Best Cannabis Strains for Parkinson’s Disease? Here Are the Facts…
Interested in using medical marijuana for Parkinson’s? Despite what some media sources may say online, there is no definitive list of the “best cannabis strains for Parkinson’s disease.”
There is, however, plenty of reliable data relating to the potential use of cannabis and CBD to help with Parkinson’s-related symptoms. And indeed, given the variety of effects afforded by the thousands of different cannabis strains out there, Parkinson’s patients may find that one particular type of strain is better suited to their specific lifestyle needs.
This article will discuss what Parkinson’s disease is, how cannabis may help, and what specific strains may be best based on personal and individual needs.
Parkinson’s Disease: What Is It?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and motor control. Symptoms are gradual and often begin with little more than a slight tremor in one hand (asymmetric resting tremor).
In more advanced stages of the disease, victims may experience cognitive impairment, difficulty walking, masked facial expressions, and trembling of upper and lower extremities.
Parkinson’s Disease: Prevalence and Statistical Data
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, up to 10 million people worldwide live with this condition. It also estimated that 930,000 people in the United States have the disease today. This is more than the combined total of individuals with ALS, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. Worse still, the figure may reach 1.2 million by 2030. Around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) annually.
Around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) annually.
The combined direct and indirect costs of the condition are almost $1 billion per week in the U.S. alone. These costs include treatment, lost income, and social security payments. Medication costs an average of $2,500 per annum, while surgery can cost up to $100,000.
Men are 50% more likely to have Parkinson’s than women. However, 4% of people are diagnosed with it before they reach the age of 50. Although PD is not fatal, it can significantly reduce quality of life, even with proper treatment.
Parkinson’s Disease Causes
Scientists have yet to discover a single cause they can concretely attribute to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. However, the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease is the loss of neurons in the brain responsible for making the chemical dopamine. Once dopamine levels fall, the result is abnormal brain activity, which may result in Parkinson’s symptoms.
It does appear that several factors may play a role in the early onset of Parkinson’s disease:
- Genetics: There are genetic mutations that can cause this condition. They are rare, barring instances where several family members are affected by Parkinson’s. Specific gene variations also increase the risk, but each genetic marker carries a small risk by itself.
- Toxins: Excessive exposure to environmental toxins could increase the risk of developing the condition. Examples include exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
- Gender: As mentioned above, men are 1.5 times more likely to get Parkinson’s than women.
- Age: 96% of PD patients are aged 50+.
- Lewy Bodies: Clumps of substances found in brain cells may be microscopic markers of PD. While researchers haven’t established a concrete link, they believe there is a real correlation between Lewy bodies and PD. Another critical substance is alpha-synuclein. This compound is in all Lewy bodies and appears in a form that cells cannot break down.
There is no specific test that can diagnose PD. Therefore, a neurologist will make a diagnosis based on a review of symptoms, medical history, and physical & neurological conditions.
What Are the Conventional Medical Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is not curable, but medications are on the market designed to help control and manage symptoms. While these drugs can lead to initial improvement, their effect wears off over time. Examples of possible medication options include:
- Carbidopa-levodopa: Doctors feel this is the most effective PD medication. Levodopa is a natural chemical that goes into the brain and converts to dopamine. It is combined with carbidopa because the latter protects levodopa from being converted into dopamine outside the brain.
- Dopamine Agonists: This treatment mimics dopamine effects in the brain.
- MAO B Inhibitors: This set of drugs prevents dopamine breakdown by inhibiting the brain enzyme MOA B, which metabolizes dopamine.
There are also surgical options to help treat Parkinson’s, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). Like all surgeries, DBS carries risks, such as brain hemorrhage. Few medications provide more than medium-term relief from symptoms. As a consequence, researchers have investigated the potential for cannabis to help PD patients in recent years.
Medical Cannabis and Parkinson’s Disease – The Studies
The ongoing scheduling of marijuana means there hasn’t been enough research into the potential impact of cannabis on Parkinson’s disease. However, several intriguing studies have been published which showcase the potential for cannabinoids to help with PD-related symptoms.
