CBD for Neuroplasticity in Trauma Recovery

CBD for Neuroplasticity in Trauma Recovery

Posted by Cheryl Cryer on Jun 16th 2023

Trauma recovery is a complex journey that often requires addressing the impacts of traumatic experiences on the brain and nervous system. In recent years, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) have gained attention for their potential effects on neuroplasticity, offering a glimmer of hope for those seeking healing and recovery. 

By taking a trauma-informed approach, we will shed light on CBD and THC's role in supporting trauma recovery. I hope you enjoy this (more technical that usual article) and I encourage you to learn on your own as well. Contact us to set up a time to chat if you'd like to dive deeper, we have so many resources to help. 

Understanding Neuroplasticity in Trauma Recovery

Neuroplasticity, the brain's remarkable ability to adapt and change, plays a vital role in trauma recovery. It encompasses the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, reorganize existing ones, and adapt to new experiences. By fostering neuroplasticity, we can promote healing, resilience, and the rewiring of the brain's responses to trauma's lingering impact on the brain, emotional responses and triggers. 

CBD's Potential in Facilitating Neuroplasticity

Research suggests that CBD may play a beneficial role in trauma recovery by enhancing neuroplasticity. CBD's interactions with various receptors and systems in the brain, such as the endocannabinoid system and serotonin receptors, help to modulate neurotransmitter release, receptor signaling, and synaptic plasticity. These effects contribute to the formation of new neural connections, the stabilization of existing ones, and the restoration of healthy brain function. 

Trauma often leads to chronic inflammation in the brain, hindering neuroplasticity. CBD's potential to reduce neuroinflammation could create a more favorable environment for neuroplastic changes, facilitating the rewiring process and supporting trauma recovery. 

Here is a short list of benefits:

  1. Enhancing synaptic plasticity: CBD may influence the strength and stability of synaptic connections between neurons, promoting the formation of new connections and facilitating synaptic plasticity. This process is crucial for learning and memory formation. 
  2. Promoting neurogenesis: Preclinical studies have indicated that CBD may enhance neurogenesis in certain brain regions, such as the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. 
  3. Reducing neuroinflammation: CBD exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and may help mitigate neuroinflammatory processes. Neuroinflammation can impair neuroplasticity and contribute to various neurological disorders. By reducing inflammation, CBD may create a more favorable environment for neuroplasticity to occur. 
  4. Modulating neurotransmitter systems: CBD interacts with various neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including the endocannabinoid system, serotonin receptors, and TRPV1 receptors. By modulating these systems, CBD may influence neurotransmitter release, receptor signaling, and synaptic plasticity.
  5. Alleviating oxidative stress: CBD has antioxidant properties and can protect against oxidative stress, which can damage neurons and hinder neuroplasticity. By reducing oxidative stress, CBD may support a healthier neuronal environment and facilitate neuroplastic changes.

What about THC: Explore with Caution

While THC has been associated with potential negative effects on cognitive function and mental health, its role in trauma recovery warrants examination, albeit with caution. Some preclinical studies indicate that low doses of THC, in combination with CBD, may have therapeutic potential by modulating neuroplasticity. However, it is essential to approach THC with care due to its psychoactive properties and potential risks. 

Higher levels of THC has different effects on neuroplasticity compared to CBD. THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, primarily CB1 receptors, and its effects on neuroplasticity can be complex. 

While THC has been shown to have some effects on neuroplasticity, particularly in preclinical studies, it's important to note that high levels of THC can also have potential negative impacts on cognitive function and mental health, especially in individuals who are susceptible to the adverse effects of THC or those who use it during critical periods of brain development, such as adolescence. 

Excessive activation of CB1 receptors by THC can interfere with the normal balance of neurotransmitters and impact neuroplasticity processes. Chronic and heavy use of THC has been associated with potential impairments in memory, attention, and cognitive function. Additionally, it can influence the reward circuitry in the brain, potentially leading to addiction or dependence in some individuals. It's worth mentioning that the effects of THC can be influenced by factors such as dosage, frequency of use, individual sensitivity, and the presence of other compounds found in cannabis. 

Moreover, the specific effects might vary depending on the brain region, developmental stage, and the individual's overall health. While some studies have shown that low doses of THC or THC combined with CBD may have therapeutic potential for certain conditions, such as pain management or neurodegenerative diseases, the potential risks and individual responses should be carefully considered. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about cannabis and its potential effects on brain function before using high levels of THC or THC-dominant products.

Conclusion: Finding the Balance

In trauma recovery, finding the right balance is crucial. CBD, with its potential to enhance neuroplasticity and mitigate inflammation, seems to hold promise for supporting the brain's healing process. 

THC, on the other hand, should be approached cautiously, considering its potential risks and individual sensitivities. Consulting with a trauma-informed healthcare professional knowledgeable about cannabis and its effects on the brain is highly recommended when considering THC. 

CBD and THC, when approached with care and consideration, may hold potential in supporting neuroplasticity and facilitating trauma recovery. CBD's ability to enhance neuroplasticity and reduce inflammation offers hope for rewiring the brain's responses to trauma. However, caution should be exercised with THC, considering its psychoactive properties and potential risks. As research in this field continues to evolve, it is important to stay informed, seek professional guidance, and prioritize individualized approaches to trauma recovery.

Research and other Sources

Here are a few key studies that have explored the effects of CBD on neuroplasticity. Please note there is ongoing research in this field. I strongly recommend you explore further and consult the latest scientific research to stay up to date.

Campos, A. C., Fogaça, M. V., Sonego, A. B., & Guimarães, F. S. (2016). Cannabidiol, neuroprotection, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacological Research, 112, 119-127. 

Mandolini, G. M., Lazzaretti, M., Pigoni, A., Oldani, L., Delvecchio, G., Brambilla, P., & Pravettoni, G. (2018). Pharmacological properties of cannabidiol in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a critical overview. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 27(4), 327-335. 

Campos, A. C., Brant, F., Miranda, A. S., Machado, F. S., & Teixeira, A. L. (2017). Cannabidiol increases survival and promotes rescue of cognitive function in a murine model of cerebral malaria. Neuroscience, 366, 204-213. 

Schiavon, A. P., Bonato, J. M., Milani, H., Guimarães, F. S., Weffort de Oliveira, R. M., & Joca, S. R. (2016). Effects of cannabidiol on the retrieval of extinguished fear in rats. Psychopharmacology, 233(16), 3137-3145. 

Sales, A. J., Crestani, C. C., Guimarães, F. S., & Joca, S. R. (2019). Antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 88, 327-331.