Research and media coverage on the topic of CBD’s medical benefits continues to grow on a weekly basis. More and more people are flocking to the poly-purpose compound to alleviate a wide range of conditions. While many use CBD and other cannabinoids to relieve minor ailments, the issue of how these medicines can help those with serious neurodegenerative disorders has been a keystone in the medical cannabinoid debate for decades. Now, with an increased understanding of CBD, many patients and their loved ones are increasingly curious about what CBD can do to help combat the symptoms of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. What do we know now about the effects of CBD on such diseases, and what does the future hold for this fast-moving field of research?
What are neurodegenerative disorders?
Neurodegenerative disorders are a wide range of conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain. Neurons make up the building blocks of the nervous system, which includes the brain and spine. Usually, neurons do not regenerate or reproduce, so when they become damaged or they die they are not replaced. Examples of neurodegenerative disorders include Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease.
When neurons die it leads to a progressive decline in cognitive and neurological functions. Over time, this decline causes problems with movement, called ataxias, or mental functioning, called dementias. Recent research indicates that inflammation in the brain is a fundamental cause of this neurological decay, however, inflammation also plays a key role in preventing brain-damage. Inflammation inside the brain increases blood flow and can help neurons heal after being damaged by toxic exposure and trauma. It is, however, when this inflammation becomes too much that the delicate tuning of our nervous system becomes unbalanced. Excessive inflammation actually causes further toxic exposure to neurons due to the malfunction of the very system that is meant to protect our neurological network. This results in the long term decay of neurons leading to a loss of cognitive function, which ultimately results in a neurodegenerative disorder.
Could CBD help with the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders?
Cannabinoids have shown promise in dealing with many of these conditions. Research suggests that cannabinoids ”have the potential to slow the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.” One key reason that has been speculated is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids which have been cited at preventing neuroinflammation, a leading cause of neuron death.
Although researchers are still debating the exact mechanics of how CBD slows the process of these conditions taking hold, studies indicate several properties of CBD that could potentially help suffering patients. As well as reducing or preventing neuroinflammation, some potentially helpful properties are.
- Preventing T-cell migration across the blood-brain barrier (autoimmune prevention)
- Antioxidant support (reduces DNA damage)
- Addresses related side-effects (such as insomnia, depression, and neuropathic pain)
However, due to the slow progress in the research of medical cannabinoids, this field of research has long seen its progress stunted, holding back findings that could potentially change the lives of those living with these conditions, leaving many patients and their loved ones awaiting answers. Sadly for many, the progress we are making now will have come too late. however, we now know that CBD can potentially help those suffering from these conditions and can even delay the neurodegenerative process. Below are some key examples of how some common conditions can respond to CBD.
The most common form of Neurodegeneration. degeneration is caused by build-up of toxins around the neurons causing gradual cognitive debility. It is associated with neuroinflammation and in this respect can be treated with CBD
Effects of the basal ganglia where dopamine is created. The condition causes a loss of dopamine to the brain causing tremors, muscle spasms, mood changes and a loss of cognitive function. it is related in neuroinflammation and can be treated with CBD.
Is a genetic disorder involving the dysfunction of the gene code for the protein known as huntingtin, people with the condition produce huntingtin proteins that are too long, fracture into smaller pieces and become tangled around neurons, leading to the decay of neurons, causing inflammation in the brain and cognitive impairment.
Although there is no cure CBD has shown to offer significant benefits and improve many common symptoms.
MS is an autoimmune-driven disorder. Neuroinflammation causes immune cells to attack the myelin sheath on the nerve cells causing gradual neuron death. CBD, through its immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, can make dramatic improvements for those suffering from MS as well as helping to alleviate some of the side effects such as muscle spasticity and loss of bladder control.
The potential benefits of cannabinoids for people with neurodegenerative disorders are well documented, but it is important not to overstate the implications of these findings. While the evidence does indicate that CBD does, by and large, seem to yield positive results in alleviating discomfort and delaying degeneration, there is still much more to learn.
In past decades there was a greater stigma around the use of medical cannabinoids and a poorer understanding of their medical benefits; both in the scientific community and in public perception. With anti-scientific attitudes changing, further research into CBD’s effects on such conditions can continue. In the last few years research has yielded promising results. In 2014 The British Journal of Pharmacology stated that “… modulating the endogenous cannabinoid system is emerging as a potentially viable option in the treatment of neurodegeneration.” Although promising, such studies are not conclusive and are still only exploring potential treatments for these conditions rather than a cure.
For many families, neurodegenerative disorders are a very painful reality. Alzheimer’s alone affects an estimated 44 million people worldwide. Many are all too familiar with the pain of watching as a loved one begins to fade, their quality of life in rapid decline. Cannabinoids such as CBD could offer families more time with those they love, more time with their memories and independence. One day, CBD and other cannabinoids may even lead to treatments for some of the most widespread and destructive symptoms.