Does Cannabis Help With Stroke Recovery?
Saturday July 13, 2019
T hanks to decades of prohibition, it’s still nearly impossible to study cannabis effectively in the United States. That means we’re likely decades behind on finding new ways to use cannabis as a medicine. While it’s well-documented that cannabis can be used in a plethora of ways to heal our bodies and improve our lives, the evidence behind cannabis as a tool to treat strokes is still buried and kept hidden. Thankfully, some research can point us to the facts and hopefully, as prohibition ebbs, more research will show what many stroke patients already know: cannabis helps. To be clear though, we are not doctors, and what you read in this article should be not considered medical advice. We’re simply gathering the information and presenting it without any promises or recommendations as to how you should treat a stroke. Always consult your doctor with any questions about your health!
Does Cannabis Help Stroke Patients Recover?
Perhaps the most important thing to know when it comes to cannabis and strokes is that there is a patent held by the United States government that says cannabis does treat strokes. U.S. Patent No. 6630507B1 says that cannabis acts as a neuroprotectant following an ischemic stroke, among other cerebral diseases. Furthermore, this specific patent points to previous patents that have identified cannabinoids as a possible neuroprotectant. These patents include:
Patents Identifying Cannabis as a Neuroprotectant:
- U.S. Pat. No. 5,538,993
- U.S. Pat. No. 5,521,215
- U.S. Pat. No. 5,284,867
- U.S. Pat. No. 5,434,295
The patent we are discussing here – 6,630,507 – tells us something very important. The patent says, “data shows that infarct size was approximately halved in the animals treated with cannabidiol, which was also accompanied by a substantial improvement in the neurological status of the animal.”
Unfortunately, the patent’s assessment was based on the brains of Rata. As we mentioned, it’s still incredibly difficult to study cannabis in humans who’ve suffered from stroke, but the existence of this patent shows that research into humans will likely show a similar neuroprotectant ability of cannabis. By protecting against glutamate neurotoxicity and free radical induced cell death, cannabis is a promising medicine for treating strokes. In fact, the 50% reduction in infarction size in the rats was compared to other drugs which show no greater than a 2% reduction in infarction.
You might be wondering why cannabis is so effective compared to other stroke medicines. The owners of the patent pointed to the fact that cannabis is highly lipophilic and can easily penetrate deep into the central nervous system. Furthermore, in a study that was published Neuropharmacology in 2012, researchers looked at how ischemic events impacted rats over a long period of time. They indicated that “CBD administration after [hypoxia-ischemia] injury to newborn rats led to long-lasting neuroprotection.” However, they outlined the fact that the positive effects were found in terms of functional improvement as opposed to histological recovery.
Another study that was published in 2007 in the same journal, echoed the findings and the ability of CBD to be of great use when treating ischemia. Hayakawa et al. found that “cannabidiol is a potent antioxidant agent without developing tolerance to its neuroprotective effect, acting through a CB(1) receptor-independent mechanism.” In other words, CBD protects injured brains without having to increase the dose overtime as needed with other cannabinoids, such as THC.
Most interestingly, it seems that our endogenous cannabinoids seem to combat injury to the brain – which may help explain the findings above.
A 2011 study that was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology indicated that “2-AG (an endogenous cannabinoid that is nearly identical to THC) decreases brain edema, inflammation, and infarct volume and improves clinical recovery.” Likewise, the researchers noted the existence of other research, indicating that “numerous studies on experimental models of brain toxicity, neuroinflammation and trauma supports the notion that the eCB are part of the brain’s compensatory or repair mechanisms.” With evidence showing that our endocannabinoid system, along with phytocannabinoids, plays an important role in the health of our brains, is there a recommended way to treat ourselves with cannabis?
The Best Ways to Treat Stroke with Cannabinoids.
Again, this should not be taken for medical advice. Should you want to treat a stroke with cannabis, please consult your doctor first, they will provide you with the best information for your scenario. The patent above does suggest a few ways that cannabinoids should be ingested following an ischemic event:
Suggested Ways to Ingest Cannabis After a Stroke:
- Via continuous intravenous infusion.
- Via hourly intramuscular injections.
Unfortunately, ischemic events, including stroke, happen rapidly and the amount of time it would take to get to the hospital may negate these preferred methods. Most people, even cannabis patients, don’t have a bag of IV cannabinoids or needles full of CBD oil lying around their homes. What they have is generally flower, oils, tinctures, and edibles.
