Helping Hands: Exploring the Effects of Cannabis on Neuroinflammation and Stroke Recovery


Claire Niehaus

Principal Investigator

Dr. Robin Gib


University of Lethbridge

Grant Type




About the researcher

Claire Niehaus

Undergraduate Student at the University of Lethbridge

The impact

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability in Canada. In fact, Health Canada estimates there are over 700,000 Canadians living with the effects of having suffered a stroke. That’s larger than the entire population of Newfoundland and Labrador! Stroke refers to a loss of brain tissue and function caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. That lack of blood flow can cause a domino effect, triggering other processes like inflammation, which can cause even more damage. People who have suffered a stroke can have difficulty thinking, speaking, and in 80% of cases have difficulty properly moving their arms and hands. This might make you wonder: What can be done to help people who have suffered a stroke recover some of these lost functions? Fortunately, Branch Out is funding a novel approach to stroke recovery!

The study

Cannabis (marijuana) has been used medicinally for thousands of years; one of the earliest records of the use of therapeutic cannabis dates all the way back to 400 AD. Cannabis treatment fell from favour during the prohibition era, however, unlike alcohol, the use of cannabis has remained taboo for far longer. One particular compound in cannabis, called cannabidiol (CBD), has many reported health benefits including reducing inflammation and can even minimize the amount of brain tissue damaged after stroke. For these reasons, we think that cannabis with high levels of CBD might limit damage in the brain following a stroke and lead to better recovery. In a series of experiments, this research will provide an exciting insight into not only the safety of cannabis extracts but also how a naturally occurring substance (CBD) can be utilized to treat a pervasive neurological condition in a rodent model.

What's next?

This research has broad nutraceutical and personalized medicine applications which, excitingly, are not solely applicable to stroke treatment. If we determine that high-CBD cannabis extract is an effective therapy for improving the recovery following stroke, this sort of natural cannabis therapy may be applied to a variety of other diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease that are also characterized by inflammation. Of course, many clinical studies would be required before the findings of this research are applied to a human population, but the prospect of a NeuroCAM treatment for neuroinflammation is definitely worth exploring.

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