Research on CBD, Red Light Therapy, and Other Tools for Mitochondrial Disease
We just wrapped a big review on CBD and mitochondria and the next logical step is to look at disease associated with poor mitochondria function.
There's added urgency with the research on red light therapy which directly targets mitochondrial function.
If you've read any of our 1 million+ words on CBD, you'll know that we go deep into the research.
This is no different, as the mitochondrial disease requires due diligence and respect.
Keep in mind that is a potential support toolkit till CRPSR comes online where mitochondrial DNA can be affected directly.
Here are the areas we'll cover:
- A quick introduction to mitochondrial disease
- Protecting mitochondrial from oxidative stress
- CBD and mitochondrial disease
- Red Light Therapy and mitochondrial disease
- How much CBD and Red Light Therapy for mitochondrial disease
- What's the best CBD and Red Light Therapy for mitochondrial disease
Let's get started.
A quick introduction to mitochondrial disease
Before we jump into the disease aspect, what are mitochondria and what is their role?
Simply put, they are the powerplants of our cells and everything we do!
Mitochondria are actually ancient bacteria that our ancestors absorbed into their cells (or cells) to create energy in exchange for protection within the cell.
They actually have their own bacterial DNA separate from ours!
We get our mtDNA from our mother and its genetic simplicity is part of the problem when things go wrong.
The general issue is that the mitochondria are not making enough energy for general housekeeping and the cause could be:
- Inheritance of mitochondria which have errors
- Damage to mitochondria which spreads over time
- Genes tied to deficiencies in supporting cast of mitochondria function (carnitine, COX, COQ10, etc)
Of the 1 in 5000 with a genetic basis, the vast majority is inherited.
That being said, damage to mitochondria during life which duplicates over time can affect many people who do not have a classically diagnosed disease.
Mitochondria dysfunction has been tied to a range of diseases such as:
- Alzheimer's (see CBD and dementia)
- Lou Gehrig's Disease
Every system in the body would be affected by poor mitochondrial function.
A big part of supporting mitochondria is protecting them from the toxic byproduct of their energy creation.
ROS - reactive species of oxygen. Oxidative stress.
Let's go there now as it's part of the equation.
Protecting mitochondrial from oxidative stress
Mitochondria live in a very dangerous neighborhood.
A key catalyst and byproduct of their particular form of energy production is oxygen.
Oxygen is nature's little scissors due to its structure.
It can slice and dice organic material with ease which is why bleach is used to clean and disinfect (kill organic living things).
The importance is here:
together with other downstream products, these ROS cause nonspecific oxidative damage that contributes to a number of pathologies and has ` been linked with aging in general
Mitochondria are right in the thick of this process which makes them particularly vulnerable especially considering their weakness.
Our DNA has robust systems of error correction to catch problems (say from oxygen cuts or UV radiation).
Mitochondrial DNA does not!
It's a simple ring of genetic code and when errors occur, they tend to proliferate until they build up to such a level that our immune system catches the poor performance and kills the cell.
Worse yet is when the cell is turned off but not removed.
These senescent cells, so-called zombie cells, continue to leak inflammation into their surrounding area.
Check out CBD and longevity to learn more about this and mitochondria's role there.
We have robust systems to quickly neutralize the free radicals (ROS) before they can do damage.
Our primary "anti-oxidant" in the body is glutathione (see CBD and glutathione or CBD and oxidative stress).
Vitamin C is a key supporter of the glutathione cycle and Vitamin E and A also figure in strongly.
Everything we can do to support this ROS neutralization is beneficial to mitochondrial function.
Here's the important piece for mitochondria disease:
Aberrant mitochondrial morphology may lead to enhanced ROS formation, which, in turn, may deteriorate mitochondrial health and further exacerbate oxidative stress in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.
To translate, there's a vicious cycle where mitochondria issues cause more ROS which further hurts mitochondria function.
We have to support ROS reduction to stop this cycle.
So there are two aspects we can directly affect:
- Mitochondrial function itself
- Reduction of ROS which impairs mitochondria
To that effect, let's jump into CBD.
CBD and mitochondrial disease
We'll look at CBD and mitochondrial disease across two different pathways
- CBD's direct effect on mitochondrial energy production
- CBD's effect on ROS reduction
We have a full review on CBD and mitochondria function but some key takeaways.
First, energy production (which is generally the crux of the issue).
We can see CBD's effects on mitochondria across a slew of different diseases.
Remember, when mitochondrial are not functioning correctly, it will manifest across different organs.
One study looked at the application of a chemo agent and its effect on heart function.
