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CBD and Neurodegenerative Disorders

CBD and Neurodegenerative Disorders

We want to take the opportunity to share some information about the potential benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids for neurological conditions.  Please be aware that this article is not attempting to provide medical advice. The FDA has not approved CBD for the treatment or cure of any disease (with the exception of Epidioliex as outlined below). Adding CBD to the medication or supplement regimen for anyone with neurodegenerative disorders should be done only after consulting with a physician.  In our experience a physician will typically say that it can’t hurt to try it, but this would not be true in situations where they are trying to observe the effects of existing medication or other treatment. It is sometimes important to understand the independent results of specific changes in treatments.  For example, if a physician has just introduced a new medication and you introduce CBD on your own, it will be impossible to know which substance any positive or negative results are based on. So, please consult with your or your loved one’s physician. 

First, some personal anecdotal reports from our customers – and what led us to write this article in the first place. We have many repeat customers who find great benefit for a huge variety of concerns, and we love hearing about all of their success. Unfortunately, at least to date, there is no proof that CBD is a cure for anything, but it may be a help for a lot of things. The vast majority of these reports are “firsthand.” However, we also hear from the loved ones of many people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that the quality of life for the loved one they care for has improved. This not only benefits the sufferer, but the caretaker as well. Some examples:

  • A client who gives CBD capsules to her father, who suffers from dementia, came in for a refill. She mentioned she thought it was making a difference and had this confirmed when they ran out. She noted that sundowning is less significant and less stressful for her father when he takes his CBD. 

  • Multiple caretakers tell us their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s anxious feelings are more controlled, they sleep better, panic less frequently, and have increased mobility. 

  • We have been told that Parkinson’s sufferers feel there are fewer spasms and that enjoyment of life is improved because of fewer battles with anxious feelings.

  • The husband of a woman diagnosed with MS observed to us that his wife has fewer painful spasms and cramping since she has been regularly using CBD. 

Of course, none of the above guarantee results for anyone else.  And some of them tried several products and a variety of doses before they found what worked. But in most cases minor improvements led to additional trials, which then arrived at a consistent and observable improvement. Many of them noted the same as the first example above – that they didn’t realize how much it helped until they ran out. 

What does this mean? To us it means that improvements realized by using CBD may be subtle at first and grow over time, that they are rarely earth-shattering though often measurable, and that consistency is key. What we usually tell our clients is this:

A guide to using CBD for Neurological Conditions

  1. Speak to the physician to make sure CBD will not interfere with any existing regimen

  2. Consider the available dosing options for what will work for your or your loved one. While valid arguments can be made for the advantages of some methods over others, the most important thing is consistency. This means that if your loved one won’t use a particular type of CBD (oil is too bitter, too much sugar in gummies, can’t swallow capsules), the most important thing is to find a method that they will use. 

  3. Start low and go slow – see our full dosing guidelines

  4. Be consistent

  5. Record results – changes in pain, sleep, mood, spasms, and other symptoms. A daily assessment may help determine if and how it is helping as well as make a note of any negative side effects. Though this last one is rare, it can happen. 

  6. Avoid measurable doses of THC (full-spectrum products are typically fine) for people with significant cognitive decline unless you have exhausted CBD alone options and have physician approval. THC is intoxicating, can cause heart rate and blood pressure changes, and may contribute to dizziness. Those suffering from the conditions noted here, especially dementia / Alzheimer’s could be made temporarily worse by an intoxicating dose.   

What Research Says about CBD for Neurodegenerative Disorders 

Neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and more, cause a variety of symptoms that are listed among the various conditions that may benefit from CBD oil. For example, anxious feelings, discomfort, and muscle spasms. But what does CBD do to actually alleviate the symptoms of these illnesses, and is it safe for use in these patients? As with many benefits of hemp products, there are years of anecdotal accounts like ours and comparatively little formal research done into this topic. However, the FDA approval of Sativex (1:1 CBD and THC) for MS in 2005 and Epidiolex (CBD) for pediatric epilepsy in 2018 indicates that there is strong potential for cannabinoids in addressing nervous system disorders. Because of this, there has been a relatively recent spike in papers about the potential neuro-protective benefits of CBD. We will summarize a bit of what science tells us about treating the nervous system with different cannabinoids. We will also discuss when it may be safe to treat patients of different illnesses with these compounds. 

