One of the biggest hurdles that medical cannabis faces in terms of it becoming a truly popular medicine across all age groups and demographics, is overcoming the societal stigma that has surrounded the drug for the better part of the 20th (and much of the 21st) centuries.
The fact of the matter is, many senior citizens are wary of taking a marijuana or cannabis-based therapy, simply due to the fact that the plant has been demonized so heavily over the course of their lifetimes. This is of course nothing short of a modern-day tragedy, as new research has continuously come out showing the far-ranging therapeutic potential of the herb, as well as the fact that it poses virtually no risk of addiction, dependence, contraindications with other drugs, or serious side effects.
However, through the diligent work of doctors, researchers, scientists, and cannabis activists all over the country, thousands of seniors have started to turn their attention to CBD oil, which is a 100% natural extract of cannabis that provides virtually all of the health benefits of the plant, without any of the associated highs or psychoactive effects.
In this article, we discuss some of the current research that has come out in regards to CBD oil for Alzheimer’s Disease, in the hopes of providing helpful information that could lead to you or a loved one incorporating the plant-based therapy into a daily treatment regimen. While cannabis is by no means the miraculous “cure-all” that some people have claimed it to be, it is impossible not to consider the myriad of high-profile research that has been published regarding its physiological benefits.
First Things First: What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
If you are already reading this article (either for yourself or for a family member), then you are likely already well aware of many of the underlying conditions surrounding Alzheimer’s Disease. However, let’s go over a brief synopsis of the condition for those who may be completely unfamiliar with the disorder.
Simply put, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging define Alzheimer’s as a type of dementia that involves “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder [which] slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.”
Indeed, while researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint an exact physiological or molecular cause for Alzheimer’s, it is evident that the disease primarily affects cognitive functioning at the basic level: language problems, memory loss, and unpredictable behavior are all common symptoms.
Moreover, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that once symptoms develop, they typically get worse over time – often to the point where simple daily tasks become impossible.
Even though there has not been an established cause for the neurological breakdown that results in the onset of Alzheimer’s, several distinguishing characteristics of the disorder have been identified.
One of these characteristics is the presence of tangled fibers and solidified clumps (called amyloid plaques) in regions of the brain that are responsible for memory and basic motor function. The resulting loss of connectivity between brain cells is directly responsible for the lack of communication between the central nervous system and the various organ and muscle tissues of the body – hence the progressive inability for Alzheimer’s patients to control their behavior, movement, and basic bodily functions.
The intriguing part of all of this is that much of the neurological degeneration involved with Alzheimer’s disease takes place in the hippocampus, which is a region of the brain where naturally-occurring cannabinoids have been shown to exist in particularly high abundance. As such, since CBD (cannabidiol) has been known to display explicit neuroprotective properties (the U.S. government actually holds a patent on it for this very purpose), the idea that CBD oil for Alzheimer’s could be a legitimate treatment option is neither fabricated, nor without medical basis.
CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment: A Very Intriguing – and Very Real – Possibility
In fact, according to ProjectCBD, over two dozen published scientific research papers have discussed the fact that CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease may be a viable – and very real – treatment option in the near future.
At current, the only major roadblock that stands in the way of the natural plant compound becoming a prescribable medication for the disease is the fact that it is still illegal under federal law. Unless cannabis is rescheduled under the DEA’s current narcotics program, medical researchers will be unable to conduct the requisite clinical trials for it to become an FDA-approved medicine. And without FDA approval, doctors and other healthcare practitioners will not be able to prescribe CBD as treatment.
It is a sad fact to admit to, but the simple reality is that there are likely millions of Alzheimer’s victims that are currently out there suffering the rigors of the disease with no viable form of medication, when they could be taking a 100% natural plant-based therapy that has the potential to not only reduce the onset and progression of symptoms, but perhaps even reverse the underlying cause of the disease altogether.
Let’s take a look at several of the most important studies that have been published regarding CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent Studies Involving CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease
Rather than going over the complete list of modern research on CBD for Alzheimer’s disease, we’ll take a look at five of the most prominent and high-profile studies that have been published to date. For an up-to-date list of all available studies, visit ProjectCBD, a non-profit organization dedicated to making contemporary CBD research available and transparent to the public.
