Cannabis compounds 'could' limit stroke damage

04 December, 2013

Chemical compounds found in cannabis may help to reduce brain damage following a stroke, new research has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK conducted a meta-analysis of experimental studies into cannabinoids — chemicals related to those found in cannabis, some of which also occur naturally in the body. The findings showed that the compounds could reduce the size of stroke and improve neurological function.

Cannabinoids can be classified into those found naturally in the body (endocannabinoids), those made artificially (synthetic cannabinoids) or those derived from extracts from the plant cannabis sativa (phytocannabinoids).

The research announced at the annual UK Stroke Forum indicates that all three classes of cannabinoid could be effective in shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke and in recovering neurological function.

Dr Tim England, Honorary Consultant Stroke Physician at the University of Nottingham and Royal Derby Hospital who led the study said: "This meta-analysis of pre-clinical stroke studies provides valuable information on the existing, and importantly, missing data on the use of cannabinoids as a potential treatment for stroke patients.

"The data are guiding the next steps in experimental stroke in order to be able to progress onto initial safety assessments in a clinical trial."

"Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability … with more than half of all stroke survivors left dependent on others for everyday activities," said Dr Dale Webb, Director of Research and Information at the Stroke Association.

"The findings have identified the potential for cannabinoids to reduce brain damage caused by stroke.

"Further research is needed to investigate whether cannabinoids have the same effects in humans; the effects of cannabis on the brain are highly complex and it remains a risky substance."