 Long before there was any data-driven evidence on this topic, many patients and caregivers sought out CBD oil and other cannabis-derived products for symptom relief and even disease progression prevention. Illnesses such as MS, epilepsy, and fibromyalgia were some of the leading conditions which hemp and medical-marijuana activists cited as reasons for cannabis legalization in medical or general circumstances. These disorders stood right next to cancer-related pain and HIV/AIDS related complications in legalization debates starting in the 1990’s (Patton, 2020). Survey data supports that many, or even a majority, of patients of these illnesses find some benefit from either CBD, THC, or combination/other cannabinoid products (McDonagh, et al., 2022). 

For example, one study which surveyed almost 900 CBD-users who had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia found that 59% of them substituted cannabinoids for NSAIDs, and 53% were able to substitute for opioids (Boehnke, Gagnier, Matallana, & Williams, 2021). That’s greater than half of the study population who were able to reduce or even eliminate opioid use in favor of one or more cannabinoids. These substitutions also were not associated with worsened symptom control or greater side effects. Incidentally, this survey also suggested that individual who used CBD and THC ratio products reported a greater ability to substitute and “larger improvements in health, pain, memory, and sleep than other subgroups (Boehnke, Gagnier, Matallana, & Williams, 2021).” The survey that lead to these conclusions also polled fibromyalgia sufferers who did not currently use CBD. An article discussing that aspect of the data notes that the biggest reason individuals cited for not using CBD was general safety concerns, rather than side-effects or lack of relief (Boehnke, Gagnier, Matallana, & Williams, 2021). This is interesting given the context that CBD is known to be very safe with a generally limited side effect profile, as we have discussed in previous articles (Kerstin Iffland, 2017). It is possible that the perception that CBD may be unsafe stems from the legal limbo which much of the Hemp industry resides in. As well, many physicians are simply not well-versed in medical cannabis issues, and do not know how to advise patients who express interest in some type of cannabis use. 

Cannabinoids are not only sought out by patients of fibromyalgia, however. They also have proponents, for example, among caretakers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One Polish survey found that the “vast majority” of respondents providing care to an individual with AD thought it was effective in managing behavioral symptoms of the disease (Leszko & Meenrajan, 2021). Most of these individuals tried CBD due to an online support group that they shared and felt that it should have been offered as a treatment option through their medical providers.  This survey again found that individuals who were not providing CBD to their AD patient (who were aware of it) cited safety concerns, such as fear that it was not legal or created physical dependency. This particular survey is admittedly very small, with a total of 73 caregiver respondents, but it is still fairly striking in the strength and nature of its conclusion. Anecdotally, this sentiment is one that we see frequently in our capacity as cannabis educators. People caring for family members with AD or other dementia often say that they have had some success in reducing anxiety, outbursts, and distress with CBD, but don’t know how to get reputable advice about it. We are sometimes the first people they are comfortable “admitting” CBD use to, because of general cannabis stigma and lack of education. 

How Bias Impacts Patient and Physician Use of CBD

Woman Researching

The lack of education about cannabis often extends beyond patients and towards medical practitioners as well. While attitudes around cannabis vary widely from region to region and between specialties, most literature indicates that “physicians generally experienced a lack of knowledge of clinical effects including both beneficial and adverse effects (Trappaud Ronne, et al., 2021).” Essentially, even when asked directly about cannabis use by their patients, many physicians are simply not aware of the possible benefits nor side effects, often due to a perceived lack of research. However, once given some amount of training in the topic, most physicians who have actual experience prescribing one or more cannabis derivatives are more convinced of the benefits and less fearful of side effects. To put it another way, the clinical experiences of physicians who prescribe their patients cannabinoids, and get to see the effects, generally leads to those physicians to being more open to further cannabinoid use in their practice. This was not true across all specialties, for example physicians with particular training in addiction medicine were more hesitant to even receive cannabis education and were more skeptical of cannabis use in general. However, it was a trend, especially amongst family and internal medicine practitioners, that experience with prescribing cannabinoids makes a physician more comfortable with it going forward (Slawek & Arnsten, 2023). 