- 2004 publication in the Journal of Neurochemistry examines neuroprotective properties of CBD and their effect on a model Alzheimer’s condition in cultured rat cells
This study, conducted by Drs. Iuvone T. et al for the Journal of Neurochemistry, examined a model Alzheimer’s condition in cultured rat cells, and the effects that active CBD compounds had on progressive cell deterioration.
While much of the language of the study was steeped in complex (and largely indistinguishable) ‘scientific language,’ the general results showed that when exposed to beta-amyloid peptide (which is a form of toxicity consistent with Alzheimer’s disease), the cultured cells displayed a “marked reduction in survival.”
When treated with CBD prior to exposure of the toxic peptide, however, it was observed that cell survival was “significantly elevated.”
Moreover, enhanced cellular protection against fragmentation and deterioration was also observed on multiple levels. The results led researchers to conclude with the statement that “…cannabidiol [CBD] exerts a combination of neuroprotective, anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic [cell death] effects against beta-amyloid peptide toxicity, and that … cannabidiol is involved in the signalling pathway for this neuroprotection.”
Extremely clear evidence that CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease could be a viable treatment option for the potential reversal of the disease.
- 2015 study in CNS Drugs examines a potential cannabis-based treatment for Alzheimer’s-induced agitation and aggression
The goal of this study was essentially to examine and summarize existing research on cannabinoids (such as CBD) for the treatment of “agitation and aggression in Alzheimer’s disease.”
It took into consideration “letters, case studies, and controlled trials from four electronic databases,” and concluded with the fact that “…six studies showed significant benefits from synthetic cannabinoids – dronabinol or nabilone – on [Alzheimer’s related] agitation and aggression.”
However, given the “small sample sizes, short trial durations, and lack of placebo control” in some of the studies, researchers were unable to come to any definitive conclusions in regard to whether or not CBD for Alzheimer’s may be a viable treatment option.
They did, however, recommend the implementation of “…methodologically rigorous clinical trials” as a means to advance the possibility of CBD treatment for the “agitation, aggression, and dementia” that is prevalent in many Alzheimer’s patients.
- 2012 study in the Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets examines the “Therapeutic Potential of the Endocannabinoid System for Alzheimer’s Disease”
Going off the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in American citizens over the age of 55, this study aimed to address two very major problems that currently surround existing Alzheimer’s treatment options. These problems are:
- They do not “stop or reverse the progression of the disease,” and
- They are accompanied [in most instances] by unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects
The study focused on the “therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD),” and determined that the cannabinoid displayed “anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties” with obvious immunosuppressive effects.
As a result, it was suggested that the cannabinoid system should be a prime target for Alzheimer’s disease therapy, with CB2 receptors (the ones that CBD compounds have the highest affinity for) appearing to be the “most promising candidate.”
However, researchers did mention that the role of CBD in the treatment of Alzheimer’s should be approached with caution, given the complex pathology and varying nature of the disease.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease
As you can see from the list of current studies involving CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease, what we are clearly lacking as of right now are multi-phase clinical trials. While research thus far has been incredibly promising, no real progress will be made until a cannabis-based medication is approved by the FDA, or (more preferably) the plant is decriminalized or rescheduled under the DEA’s narcotics program so that physicians can actively prescribe it. While positive research on cultured rat cells is an excellent indication of the potential of CBD as a treatment, it will not make much difference in terms of increasing widespread availability of the therapy.
However, the great news for Alzheimer’s patients all over the country (as well as patients suffering from other cannabis-treatable ailments), is the fact that hemp (which is a species of Cannabis that contains minor amounts of the psychoactive substance THC), is legal on a federal level.
As such, over the last several years several cannabis industry manufacturers have been extracting and producing legal CBD oils that are available to U.S. residents in all 50 states. While these oils do not get you high at all, they contain many of the medically-beneficial compounds (including CBD) that have been shown in the studies to aid in relief of not only Alzhemier’s disease, but countless other ailments as well (including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and insomnia).
Many of these oils are available for sale online and can be shipped directly to your doorstep, but be careful – given the current lack of regulation in the cannabis industry, there are many companies out there who are selling completely phony tinctures and passing them off as “CBD oils.” While we don’t like to out-and-out recommend any one particular product or brand in these articles, you may want to check out this recent review for a list of some of the best-reviewed oils currently on the market.
While we may have to wait some time until CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease becomes a common and widespread treatment, there are several viable options available right now that are convenient, affordable, and 100% legal.