Discussing the possibilities…
Essential tremor, sometimes referred to as ET, is a condition that affects around 7 million Americans, and millions more the world over. ET affects up to 1% of the general population, and up to 5% of people aged over 65.
Despite how common ET is, there is yet to be any cure, and there is very little treatment in place.
Some have proposed that CBD oil could offer potential relief to those suffering from essential tremor. But can CBD oil really help relieve symptoms of essential tremor? We take a look at what an ET is and how CBD oil could help.
What is an Essential Tremor?
Essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder. It is characterized by involuntary and rhythmic shaking, which can occur in any part of the body. However, it most commonly occurs in the hands when performing simple tasks like drinking from a glass or tying your shoelaces.
The tremors are similar to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which often leads to ET being confused with Parkinson’s. Some of the key differences between the two conditions are:
- The Timing of the Tremors
With ET, the tremors usually occur when the person with the condition is using their hands. With Parkinson’s disease, these tremors or shakes in the hand occur when they are inactive. These hand tremors are most prominent when they are by the person’s side or resting on their lap.
- Posture and Movement
Some people with ET develop ataxia, which means that they no longer have full control over their bodily movements. As a result, people with ataxia often have an unsteady gait.
On the other hand, people with Parkinson’s disease often have a shuffling gait. Other associated symptoms of Parkinson’s include slow movement and having a stooped posture.
- Similarities in parts of the body affected by both conditions
ET mainly affects the hands, head, voice, and legs. With Parkinson’s disease, these tremors usually start in the hands. However, they can also affect the legs and chin.
Symptoms of Essential Tremor
Essential tremor signs and symptoms:
- Begin gradually, usually more prominently on one side of the body
- Worsen with movement
- Usually occur in the hands first, affecting one hand or both hands
- Can include a “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion of the head
- May be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine or temperature extremes
Upward and downward movements characterize ET in the hands. These tremors can also affect the arms, head, eyelids, and larynx (voice box), which results in a shaky voice.
Essential tremor symptoms can be difficult to detect at first, as they tend to start discreetly and worsen over time.
You should not confuse essential tremor with what doctors consider to be a normal tremor. Most people have a slight tremor when performing specific tasks, which is entirely reasonable and nothing to be concerned about. Factors such as caffeine, stress, smoking, and tiredness can bring on a normal tremor.
What Causes an Essential Tremor?
One risk factor for ET is age. Essential tremor is much more common in people aged 40 and older. And as already mentioned, ET affects up to 5% of people aged over 65. The other main risk factor is a genetic mutation. Statistics reveal that approximately half of people suffering from ET have a family member with the same condition.
The inherited cause of ET is due to it being an autosomal dominant disorder. This means that only one parent needs to have the defective gene for it to be passed onto their child. Research shows that if you have one parent with the defective gene, then you have a 50% chance of developing the condition.
However, many sufferers don’t have afflicted family members, so what are the other causes of essential tremor? Below are some of the leading causes:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Withdrawal from substances such as alcohol
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Overactive thyroid
What Treatments Are Available to Those with Essential Tremor?
There is currently no cure for essential tremors. Treatment is limited to medication or deep brain stimulation surgery in extreme cases. While there is no medication capable of completely removing the symptoms of essential tremor, some can reduce their severity. Some commonly prescribed medications include:
- Primidone (anti-seizure drug)
Could CBD Oil Help Reduce an Essential Tremor?
Cannabis has now been heavily researched for its potential in treating a plethora of medical conditions. Many states across America now have laws allowing cannabis use in some form.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most heavily researched compounds of the marijuana plant. CBD could potentially be hugely significant in the treatment of a host of medical conditions in the future.
Research has shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and is a patented neuroprotectant. It also displays other promising benefits.
Despite the level of research into CBD, there is still minimal research into cannabis for essential tremor.
The use of CBD to treat conditions such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s proves its effectiveness as a treatment. The FDA has also acknowledged CBD’s medicinal benefits. The epilepsy drug Epidiolex is the first-ever CBD-based drug the organization has approved.
Until recently, there has been no real movement to research the effects that CBD could have on essential tremor patients.
CBD Oil for Tremors
There has been a great deal of research into cannabinoids such as CBD. Some studies of CBD have looked at its ability to relax muscles and ease seizures or tremor-like symptoms.
Research has shown that the cannabinoids found within the marijuana plant interact with the body’s internal endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a vital role in the everyday regulation of our bodily functions. Some functions that the ECS controls include pain, hunger, emotions, and body temperature, to name just a few.
In the case of tremors, CBD could potentially work with our ECS to target the cannabinoid receptors in both the brain and the body which control our muscles. This interaction can aid relaxation, reduce inflammation, and ease symptoms of tremors. It is for these reasons that CBD has become a patented neuroprotectant.
Current Research into CBD for Essential Tremor
Despite encouraging research into CBD for other conditions that have some similar symptoms, we are no closer to adding essential tremor to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
However, all is not lost! There has been a recent breakthrough for the industry over in San Diego. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, are currently carrying out research into the area.
The study will look at the effectiveness and safety of a cannabis formulation for treating ET. This study, which began on January 22, 2019, is the first double-blind, placebo-control clinical trial utilizing cannabis in an oral capsule.
The researchers estimated that approximately sixteen participants with ET would take part in the study. All participants would undergo a complete neurological examination and psychological testing as part of the study.
The participants will take an oral cannabis formulation with a CBD to THC ratio of 20:1. Upon completion of a two-week period of receiving the maximum dosage of the cannabis formulation, participants would taper off. After a washout period, they would then cross to an alternate study arm.
The study will take approximately one year to complete. The researchers will use various types of validated tremor rating measures in the study. As well as quantifying tremor severity, the researchers will assess the safety and tolerability of the cannabis formulation.
The findings of the study should be known in 2020.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Essential Tremor
The research being carried out at the University of California, San Diego is not only hugely important for sufferers of ET, but also the cannabis industry as a whole. This will be the first time that scientists have looked to the plant for its effectiveness in calming essential tremors.
The results of the study could potentially have a life-changing impact on people with ET. A positive outcome from the study would likely pave the way for further clinical studies using cannabinoids.
For years, many sufferers of ET have provided anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of cannabis at alleviating their condition. We wait with bated breath to see if the clinical evidence backs these subjective claims.