CBD oil and Parkinson’s disease
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- What the research says
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine cells help control movement and also influence mood. Many individuals living with Parkinson’s experience tremors, stiffness, or slowness of movement, and they may have depression or anxiety. The symptoms of the disease can also cause pain. The condition is both chronic and progressive.
Studies indicate that CBD may improve quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
There is still no cure for PD, but symptoms can be managed with surgery or medications that mimic or increase dopamine. Some of these medications can cause unpleasant short term-side effects, however, such as dizziness, nausea, or even compulsive behaviors. Unfortunately, the benefits offered by these medicines can wane or become unstable over time.
Emerging research suggests that CBD may offer therapeutic benefits for those living with Parkinson’s.
What the research says
CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidative effects in studies involving animal and human subjects. Both oxidative stress and inflammation play a role in Parkinson’s and all movement disorders to some extent. CBD has also been shown to have anti-anxiety properties, which helps patients who experience anxiety or depression and increased tremors caused by anxiety.
Most of the human studies that have evaluated CBD as a treatment for PD have focused on its potential to help with non-motor symptoms, such as psychotic symptoms, well-being, and sleep disorders. But a 2020 study published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology” shows that CBD can reduce anxiety in PD patients, and consequently, the intensity of anxiety-related tremors. There is also research in animal models indicating that CBD may help with the management of motor symptoms.
CBD can reduce anxiety in PD patients, and consequently, the intensity of anxiety-related tremors. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
One 2018 review of existing research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology on CBD for Parkinson’s disease suggests that CBD may play more of a preventive role in the illness rather than a therapeutic one.
A 2014 study on human participants published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology” indicated that CBD might improve the quality of life of PD patients. The study’s authors found improvements in functioning and well-being among patients treated with 300 milligrams of CBD daily over six weeks, and pointed to its anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and sedative properties as possibly explaining these improvements.
However, the study authors failed to find a statistically significant benefit of CBD for motor symptoms, nor was there evidence that CBD provided neuroprotective benefits despite evidence of neuroprotection in animal models. The authors did acknowledge that the study used a small sample (21 patients in total) and that longer tracking may be required for neuroprotective benefits to become apparent.
A 2014 case report published in the “Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics” investigated CBD as a treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder in four Parkinson’s disease patients. Three patients received 75 milligrams of CBD per day, and one received 300 milligrams daily. All four patients received CBD for six weeks.
Nightmares, agitation, and aggressive behavior were promptly and significantly reduced in the case of one man, and completely ceased in the other three cases over six weeks. However, after the treatment was interrupted, symptoms returned with the same frequency and intensity.
A 2008 pilot study, also published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology”, evaluated the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of CBD on Parkinson’s disease patients with psychotic symptoms. Psychosis affects almost one-third of PD patients in the latter stages of the illness. Four men and two women who had had psychosis for at least three months received pure CBD in varying doses (beginning with 150 milligrams per day) for four weeks in conjunction with their usual therapy.
The results showed that the CBD treatment significantly improved thinking disorders, and also significantly decreased sleep disturbances, hallucinations, and delusions. Although CBD did not affect motor function in a statistically significant way, patients seemed to show some improvement. Patients tolerated the CBD treatment well, without experiencing adverse effects.
In Reddit forums, patients living with PD discuss their experiences of using CBD as a treatment for symptoms associated with the condition.
One contributor noted that CBD seemed to improve motor function to some degree.
“We’ve been trying drops under the tongue for the last couple of weeks with my father to help him sleep at night. Not used consistently enough to see if it’s helping yet, but my mother notices some reduction in his hand tremors.”
In Reddit forums, patients living with Parkinson’s Disease discuss their experiences of using CBD as a treatment for symptoms associated with the condition. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Another contributor found that CBD was more effective when teamed with THC.
“I don’t use CBD for my tremors (they are very minor unless I’m in a lot of pain or stressed) but I use it for muscle rigidity and pain. I personally do not find CBD as effective as THC, but I do use both.”
An individual living with Parkinson’s disease shared his observations on a forum maintained by Parkinson.org after using CBD (without THC) for a month.
