Parkinson’s disease is infamous in its awfulness. Characterized by uncontrollable shaking and gradually losing control of your own movements – which all eventually leads to an early death – Parkinson’s disease has no known cure or origin.
Roughly 1% of people over the age of 60 suffer from Parkinson’s disease – a terrifyingly large number. Once you are diagnosed at any age, you generally have between seven and fourteen years to live remaining.
There is nothing you can really do to stop the disease, other than try and control the symptoms. Some medication does work as an attempt to treat it, but it does nothing other than help stop the shaking somewhat.
In recent years, a great deal of research has been conducted into whether or not we could be using Cannabis Sativa to help treat those with Parkinson’s disease.
Firstly though, what exactly is Parkinson’s disease and what does it do to the body?
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is is a degenerative disease with origins that lie in mystery. While we know the mechanics of the disease as they progress, the root cause is still unknown. Whether Parkinson’s disease is genetic, or happens as a result of a head injury or even pesticides, we’re not sure, but we do know how it progresses.
The infamous symptom of Parkinson’s disease, the undesired shaking of the hands or head, is a result of cellular degeneration in the substantia nigra in the brain. These cells that die are responsible for the production of dopamine, leaving the brain with about a 60 – 80%* reduction of the required dopamine.
This dopamine reduction causes a large number of something called Lewy bodies. These are essentially abnormal bunches of protein which develop within cells, causing the myriad symptoms that come with Parkinson’s disease.
These small bunches of proteins are essentially impossible to remove, as they are simply blobbed within the nerve cells. To that end, the only real treatment of Parkinson’s disease that we know is the simple alleviation of symptoms.
The majority of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are over 60 – roughly 1% of all those within that group – but there are still plenty of people under that age with Parkinson’s disease. In those situations, it is known as ‘Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease.’
Now that we know what Parkinson’s disease is, is there something else we could be doing? Could we be using CBD oil to help improve people’s lives with Parkinson’s?
What is CBD?
Before we can consider whether or not CBD can help those with Parkinson’s disease, we need to know exactly what CBD is.
CBD is the non-psychoactive cousin of THC, the famous substance that gets you high found within cannabis. CBD works alongside THC, except it does not in any way get you high.
A lot of research has been done into exactly why CBD exists at all, but generally it has been found to act as a sort of counterpoint to THC in the human body. For example this study*, conducted by Britta Hahn for the Schizophrenia Bulletin, discovered that CBD actively helps suppress THC’s unfortunate proclivity to cause increasing psychosis in its users.
Once CBD enters the human body, it begins to interact with the endocannabinoid system, most notably the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These two receptors are responsible for a good deal of the body’s natural healing systems, from regulating inflammation to even encouraging the reproduction of healthy cells. By stimulating the receptors with CBD, you can essentially tell the body to get working on making sure you are healthy, similar in the way that some more traditional medications work by encouraging your body to sort itself out.
Now that we understand how CBD itself works, how could we be using it to help combat Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s Disease & CBD
Parkinson’s disease was first linked to marijuana in 1886, in a book published by William Gowers and entitled “A Manual of Diseases of the Nervous System.”* Gowers mentioned that “Indian hemp” helped calm down tremors for a short time, but continued to say that periodic usage helped stop a patient’s tremors completely.
More recent studies have further backed up Sir William Gowers’ claims through an extensive series of clinical trials.
One study*, conducted by Fernández-Ruiz et al. for the British Pharmacological Society found that CBD has two separate methods of helping slow down the rate of degeneration with Parkinson’s disease sufferers.
Firstly, the researchers discovered that CBD (and THC, the psychoactive component that exists alongside CBD within the cannabis plant) helps to protect the nigral and striatal neurons from developing Lewy bodies. The exact mechanisms are so far unclear, but the trials showed that the rate of Lewy body growth was severely diminished through regular use, ensuring that the symptom progression within Parkinson’s disease was made far slower.
Alongside this benefit, CBD is particularly suited to helping Parkinson’s disease sufferers due to other ways in which it interacts with the human body.
When you imbibe CBD, it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system – the health system in the human body that helps regulate a variety of bodily functions, including cellular regrowth and neural strength.
CBD triggers the CB2 receptors especially well, which is the reason why it is often recommended as a treatment for people with skin conditions or even mood disorders.
However, the CB2 receptor also triggers a slower progression of neurodegeneration in sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, due to the way that it interacts with the human brain. This essentially just means that, when you take CBD, it causes your neurons to degrade at a much slower rate.
CBD thus manages to slow down both parts of the process of Parkinson’s disease; it slows the decay of dopamine-producing neurons and also helps prevent Lewy bodies forming, with both of these processes causing the symptoms.
Another study*, conducted by García-Arencibia et al. for the International Brain Research Organization, found that CBD might also help those with Parkinson’s disease because of its natural antioxidant properties.
By triggering lesions along the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons within mice, the researchers were able to study the effect that different quantities and types of applications of CBD had on these lesions.
The study discovered that, through selective application of different substances – most notably AM404 – the mice’s lesions were dealt with remarkably well. AM404 managed the largest recovery of cellular depletion, meaning that the mice were actually able to be healed through its application.
AM404 is a natural antioxidant, as is triggered through the application of CBD. One interesting section of the study notes that, while CBD was remarkably effective at recovering 6-hydroxydopamine-induced cellular depletion, its effects were completely mitigated when treatment was begun 1 week later.
This means that the timing of CBD application is especially significant; if you catch the disease at the right time, it is possible to use CBD to help treat it and promote cellular regrowth, but if you miss your window and Lewy bodies begin to develop at their expected rate, you might not be able to help yourself using CBD.
Another study*, conducted by Lastres-Becker et al. for the Journal of Neurobiology of Diseases, found that, while the antioxidant properties of CBD were incredibly beneficial, CBD also helps regulate glial influence to neurons. This helps preserve the integrity of the neurons that are frequently damaged by Parkinson’s disease, thus providing another way that Parkinson’s disease is delayed by CBD.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease is something most people are aware of; whether you get it or not seems to be almost up to chance. It occupies a space in our thoughts similar to most cancers – whether you get it or not is just not up to you.
However, Parkinson’s disease has been demonstrated through innumerable studies, some of which go back almost 150 years, to possibly be treated using CBD.
Not only is CBD beneficial for sufferers of the disease, it works in a variety of different ways to try and deal with Parkinson’s disease.
It is unusual that a substance manages to target a condition from multiple ends, but it seems that CBD could help in both slowing down the progression of symptoms, as well as actually stopping the development of the disease through cellular decay.
Sadly, this needs to be tempered with the fact that, if you wait too long after the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, you might go past the point where CBD is able to help you.
Knowing all this, it’s absolutely worth considering CBD as an option for Parkinson’s disease; just make sure to consult with your primary physician before using any for of CBD.
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