This has a known negative effect on mitochondrial function in the heart (one of the densely packed organs in the body with the brain)
CBD's effect here:
Treatment with CBD markedly improved DOX-induced cardiac dysfunction, oxidative/nitrative stress and cell death. CBD also enhanced the DOX-induced impaired cardiac mitochondrial function and biogenesis.
DOX is the chemo agent.
Not only did CBD offset the damage via oxidative stress, it improved the mitochondria growth and energy production.
Another study looked at CBD's effect on mitochondria when submitted to known blockers of mitochondrial function.
Thus, under pathological conditions involving mitochondrial dysfunction and Ca2+ dysregulation, CBD may prove beneficial in preventing apoptotic signaling via a restoration of Ca2+ homeostasis.
Let's decipher that because it's pretty fascinating.
Calcium is the currency of the cell and it's flow in or out of the cell, especially with mitochondria function.
Apoptosis is cell death. Remember how cells start to die when mitochondria dysfunction reaches a certain level?
This is how the net symptom or disease actually shows.
Loss of brain cells. Loss of muscle cells. Loss of heart cells.
Pick your organ.
CBD was able to counter the mitochondrial destruction and "balance" the calcium flows for proper function when under duress.
Not in every case!
What's really exciting is that CBD will have the opposite effect on cancer or virally infected cells.
It will actually INCREASE oxidative stress and disrupt mitochondrial function in cells that are broken.
This really speaks to the beauty of the endocannabinoid system which is all about "homeostasis" or balance.
It's also helpful to know that our immune system uses oxidative stress to kill wayward cells.
Chemo and radiation are essentially massive doses of oxidative stress.
Another study looked at brain cells following a stroke which is known to cause a catastrophic collapse in mitochondria and resulting in cell death.
First, CBD's effect on ROS:
CBD supplementation during reperfusion rescued OGD/R-induced cell death, attenuated intracellular ROS generation and lipid peroxidation, and simultaneously reversed the abnormal changes in antioxidant biomarkers
What about actual mitochondria energy output?
we found that CBD significantly improved basal respiration, ATP-linked oxygen consumption rate, and the spare respiratory capacity, and augmented glucose consumption in OGD/R-injured neurons.
- Respiration is literally the process of how mitochondria make energy
- Oxygen is the catalyst or input to the process
- Spare capacity??? Yes! This is what we're after with mitochondrial disease
- Glucose is the main fuel for the energy production process
Let's turn our attention to VDAC1
Goodness...what is that?
One of the key proteins that regulate mitochondrial function is the voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1), the most abundant protein on the outer membrane of mitochondria.
The most abundant.
Studies on cancer are showing that CBD has direct control over this channel.
Direct modulation of the outer mitochondrial membrane channel, voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1) by cannabidiol:
This is how it's able to kill off wayward cells (cancerous or virally infected).
We also know from above that CBD is neuroprotective under duress (stroke, inflammation, stress, etc).
VDAC1 shows that CBD directly affects mitochondria function depending on the needs of the system.
Check out CBD and mitochondria function for more.
Let's turn our attention to ROS management.
As we noted above, ROS is extremely destructive to mitochondria when left unchecked.
Now...to be clear, CBD will increase ROS in cancerous cells.
What about healthy cells?
First, diabetes (remember it's a target disease for mitochondrial disease):
CBD pretreatment was found to attenuate high glucose-induced mitochondrial superoxide generation and NF-κB activation in human coronary artery endothelial cells, along with nitrotyrosine formation and expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and adhesion molecules ICAM-1 and VCAM-1
Let's translate that, please.
CBD was able to drop ROS created by high sugar in the lining of the arteries.
This is the connection between diabetes and heart disease.
That oxygen slices and dices the lining of our arteries after which, the body goes through and repairs it with...calcium and cholesterol!
It's this "inflammation" that causes the litany or heart issues (blood pressure, calcification, etc).
Cholesterol only matters if you have inflammation.
The other chemicals there are signs of increased oxidative stress.
What about the kidney?
CBD was reported to reduce expression of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generating NADPH oxidases, as well as iNOS and nitrotyrosine generation in a cisplatin nephropathy model in vivo,
Let's dig deeper into the cell where mitochondria function.
In studies of MS, CBD directly calmed the oxidative stress and protected specific cells critical for creating the sheathing around nerves:
Doses of 1 μM CBD protect OPCs from oxidative stress by decreasing the production of reactive oxygen species.
Another study directly looked at CBD's effect on oxidative stress that's so harmful to mitochondria:
CBD also caused the reduction and enhancement of the ROS producing, Nox and ROS‐scavenging, SOD enzyme activities, respectively.
Again, this function of CBD is pretty well established.
Let's turn to the other exciting option.
Red Light Therapy and mitochondrial disease
This isn't some hokey scam.
