How Does CBD Help Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson's disease brain synapse

If you’ve read much about CBD, the new hot button herbal alternative, you know of all its brain-boosting, pain relieving, and anxiety assuaging benefits for the average person. But CBD is more than a little something to take the edge off. Studies now find that it can help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Somewhere in that beautiful and mysterious tangle of flickering 100 billion neurons your brain sends signals to contract each and every muscle in the body when necessary. For the average person, these signals already need nootropic support. Parkinson’s patients, however, need a little more. This process is anything but automatic. Before we explain the recently discovered uses of CBD for Parkinson’s disease, we must first break down the disease itself. Don’t worry, though–we will keep the ridiculously long and hard-to-pronounce terms to a minimum.

About Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a lack of dopamine in an area of the brain responsible for motor control. In this instance, the dopamine is our neurotransmitter. This is a substance that carries a signal from a nerve to a receptor. When you want to smile, for example, neurons fire signals transmitted by dopamine. Receptors in the brain then perform the function of–you guessed it–receiving the signal. Then, these receptors tell your face to show those pearly whites. But when your message transmitter isn’t operating, then the receptor can’t quite understand what the brain wants it to do. At best, the receptor receives a weak, garbled signal, much like a phone call made in a tunnel. Since these receptors receiving weak signals control our movement, the following muscular symptoms signal Parkinson’s disease.

Tremors

Parkinson’s disease presents a host of problems with both movement and the lack thereof. Often, tremors are the most obvious symptom of Parkinson’s. Although we do not think about it, but even staying still requires motor control. Tremors result from an impaired signal. Common areas for tremors include the thumbs/fingers, shoulder muscles, arms, neck and face. Generally, Parkinson’s-related tremors occur at rest, though they may present in motion as well. The hallmark of Parkinson’s-related tremors is the “pill-rolling tremor,” in which the thumb and pointer finger rub together in a circular motion as if rolling a pill.

Bradykinesia (Slow Movement)

Compromised motor control greatly diminishes the possibility for quick, precise and purposeful movement. Even simple movements like reaching for a pen or opening a door become difficult for the Parkinson’s patient. Furthermore, movements tend to become much smaller, to maintain control.

Poor Initiation and Coordination

Parkinson’s patients often have trouble initiating movements. Whereas it may take others ten milliseconds after deciding to take a step to do so, the Parkinson’s patient’s movement is labored. A single step can average ten or more seconds. This brain-body disconnect can be highly frustrating for the patient, especially when compounded with also misguided “encouragement” from frustrated loved ones to “Just take a step!” The problem is not that they can’t hear and understand directions. To illustrate, you can dial that number all you want to, but if you have no signal, no communication is getting through.

Rigidity

Parkinson’s patients simply cannot relax their muscles like everyone else. Even relaxation requires the neurotransmitter that they are lacking. This symptom referred to as “rigidity” is variable based on the stage of the disease.

Gait and Posture Problems

Finally, and most unfortunately, are the issues surrounding gait and posture. Because of the stiffness and poor initiation mentioned above, Parkinson’s patients often shuffle their feet along the floor, sometimes scuffing their toes and falling. To make it even more challenging, as the postural muscles suffer the effects of the disease, the patient tends to hunch forward, displacing their center of gravity forward and further increasing the likelihood of a fall.

CBD For Parkinson’s Disease Research

Alright, that’s quite enough of the negative stuff for one day. Let’s turn our attention to the positive: the surprisingly potent uses of CBD for Parkinson’s disease.

CBD greatly improved quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients.

In November of 2014, 21 patients were studied to yield results about CBD and Parkinson’s. The participants who received CBD for Parkinson’s disease scored significantly higher on their quality-of-life assessments than the control group. While the study called for greater sample sizes and more research to firmly establish this link (as most studies do), these findings are very promising in terms of the potential of CBD for Parkinson’s disease patients.

CBD slowed the progression of Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases.