In the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of cannabinoid (CB) receptors and their related neurotransmitters. These receptors link to brain cells that regulate a variety of motor and cognitive functions. Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning their activity may help preserve nerve cells against damage.
A 2019 study published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience looked at the possible effects of cannabis on Parkinson’s disease. Researchers concluded that cannabis “has been shown to attenuate motor and nonmotor signs and symptoms of PD.” They also suggest that some of the “neurologic manifestations of PD might be alleviated with cannabis products … [though] such assertions are yet to be established in reference to patient-specific factors.”
Dropping the pills…
Another study, published in 2018 in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, claimed that “cannabis therapy is safe and efficacious” for elderly patients looking to address symptoms of various diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. The study also pointed out that over 18% of patients who used cannabis were able to cease use or reduce the dosage of opioid-based painkillers. By the end of the six-month trial period, over 70% of those surveyed reported moderate to significant improvement in their condition.
Lastly, a June 2019 publication in Cureus claimed that cannabis “can be used as an alternative or add-on [treatment] option in adults with PD to help improve overall quality of life.” The authors of the study also reported that medical marijuana “improve[s] both motor and non-motor symptoms including bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, sleep, and pain,” and that, out of 85 patients with PD, roughly 46% reported general symptom relief.
Pros & Cons of Strain-Specific Cannabis Use for Parkinson’s Disease
For those interested in using medical cannabis for Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to point out that different marijuana strains can produce very different effects in terms of physiological impact and intoxicating potential.
Here, we point out several different types of cannabis strains and the phytochemical-related effects that individuals can expect to feel when using them.
Marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease: Highlighting the Effects of a Variety of Strain Types
1 – Kush Strains
Generally speaking, these are potent marijuana strains that routinely possess very high levels of THC.
The Kush high is typically gradual, and some users may not even notice it until they are completely relaxed. Kush strains are also known as big appetite boosters. As the high makes its way down the body, many may feel a tingling sensation that eases tight muscles.
All in all, Kush strains are highly sedative strains and are often best used at night. They provide a joyous high that can lighten the mood, relieve stress, and ease tension and spasticity throughout the body.
2 – Citrus Strains
Citrus strains provide a range of sweet, fruity scents and are known for their aromatic terpene profile. Some popular citrus strains include Lemon Tree, Grapefruit, Clementine, and Pineapple Express.
In terms of THC content, citrus strains are rarely recommended for novices. They often boast THC content well over 20%, and many report feeling effects within minutes. These strains produce a euphoric head high, and users may experience a whole-body numbing sensation that helps to soothe the muscles.
3 – High-CBD Strains
Across the U.S., individuals are enjoying increased access to high-CBD cannabis strains, some of which even come from hemp. Hemp strains are high in CBD, but possess THC levels of 0.3% or less; meaning they do not produce a high. Also, since hemp is a legal crop under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, CBD-rich hemp flower can quite easily be found and purchased in most U.S. states, without the need for a medical cannabis card.
As far as potential use among Parkinson’s patients, CBD is known to possess a variety of therapeutic benefits, including muscle relief, spasticity relief, and help with sleeping. (Again, it’s important to point out that neither hemp nor marijuana is a medically-approved treatment option for PD).
Examples of popular high-CBD strains include Harlequin, Harle-Tsu, and Ringo’s Gift.
4 – 1:1 CBD/THC Strains
For patients with access to legal medical or recreational cannabis dispensaries, another great medicinal option is strains that boast a roughly 1:1 CBD-to-THC content.
These strains pose immense medical potential, and like the high-CBD/low-THC strains, produce much milder intoxicating/mind-altering effects. Popular 1:1 CBD strains include Sweet and Sour Widow, Pennywise, and Cannatonic.
5 – Diesel Strains
Diesel strains include some of the most iconic landrace strains of all time. These are incredibly potent strains which boast immense mind-altering effects. In combination with the intense high that is produced, however, comes tremendous potential for pain and muscle spasm relief.