Red light therapy in the NR (near red) and NIR (near-infrared) frequencies has impressive research from NASA to NIH.
There's a great book with detail on the research here.
The key piece is this…
The primary action of Red Light Therapy is to power or better-yet, replenish the mitochondria.
Remember, we're all tied to the sun ultimately and this is a missing piece in today's modern life.
There are 4 "complexes" or separate components of mitochondria energy production.
There's a remnant from our ancient ancestry dependent on the sun called cytochrome C oxidase.
This is our connection to all forms of life on earth:
The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase or Complex IV, EC 22.214.171.124, is a large transmembrane protein complex found in bacteria, archaea, and the mitochondria of eukaryotes
Think about what this is saying...this little chemical connects us with the oldest forms of life on Earth!
It IS complex 4 of the energy conveyor belt.
Why is this important for mitochondrial disease?
Among the many classified mitochondrial diseases, those involving dysfunctional COX assembly are thought to be the most severe
And this is where red light comes into play:
In addition, there is now a growing body of evidence that indicates that low-intensity red and near-infrared light is acting on cells through a primary photoacceptor: cytochrome C oxidase, the terminal enzyme of the mitochondrial electron transport chain
This component of mitochondria function REQUIRES light to operate.
So...what is the net effect of red light therapy on mitochondrial function?
- The number of mitochondria goes up
- Energy production goes up
First, the number of mitochondria in a cell.
The process of increasing the powerplants per cell is called mitochondria biogenesis.
Exercise is a huge driver of this process (and a big reason for its health benefits).
Brand new research is pointing to red light and this effect as well.
We'll skip the very complicated parameters used to test but the synopsis:
Our data indicates NIR light alters mitochondrial biogenesis signaling and may represent a mechanistic link to the clinical benefits.
Next, energy production (in muscle tissue for this example but the same applies for every cell in the body):
Low-level laser (light) therapy increases mitochondrial membrane potential and ATP synthesis in C2C12 myotubes with a peak response at 3-6 h
This study dived down into the direct result:
Once cytochrome C oxidase is stimulated by light, electron transport is accelerated, leading to increased ATP production
Literally, more energy production!
ATP is a key currency of energy production. In fact, it's the body's primary way to power cellular function.
You can find effects from this across the body as expected since we're dealing with a most basic pathway...cellular energy production.
Just a few examples:
First, skin is one of the most light-affected areas.
General skin appearance and health:
The treated subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, profilometrically assessed skin roughness and ultrasonographically measured collagen density.
LED and LASER promote similar biological effects, such as decrease of inflammatory cells, increased fibroblast proliferation, stimulation of angiogenesis, granulation tissue formation and increased synthesis of collagen.
Fibroblasts are the creators of new tissue. Angiogenesis brings new blood supply to healing tissue.
Again, across the board (which really speaks to the power of supporting mitochondria:
Using LEDs with frequencies of 415nm (blue), 633nm (red), and 830nm (infrared), this device has demonstrated significant results for the treatment of medical conditions, including mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris, wound healing, psoriasis, squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen’s disease), basal cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis, and cosmetic applications.
What about the brain?
The brain and heart are energy hogs. In fact, the brain uses about 20% of our total energy production.
First, TBI (see CBD and TBI):
Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study
Anxiety (see CBD and anxiety):
At 2-weeks post treatment 6 of 10 patients had a remission (a score ≤ 10) on the HAM-D and 7 of 10 achieved this on the HAM-A
HAM-A is a major test for anxiety.
After one session:
When light effects were grouped for the two sessions, there was significantly greater reduction in self-report depression scores by −1.3 (p = 0.02) on the BDI-II and −1.2 (p = 0.02) on the POMS-D.
See CBD and depression to learn more about what's going on there.
Reduced brain mass and function in the prefrontal cortex is turning out to be crucial for depression.
Red light there:
It was discovered that NIR (wavelength 800–900 nm) and red (wavelength 600 nm) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are able to penetrate through scalp and skull and have the potential to improve the subnormal, cellular activity of compromised brain tissue.
Check out CBD and mental health to learn about any given situation.
Red light and muscle function:
Compared with placebo, LEDT increased the maximal load in exercise and reduced fatigue, creatine kinase, and visual analog scale
Red light and fatigue?
The 14-day whole-body irradiation with red-light treatment improved the sleep, serum melatonin level, and endurance performance of the elite female basketball players
A look at fatigue resulting from chemo for breast cancer:
Prevention of quality of life deterioration with light therapy is associated with changes in fatigue in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy
Remember that chemo is an explosion of ROS...a very acute version of mitochondrial disease.
Red light was able to offset the associated fatigue.
