CBD oil for Parkinson’s Disease: Cannabis and Parkinson’s
Learn the research and use of cannabis and CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. It’s commonly known for the tremors but people can also experience stiffness and slowing of movement. Symptoms typically come on gradually and may not even be noticeable at first.
Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, only after Alzheimer’s Disease. Between 7 and 10 million people around the world live with this disease. In fact, every year, about 6,600 Canadians are diagnosed with PD, and about 100,000 Canadians are living with the disease.
Parkinson’s symptoms may include:
- Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often hand or fingers. People may rub their thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Also, their hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow down movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Steps may become shorter when they walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. They may drag their feet as they walk.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of the body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit the range of motion.
- Impaired posture and balance. Posture may become stooped, and balance may become an issue.
- Loss of automatic movements. People may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging their arms when they walk.
- Speech changes. A person may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Speech may become monotone rather than have the usual inflections.
- Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and writing may appear small.
Additional symptoms include decreased facial expressions, dementia or confusion, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, constipation, cognitive changes, fear, anxiety, and urinary problems.
Traditional Treatment for Parkinson’s disease
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms are treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, medication as well as surgery, in some cases. This includes having a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise. And therapies typically include; physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which have the potential to help one’s ability to function and therefore improve their overall outlook on life.
Medications for Parkinson’s disease
The medications that are typically used are ones that affect a person’s dopamine levels in their brain. These are effective due to the fact that Parkinson’s disease is caused by a reduction in dopamine levels. When dopamine levels are reduced significantly (60-80%) the cells where dopamine is produced (the substantia nigra) start to die and Parkinson’s symptoms appear.
The two most common medications used are Levodopa and Carbidopa. Levodopa is the most common treatment for Parkinson’s. It helps to replenish dopamine. Carbidopa is used in conjunction because it delays the breakdown of levodopa, which in turn increases the availability of levodopa in the brain (source).
As with any medication, there are side effects that can be challenging, especially when used long-term as is the case with Parkinson’s disease. With Levodopa, the side effects include;
- appetite loss
- low blood pressure
- uncontrollable movements of the face, arms, legs, or torso (dyskinesia)
For more information about other medications and their side effects check out Healthline.
One of the many reasons people are choosing cannabis and CBD as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease is to help relieve the symptoms associated with their medication.
Cannabis and Parkinson’s Disease
As with other medical conditions, there is not enough clinical research to conclusively say that cannabis is an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease but there is research in progress and the results appear promising. One study is currently underway at the University of Colorado. Though regardless of clinical data to back it up many people are choosing to use cannabis to treat their symptoms as well as manage the side effects of long-term medication use.
Research out of Brazil suggests CBD can improve the overall quality of life of those with Parkinson’s disease. In a sample of 21 patients, those who were treated with 75 mg to 300 mg of CBD per day reported a significant increase in quality of life (source below).
Dyskinesia and Cannabis
Dyskinesia is one of the most common long-term effects developed in some people with Parkinson’s disease who use Levodopa. It’s described as uncontrollable movement. It can occur in one body part, such as an arm or leg, or can affect the entire body and can look like fidgeting, writhing, wriggling, head bobbing or body swaying. Some people are able to manage the symptoms without too much trouble while others find it causes them a significant amount of pain. For those experiencing painful or otherwise difficult to manage symptoms, it can be challenging for them to engage in physical activities which typically affects their social lives.
Typical treatment for dyskinesia is changing the dose of levodopa or switching it for a slightly different type of medication (source).
Cannabis or CBD could be an alternative treatment that has the potential to allow people to be on a lower dose of medication and still manage their symptoms. Even if cannabis does not directly affect the persons’ tremors it helps to manage their pain and helps to improve their overall quality of life.
CBD oil for Parkinson’s Disease
Because PD affects the brain’s ability to produce dopamine, researchers from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, made an important discovery when they found that CBD acts as an “inverse agonist” on CPR6 receptors. These receptors are found predominantly in the basal ganglia region of the brain, which affects the movement functions in our bodies. This means CBD potentially responds within the receptors to provide therapeutic effects against the symptoms of PD. Any increase in dopamine levels would counteract the steady decrease of dopaminergic neurons experienced by those afflicted with PD. (source)
THC or CBD for PD: Which is better?
Due to the fact that THC and CBD affect the body and brain differently, it is often recommended that THC and CBD are used in conjunction with one another. Juan Sanchez-Ramos M.D., PhD, a leader in the field of movement disorders and the Medical Director for the Parkinson Research Foundation, told Project CBD that he encourages his patients to begin with a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio product if they can get it. Thankfully in Canada, it is not difficult to get a 1:1 THC/CBD tincture but make sure you are buying a quality product. Do your research and ensure you know the ingredients that are in the product. Miss Envy’s tinctures are solvent-free infused oil tinctures that contain only MCT oil and THC distillate and/or CBD isolate.
What’s the best dose for PD?
Clinicians that support the use of cannabis are finding that dosage for patients with PD doesn’t conform to a one-size-fits-all approach as is typically the case with cannabis. In her book Cannabis Revealed (2016), Dr. Bonni Goldstein discussed how varied a PD patient’s response to cannabis and cannabis therapeutics can be:
“A number of my patients with PD have reported the benefits of using different methods of delivery and different cannabinoid profiles. Some patients have found relief of tremors with inhaled THC and others have not. A few patients have found relief with high doses of CBD-rich cannabis taken sublingually. Some patients are using a combination of CBD and THC … Trial and error is needed to find what cannabinoid profile and method will work best. Starting a low-dose and titrating up is recommended, particularly with THC-rich cannabis. Unfortunately, THCV-rich varieties are not readily available.” (source).
If you’re worried about the high associated with THC be aware that CBD helps to counteract the psychoactive high that THC produces, but we recommend starting with a lower dose and working your up slowly to find the best dose for you. Also, you can start with CBD on its own and then consider adding small amounts of THC later. A higher dose of THC is also recommended at night to help those with sleep difficulties. If you are smoking cannabis before bed rather than using a tincture, an indica in the evening is the best bet.
Best Strains for PD
Check out an article by Greencamp for more information about specific strains to use for symptoms associated with PD.
Goldstein, B. (2016). Parkinson’s Diseas. In B. Goldstein, Cannabis Revealed (pp. 206-208). Bonni Goldstein.
Chagas MH, Zuardi AW, Tumas V, et al. Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2014;28(11):1088-98. doi:10.1177/0269881114550355