Since strokes need to be dealt with quickly, many cannabis specialists recommend consuming cannabis as soon as possible after a stroke. Some recommend ingesting up to a gram of CBD oil, others say it’s best to consume what you have. If it’s an oil take the oil, if it’s dried flower, smoke it or vaporize it ASAP, say some doctors. Dr. David Allen describes in this video how ingesting raw cannabis each day can provide the benefits of cannabis without inducing the psychoactive properties.
While many generally subscribe to the microdosing principal to consume cannabis properly, using it as a medical tool may require a different route. Ischemic events are a serious threat to a person’s health. That’s why a tiny dose of cannabis may not be enough to induce the aforementioned effects. Ideally, you’ll want to speak to a cannabis specialist about what the proper dose would be for you, but Dr. David Allen indicated that he would deliver a full gram CBD oil to one of his family members should they suffer a stroke.
Dr. David Allen is not your doctor and neither is PotGuide; please consult your doctor if you have further questions about using cannabis as a medicine to treat the effects of a stroke.
Many people use cannabis as a medicine for a variety of ailments. But is marijuana a good treatment for people suffering from the effects of a stroke? Learn more about cannabis and stroke recovery, including which cannabinoids and consumption methods might be most beneficial.
Updated on April 13, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
According to the National Stroke Association, nearly 800,000 people experience a stroke each year. They occur at rates of nearly one every 40 seconds, and stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also the number one cause of disability among U.S. adults.
How/Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for a Stroke
We all know the damage smoking cigarettes can do, including causing cancer, heart disease and stroke. The question now is if marijuana can do the same.
While smoking cigarettes increases your risk of certain health problems like cancer, heart disease and stroke, a study published in the journal of the American Association shows there’s no association between cannabis and additional risk of stroke.
One study showed THC and CBD might protect stroke-related damage to the brain. Researchers used rats in the study, which showed cannabinoids block glutamate, a neurochemical leading to a toxic oxidizing molecule accumulation that kills the cells in the brain.
Your brain produces glutamate when it’s oxygen-deprived, as is the case of arterial bleeding or blood clot. According to the study, CBD is a better choice for patients suffering from strokes since it works as an effective antioxidant, blocking glutamate damage without delivering any psychoactive effect.
Cannabinoids effectively limit cell damage and provide patients with neuroprotective effects following a stroke. When you administer cannabinoids immediately after a stroke, they protect astrocytes and neurons from damage leading to improved histological, functional, neurobehavioral and biochemical recovery.
What Side Effects/Symptoms of a Stroke Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Stroke patients often experience feelings of:
Medical cannabis for stroke can help with these stroke symptoms as well as the following.
Post-stroke depression can produce symptoms varying in frequency, severity and duration. Symptoms of depression may include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
- Persistent anxious, sad or empty feelings
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty remembering things or concentrating
- Decrease in appetite or abnormal eating patterns
- Social withdrawal
- Pains, aches, digestive problems and headaches
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Suicidal thoughts
Chronic stress can suppress the endocannabinoid production of your brain, leading to depression-like behavior. Cannabis for stroke treatment helps to restore normal function and alleviate depression symptoms.
The Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health published a 2014 study showing medical cannabis offers the benefit of pain management. While using cannabis, study participants reported a 64 percent pain reduction. Many could also sleep better and had lower levels of anxiety while using pot.
One symptom of a stroke is severe headaches coming on unexpectedly and for no known reason. One study found cannabis’s active compounds effectively reduced the frequency of pain caused by acute migraines better than prescription medications for migraines and caused fewer side effects.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Stroke Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
Medical marijuana for strokes helps relieve your symptoms in different ways. Below are certain cannabis strains, along with the symptoms they’re intended to treat.