“Over the course of the past month, I’ve lost some of the super benefits that I thought I was getting during the first week, but the fact remains that a noticeable level of improvement has persisted. I really need help with anxiety, agitation, anger issues, autonomic nerve deficiencies, and many other non-movement type things. I think and hope that the CBD oil is helping.”
What the experts say
Fernanda F. Peres is the leading author on a 2018 review of CBD as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, published in “Frontiers in Pharmacology.”
Peres is convinced that CBD holds strong potential in the treatment of PD.
“We have data pointing to CBD’s beneficial effects on non-motor symptoms. Using CBD in addition to antiparkinsonian medications is a future possibility, in my opinion.”
Peres points out that first-line medications for PD, such as carbidopa-levodopa, improve the motor symptoms, but can lead to significant adverse effects such as psychotic symptoms or involuntary movements.
CBD, on the other hand only causes mild side effects, such as fatigue or a dry mouth in some individuals. Although there is currently a lack of clinical evidence in human studies, Peres believes that earlier diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease will enable the neuroprotective properties of CBD to work better.
More research is needed to understand if CBD may help prevent or decelerate neurodegeneration leading to motor abnormalities. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
She points to the studies performed on rodents that demonstrate the beneficial effects of CBD on treating or preventing motor abnormalities and emphasizes that the difference between the human and animal studies is that PD is diagnosed later in human participants, compared with animal models in which PD is induced.
“Considering the neuroprotective effects of CBD, it might not be beneficial after extensive neurodegeneration. We speculate that future improvements in PD diagnosis criteria will lead to earlier diagnosis and will expand CBD’s benefits for PD patients. CBD is a molecule with multiple mechanisms of action, not all of them fully elucidated.”
While there is evidence that CBD may improve quality of life and sleep in Parkinson’s disease patients, more research on human subjects is needed to understand if CBD may help prevent or decelerate neurodegeneration that is the hallmark of PD.
CBD oil and Parkinson’s disease Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What the research says Patient perspectives What the experts say
CBD Oil for Parkinson’s: Can It Help? Maybe, According to Research
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in cannabis plants. These compounds are known as cannabinoids. Cannabis has several hundred of these compounds, though only a few are well known and widely studied.
CBD doesn’t have the psychoactive benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabis’s more famous cannabinoid. It does, however, have other potentially beneficial effects.
Research suggests CBD may help reduce anxiety, relieve pain, and offer neuroprotective properties.
Potential brain and nervous system benefits have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, especially for people with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The research is fairly new and limited, but some studies have shown promise for those with PD. Let’s look at how CBD might help with symptoms of this progressive neurological disorder.
CBD hasn’t been used in people with Parkinson’s disease long-term, and research into the benefits of this cannabinoid only began a few decades ago.
That means research is limited, and often, the studies that have been done are very small. Scientists and doctors need to conduct larger-scale efforts to confirm any benefits.
However, some studies suggest CBD may have some positive effects, especially when it comes to nonmotor symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
A small study of 22 individuals with Parkinson’s found that using cannabis helped improve pain. However, this study was conducted with medical marijuana, which contains both CBD and THC.
But animal studies have suggested CBD alone has benefits for reducing pain and inflammation, two factors that can affect people with PD regularly.
Some of the most common treatments for Parkinson’s disease can cause medicine-related tremors or uncontrolled muscle movements. Treatment with the medicine won’t make it better — and it could make it worse.
As a possible solution, an older, smaller study has suggested that CBD may be able to help ease these muscle movements.
Psychosis is a possible complication of Parkinson’s disease. It can cause hallucinations, delirium, and delusions, and it’s more common in people in the later stages of the disease.
In fact, up to 50 percent of people with PD experience this complication.
While medications are available to treat Parkinson’s psychosis, some people have wondered if CBD might be beneficial.
One small 2009 study in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and psychotic symptoms found that the compound did reduce the severity of symptoms. It also didn’t cause any adverse effects.
Sleep disruption and a lack of quality sleep is a serious concern for people with Parkinson’s disease. Vivid dreams or nightmares, as well as movement during sleep, is common.
Studies have found that both cannabis and CBD alone might help with sleep disturbances.
Quality of life
Because of the many potential benefits of CBD for people with Parkinson’s, researchers have suggested using the compound might help improve quality of life. This is a major concern for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.
