People are increasingly looking for natural alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals in the hope of finding a way to stay healthy without having to fill their body with artificial chemicals. The last few years have seen the use of CBD overtake other forms of natural supplements, with it quickly becoming most people’s number one choice.
This has resulted in a rise in the quantity of research being done into CBD and its potential health benefits. While it is generally accepted that CBD is good for your immune system and is frequently recommended as a natural daily supplement, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to its ability to treat some of the 21st century’s most problematic health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
CBD has the potential to change the way that we treat a number of conditions, and the top of the list is Alzheimer’s disease.
Research into the effects that CBD could have on Alzheimer’s disease is still very much ongoing, but it is thought that CBD could alter the way we manage the disease in the future.
Before we delve into exactly how CBD could help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, let’s take a look at exactly what Alzheimer’s disease is.
What Exactly Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
People often confuse Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, using the two different terms somewhat interchangeably. Dementia is actually an umbrella term which refers to a number of different memory-related conditions and can be caused by a range of factors resulting in a decline in a person’s cognitive function to the point that it affects their ability to carry out normal daily tasks.
Dementia is described by the Alzheimer’s Society as “A set of symptoms that includes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving, or language.” This can occur for a number of reasons, including damage to the brain caused by a lack of oxygen, for example when someone has a heart attack, or as the result of a disease such as Alzheimer’s.
The brain is a complex system containing billions of nerve cells that all connect and communicate with each other. Alzheimer’s disease occurs when these connections in the brain are lost as a result of a protein build-up, called amyloid.
When protein builds up in the brain, it forms clusters, also known as plaques and tangles, which result in nerve cells not receiving important chemicals and eventually dying. Chemicals within the brain that allow for signals to be passed between nerve cells are drastically reduced in Alzheimer’s patients, and this prevents the brain’s ability to function to its full potential.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease meaning the effects develop over time, as a result of more and more cells becoming damaged and dying. Eventually, so many cells are lost that every element of patients daily life, including their motor skills, language, ability to process memories, and personality are affected.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still not fully understood, making it difficult to identify those most at risk and offer preventative treatment. The majority of cases occur in those over the age of 65, although there are over 40,000 people in the UK alone who have been diagnosed with some form of dementia and are under the age of 65. The good news is that while the exact cause is not understood, there are a number of things thought to reduce a person’s risk of developing the disease.
The Alzheimer’s Society recommends leading a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, a balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, and staying mentally and socially active.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include memory lapses and difficulty in learning new information. This is due to the hippocampus usually being the first area of the brain that is affected by the disease.
The hippocampus area of the brain has the largest number of naturally occurring cannabinoids which have led to a number of studies looking into whether the use of CBD can have a positive impact on the hippocampus and as a result Alzheimer’s disease.
Let’s take a closer look at CBD and whether it really does have the potential to halt the effect of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Science Behind CBD Oil
CBD is just one of many naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants and is the main compound responsible for all of the health benefits associated with cannabis. Cannabinoids are not limited to plants, as our body naturally produces cannabinoids, and they work throughout our bodies to help keep us both mentally and physically healthy and balanced.
The CBD found in cannabis plants is able to work alongside the cannabinoids in our body by binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors and controlling everything from how we feel pain, to our mood. CB2 receptors are responsible for our body’s ability to manage pain and inflammation.
CB1 receptors, on the other hand, are located within the brain, and they manage our mental health. Cannabinoids that bind to CB1 receptors are responsible for our mood, how we handle different emotions, our movement, and how we cope with pain when it occurs.
By providing the body with an increased level of cannabinoids that are able to bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors it is thought that it might be possible to treat Alzheimer’s disease in a way that current medications have been unable to do.
Many studies, such a cross-sectional study by Jamie Corroon and Joy A. Philips for the Journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, have found that CBD has a generally positive impact on our health and is often recommended as a daily supplement, helping to keep our bodies fit and healthy. The US Food and Drug Administration has even approved CBD as a drug for treating epilepsy.
Research as to the exact effects that CBD can have on other conditions is still ongoing; this includes its precise impact on Alzheimer’s disease.