Diesel strains are not recommended for beginner cannabis users – especially those with Parkinson’s disease that have little to no experience using marijuana.
Some popular and easily accessible diesel strains (i.e., “easily accessible” with a medical cannabis card or access to an adult-use dispensary) include Sour Diesel, Sour Chem, and Jack Skellington.
Final Thoughts on Parkinson’s Disease and Selecting the Best Cannabis Strain for Your Needs
Again, we emphasize that the above list is not a list of the “best marijuana strains for Parkinson’s disease.” Instead, it is simply a list of various strain types designed to help users make an informed decision after speaking with their doctor about the potential for using cannabis for PD symptoms.
Also, we want to make it inherently clear that cannabis does not cure Parkinson’s disease, nor is it an approved medical or clinical treatment option for the condition. However, based on available anecdotal and research data, it’s possible that a variety of cannabis types may help to provide symptom relief and improved quality of life.
Medical Marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease
Michael of Healdsburg, CA has Parkinson’s Disease. He’s gone the route of regular exercise, physical therapy, and prescription medications. But, over time their benefits lessened and became less and less reliable. So, now he’s wondering if medical marijuana could help with his Parkinson’s Disease. Here’s what he writes…
Thank you for the work that you do. I took a look at your YouTube videos and saw that you don’t have one on Parkinson’s Disease. So, I figured I’d go ahead and ask you about it.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at the ripe-old age of 60. It was incredibly jarring news for both my family and myself. Now, that several years of passed, I’m learning to deal with it. Although, I have to say that with the symptoms being progressive, each passing day becomes more and more challenging.
At first, the symptoms would come and go. But, now they’re a regular unwelcome guest in my life, especially when I’m stressed out or tired.
Old man Parkinson’s (Disease) has managed to seep his way into every aspect of life.
My hands tremor when they’re sitting on my lap or on the desk. The tremors started in one hand, but eventually they made their way to both my hands. Sometimes, I find that my thumb and index finger look like they’re “rolling” something between them. My doctor told me this is called a “pill rolling” tremor.
And, it probably comes as no surprise that I end up typing extra characters on the keyboard. The number of typing errors I make has grown exponentially over the years.
When I put pen to paper, I can’t even write my own name.
Never did I think that I’d struggle with unscrewing the cap of a bottle. It’s like my fingers aren’t obeying my brain’s commands to won’t do what I want them to do.
It’s the same when I try to turn over in the bed or get out of a chair. It’s like my arms and legs just won’t move fast enough.
Walking feels like I have shackles around my ankles. There’s a heaviness in my legs, unlike any other I’ve ever experienced before. Each step feels like my feet are stuck to the floor. And, it takes an incredible amount of effort to get them moving again. In fact, I wouldn’t say that I even walk anymore. Really, I’m shuffling to get around.
And I can only get so far. Walking for extended periods of time causes pain.
When it comes to sleep, I haven’t had a wink in years. I’m awoken in the middle of the night from cramps in my calves and feet. They start as regular-cramps that turn into mega-cramps. My muscles twist into positions they shouldn’t. And, cause an excruciating amount of pain. And, there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Overall, my bad days are really bad. And, unfortunately, I’ve had to drop my work down to 3 days per week.
You know when the doctor finally told me I had Parkinson’s Disease, my initial reaction, once the shock wore off, was relief. At least I knew what to do, and what my choices were, and that I could go on with my life.
I have five grandchildren who I absolutely adore. They are my inspiration. So I did everything I could to stay as healthy as possible after the diagnosis. I held on to the hope of playing tag and kickball with them.
So I exercised regularly.
I went for physical therapy per my doctor’s recommendations.
I even started taking Carbidopa/Levodopa.
The symptoms were well-controlled with Levodopa/Carbidopa at first. But, with time, the benefits of the medications, the exercise, and physical therapy lessened and became less reliable.