Now here’s what’s really exciting. Not only can CBD potentially alleviate symptoms–it can even slow the progression of the disease itself.  In a 2005 study, both cannabidiol and a form of THC were administered to tissues that were exposed to certain toxins (6-hydroxydopamine, if you would like a headache) that cause degeneration of nervous tissue. In both instances, the cannabinoids were shown to drastically the slow the effects of the degeneration. Both the THC and the CBD produced this effect independent of each other.

Even more promising, this research demonstrated that the use of CBD for Parkinson’s disease does not have dramatic effects on areas of the brain not affected. That’s right–unlike most medications today, there aren’t side effects to speak of. Researchers reported that antioxidant properties of CBD helped cells to defend themselves. Cells fortified against degeneration without being compromised by artificial compounds.

That’s reason number four zillion and five why more people should use CBD for Parkinson’s disease. It naturally assists the body’s own cannabinoid system and is so much better than becoming dependent on mind-altering drugs!

The use of CBD for Parkinson’s disease drastically improved REM sleep disorder.

As if the molotov cocktail of symptoms mentioned above wasn’t enough, Parkinson’s patients often have to put up with sleep disorders as well. The sleep disorder most often associated with Parkinson’s is REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). In REM, or rapid-eye-movement sleep, the body is in what researchers describe as an “atonic” or paralyzed state, in which every muscle is completely relaxed. However, since Parkinson’s patients have great difficulty relaxing, they often experience disturbances in this stage of sleep especially. More unfortunately, often violent and recurring nightmares present with this disorder.

Guess what helps with muscle relaxation during REM sleep? Cannabidiol! In a study published in May of 2014, multiple participants suffering from RBD reported that CBD drastically improved the quality of their sleep. Given the already purported ability of CBD to lower blood pressure and relax muscles, this seems like a perfect fit.

CBD combats Parkinson’s-related psychosis.

The treatment of yet another often overlooked symptom of Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, has firmly established another use of CBD for Parkinson’s Disease. Psychosis, admittedly hard to define, is a condition characterized by an altered perception of reality. This altered perception can reduce many other side effects, like Hallucinations, difficulties with sleeping, and problems socializing with others.

Thankfully, in addition to its ability to prevent nerve damage, CBD is also referred to as an anti-psychotic— a word that needs little explaining. In a 4-week study, patients who took CBD oil to manage their Parkinson’s-related psychosis scored significantly higher on the psychosis questionnaire than the control group. More importantly in a clinical sense, these participants’ motor control was not negatively affected by this particular use of CBD for Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

The 1-2-3 Punch

In review, the clinical relevance and power of CBD for Parkinson’s disease and other disorders of the central nervous system (like Huntington’s, MS and Alzheimer’s) is so high because It accomplishes three very important things at the same time.

Antioxidant properties 

First and foremost, its antioxidant properties directly address the oxidative processes involved with the degeneration of nerves in the brain. Sound familiar? Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are especially involved here. While this can’t fully cure or prevent central nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease, it can drastically improve symptoms and overall quality of life for all CNS disorder sufferers.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Another component of many central nervous system disorders is inflammation. CBD oil has already proven itself in multiple studies as an effective anti-inflammatory agent. Though this article focuses on CBD for Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms, this property alone renders it very useful in the treatment of arthritis, dermatitis, psoriasis and dozens of other inflammatory conditions. Returning to Parkinson’s disease and other central nervous system disorders, inflammation often goes hand-in-hand with the degenerative processes. This makes CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease doubly effective.

Helping the body fight its own battles

Finally, the ability of cannabidiol and similar supplements to work with your brain’s own cannabinoid system with little to no side effects is paramount. This allows you to directly treat the receptors in the brain that are suffering the effects of Parkinson’s without compromising your health in other ways, as many prescription medications require. There’s no high, virtually no danger of overdose, and no addictive potential.

RESOURCES

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25237116

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15837565

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Cannabidiol+can+improve+complex+sleep-related+behaviours+associated+with+rapid+eye+movement+sleep+behaviour+disorder+in+Parkinson%27s+disease+patients%3A+a+case+series

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801821