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Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease believed to result from repeated head trauma over a number of years.

It’s a rare disorder, most commonly found among athletes who play contact sports, like football, as well as military veterans.

At this time, CTE is only diagnosed after death with an analysis of brain tissue. However, there are some symptoms reported in people who were later diagnosed with CTE. These include:

Some progressive cognitive symptoms have also been noted, including:

There isn’t a cure for CTE at this time. Still, some professional football players have put forth the idea that cannabidiol (CBD) may be an option for managing symptoms that could signal a future diagnosis of CTE.

Below, we’re sharing research about 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 likely won’t get you “high.”

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

CBD is available in three forms:

  • Full-spectrum. This type of CBD includes all the compounds from the plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, and up to 0.3 percent THC in federally legal products.
  • Broad-spectrum. Broad-spectrum CBD includes all the compounds from the plant, except for THC.
  • Isolate. This is pure CBD.

If you want to avoid THC, choose an isolate 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 they do separately.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that any CBD product may have trace levels of THC, even if it’s an isolate. This is especially important if you’re drug-tested.

You can find CBD in various products:

There’s limited scientific evidence that CBD can help CTE.

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

  • headache
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • agitation
  • psychosis

The author of the review 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 showed potential for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries in general, with more research needed to fully understand their role.

Other research finds that CBD may offer specific physiological, biochemical, and psychological benefits for athletes, though this isn’t specific to those with symptoms of CTE.

Researchers also note that this evidence is largely 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
  • fatigue

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

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that there’s still a lot we don’t know about CBD and its effects.

Some interactions with medications have also been reported, so it’s important to discuss CBD use with your doctor before you try it. That’s especially true if you’re considering CBD to treat mood and behavior symptoms associated with a future CTE diagnosis.

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to keep in mind that CBD products, no matter the type, may contain trace amounts of THC. If you play sports and routinely undergo drug testing, these trace levels could show up on a drug test.

It’s not difficult 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. COAs should be readily accessible on a company website or via a QR code on the product packaging.

Look for a current, comprehensive COA when you shop. That means that the COA should list:

  • the date the product was tested
  • how much CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids the product contains
  • which terpenes the product contains (if relevant)
  • whether the product was found to be contaminated with mold, heavy metals, pesticides, or solvents used in the manufacturing process

Search for FDA warning letters or lawsuits

The FDA sends warning letters to CBD companies that are making unverified health claims.

Look online to see whether a company has received a warning letter, and if it’s been involved in any lawsuits. This will give you a good idea of the company’s overall reputation.

Read customer reviews

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

Consider the type

Speak with your doctor for recommendations on appropriate CBD products to use for symptoms of CTE. The best option will likely be an oil for a full-body effect.

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

You can always increase the amount you’re taking if you find that you’re not getting the effects you want, and if your doctor approves.

Using CBD properly will depend on the products you’ve chosen. It’s important to review each manufacturer’s suggested dosage and instructions for use. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Edible products are taken by mouth. Gummies are chewed completely and swallowed, while capsules are swallowed whole.
  • CBD oils are dropped beneath the tongue and held for around 30 seconds before swallowing. Oils can also be added to food and drinks.
  • Topical CBD products are massaged directly onto the skin wherever you need targeted relief.

There’s still much to be learned about CTE. There’s no known cure or proven treatment method at this time, and a diagnosis is only made during an autopsy.

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

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.


Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.