What does the research say?

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Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is thought to result from repeated head trauma over several years.

It is a rare condition, most commonly found in athletes who play contact sports, such as soccer, as well as in military veterans.

Currently, CTE is not diagnosed until after death with an analysis of brain tissue. However, some symptoms have been reported in people who have subsequently been diagnosed with CTE. These include:

Some progressive cognitive symptoms have also been noted, including:

There is no cure for CTE at this time. Still, some professional football players have put forward the idea that cannabidiol (CBD) might be an option for managing symptoms that could signal a future diagnosis of CTE.

Below, we share some research on CBD for CTE and how to find a quality product.

CBD is an active compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD doesn’t have the same effects as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and probably won’t get you high.

Instead, CBD may offer therapeutic benefits. Preliminary research suggests that it can help relieve anxiety, depression, and seizures.

CBD is available in three forms:

  • Full spectrum. This type of CBD includes all of the plant’s compounds, including terpenes, flavonoids, and up to 0.3% THC in federally legal products.
  • Broad spectrum. Broad-spectrum CBD includes all of the plant’s compounds except THC.
  • Isolate. It’s pure CBD.

If you want to avoid THC, choose an isolated or broad spectrum product. But keep in mind that full spectrum CBD products may offer greater benefits. The entourage effect is a theory that THC and CBD work better together than separately.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that any CBD product can have traces of THC, even if it is an isolate. This is especially important if you are being tested for drugs.

You can find CBD in various products:

There is limited scientific evidence that CBD can help CTE.

A 2018 review recognized the anecdotal efficacy of cannabis in treating these symptoms of CTE:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • commotion
  • psychosis

The review author noted that more research is needed. Additionally, it’s important to note that the review included research on CBD, THC, and cannabis.

A 2017 review also found that cannabis compounds had potential for treating traumatic brain injury in general, with more research needed to fully understand their role.

Other research finds that CBD may offer specific physiological, biochemical, and psychological benefits to athletes, although this is not specific to those with symptoms of CTE.

The researchers also note that much of this evidence is preliminary and based on animal studies, with more human studies needed.

CBD is generally considered safe, according to the World Health Organization, but mild side effects have been reported including:

  • diarrhea
  • appetite changes
  • weight changes
  • tired

If you take CBD by mouth with a high fat meal, side effects may be more likely.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that there is still a lot we don’t know about CBD and its effects.

Some interactions with drugs have also been reported, so it is important to discuss the use of CBD with your doctor before trying it. This is especially true if you are considering CBD to treat mood and behavioral symptoms associated with a future diagnosis of CTE.

Also, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to keep in mind that CBD products, regardless of their type, can contain traces of THC. If you play sports and have regular drug tests, these trace levels could show up during a drug test.

It’s not hard to find CBD products in stores and online, but that doesn’t mean they’re universally safe or effective. Choosing a quality CBD product comes down to a few key considerations.

Check the COA

The Certificate of Analysis (COA) is proof that a CBD product has been tested by a third party lab for purity and safety. Certificates of Authenticity should be easily accessible on a company’s website or via a QR code on the product packaging.

Look for an up-to-date, comprehensive COA when you shop. This means that the COA must list:

  • the date the product was tested
  • how much CBD, THC and other cannabinoids does the product contain
  • what terpenes the product contains (if applicable)
  • if the product has been found to be contaminated with mold, heavy metals, pesticides or solvents used in the manufacturing process

Look for FDA warning letters or lawsuits

FDA sends warning letters to CBD companies that make unverified health claims.

Look online to see if a company has received a warning letter and if it has been involved in a lawsuit. This will give you a good idea of ​​the overall reputation of the business.

Read customer reviews

A little online survey can give you an idea of ​​what real customers think about a company’s products, customer service, and policies.

Consider the gender

Consult your doctor for recommendations on the appropriate CBD products to use for symptoms of CTE. The best option will probably be an oil for full body effect.

Your body weight and chemistry will influence the effects of CBD, and there is often trial and error to find the right dosage. The best approach is to start low and go slow.

You can always increase the amount you take if you find that you are not getting the effects you want and if your doctor approves it.

Using CBD correctly will depend on the products you choose. It is important to review the dosage and instructions for use suggested by each manufacturer. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Edibles are taken orally. The gel candies are chewed completely and swallowed, while the capsules are swallowed whole.
  • CBD oils are deposited under the tongue and held for about 30 seconds before being swallowed. Oils can also be added to foods and drinks.
  • Topical CBD products are massaged directly into the skin wherever you need targeted relief.

There is still a lot to learn about CTE. There is no known cure or proven method of treatment at this time, and a diagnosis is only made at an autopsy.

Still, exploring CBD as a way to manage mood, behavior, and cognitive symptoms associated with CTE may be an option. If you’re at risk for CTE and have these symptoms, talk to your doctor before trying CBD.

Is CBD Legal? CBD products derived from hemp (with less than 0.3% THC) are legal at the federal level, but are still illegal under certain state laws. CBD products derived from marijuana are illegal at the federal level, but are legal under certain state laws. Check the laws of your state and those of any place you travel. Keep in mind that non-prescription CBD products are not approved by the FDA and may be labeled inaccurately.


Jessica Timmons has worked as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenthood to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddleboarding, fitness, martial arts, home decor and more. Her work has been published in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she is doing now at jessicatimmons.com.


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