One study found that people who had Parkinson’s disease and no psychiatric symptoms or conditions experienced an improved quality of life with CBD use. This study, too, was done in a very small group of people, so further research is needed to thoroughly support the findings.
There are no FDA-approved cannabis treatments for Parkinson’s disease. However, the FDA did approve a CBD medication, Epidiolex, to treat two rare types of epilepsy.
Researchers from the University of Colorado are using that drug to investigate its benefits on people with Parkinson’s-related tremor. The study is in its second phase.
However, this too is a small study, conducted in just 10 people. Larger studies will be needed to confirm or refute what this study ultimately finds.
Researchers have found that CBD may be able to help prevent Parkinson’s disease, but currently, research has only been done in animals.
Plus, the research suggests CBD can do nothing to help treat PD once it begins. Based on this, it may only be useful as a preventive measure.
But human studies that analyzed whether CBD could help prevent Parkinson’s didn’t return significant results. More research is needed to understand why the compound might protect animals’ brains but — so far as we can tell — not human brains.
One thing to keep in mind is that by the time an individual begins showing signs of Parkinson’s disease, about 60 percent of the dopamine-receptive neurons in the brain are already destroyed. Most clinical trials only use CBD after a diagnosis is made.
It’s difficult to know who will develop Parkinson’s and who will not. Preventive strategies are few and far between, so knowing who could benefit from CBD prevention measures is difficult.
If you’re a beginner with CBD, you may be curious about the best way to take it if you have Parkinson’s disease.
CBD is available in the following forms:
- Oils and tinctures. As liquids, these forms of CBD can be swallowed or absorbed sublingually (under the tongue). This might be a good option if you have difficulty swallowing pills or chewing gummies.
- Lotions and creams. The effects of CBD-infused lotions and creams can take several hours to develop, but may be useful to treat pain or stiffness in hands and joints.
- Capsules and pills. You may experience a delay in effects if you take CBD in a capsule or pill, but this form may be ideal for people with tremors that prevent them from properly dosing a liquid.
- Edibles.Gummies are a popular CBD option. You can also find CBD in a number of other edible foods, though dosage may not be as accurate as in other forms. Edibles discretely deliver a dose of CBD.
- Vape pens. CBD oil can be vaporized and inhaled. The effects begin quickly if you use this route. However, vaping may damage lung tissue or aggravate symptoms like coughing or sore throat.
In most studies, CBD is tolerated well. It rarely causes side effects, and the ones that do happen tend to be mild. They include tiredness, changes in appetite, and diarrhea or nausea.
However, CBD can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Talk to your doctor before taking CBD, especially if you’re on medications that contain a “grapefruit warning.” CBD and grapefruit have a similar effect on certain enzymes related to drug metabolism.
Remember, there’s an established treatment for Parkinson’s disease — but it’s not perfect.
Levodopa is the most effective and most commonly used treatment for PD. This medication helps replenish the level of dopamine in the brain.
Levodopa addresses many of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. That includes tremors or muscle stiffness.
However, this medicine does little to tackle the nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These are the symptoms that can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life. They include anxiety, depression, and sleep quality.
What’s more, prolonged use of levodopa may cause side effects like agitation, anxiety, confusion, and nausea. It may also cause a type of tremor that’s the result of the medication itself, not PD.
CBD appears to be best suited to address those nonmotor issues and potential side effects, rather than motor issues. One study with more than 200 people found that that use of cannabis had a high effectiveness on nonmotor symptoms. However, this study included THC with CBD, not CBD alone.
CBD holds some promise for people with Parkinson’s disease. Not only might the cannabinoid ease symptoms of the degenerative disease itself, it might ease side effects of the most common treatment.
But it’s important to remember that many of these studies are quite small. Larger, more in-depth studies are necessary before CBD gets the go-ahead from many doctors and the FDA. Yet, the results have been promising, so there’s reason to be optimistic for future research.
Some doctors are becoming more open to CBD as a complementary treatment, so talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing and how to get relief using CBD or other methods.
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
The idea of using CBD oil for Parkinson's disease isn't a new one, but more research needs to be done. We'll take a look at what promising study results are out there.