In recent years, CBD has gained traction as a health supplement due to its wide variety of benefits and uses. Now legal in the United States following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabinoid is available to anyone seeking an all-around wellness boost or perhaps an alternative remedy for a pervasive health concern.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the brain and nervous system functioning. It occurs when the dopaminergic, or dopamine-producing, neurons in the substantia nigra region of the brain weaken, become damaged, or die. When this part of your brain deteriorates, basic motor functions are disrupted and sufferers experience difficulty moving or controlling movements.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is largely unknown, although studies indicate that there is a genetic component and that environmental factors might also play a role in disease onset.
Many researchers theorize that Lewy bodies hold the key to understanding the root cause of the disease. Lewy bodies are microscopic accumulations of abnormal alpha-synuclein proteins found within neurons. Researchers have found clumped Lewy bodies in both the substantia nigra and the spinal fluid of Parkinson’s patients, and they appear to contribute to brain deterioration.
What are the symptoms?
Onset symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are typically very subtle, slowly progressing into a debilitating disease state. For example, some patients note a slight hand tremor in the beginning and see those tremors become widespread and severe as the disorder advances. The main symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Bradykinesia, or slowed movements
- Rigid muscles
- Loss of automatic movements such as blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms while you walk
- Impaired posture or balance
- Speech changes
- Writing changes
Although impaired motor functioning is the primary factor in diagnosing Parkinson’s, the disease also causes:
- Chronic pain
- Orthostatic hypotension, or a drop in blood pressure when standing or sitting up
- Sleep problems or disorders
- Loss of smell
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty thinking or focusing
- Psychosis or hallucinations
Parkinson’s disease primarily affects people over the age of 60; however, around 5% to 10% of patients are diagnosed before the age of 50.
How is it treated?
Treating Parkinson’s disease commonly involves the use of heavy medications to replenish the dopamine centers lost to neurodegeneration. These include:
- Carbidopa-levodopa (e.g., Lodosyn, Inbrija, or Duopa)
- Dopamine agonists (e.g., Mirapex ER, Neupro, or Apokyn)
- Monoamine oxidase B inhibitors (e.g., Zelapar, Azilect, or Xadago)
- Catechol o-methyltransferase inhibitors (e.g., Comtan, Ongentys, or Tasmar)
- Anticholinergics (e.g., benztropine or trihexyphenidyl)
- Amantadine (e.g., Gocovri)
- Adenosine receptor agonists (e.g., Nourianz)
These medications often come with serious side effects, many of which can cause permanent damage to the body.
When medications don’t work, some opt for a surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). For this operation, surgeons implant electrodes into the brain, sending electrical pulses to specific regions in an effort to reduce symptoms. Surgery is no small feat, however: risks here include infection, stroke, and brain hemorrhage.
Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. Rigorous treatment helps many, but some find that conventional treatments carry complications of their own.
How can CBD help?
CBD, or cannabidiol, offers an alternative treatment for Parkinson’s patients whose experiences with allopathic remedies leave them without relief. This cannabinoid is one of hundreds found in the hemp plant. It is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the high commonly associated with marijuana ingestion.
CBD may help mitigate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by acting as an antidystonic, analgesic, and antipsychotic agent, among other functions. Read on to learn more about how CBD impacts Parkinson’s symptoms.
CBD may reduce tremors
Tremors are one of the most common (and for some, most debilitating) symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These uncontrolled muscle movements make daily life extremely difficult and leave sufferers feeling understandably frustrated by their lack of motor control.
Luckily, CBD may remedy tremors by acting as an antidystonic. According to this study, CBD significantly reduced the occurrence of tremors in patients with dystonic movement disorders. Additionally, this review concluded that CBD consumption may help to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s-related tremors altogether.
CBD can relieve chronic pain
In patients with Parkinson’s, pain often results from ongoing muscular rigidity and uncomfortable changes in the spine, hands, and feet. CBD treats painful symptoms by targeting the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and nerves that regulate pain and inflammation.
This study found that the transdermal application of CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling and pain biomarkers in animals with induced arthritis. Salves like this one from Bee’s Knees Wellness may be particularly helpful in relieving muscular pain symptoms.
In addition, this study concluded that cannabis consumption improved pain markers in patients with Parkinson’s while also reducing tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia.
CBD might relieve psychosis
Psychosis is an unfortunate complication that affects roughly half of Parkinson’s patients. Psychosis typically occurs in later stages of disease progression and causes delusions, hallucinations, and delirium.
One 2009 study found that CBD reduces psychotic symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease without inducing the negative side effects that often accompany antipsychotic drug use. It also did not impair motor function, an additional side effect that only worsens certain symptoms of Parkinson’s.
We’re thrilled to discover a number of studies that confirm CBD to be a viable treatment for the debilitating symptoms that accompany Parkinson’s disease. As CBD’s mainstream appeal increases, we hope to see additional research regarding the cannabinoid’s effects on Parkinson’s disease in the future.