Plus, the Carbidopa/Levodopa came with it’s own set of problems. It caused twitching and twisting. And, it caused uncontrolled repetitive movements of my tongue, my lips, my face, my arms and my legs.
I feel like I’m hitting dead-ends. I’m well aware that symptoms from Parkinson’s Disease are progressive. I know it won’t get better and in fact will probably get worse. But, I’m just looking to do all that I can that’s within my capacity, if not for me then for my grandchildren.
So, I’m turning to you for an answer to the question – do you think medical marijuana can help with my Parkinson’s Disease?
Again, thank you for the work that you do.
In kind regards,
So you’re in a tough predicament. But, I do admire the approach you’re taking. You understand that the Parkinson’s Disease is a part of the story but not your whole story.
Now, to answer your question, I’ll dive into the research 1st, then I’ll detail the results I’ve seen in the patients with Parkinson’s Disease that I’ve treated.
Let’s get started.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE: THE RESEARCH
I’m going to summarize a study done back in 2004 in the Czech Republic.
The researchers surveyed 339 patients with Parkinson’s Disease. They specifically asked
- How often they used cannabis.
- How frequently and regularly they used cannabis.
- How long they’d been using cannabis.
And, finally they asked
- What specific effects the cannabis had on their symptoms.
Now the interesting thing is that most of these patients started taking cannabis because of the information they got from the media. None of them had any experience with using cannabis recreationally before using it for their Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.
Also, it’s important to know that these patients continued to use their prescription medications while using the cannabis.
In terms of results,
- 45.9% of the patients reported mild to substantial relief of their symptoms,
- 30.6% reported improvement in their resting tremors,
- 44.7% reported alleviation of their bradykinesia,
Bradykinesia is slowed movement of both fine and gross motor control.
So, for example, when it comes to fine motor control, tasks like writing may take a patient with Parkinson’s Disease much longer to complete than someone who doesn’t have Parkinson’s Disease.
- 37.7% reported alleviation of their muscle rigidity,
Rigidity is otherwise known as muscle stiffness, another characteristic symptom of Parkinson’s Disease. It’s when the muscles resist movement.
So, for example, patients with Parkinson’s Disease will display jerky movements rather than the fluid movements a person without Parkinson’s Disease would have.
- 14.1% reported improvement of their dyskinesias
Dyskinesia is when parts of the body move involuntarily in an uncontrolled way.
Dyskinesia can appear like fidgeting, writhing, wriggling, head bobbing or body swaying.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE: THE RESULTS
When it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, medical marijuana is by no means a cure, but my patients have found that it helps in a couple different ways.
- My patients have reported an overall reduction in pain with the use of medical marijuana. Typically, the pain drops from severe to mild. Or, in other words, from an unbearable to a more manageable level of pain.
- My patients have also reported that medical marijuana is a useful additional therapy for Parkinson’s Disease, especially when it’s difficult to control their symptoms with the standard prescription medications. Some of my patients have been able to reduce the dosages of the prescription medications they’re taking. Of course, medical Marijuana should never be thought of as a replacement for the therapies for Parkinson’s disease.
- And finally, patients have reported that medical marijuana affects their tremors.
What I’ve observed in patients with Parkinson’s Disease is that their tremors, after a few weeks or maybe days, fade away to be replaced with muscle rigidity or stiffness. And once they slowly fade away, the tremors comes back in another part of the body. It’s like a never ending cycle.
And, what I’ve found is that medical marijuana helps with with a reduction in tremors. More specifically, some of my patients have reported a reduction in how often they have the tremors. Others have reported a reduction in how long the tremors last. And, there are those that have reported a reduction in the severity of tremors. So, they don’t necessarily progress from a tremor to muscle rigidity or stiffness.
Michael, I hope this information helps. And, I wish you the best!
Would you like my help? Head on over to the GET HELP page, I’ll step-by-step walk you through how to safely use medical marijuana to help manage the symptoms of your Parkinson’s Disease.