- Blue Haze (hybrid)
- Kona Gold (sativa)
- Black Diamond (indica)
Headaches and Pain
- Champagne Kush (hybrid)
- Blueberry Muffins (hybrid)
- Purple Mr. Nice (indica)
- White Cookies (hybrid)
- Kona Gold (sativa)
- Big Wreck (indica)
- Blue Haze (hybrid)
- Lemon Pie (sativa)
- Dream Berry (indica)
- Fortune Cookies (hybrid)
- Mother of Berries (indica)
- Bianca (hybrid)
- Enigma (indica)
- Boss OG (hybrid)
- Monster Cookies (indica)
- Allen Wrench (sativa)
- Kimbo Kush (hybrid)
- Cannalope Haze (sativa)
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment to Use to Treat Side Effects and Symptoms of a Stroke
If you use marijuana as stroke treatment and are worried about your stroke risk, some things you can do include:
- Using low-temperature vaporizers instead of smoking.
- Avoiding excess consumption or lowering your doses of cannabis.
- Choosing tinctures or edibles.
Dr. David Allen, a retired heart surgeon, focuses his medical practices on cannabis. He says eat raw cannabis to prevent heart disease and stroke. Eating raw marijuana doesn’t get you high and has great medicinal effects, according to Dr. Allen.
Find Relief for Your Stroke Symptoms With Medical Cannabis
Starting your cannabis and stroke treatment shouldn’t be difficult. You’ll first need to check with your state laws regarding medical marijuana. Then, you’ll want to search for a medical marijuana doctor to give you a recommendation. Once you have your recommendation and medical marijuana card, you can find a cannabis dispensary and look for your ideal cannabis strains and products to relieve your stroke symptoms.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke is what happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain stops. It’s often the result of a blood clot, bleeding in the brain or blood vessels becoming blocked. When this occurs, your brain cells begin to die rapidly, often resulting in severe disability or even death.
Ultimately, strokes are medical emergencies requiring prompt medical attention. Fast action can minimize the impact and effects of the stroke on the brain while reducing risks of complications.
Because the brain is such a complex organ controlling essentially every bodily function, strokes are especially devastating. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women fare worse than men, in general, in the aftermath of a stroke — experiencing more limitations of activities and worse health-related quality of life. According to Mayo Clinic, fewer Americans are dying from strokes today than 15 years ago.
Symptoms of a Stroke
If you suspect you or someone you love is having a stroke, know that every second matters. Getting fast treatment for stroke helps reduce the total amount of damage done to the brain and can make the difference from a complete recovery, permanent disability or death.
Knowing these signs and symptoms of stroke, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), may help you save a life – perhaps even your own.
- Sudden numbness in the face, an arm or a leg — especially concerning if it is on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion. When combined with difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying, it is especially troubling.
- Sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes.
- A sudden and severe headache.
- Sudden difficulty walking. This issue may include dizziness, loss of coordination or loss of balance.
The common theme here is “sudden,” and there isn’t a lot of time to second guess or play around. If you see someone you love experiencing these symptoms, it’s far better to err on the side of caution by seeking unnecessary medical attention than to wait to confirm what is happening and miss an opportunity to preserve life and/or quality of life for the person you love.
The first thing you need to do is call 911 and discuss the situation with the responder on the line. Prompt medical attention is essential.
Other conditions can resemble a stroke. Because a stroke has the potential to be devastating, it’s best to rule it out first before beginning to look for indications of other conditions sharing similar symptoms, such as:
- Bell’s Palsy
- Brain tumors
- Conversion disorders
- Low or High blood pressure
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Sepsis and other infections
Don’t waste time looking for other possible conditions. Get medical help any time a loved one displays the symptoms of stroke listed above.
Types of Strokes
The American Stroke Association reports there are three types of stroke:
- Ischemic strokes:These account for the vast majority of strokes— roughly 87 percent of them — according to the CDC. This type of stroke occurs when there is a blockage to the artery supplying the brain with oxygen-rich blood. Blood clots commonly cause these blockages.
- Hemorrhagic strokes: These occur when arteries in the brain rupture and/or leak blood into the brain. The blood places pressure on the brain cells, damaging them in the process. High blood pressure and aneurysms commonly cause this type of stroke.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA): Some call TIA a “mini-stroke.” Many people who experience this type of blockage fail to seek appropriate and essential medical attention because the symptoms are brief, lasting less than five minutes in most instances. Transient ischemic attacks represent a medical emergency just like any other stroke. It can be a warning of a stroke to come.
You can’t tell in the beginning whether the symptoms are from a major stroke or TIA. It is better to seek medical attention first and sort out the details later. Paying attention to the symptoms of TIA, though, may save your life, not to mention your quality of life, by allowing you to get help before significant damage begins to occur within your brain.
