Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological, medical disorder that plagues mankind today, affecting 10 million people around the world according to the Parkinson’s foundation. Additionally, Parkinson’s disease has no effective medical treatment that can effectively eradicate the disorder.
However, while the disease is still in existence, there are ways to reduce symptoms for a better quality of life. One of the newest and most exciting discoveries is the use of medical marijuana, or CBD, to reduce the severity of symptoms experienced by PD patients.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological degenerative disease that causes a mild loss of motor control in the body in the initial onset of Parkinson’s and a severe loss in more advanced stages of the disease. When this happens, people experience symptoms such as tremors of the hands, legs, jaw, or the arms as well as muscle rigidity, slow movement, and stiffness in the limbs.
This undesirable condition then starts to cause other symptoms to arise in PD patients, such as sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and even constipation or urinary problems.
Additionally, Parkinson’s disease can cause pain. Patients often report stabbing, itching, burning, or tingling types of pain during the disease’s progression. These different manifestations of pain are due to stress on the body from not being able to move around as well, creating major tension.
The reason that Parkinson’s disease develops in some people is that there is a severe depletion of dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is what helps the neural connections create strong and fluid movement in the body. Dopamine is depleted due to the brain cells within the substantia nigra dying off. This causes a gradual decline in dopamine. When the brain has little access to dopamine, the motor coordination is severely compromised, causing a loss in muscle control.
There is no definite conclusion as the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease but current findings suggest that high levels of pesticide exposure, serious head injuries, digestive disorders, and even genetic predisposition play major roles in its development, either separately or jointly.
Endocannabinoid System and Parkinson’s Disease
The endocannabinoid system is a complex team of cannabinoid receptors, found throughout the body, that help keeps the body’s physiological processes in a state of homeostasis. In the body of a PD patient, the body is not in homeostasis due to the lack of dopamine production in the body.
This is due to the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, not being adequately stimulated in order to produce the proper levels of dopamine necessary for healthy motor function. This is where Cannabis comes in very handy as a potentially effective treatment option. The reason for this is because marijuana interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, therefore making it possible for the body to release adequate levels of dopamine.
Thus, disease symptoms are reduced and relief is experienced by PD patients.
Research on CBD and Parkinson’s
Medical research of Cannabis treatment for symptoms caused by Parkinson’s disease is somewhat confusing and untrustworthy at this point.
Although there definitely seems to be positive and promising signs through many of the medical studies that have been conducted that marijuana does indeed work, there is still much doubt and skepticism at play due to many key factors, namely that the medical studies are either done on very small numbers of PD patients, there is no placebo group, or the patents do not see any significant improvements.
Additionally, the federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule one drug, which means that it is not considered a medically valid drug, even though it is ironically termed medical marijuana in legal states. Therefore, it is much more difficult to both procure cannabis and conduct thorough research on the topic to produce a more assured treatment option for PD patients.
That being said, here are some clinical studies and medical surveys that have been done on CBD treatment for Parkinson’s disease patients:
In a 2004 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, and Charles University survey, the results revealed that 46 percent of PD patients who had used cannabis had an improvement in their symptoms. However, surveys are less reliable due to lack of proof for these people’s claims.
In a 2014 study done by the Department of Neurology, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital, Petach Tikva, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Tel Aviv University, 22 patients were examined after smoking marijuana. They reported improvements in pain, sleep, tremors, slow movement, and rigidity. However, there was no placebo clinical trial done alongside this study.
A 2009 Department of Neuropsychiatry and Medical Psychology, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, and the University of São Paulo study revealed that regular, albeit fluctuating, CBD dosages, did improve disease symptoms in PD patients. However, there were only six patients studied.
Another 2014 study done by the Department of Neuroscience and Behavior, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Brazil INCT Translational Medicine (CNPq), and the Brazil Barretos School of Health Sciences was a double-blind clinical trial revealed that a whopping 119 patients did not see any major disease improvements.
Cannabinoids As Neuroprotectants
There is evidence that cannabinoids found in marijuana can actually protect and nourish the neurons and neural connections in the brain. The reason for this is because the marijuana compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to fight threatening conditions that make the development of Parkinson’s disease possible.
Medical scientists at the National Institute of Health found that cannabidiol, which is the medicinal part in cannabis, can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier and is more potent than the antioxidants ascorbate and tocopherol. This medical team states that “CBD can protect neurons from both glutamate and free radical-induced toxicity.”
CBD or THC for Parkinson’s?
Both CBD and THC contain the cannabinoids necessary to relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms, whether or not you get a CBD product that contains THC. It boils down to possible legal constraints and how your body responds to the stronger THC cannabinoids found in medical marijuana.
