Parkinson’s disease is a pretty common neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system, which affects around 10 million people worldwide. Despite being well-known and heavily researched, there is sadly not yet a cure for the debilitating condition.
In America alone, as many as 1 million people are diagnosed with the condition, and despite a range of treatments being available, there seems to be nothing that offers any risk-free relief.
Over recent years, there has been a great deal of research into marijuana, with a specific emphasis on CBD as a potential therapy for those who have Parkinson’s disease. But can CBD really be used as a treatment for this serious condition? In this article, we have put together all you need to know about CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease, in an effort to have you determine whether or not the cannabis extract may be an alternative solution for you or a loved one.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease was first brought to light back in 1817 by the condition’s namesake, a UK doctor by the name of James Parkinson. Since the disease was made known, scientists have spent years researching the nature of it, how it is caused and how it can be treated. Up to now, there is still no cure for this debilitating condition; however, thanks to research we do know a lot more about it.
Parkinson’s is a condition which progressively gets worse over a number of years, and is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain. The condition can present itself in many ways and varies depending on the severity of the condition.
Primary symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Involuntary shaking (tremors), which usually arise in particular parts of the body, e.g. the hands.
- Difficulty moving.
- Stiff and inflexible muscles.
- Balance issues.
- Memory loss.
- Sensory issues (loss of smell).
While we now know that Parkinson’s disease comes about as a result of prolonged damage to the brain, particularly loss of nerve cells in a region of the midbrain called the substantia nigra, there are still mixed opinions around what causes this cell damage in the first place. Many experts believe the nerve cell damage comes about through a combination of environmental and genetic factors, although this is still being looked into.
Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
Currently, treatment for this condition is mostly reliant on pharmaceuticals such as Levodopa, which work to target depleted dopamine levels in the brain. However, this medication, much like the rest, has some serious potential risks that put many patients off. For instance, after prolonged use, Levodopa tends to stop being effective and can cause symptoms to worsen as the condition progresses.
There are other options out there for patients such as physiotherapy, which can help with recovering movement issues, and in some severe cases brain surgery is even an option. Ultimately, however, there is yet to be a drug or therapy that can be offered to patients suffering from this condition that doesn’t come with risks and side effects which exacerbate the situation, and sometimes even do more harm than good.
CBD for Parkinson’s Disease
Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in states across America taking note of cannabis and cannabinoids as a potential therapy for a host of conditions. With the history of marijuana being a fraught one in the U.S., it has been a slow and steady progression to get to where we are today, with around 30 states having now legalized the plant for medicinal use, and a further nine having authorized it for recreational use.
But is CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease an honest, viable treatment option?
From research, we know that cannabidiol (the scientific name for CBD) has potent medicinal benefits including anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotectant properties that are patented by the U.S. government. Moreover, studies have shown that CBD may be able to be used to assist in many conditions, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
So with these things in mind, is it possible that CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease could be a realistic alternative treatment option?
Well, science has in fact suggested that it could help in a big way. Most states with a medical marijuana program (and/or legislation around the medical use of CBD) have included Parkinson’s on their list of qualifying medical conditions.
In fact, we have seen marijuana referenced as a treatment for Parkinson’s as far back as the 19th century where it was mentioned in the authoritative clinical volume ‘Manual of Diseases of the Nervous System.’
Since then, we have seen dozens of studies published as well as anecdotal reports showing overwhelming evidence that cannabis – and particularly CBD – may have a fast-acting effect on the disease.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD
Like many conditions, we can trace many of the underlying issues of Parkinson’s disease to the endocannabinoid system, or ECS – our internal regulator, and a natural cannabinoid-producing machine.
In the case of Parkinson’s disease, it is the role of the ECS to regulate the lifespan of cells, which if damaged, can have a direct impact on neurons that are needed to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s. It’s known that the ECS has a lot of control over our central nervous system, so when affected, brain cell loss can occur, which can be incredibly hard to come back from.
So how can CBD help our ECS to combat the nerve cell loss that brings about many of the severe symptoms of Parkinson’s?
It largely comes down to CBD’s strong neuroprotectant and antioxidant abilities, as the cannabinoid works to gather the free radicals that lead to oxidative stress, which is recognized as one of the primary precursors to Parkinson’s disease.
In fact, a study published in 2014 by scientists from the Department of Neurology in Tel Aviv, Israel looked at how cannabis could treat a range of motor and non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s patients. The study looked at 22 subjects with Parkinson’s disease, all of which were evaluated on a variety of clinical aspects 30 minutes after smoking marijuana. They mainly looked at the following areas:
- Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale.
- Visual Analog Scale.
- Present Pain Intensity Scale.
- Short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire.
- Medical Cannabis Survey National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Questionnaire.
The study found that many areas had shown significant improvement, with the mean total motor score on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale score dropping from 33.1 to 23.1 after smoking cannabis. Other motor symptoms revealed improvement in areas like tremors and rigidity, and interestingly, there was also a vast improvement in pain and sleep scores for all 22 patients, suggesting marijuana to be a particularly useful treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
While this is extremely positive, there are downsides of using marijuana to treat a condition, as the risks of smoking and the inevitable psychoactive component are considerable downfalls for many patients. It is for these reasons that CBD has taken precedence as a medicinal treatment in place of marijuana as a whole. It offers many (if not all) of the health benefits of whole-plant marijuana, without producing any of the associated high.
While CBD looks to be useful in the treatment of many of the motor issues that come with Parkinson’s disease, a study published in 2009 by the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Medical Psychology revealed that the cannabinoid could also help with onset psychosis in some Parkinson’s patients.
The study looked at six outpatients with Parkinson’s disease, all of whom had suffered from psychosis for a minimum of three months. All six of the subjects were administered an oral dose of CBD, beginning with 150 mg a day for four weeks alongside their usual treatment.
After four weeks, the subjects had their psychotic symptoms evaluated, and the results showed a significant decrease in symptoms. The total scores of all six patients showed improvement with no adverse effects, and CBD did not worsen the motor functions of the subjects.
Along with the scientific evidence, there are also countless anecdotal reports out there of people whose lives have been turned around by CBD. Although it is certainly not guaranteed to work on the same level for all patients, the majority of CBD oil users seem to reap the benefits of the all natural cannabinoid.
Moreover, on top of the direct effects of Parkinson’s, CBD has also been shown to have potent medicinal benefits for those suffering from insomnia, depression, and anxiety – all of which are byproducts of the disease.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Parkinson’s Disease
It is important to note that we are not clinical practitioners, and thus are not medically qualified to give advice on the use of CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease – or any other medical condition for that matter. CBD is not as of yet an approved medication for Parkinson’s, and as such we recommend you speak with your physician if at all possible about implementing any kind of a new treatment. As is always the case, anybody thinking of changing or stopping a current treatment should first consult with a medical professional.
That being said, the research and first-hand reports of CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease are pretty overwhelming, and while some reviews are mixed, the consensus seems to be an altogether positive one. Here is hoping for a cure in the not so distant future!