020 Jan 14. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.01619
  32. Cleveland Clinic. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Retrieved from:
  33. Concussion Legacy Foundation. op. cit. 
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