With the legal constraints, if you live in a state that allows the use of either medical marijuana or recreational cannabis, then you might wish to try THC-infused marijuana. However, if you do not live a state where THC products are legal, then you will want to try cannabis products, or CBD products, without THC.
Additionally, some Parkinson’s disease patients find that the THC treatment works better because of the fact that it has more sedative or drug-like effects. Other patients find that THC cannabis is too strong for them and the potentially riskier side effects are too much. Therefore, it really comes down to legalities, choice, and personal experimentation.
How CBD Helps With Parkinson’s
Below are some great ways in which cannabis helps improve a person’s quality of life using the CBD treatment:
Improves Motor Symptoms
As stated before, the marijuana cannabinoids found in CBD help stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, therefore helping the body produce more dopamine. When more dopamine is produced, the bodily movement is greatly improved due to the fact that dopamine is detrimental to healthy motor activity in the body.
Therefore, people with this disease can possibly experience great improvement in their impaired motor symptoms.
Helps With Anxiety
Many people who have Parkinson’s disease have anxiety. This is due to the lack of dopamine, a pleasure chemical in addition to its responsibility in producing healthier motor mobility, but also because the lack of control people have over their bodily movements causes them to feel anxious.
Therefore, marijuana, or CBD products, can possibly ease this uncomfortable symptom. This is because cannabis aids the body in producing more dopamine and serotonin, two critical chemicals needed in the brain to produce feelings of contentment and happiness.
The cannabinoids contained within CBD products improves the neurological functioning in the brain which then, in turn, effectively regulates the REM sleep cycles, which are the cycles where the most restorative sleep occurs. This means that people with Parkinson’s disease are much less likely to wake up during their crucial REM cycles, thus receiving better quality sleep.
Decreases Psychotic Symptoms
Parkinson’s disease often times creates symptoms of sleep deprivation, stress, and most definitely dopamine depletion. Therefore, this causes many patients to experience psychotic episodes such as hallucinations and other delusions.
With the use of calming marijuana cannabinoids, mental stress is relieved, thereby creating more peaceful emotions and hindering psychotic episodes.
How To Use CBD For Parkinson’s
CBD can potentially work wonders for your disease symptoms. There are many ways you can ingest CBD for Parkinson’s disease:
If you don’t like the taste of Cannabis oil, for it can have a somewhat bitter taste if you’re not buying an oil that’s flavored, capsules are a great way to take cannabis oi. You simply purchase your capsules online or at your nearest health food store and drop the oil into the capsules. Or, you can buy the oil already encapsulated.
Edibles are a popular way to consume cannabis because they taste good. You can infuse CBD oil into brownies, juices, gummies, cooking oils, and other fun edibles.
Vaping is another popular choice if you prefer to smoke marijuana. In this case, you would need a vape pen or electronic cigarette. Then you just want to make sure you purchase a good-quality CBD oil that is specifically made for the device.
Recommended CBD Dosage For Parkinson’s Disease
There is much difficulty in producing a standard CBD dosage that works for a large number of people. This is due to the fact that everyone reacts to cannabis differently, getting different results from differing dosage levels. However, the safest suggestion is to start off with a lower dosage at around 40-50 milligrams per day, keeping a close eye on any adverse symptoms.
Depending on results, either lower or increase dosage by 25-50 milligrams every three days. Once you have relief from disease symptoms, you can keep the dosage at a maintenance level.
If you choose to consume a CBD oil that contains THC, then you will want to start off with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC and then experiment with milligram dosage of both after several days, or weeks, if not experiencing the desired relief.
Side Effects of Taking CBD For Parkinson’s
Although it seems that marijuana CBD is a fairly safe remedy to take is therefore tolerated in most people, it still has the potential to produce un-pleasurable symptoms, in certain people. Such symptoms might include:
- Increase in Parkinson’s disease tremors
- Increased anxiety symptoms
- fatigue or drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- dry mouth
A thing to note is that there are many more possible unpleasant, even hazardous, side effects that come with consuming CBD that contains THC. Cannabis CBD is much stronger because it produces that famous marijuana high. Consequently, getting high can sometimes make disease symptoms worse, such as an increase in dizziness, anxiety, drowsiness, sleeplessness, nausea, or mental impairment.
Additionally, it is good to always consult with your doctor about taking anything alongside any other medications you might be on. Using CBD with other prescribed drugs could potentially create undesirable symptoms due to negative chemical interactions.
Is CBD Right For You?
If you have Parkinson’s disease or know of someone who does, then CBD might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Although the science is still in its infancy when it comes to being assured of the positive connection between CBD and the disease, it is nonetheless a good indicator that CBD might very well be one of the answers the world has been looking for when it comes to managing symptoms for optimal quality of life.
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