CBD And Its Effects On Parkinson's Disease
The last ten years have seen a steady rise in CBD research and personal use. In addition to the cannabinoid’s thriving tenure as a nutritional supplement, preliminary research is uncovering ways in which CBD might treat or alleviate the symptoms of various conditions. As a non-intoxicating active compound, CBD displays a host of effects that are at once compelling and difficult to quantify. Still, as access to high-quality CBD grows, research gets closer to pinning down the ways in which this cannabinoid can be exploited to our benefit.
One medical condition receiving this attention is Parkinson's disease. As an often-debilitating neurodegenerative disorder, patients are keen to understand if CBD holds potential in providing relief.
Cannabidiol—the brass tacks
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in hemp, of which there are around 100. Aside from its prevalence in plant samples, one of the reasons CBD has garnered increasing attention from researchers is due to its non-psychotropic nature. Unlike THC, a cannabinoid produced in abundance in recreational cannabis strains, CBD is completely non-intoxicating. As such, there are far fewer restrictions on scientific research, and more people are able to take the compound without any risk of adverse side effects. CBD is nontoxic and well-tolerated, enjoying use as a nutritional supplement to support daily health and wellness.
In the medical sphere, CBD may be equally beneficial, having been shown to attenuate inflammation, anxiety, nausea, and more in human and animal models. Still, high-quality studies on CBD’s medicinal properties are yet underway, meaning we have to use the information at our disposal to understand its effects on numerous conditions, including Parkinson’s.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson's disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It mainly affects motor activity, slowly worsening over time. The symptoms can be divided into three groups: primary motor symptoms, secondary motor symptoms, and nonmotor symptoms. Primary motor symptoms are the ones that start early in the disease, such as shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty walking. These primary motor symptoms are collectively called “parkinsonism”. As the disease advances, other symptoms may occur, dementia being one of the most common.
In most people, Parkinson's disease is idiopathic; it has no specific known cause. However, it is believed that genetic and environmental factors both play significant roles. Although PD isn’t considered strictly genetic, 15% of people who have PD have a first-degree relative with the same disorder. As far as environmental factors are concerned, there seems to be a link between PD and pesticide exposure, as well as head injuries.
PD affects the nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Most of those neurons produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that sends signals to other nerve cells. There are five pathways through which the brain is connected and dopamine is sent—PD affects all of them. As Parkinson's disease progresses, the amount of dopamine produced by the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control their movement (and other functions) normally. Lewy bodies are another key pathological feature of Parkinson's disease. Lewy bodies are abnormal aggregates of proteins that develop in nerve cells and may be the cause of cell death.
There are currently over 10 million people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, with males being affected more than females. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is between 7 and 14 years, and there is no known cure for the disease. However, there are various medications, surgery, and other methods that can provide relief from the symptoms. One such method could be CBD.
CBD and Parkinson’s disease
A recent study conducted by researchers from Brazil showed that daily treatment with cannabidiol improved the well-being and quality of life of patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Twenty-one patients were administered CBD in gelatine capsules over a period of 6 weeks. Three doses were administered: 300mg per day, 75mg per day, and a placebo for control. Patients who improved the most were those that received the 300mg dose. However, it must be noted that the treatment didn't attenuate the disease itself, only some of the symptoms. Moreover, the small size of the patient group may have limited the findings.
Further research points to CBD’s potential in reducing PD-related motor symptoms, especially levodopa-induced dyskinesias (LID). LID is a form of dyskinesia caused by dopamine therapy, which itself is a common treatment for PD sufferers. It may prove true that CBD acts as a complement to existing PD treatments, or potential future treatments. On the other hand, animal studies suggest that cannabis compounds could slow the progression of PD and other associated neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia. At present, more research is needed to ascertain CBD’s specific role. Furthermore, Parkinson's itself is an enigmatic disorder that is difficult for doctors to define and extensively treat.
What is clear is that CBD’s scope of potential shows no signs of waning. Despite the hurdles in front of us, it is safe to say that this is not the last time CBD will be examined as a potential Parkinson’s treatment. Unfortunately, PD serves as a stark reminder of why cannabinoid research is essential to determining a proper treatment for one of the more debilitating and confounding neurodegenerative diseases.