Parkinson’s disease is a cruel condition that affects the brain irremediably. It is a degenerative disease that destroys neurons slowly but progressively. Because the affected brain area is closely connected to movement control, people suffering from Parkinson’s have tremors, an unstable posture, and gestures that are rigid, jerky, and uncontrollable. The disease usually appears between 50 to 70 years old, the average age being 57 years old, so it is an illness related to advancement in age. In this article, we take a closer look at CBD & Parkinson’s Disease.
At the debut of this illness, the symptoms can be mistaken for signs of aging, but as it progresses, the diagnosis becomes clearer. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, it was recently discovered that CBD or cannabidiol may help in managing the symptoms better, improving the life quality of a Parkinson’s patient. Parkinson’s disease affects people in their senior years around the world, being the second most commonly experienced neurological illness, after Alzheimer’s.
The sad part is that one doesn’t have to be too old to develop Parkinson’s, the vast majority of patients being just over 50 years old. Also, men are more likely to be affected by it than women, all patients are at risk of becoming the prisoners in their own bodies, not being able to take care of themselves and, thus, suffering from poor life quality.
Thus, it is imperative to find a treatment that can improve the condition of people affected by this illness. And when the answer comes from nature, it is even better. Usually, treatments for severe neurological issues almost always have a range of serious side-effects, but the use of CBD to make Parkinson’s more manageable is looking more than promising.
The role of Dopamine in Parkinson’s disease
One of the most severe consequences of Parkinson’s is the loss of the body’s motor functions.
This happens after 60 to 80% of the neurons that produce dopamine are destroyed by the illness.
Dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter in the human brain, responsible for transmitting information among neurons and helping with the regulation of various functions, such as movement and emotional responses.
It also acts in helping us identify reward and making action plans to get those rewards. So, it is easy to see that insufficient levels of dopamine seriously affect one’s life quality. As the neurons producing dopamine cease to exist, Parkinson’s patients start having symptoms like muscle stiffness and rigidity, tremors in the arms, legs, hands, or jaw, decreasing the speed of movement, impaired balance, and coordination issues.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the only symptoms produced by low dopamine levels. Patients will slowly lose their facial expressions, will face confusion and even dementia, will experience fatigue and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, fear, and cognitive changes.
The right Diet plays an essential role
It was discovered that digestive imbalance can increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and in case the illness is already installed, it increases the severity of the symptoms. This happens because certain microbes release toxins in the guts, which lead to the damage of the mitochondria, the power house of every cell in the human body, except the red blood cells.
Without the mitochondria to provide energy to cells and to repair them in the event of damage, cells begin to die at a faster rate, increasing the severity of the illness in a shorter period. So, if there is a close connection between intestinal bacteria and Parkinson’s, the evolution of the disease can be manipulated from this point.
A diet rich in fermented foods and supplements containing probiotics will keep the mitochondria healthy by creating a proper environment in the gut, also helping with constipation and anxiety, which frequently occur in Parkinson’s patients.
CBD and Parkinson – Cannabis as a treatment?
Here is where cannabis comes into the picture, or more precisely one of its compounds, CBD. Researchers discovered that CBD behaves as an “inverse agonist” when it encounters a protein receptor named GPR6, depleting it and stimulating the production of the much-needed dopamine. Thus, with the help of cannabis products, Parkinson’s disease could be slowed down and its symptoms will be easier to bear.
Even though it is hard to believe, cannabis has been mentioned as a potential alternative treatment for Parkinson’s since 1888, when it appeared in the scientific paper of Sir William Gowers, a renowned neurologist. Dr. Gower noted that orally ingested Indian hemp by a Parkinson’s patient will have a beneficial effect on tremors, reducing their intensity. After just one year of using this hemp, the tremors of the patient, in this case, ceased almost completely.
Newer and modern research offer support to the theory that cannabis could be successfully used in treating people suffering from Parkinson’s. It helps with reducing the inflammation caused by the illness and alleviates its symptoms, while also slowing down the progression of the disease in a significant manner.
The fact that CBD is a potent antioxidant and has neuroprotective properties is precisely why this compound found in cannabis can turn out to be so valuable in treating patients that develop severe neurologic conditions, as some preclinical trial proved.
The studies on CBD & Parkinson
At the moment, studies concerning the use and effects of CBD on Parkinson’s disease are very limited, due to legal prohibition concerning the use of cannabis.
And, in some cases, even the emergence of conflicting results they still provide valuable insights of how CBD could help.
Preclinical studies have shown sufficient evidence that CBD might work, setting a path for further studies and research, in order to obtain more evidence concerning this potential treatment.
These in-depth studies may even reveal whether CBD is enough or it works better in combination with other cannabinoids, according to the different evolutionary stages of the disease.
CBDa – Cannabidiol Acid & Dosage at Parkinson’s.
The cannabidiol acids, present in whole cannabis products, appear to produce the most desired results, although more research is needed in this area. The studies that have been carried out so far have shown that CBDA, raw cannabinoid acids, which means that they have not been subjected to heating processes that turn them into neutral cannabinoid compounds, have properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-nausea, and anti-seizures.