So, what exactly do we know so far about the impact CBD can have on those suffering from Alzheimer’s patients?
How Is CBD Thought to Affect Alzheimer’s Disease?
CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as discussed in a variety of different studies, such as a seminal study by Bruni et al. for the Journal of Future Medicinal Chemistry. When this is combined with its potential ability to protect neurons in the brain, it is thought to have the ability to prevent further damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. This basic premise has led to a great deal of research across the world in the hope of discovering exactly how CBD works within the brain of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Research carried out at the California Salk Institute in 2017 found that cannabinoids and in particular CBD could help to remove the buildup of proteins from brain cells. It is the buildup of proteins that cause inflammation within the brain and increase the damage to cells.
The anti-inflammatory properties found in CBD are also thought to be able to reduce the damage down by the body’s inflammatory response when proteins do buildup.
Further studies have supported the California Salk Institute’s findings, suggesting that CBD can reduce inflammation in the brain, which slows down the cell damage.
One study, conducted by Iuvone T et al. for the Journal of Neurochemistry, involved giving CBD oil to mice that showed the common signs associated with Alzheimer’s disease and was focused on the effect that CBD has on the buildup of proteins.
The results found that the mice who were given CBD showed signs of improvement and had a reduced level of amyloid (protein clumps) throughout their body. Unfortunately, this study did not go on to research whether similar effects occur in humans.
In 2011, another study by Georgia Watt and Tim Karl for the Journal of Frontiers in Pharmacology took the research a step further and found that CBD promotes the growth of brain cells. When CBD was given to Alzheimer’s patients, it was able to slow done the decline of memory and cognitive function. Cells within the brain were able to repair themselves at a fast enough rate to avoid any long-term damage being caused.
CBD is often used to treat anxiety and stress, which are two conditions that are commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients and are thought to be caused by the growing lack of understanding and connection with their surroundings.
While this has no direct impact on how Alzheimer’s disease progresses over time, trying to ease these symptoms can make life feel that little bit easier for a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s related anxiety.
How Does CBD Compare to Other Medication
There are a number of different treatments for a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; while none of them will reverse or completely stop symptoms from progressing, they can slow down the effects of the disease. Medication can also target specific symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in order to make life feel slightly more manageable, in much the same way that you might take a painkiller to make the effects of a headache feel bearable.
There are three main groups of medication that tend to be recommended for patients who are in the early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s disease: Donepezil, Rivastigmine, and Galantamine.
All three of these drugs have slightly different effects and are tailored to suit different people, but in general, they boost chemical messengers in the brain. This results in improved concentration and motivation, as well as aiding the body in processing memories. These drugs can also be useful for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s related anxiety.
Many of the initial symptoms experienced with Alzheimer’s disease can be treated both with traditional medication and CBD. A lack of motivation, anxiety, trouble sleeping are all things that CBD is often used and thought to be extremely effective in potentially managing.
The big question, however, is whether or not CBD can be used to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the same way that prescription medication can.
Unfortunately, there is currently no definite research to say that it absolutely can.
However, this does not mean that CBD does not have the potential to do so, just that our current understanding of both Alzheimer’s disease and CBD still lacks some important puzzle pieces.
Researchers around the world are continuously working on trying and answering this question, with the hope that CBD might be the answer to what is a growing health concern.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Alzheimer’s Disease
Despite a great deal of research, there still appears to be no definite answer as to whether CBD is an effective way of treating Alzheimer’s disease. There is still a huge amount of research that needs to be carried out into both Alzheimer’s disease and its causes, as well as how CBD works within the human brain and the impact that the two have on each other.
What research has shown, however, is that there are very few reasons to avoid taking CBD, even if just as a supplement. The World Health Organization has stated that “No public health problems have been associated with the use of pure CBD.”
CBD is thought to have a positive impact not just on the brain but the entire body and that even a small dose of CBD on a regular basis can help your immune system to fight off illnesses.
While research is still being carried out, one thing is for sure; it cannot hurt to introduce CBD into your supplement routine, whether in the hope of slowing down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or simply as a way of staying healthy for longer.