Portrait smiling elderly woman who uses CBD for dementia

CBD for Neurological Disorders

Cannabidiol’s anti-seizure properties help alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Neurodegenerative diseases are associated with several conditions related to progressive neuronal loss. CBD oil has shown some potential for the treatment of Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Disease, and Parkinson’s, some of the more common neurodegenerative conditions.

About cannabidiol

CBD is notably different from other phytocannabinoids in hemp and cannabis. Cannabidiol is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t induce the high associated with THC. CBD has little effect on the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.

Because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties, CBD boasts a broad spectrum of potential therapeutic benefits. It also modulates higher numbers of the brain’s biological targets (such as receptors, channels) involved in the development and maintenance of neurodegenerative diseases.

Early evidence shows CBD can have benefits for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis patients, which seem to indicate further study would be worthwhile. Historically, CBD has been used medicinally in Eastern and Western medicine.

In particular, CBD may be an effective treatment for neurological disease because it protects neuron degeneration. An Alzheimer’s study revealed that CBD hindered and slowed the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

How CBD works in the brain

CBD produces its effects along with a variety of molecular pathways. Even though CBD doesn’t bind with CB1 and CB2, it does act via several receptor-independent channels. It also can enhance or inhibit the binding action of specific protein-coupled receptors.

Serotonin receptors affect mood and cognition, as well as appetite. Through regulation of the release of such hormones as cortisol and oxytocin, serotonin acts to alleviate stress and modulate social behaviors. Serotonin regulation has implications for a variety of conditions and disorders: anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.

CBD binds to TRPV1 receptors, known as vanilloid receptors, which deal with temperature regulation, inflammation, and pain perception.

Treating epilepsy with CBD.

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder; people with epilepsy experience a broad spectrum of different seizure types and frequencies. Seizures are unpredictably sudden and can cause other health issues. People with epilepsy are predisposed to a lifetime of unprovoked seizures. They can also suffer from a range of cognitive problems.

Two years ago, the Federal Drug Administration approved a cannabidiol-based prescription medication to treat 2 rare and especially severe forms of childhood-onset epilepsy—Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome—for children 2 and older. The active ingredient in Epidiolex is an especially purified form of cannabidiol, nearly 100%.

Dravet Syndrome begins in an otherwise healthy baby’s first year. Caused by a gene mutation, these children suffer from frequent seizures of multiple types and general convulsions.

Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, generally begins in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5 years old. Children with Lennox-Gastaut can have several types of seizures.

Cannabidiol affects the body’s nervous system in ways that are different from other anti-epileptic medications. Although CBD’s mechanism isn’t completely understood, scientists have discovered that it works on nerve cell receptor systems that other drugs don’t affect by blocking GPR55 receptors.

As the U.S. and other countries relax their laws to allow for medical cannabis use, many patients are turning to CBD. That willingness is based on historical and limited preclinical and clinical evidence of the benefits of CBD. 

CBD benefits for dementia.

Researchers at the Salk Institute found in a 2017 study that cannabinoids such as CBD could potentially work to remove or reverse dementia from, and increase connections between, brain cells. Other labs have validated the results. As yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved a CBD drug for dementia treatment.

CBD appears to improve outcomes for dementia patients: reducing inflammation and oxidative build-up, stimulating the brain at a cellular level, and as a neuroprotectant. In addition to relieving stress and anxiety, CBD may halt the loss of memory and other brain function.

How CBD can help treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Inflammation increases the impact of Alzheimer’s. The brain’s inflammatory response triggers when immune cells in the brain can’t clear disorienting blockages. As the inflammation builds in the brain, oxidation increases at the cellular level, resulting in deterioration and memory loss.

As an antioxidant, CBD helps to reduce the oxidative stress on cells and its negative impacts. Recent clinical trials and, in particular, a 2011 Australian study found that CBD promotes brain cell growth and development, halting Alzheimer’s decline in memory and other brain functions. Whether or not CBD has the potential to reverse the physiological impact of Alzheimer’s is still open to debate and further study.

Vascular Dementia and CBD

Vascular dementia generally describes the impacts of impaired vascular blood flow to the brain on cognitive function. In a 2016 study, the U.S. National Institutes of Health found cannabidiol treatment helped activate CB2 receptors. Those receptors helped to improve vascular blood flow to the brain, reducing the cell damage of vascular dementia.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is characterized by abnormal deposits of alpha-synuclein protein in the brain that attacks acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Known as Lewy bodies, the deposits interfere with brain chemistry, resulting in impacts on cognition, sleep, motor function, behavior, and mood.

CBD does not block acetylcholine, LBD’s primary target. As an anti-inflammatory agent, CBD can reduce symptoms, such as tremor, rigidity, and slowness of movement. CBD also acts to maintain sleep rhythms.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive disease of the nervous system linked to decreased dopamine production. Psychosis, as marked by hallucinations, delirium, and delusions, is sometimes a complication of late-stage Parkinson’s Disease. Sleep disruption and poor sleep quality is another common symptom.

CBD is an effective neuroprotector, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. Those properties could be beneficial for managing Parkinson’s symptoms. However, research into CBD’s role in treating Parkinson’s has not been extensively studied. A small 2009 study suggests that CBD has the potential to reduce the severity of psychotic symptoms, while others suggest CBD improves sleep quality.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s Disease, also known as Huntington’s chorea, is an inherited disorder that kills brain cells. Early symptoms can be subtle problems with mood or cognition. Abnormal involuntary movement often follows, characterized by brief, abrupt, irregular, and uncontrollable movements.

Research done in 2016 at the University of Madrid suggests that CBD’s effectiveness as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory could help in the management of Huntington’s Disease at a safe and well-tolerated high dosage.

CBD’s anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties have been shown to have a potentially beneficial effect on multiple sites within the body’s nervous system. Certainly, CBD’s effectiveness in the treatment of epilepsy has demonstrated its potential for neurological disorders, warranting further study of its benefits.

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