Effects of a Stroke
The effects of a stroke can be both physical and mental or emotional. Few medical events can cause quite the life-altering consequences a stroke brings to bear.
Physical Effects of a Stroke
- Right brain
- Left brain
Depending on which area the stroke impacted, victims will experience different effects.
- Right brain: If the stroke damages the right brain, victims may experience paralysis on the left sides of their bodies along with vision problems, memory loss and changes in behavior.
- Left brain: Strokes affecting the left side of the brain are more likely to cause paralysis on the right side of the body, speech and language difficulties, memory loss and slower, more cautious behavior.
- Brainstem: Strokes occurring in the brain stem can affect both sides of the body and may leave victims in a state referred to as a “locked-in” state. In this state, victims are often unable to speak and may not be able to move below the neck.
Functions strokes may hinder include the following:
- Ability to care for oneself
- Bowel and bladder control
- Cognitive abilities
- Eating and swallowing
- Emotional control
- Movement and sensation
- Perception and orientation
- Sexual function
- Speech and language
It is possible to preserve these functions and avoid much of the damage stroke can cause. Get prompt medical attention at the first sign of a stroke to reduce the risks associated with them.
Mental Effects of a Stroke
The list of mental and emotional effects of a stroke are nearly as long as the physical effects. Few conditions cause quite the lifestyle changes a devastating stroke brings into the picture. Some of the emotional effects of a stroke include:
Emotions such as these are common to experience, according to the National Stroke Association, in the aftermath of a medical event like a stroke. Treatments, including medical marijuana, help to minimize the impact of some of them, such as depression, anxiety, and more. Social support programs can assist with some of the other symptoms.
The CDC provides the following stroke facts:
- Stroke kills nearly 140,000 Americans each year, accounting for one of every 20 deaths in the U.S.
- While the risk of stroke increases as you age, strokes do occur at all ages.
- Prompt medical treatment matters, as patients who receive emergency care within three hours of their first symptoms often experience less disability after three months than those who delay seeking medical attention.
History of Strokes
Dating back more than 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates, recognized as the “father of medicine,” first acknowledged the condition now known as stroke. He named the condition apoplexy after the Greek word meaning “struck down by violence.”
As medical science continued to study the condition, apoplexy became referred to as a stroke, caused by lack of blood supply to the brain.
Current Treatments Available for Strokes and Their Side Effects
Treatments vary from one patient to the next and according to the type of stroke occurring, the amount of time passed and the apparent severity of the symptoms and situation.
Ischemic Stroke Treatments
In this type of stroke, physicians focus on quickly restoring blood flow to the brain. Speed is of the essence. If you arrive at an emergency medical facility within three hours after experiencing the first symptoms, you’ll likely receive aspirin to thin the blood and prevent blood clots from forming. You may also receive TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) intravenously. TPA is fast-acting and breaks up the clot to restore blood flow to the brain.
Other treatments include the following:
- TPA administered directly to the brain
- Mechanical clot removals
- Carotid endarterectomy (surgical removal of plaque from the carotid arteries)
- Angioplasty and stents
Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatments
With this type of stroke, physicians focus on controlling the bleeding and reducing pressure on the brain. For patients who are on blood-thinning medications, blood transfusions may be ordered to help thicken the blood and slow the rate of the bleeding.
Additionally, your physician may surgically repair the blood vessel causing problems via one of the following procedures:
- Surgical clipping
- Surgical AVM removal
- Intracranial bypass
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
The highest priority when seeking treatment for stroke is to preserve life and quality of life. That’s why timing is so critical in all stroke treatment efforts. The sooner medical personnel administer treatment, the better the odds for a favorable outcome.
Transient Ischemic Attack Treatment
If you suffered a TIA, you’ll require further testing to determine the cause. For instance, if you have significantly narrowed carotid arteries, your doctor may recommend a procedure to widen them to prevent another transient ischemic attack.
You may be advised to take medications, such as aspirin, antiplatelet drugs or hypertension medicines to prevent a stroke. In the event that you’re at high risk of an impending stroke following a TIA, you may receive monitoring in a hospital.
See how medical marijuana could help relieve your stroke symptoms. Find patient reviews on local doctors and information on treatment options.