A healthy, natural alternative to traditional medications is becoming more accessible for people suffering from the effects of Parkinson's disease. Studies show that CBD, a cannabidiol, can alleviate symptoms of Parkinson's. CBD is a natural compound found in cannabis sativa plants, without the adverse side effects of prescription drugs and without the "high" effects of THC in marijuana. And while traditional medications may become less effective or stop working over time, CBD users welcome long-lasting benefits, as many can give up their medications for good.
CBD is also gaining traction in the treatment of other conditions such as Alzheimer's, epilepsy, anxiety, and chronic pain. Studies are still ongoing but the results show that CBD is an exciting alternative to traditional medications.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurological disorder that affects the patient's own nervous system. The average age of onset is 60 years. Simply put, brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for sending messages to the body regarding movement, become damaged and die. This leads to a variety of movement problems that can include tremors, lack of facial expression, difficulty balancing, and muscle stiffness. In addition, Parkinson's disease can develop into Parkinson's dementia (PDD), which affects cognitive functions, such as the ability to remember things, make good decisions, and pay attention.
Please note that dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) has similar symptoms to PDD. However, in DLB, cognitive problems are present before problems with movement occur. All of these diseases are progressive, which means that symptoms worsen over time and unfortunately there is no cure.
Initially, symptoms of Parkinson's disease may go virtually unnoticed and include:
- Difficulty standing after sitting
- sensory deprivation
- Shaking (slight trembling of the hands)
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- Balance problems
The way you walk changes as PD progresses. In fact, it is a gait so commonly seen that it has its own name: Parkinsonian gait. This is often characterized by a stooped posture, short steps that are more like shuffling feet (as if the person is dragging them), and decreased arm movement or arms that do not swing when walking.
Individuals with Parkinson's may experience other problems over time, including:
- loss of smell
- Problems with swallowing
- Speak indistinctly
- Visual hallucinations
- lack of judgment
- concentration difficulties
- memory loss
People with Parkinson's may also suffer from depression, anxiety, apathy, irritability, pain, and sleep disturbances. As mentioned earlier, many people with Parkinson's develop what is known as Parkinson's dementia.
Individuals with PD and PDD often seek treatment in the form of prescription medications to relieve symptoms, often with severe side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dry mouth, loss of appetite, heartburn, and more.
Potential benefits of CBD
Exciting reports abound about the therapeutic effects of CBD in people with Parkinson's. A recent study by Brazilian researchers showed that CBD reduced anxiety and tremors that occurred during a public speaking test for people over 60 with PD. Subjects who took 300 milligrams of CBD before a speech (public speaking is a classic anxiety trigger) had fewer symptoms than a control group that received a placebo.
This builds on exciting earlier findings. Because PD affects the brain's ability to produce dopamine, researchers Alyssa S. Laun and Zhao-Hui Song at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, made an important discovery a few years ago when they found that CBD acts as an "inverse agonist" at CPR6 - receptors found primarily in the basal ganglia region of the brain that are connected to the cerebral cortex and brainstem and control functions in our bodies such as movement, learning, and emotions. This means that CBD may be reacting within the receptors to provide therapeutic effects against the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Any increase in dopamine levels would counteract the steady decrease in dopamine neurons in patients with Parkinson's disease.
Cannabinoid receptors run through our bodies as part of the endocannabinoid system, regulating physiological operations such as hunger, pain sensitivity, temperament and memory. These natural receptors are affected in patients with Parkinson's. As analyses continue, CDB shows relief from tremors, psychosis, and sleep disorders. CBD can also reduce depression and anxiety and relieve pain. A study at the Colorado School of Medicine showed that problems such as tremors and sleep disorders are alleviated. CBD studies further show that it is effective in treating psychosis associated with PDD (Parkinson's dementia). So far, patients are tolerant of low doses of CBD oil and report positive effects.
Numerous other studies confirm the benefits of CBD:
- Researchers in Brazil had previously stated, "Our results suggest a possible effect of CBD in improving quality of life in PD patients without psychiatric comorbidities." (Study)
- Researchers from the Department of Neuroscience and Behavior there concluded that "preliminary data suggest that CBD is effective, safe, and well-tolerated for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson's disease." (Study)
- And another study concluded, "Cannabis has rarely been used in our country, but users reported high efficacy, mainly for nonmotor symptoms." (Study)