The Contribution of Oxidative Stress To Disease

Infographic of The Contribution of Oxidative Stress To Disease

Overall, there is notable patient demand and anecdotal evidence in favor of cannabinoid use for neurodegenerative disorders. There is also an increasing number of physicians who, after education and clinical experience, are willing to recommend or assist with cannabinoid therapy for their patients. Despite both of these factors, true, peer-reviewed research into the benefits of cannabinoids for disease like MS or AD remains limited with most papers describing the field as “emerging” or “requiring further research.” What is known for sure is that these disorders are at least in part attributable to chronic oxidative stress (Bhunia, Kolishetti, Yndart Arias, Vashist, & Nair, 2022) (Cassano, et al., 2020). In the case of AD and Parkinson’s disease (PD), this stress causes persistent inflammation of the nervous system where immune cells which are normally necessary for ‘housekeeping” in the nervous system (called microglia) become over-activated. In this state the microglia “release inflammatory mediators and reactive species that can directly cause neuronal death (Bhunia, Kolishetti, Yndart Arias, Vashist, & Nair, 2022).” These effects then cascade and the harm to the neurons causes further inflammatory markers to be released, continuing the cycle. What makes diseases that include this chain reaction so hard to treat is there are myriad factors (both known and unknown) that trigger the cycle of inflammation. Also, it can be hard to dial-back the immune response of inflammation without harming the ability of the immune system to do its actual job of fighting off outside illness. 

This is exactly where CBD shows so much promise. CBD is well understood to be an antioxidant and can “clean up” loose oxidizing agents within the body. In fact, it has been observed to be a more effective antioxidant than ascorbate (vitamin C) (Atalay, Jarocka-Karpowicz, & Skrzydlewska, 2019). Obviously, CBD is only one agent in these very complex reactions and cannot clean away all oxidation and oxidative stress from the body. We wouldn’t want it to anyway, because some oxidation speeding along reactions in our bodies is why we need oxygen to live. Beyond that though, CBD also appears to be able to directly inhibit some activation of the microglia, and limit the effect of a few specific inflammatory neurotransmitters and proteins (Bhunia, Kolishetti, Yndart Arias, Vashist, & Nair, 2022). I can’t sum it up any better than this review article:

“Emerging preclinical research studies demonstrate that CBD can exhibit neuroprotective effects due to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may potentially treat different neurodegenerative diseases.” (Bhunia, Kolishetti, Yndart Arias, Vashist, & Nair, 2022)

Conclusion – Should You Try CBD for Neurodegenerative Disorders?

Should You Try CBD for Neurological Conditions?

CBD is known to have mechanisms of action within the body which directly defy the disease processes of illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple sclerosis. But, it is difficult to draw conclusions because these diseases are often so complex that there are hundreds of known genetic and environmental contributors. Research is further hindered by the hodge-podge of laws and regional attitudes that make up the hemp landscape. There is little consistency in people taking hemp products as they may be taking CBD, THC, or any other cannabinoids at variable doses. In our experience, many people currently using a CBD product are not even completely sure what they are taking or what dosage it amounts to.  It was something they tried based on a word-of-mouth recommendation. Many people consume whatever the recommended dose on a bottle is without understanding exactly what that dose actually is. Add to this that many medical practitioners are not even aware of the possible benefits or side-effects of CBD, and it becomes extremely hard to track the real medical benefit of CBD when it comes to neuro-degenerative disorders. 

What we always tell people seeking solutions is this – there is, unfortunately, no known cure for any of the conditions listed here and we would certainly never claim CBD or any cannabis derivatives should be considered as such.  But the possibilities for improving quality of life are definitely worth exploring.  Speak to your or your loved one’s doctor, choose a method at which you can be consistent with dosing, and give it a try. Through your first bottle or jar start low, go slow with incremental increases in dose as needed, and pay attention to results. If it helps a little bit, speak to us about potential adjustments to method or dose. If it helps a lot – wonderful!  

Some of our client’s favorite products for consistent dosing:

  • Relax Oil by Blue Lotus – it tastes like vanilla with a hint of orange and blends well in pudding smoothies, etc.  Or, it can be taken as directed right under the tongue

  • Vegan Capsules by Blue Lotus Botanicals – a very convenient option for many

  • Enjoy Hemp Sleep Gummies – if the biggest challenge is sleep – start with the 50mg try ½ a gummy at first. Increase if needed

  • Enjoy Hemp Relief Gummies – if the biggest challenge is discomfort – start with the 50mg and try ½ a gummy – consistency twice a day is critical at first for the best cumulative results.

As always, reach out if we can help with information or product guidance.   Email us at or call us at 407-235-0653.  

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