There are multiple, big studies underway right now.
What about systemic inflammation?
Red light therapy and inflammation
Here's the beauty of red light therapy which reminds us of CBD's "biphasic" effects - different effects depending on the state of the cell:
It was shown that PBM can activate NF-kB in normal quiescent cells, however in activated inflammatory cells, inflammatory markers were decreased.
So...it will calm inflammatory pathways WHEN inflammation is high.
Remember, we need inflammation...it's a process of the immune system that protects against cancer, infection, and governs cell birth/death balance.
Just look at the side effects of autoimmune drugs if you need a reason why suppressing it in one direction is a bad idea.
They went on to say:
One of the most reproducible effects of PBM is an overall reduction in inflammation, which is particularly important for disorders of the joints, traumatic injuries, lung disorders, and in the brain.
This is well established in research now.
Finally, heart - the other energy hog.
Look at the impact of red light therapy following stroke:
Our previous work indicates that NIR exposure immediately before and during early reperfusion protects the myocardium against infarction through mechanisms that are nitric oxide (NO)-dependent.
It basically protected the heart from attack following the loss of oxygen.
Research pinpoints a range of different pathways affected:
Multiple molecular pathways were identified, including modulation of inflammatory cytokines, signaling molecules, transcription factors, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Goodness...the antioxidants is a key one as we know.
Remember, the core driver of all these pathways is improved mitochondrial function which is why we added red light to our discussion of CBD.
Some important tools for mitochondrial disease:
- NAD or NMN - this is a critical player in the energy production chain
- NAC - a powerful supporter of glutathione, our main anti-oxidant
- Vitamin C - supports the glutathione cycle
- Exercise - directly boosts mitochondria numbers and energy throughput
- Fisetin - powerful anti-oxidant (even better than quercetin)
Let's look at practical questions now that we're moving out of the research aspect.
How much CBD and Red Light Therapy for mitochondrial disease
For CBD, we can look at neurogenesis which is the growth of new brain neurons and connections.
This implies a ramped up mitochondrial function.
In fact, look at the connection of BDNF (our brain's fertilizer - see CBD and BDNF):
Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor Controls Mitochondrial Transport in Neurons
In fact, look at what boosting BDNF does:
BDNF treatment increased both form factor and aspect ratio of mitochondria by ~ 20% and 15%, respectively, while also causing a threefold increase in expression of Mfn2, indicating mitochondrial fusion.
That's in the brain and nervous system but we can use it as a proxy.
Why does this matter for dosage?
Studies have shown that peak neurogenesis occurs at 300 mg/daily for CBD isolate (CBD by itself).
For more acute situations, studies looked at 600-800 mg (schizophrenia, opioid withdrawals, public speaking for social anxiety, etc) but 300 mg long-term is the sweet spot for neurogenesis which is a pro-growth strategy in the most energy-dependent organ of the body.
As for Red Light Therapy, check out the book referenced above (and here).
It's a great book and we love their focus on research...no fluff (we can respect that!).
10 minutes daily at different distances appears to be the sweet spot.
We've personally noticed that it takes a good few weeks to months to really build up for energy, etc.
Again, if our pathways have been in a drought, the first rain doesn't cause the river to flow.
For mitochondrial disease, it may require more sessions per day.
What's the best CBD and Red Light Therapy for mitochondrial disease
For CBD, there are key considerations:
- Organically grown in the US at FDA registered farms
- 3rd party tested
- CO2 processed
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No pesticides
- No bacteria or mold
We test ours twice since the whole family uses it.
Then, there's the question of full-spectrum versus CBD isolate (see the comparison here).
All the research is on CBD by itself.
More importantly, 40-60% of the population has histamine (allergy) issues. This is especially important for women as they get older since progesterone drops by 50% at age 40.
Check out CBD and mast cell activation to learn more.
We see a significantly different side effect profile between CBD isolate when compared to full-spectrum CBD (which is so prevalent on the market).
Read our reviews to see what people actually say.
Then there's the question of cost.
We price our CBD at 2-3 cents per mg of CBD before discounts up 30% so people can afford it...especially in light of the higher levels shown in research (300 mg/daily).
We found CBD through trauma during a brutal perimenopause so it's important that people have access to high-quality CBD at the best price on the market.
As for Red Light therapy, there are two FDA registered brands we trust (also referenced in the book).
We personally went with the Platinum Red Light Therapy equipment here.
Having the NR and NIR together was important since the wavelengths target different pathways at different levels of effectiveness.
When CRSRP comes online, we fully expect new options for directly targeting faulty mitochondria since it's generally a genetic issue.
This will mark a revolution in health and wellness...especially for mitochondrial disease.
Be well. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.