Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a hemp product commonly used as a natural remedy for many ailments. But can it help people with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? PD is a debilitating movement disorder of the central nervous system, and it currently has no cure. However, symptoms of Parkinson's can be managed with the help of some drugs and natural remedies, including CBD oil.
CBD has grown in popularity in recent years due to its perceived health benefits. CBD is a nonpsychoactive byproduct of the cannabis plant. While marijuana (including medical marijuana) contains a combination of both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp products contain nearly undetectable levels of THC and have a higher CBD content.
With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, production and distribution of industrial hemp were legalized across the United States. CBD is now more readily available to those who want to take advantage of its beneficial effects. CBD can be consumed in multiple forms, including oils, creams, or edible products like gummies, lollipops, or chocolate. Epidiolex (cannabidiol) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two rare forms of epilepsy.
Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, or compounds found in cannabis plants. They each work in complex ways in the brain. When taken together (such as in marijuana), they influence the body’s endocannabinoid system, a network that detects and reacts to the presence of cannabinoids in the body. This system helps regulate a variety of processes, including appetite, cell division, inflammation, stress, and vomit suppression.
There are two identified cannabinoid receptors in the human body: type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) and type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB2). CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found in the gastrointestinal tract and organs such as the spleen. Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol are brain cannabinoids that also work within this system.
When CBD enters the body alone (without THC), it acts differently. Scientists believe that CBD acts either directly or indirectly on several types of G protein-coupled receptors, including serotonin receptors. CBD can also affect ion channel receptors, such as vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptors. However, there is still much to be learned about how CBD acts within the body.
What is known is that CBD seems to help with inflammation. CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Further work has demonstrated that CBD treatment reduces the pain and nerve damage associated with osteoarthritis. Some of this pain reduction may be due to how CBD acts on TRPV1 receptors. CBD reduces inflammation by regulating cell death, preventing the birth of new cells, and suppressing cytokines and immune cells (such as T cells).
CBD may have the potential to help individuals with PD manage motor symptoms such as dyskinesia (the loss of control of voluntary movement). This is because of CBD’s anti-inflammatory actions. CBD may also help movement due to its neuroprotective actions in the nigral-striatal pathway and basal ganglia, areas known to be dysregulated in individuals with PD.
Members of MyParkinsonsTeam are talking about CBD and how it has improved their quality of life, or that of their loved ones. One member shared, “My mother suffers from Parkinson’s and most times has trouble sleeping. The meds they have her on don’t always stop the shaking. I finally convinced her to try CBD. The effects are amazing. She sleeps better, and it normally stops or at the least lessens the shaking.”
CBD may also be able to help with the nonmotor symptoms of PD, such as psychosis. One clinical trial demonstrated that giving oral CBD (compared to placebo) to six individuals over a period of four weeks lowered psychosis behavior.
The use of CBD is not without risks or adverse effects. Some people have reported side effects of sleepiness, diarrhea, or changes in appetite or weight. There is also growing research to suggest that high doses of CBD may lead to liver toxicity. Not much is known about potential drug interactions with CBD products such as oils.
CBD may not work for everyone, and there is still much to be learned about its use. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning to take CBD products.
MyParkinsonsTeam is the social network for people with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones. On MyParkinsonsTeam, more than 79,100 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with Parkinson’s disease.
Have you tried CBD products to help manage your Parkinson’s disease? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyParkinsonsTeam.