As CBD has increased in popularity globally, many people are looking to see if it may be able to help with their particular ailment or condition. One of the conditions that CBD may be useful in treating is Parkinson’s disease, although more research still needs to be done.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder. It affects the central nervous system through brain cells. The brain cells we have that produce dopamine (a neurotransmitter) become damaged and die. As dopamine sends messages to the body to help it control movement, the result is tremors, difficult balancing and stiff muscles. The disease often onsets later in life, with the majority of people feeling the first symptoms age 60+. It is possible, however, to discover you have Parkinson’s much earlier than this.
Unfortunately, there is also a chance that Parkinson’s disease can then develop into Parkinson’s disease dementia. This is when the brain’s cognitive functioning is also effected. In these cases people may often have their memories, decision making capabilities and attention spans cease to function as aptly as before.
What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Alongside the severe tremors and motion difficulties often most affiliated with Parkinson’s disease, the disease has a wide range of other symptoms. There is pain across the body, which regularly affects those with Parkinson’s. It is also common to experience psychosis as a possible complication of Parkinson’s disease. It may be possible that up to 50% of people with Parkinson’s disease experience some kind of psychosis. This can cause delirium, hallucinations and delusions.
There are also many symptoms of Parkinson’s that affect general quality of life. Those with Parkinson’s are much more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and traumatic-stress disorders stemming from their experiences with being ill. Insomnia and sleeping issues are also very common and may be related to the other cognitive functional failures occurring in a person with Parkinson’s disease.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a naturally occurring chemical compound, found in the cannabis plant. It is one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and is one of the most prevalent and well-studied.
CBD is entirely non-psychoactive, unlike the other common cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC has psychoactive effects, and is the cause of the ‘high’ feeling commonly associated with cannabis.
There is a range of research to suggest that CBD may be a possible treatment for stress and anxiety, as well as helping manage and reduce the experience of pain. CBD is available across a wide variety of delivery methods (such as pain-patches, tincture oils, capsules and vapes). This wide variety of methods available legally and on the high-street have led to an increased interest in the capabilities of the compound to help treat complex conditions.
How does CBD Work?
CBD works through an internal system within our bodies, known as the endocannabinoid system. Our brain produces its own kind of cannabinoid compound, and it is believed that these molecules may have many effects on our metabolism, and internal processes occurring within the body.
There are two main types of cannabinoid receptor, which are found throughout our bodies. CB1 receptors are those that respond to THC and are found inside the brain. CB2 receptors, however, are found in cells involved in the immune system and within the brain. These receptors respond to CBD and are found in the areas that control movement.
Can CBD Help with Parkinson’s Tremors?
Interestingly, there are mixed results from studies that have looked to see the effect that cannabinoids (specifically CBD) can have on Parkinson’s tremors.
There is evidence to suggest that CBD is useful for controlling tremors, however, in these cases the tremors were not caused by Parkinson’s disease. For example, a clinical trial that took place in Brazil demonstrated that CBD could help reduce tremors in those with anxiety.
There has been a smaller study which demonstrated that CBD could be useful at controlling Parkinson’s tremors, however, this was undertaken in the 1980s. A study in the 1990s, with only 5 people, then showed that there was little effect on tremors amongst those with Parkinson’s disease, however this was a small study and more research still needs to be done.
As the tremors are cause by dopamine levels, there are further interesting developments in CBD as treatment for Parkinson’s tremors. Researchers from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, discovered that CBD potentially increases dopamine levels, thus could counteract the decrease of dopamine levels experienced by those with Parkinson’s disease.
Cannabinoids may also be able to prevent cells from denaturing, an exciting development when looking specifically at Parkinson’s disease. In Parkinson’s, brain cells cease to function properly as they experience a range of issues. These issues are protein misfolding (when proteins are not the correct shape and therefore build up inside of cells), general inflammation, oxidative stress (when damaging free radicals overload inside the cells) and mitochondrial failure (when the powerhouses of our cells stop to function properly).
Studies have suggested that cannabinoids may help to stop these harmful processes from occurring. The research has often been done looking at CB2 receptors (the ones effected by CBD, as opposed to THC). The damage may be mitigated or lessened by CBD, although more research is needed.
Can CBD Help with the Other Symptoms of Parkinson’s?
There are further studies that suggest there are possible benefits to consuming CBD to help settle the other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
A study that looked into the treatment of Parkinson’s onset psychosis with CBD discovered that the compound may be beneficial here. The data suggested that “CBD may be effective, safe and well tolerated for the treatment of the psychosis in PD”.
Vivid dreams, sleep disturbances, and general insomnia are all often experienced by those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. There have been studies specifically focusing on the experience of sleep and its improvements after using CBD on those with Parkinson’s disease. One study demonstrates that CBD can improve sleep-related disturbances in those with Parkinson’s. Long term studies in those without Parkinson’s have also demonstrated that CBD is a helpful sleep aid.
A study looking at the benefits of medical cannabis on those with Parkinson’s revealed that cannabis can reduce the pain felt in those with Parkinson’s disease. It is worth noting that this study was conducted using medical cannabis which also contains THC, as opposed to isolated CBD.
There are also multiple studies which demonstrate the efficacy of CBD on pain, although not specialised to Parkinson’s disease.
An increasing number of studies have shown promise in relation to using topical CBD, such as CBD balm, in order to manage pain. This can manifest in a variety of ways, including fighting inflammation, interacting with the endocannabinoid system and soothing the skin when applied topically.
CBD interacts with certain endocannabinoid receptors in your brain. The receptors receive signals from various stimuli throughout the body, allowing your cells to respond.
This response, enhanced by CBD, causes anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
This was highlighted in one particular meta review into CBD and pain relief conducted in 2018. Vuckovic et al concluded that CBD was effective in the management of pain, in relation to cancer pain, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain.
As with any new drug or supplement, it is always important to speak to a medical professional before starting. That said, it may be worth speaking to your doctor about supplementing with CBD, as the results from recent studies seem to demonstrate that it may have many positive and helpful affects for those struggling with Parkinson’s disease.
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