Back in 2004, a survey took place at the Prague Movement Disorder Center concerning the use of cannabis among the people that were hospitalized there with various health conditions connected to their motor functions. Of all the patients using cannabis during this survey, 45% reported improvements in their motor functions that had been affected by Parkinson’s.
Still, it was found that the appropriate dosage for medical cannabis in the case of Parkinson’s patients can be a bit challenging to find. It is impossible to set a certain dosage that should be applied to all patients, as it happens in the case of so many drugs because each person’s organism is different and may require a different dosage to enjoy the benefits of cannabis.
The dosage is not the only thing that differs from one patient to another, the method through which CBD ends up in each patient’s body may also not always be the same across board. Some Parkinson’s patients found more relief by inhaling cannabis products, while others felt better after taking cannabis products rich in CBD sublingually.
Also, some patients feel improvements when using a combination of CBD with THC, so each patient should be treated individually. A person can start with a low dosage, which will be adjusted with time, especially when it comes to using THC products, to see which method, dosage, and combination works best.
CBD & THC – CBD Oil & smoking Marijuana
Juan Sanchez-Ramos M.D. and Ph.D., who is also the Medical Director for the Parkinson Research Foundation, stated that he encourages his Parkinson’s patients to start treatment with a 1:1 CBD: THC ratio if they can find it. Using his book, written in collaboration with Briony Catlow, Ph.D., another doctor, Ethan Russo, created a summary of dosages that provided results in a variety of studies.
Thus, 300 mg of CBD per day improved the quality of life in a significant manner but did not produce any changes on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale. Tremors, sleep, and slowness of movement were all improved by 0.5g of smoked cannabis.
Psychotic symptoms decreased with the help of 150 mg of CBD oil that slowly increased in dosage over the span of four weeks. Also, the REM-behavior sleep disorder was positively impacted by the usage of 75 to 300 mg of oral CBD.
The truth is that even the scarce results of these studies are giving people suffering from Parkinson’s and their families hope. A treatment that is finally providing positive results without having devastating side-effects is indeed remarkable. When it comes to a disease that damages neurons at such a degree that the patient will end up not being able to move at all, to think right, and to make decisions, any small improvement is welcome.
Let us not forget that CBD has natural sources, coming from a plant, which means that it will be better tolerated by the body. In a study involving 22 Parkinson’s patients that started smoking cannabis, reports showed that the patients enjoyed improved motor functions. Their tremors reduced, the rigidity in their muscles loosened, and it was not that difficult to perform various voluntary movements any longer.
CBD & Parkinson – The studies have only begun
Still, the current studies only scratch the surface of the real potential behind CBD treatment for Parkinson’s disease. At the moment, there are insufficient studies and tests on this matter, although the results that have been discovered so far show a promising future for this treatment.
Besides helping with the improvement of motor impairments, CBD also helps with diminishing anxiety, depression, and pain, which are associated with the disease and affect, even more importantly, the life quality of a patient.
It is rather intriguing that the description of the illness’s symptoms does not include pain because according to Dr. Blair Ford, pain and physical discomfort are among the first signs that indicate a Parkinson’s diagnosis in approximately 85% of the cases.
Pain is generated by the fact that the body’s tissue is damaged by tremors, inflammation, and rigidity. The fact that cannabis reduces the sensation of pain is well known, being a treatment that was used thousands of years ago for such purposes.
According to Dr. Mark Rabe, anxiety and depression are both quite frequent in the case of patients suffering from Parkinson’s. About 40% of the patients end up developing anxiety issues due to the illness, while 60% of them become depressed, ranging in intensity from a mild depression to severe and chronic conditions.
And it’s not the grim outcome provided by having Parkinson’s that trigger depression, as it is believed that the chemical changes that take place inside the brain, due to the disease, are responsible for producing these changes.
CBD has been used for a while to reduce depression and improve the mental stability of many people, regardless of the underlying cause. It works well in the case of anxiety as well, reducing discomfort and cognitive impairment. Also, used in the early stages of the disease, cannabis products can protect neurons from being damaged further.
Summary – CBD & Parkinson’s Disease
While CBD does not provide a final cure for Parkinson’s, it can bring a significant improvement in the fight against the illness’s terrible symptoms. This is why more studies need to be embarked upon in this direction, because everybody suffering from a disease, especially one that affects the brain, would like to have a chance to lead a decent life and not become entirely dependent on another person for care and everyday tasks.
CBD could redeem dignity and self-esteem for people suffering from Parkinson’s, also improving their morale by treating depression, stress, and anxiety. It also allows people to sleep better and be more active, by reducing pain and improving mobility. All these reasons should be good enough in order for more studies to take place in this particular area.
Until an actual cure is found, a treatment that improves life quality will be more than welcome. CBD is entirely safe to be used for medical purposes because it does not have a psychoactive effect. In fact, it helps diminish psychotic episodes, promoting relaxation and a calmer state of mind.
While it may take a while for researchers to fully understand how CBD works in protecting our brain, the positive results speak for themselves and such treatment should be made available as soon as possible.
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