CBD Oil for Parkinson’s: Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects
With prescription medication even further deteriorating the sufferer’s quality of life, it’s no wonder then that more and more patients and caregivers are turning to alternative treatments, such as using CBD oil for Parkinson’s.
Over 10 million people across the world are living with Parkinson’s and 60,000 new cases are recorded every year in the US alone. This is a large share of the population affected by a disease that is chronic, progressive, and incurable.
But can CBD help, and how much can it do for people living with PD? Before we answer this question, let’s take a closer look at Parkinson’s and its symptoms.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes dopamine-producing cells in the brain to die.
Though symptoms can vary, the most common signs of PD include tremors, slowed movement, slurred speech, and muscle stiffness.
Other non-motor symptoms of this condition can range from sleep disorders and depression to weight loss and chronic fatigue, as well as psychosis and hallucinations.
What Benefits Can You Claim If You Have Parkinson’s?
According to the SSA Listings for Disability, Parkinson’s patients can apply for disabilities provided that they meet one of the following criteria:
- Inability to control the movement of at least two extremities
- Difficulties in maintaining balance
Parkinson’s is not fatal, however, it can increase the risk of other life-threatening conditions, like blood clots or pneumonia, particularly during the later stages of the disease.
What Is the Typical Treatment for PD?
The most commonly prescribed treatment for Parkinson’s is Carbidopa-levodopa or Sinemet (so far, there aren’t any known interactions between CBD oil and Sinemet — yet another reason why CBD could be a viable treatment option for Parkinson’s disease).
Levodopa is a natural chemical that the body converts to dopamine and is used in combination with carbidopa to slow down some of the effects.
In addition to dizziness, insomnia, nausea, and headaches, one of the more prevalent side-effects of levodopa is Dyskinesia (jerky, involuntary movements) which occurs as a result of prolonged use.
Another problem with this Parkinson’s disease treatment is that levodopa does very little to alleviate some of the nonmotor symptoms of the condition.
How To Use CBD Oil for Parkinson’s?
One of the most important roles of our body’s endocannabinoid system is the control of movement, which has led experts to examine the link between ECS and motor disorders, commonly associated with diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
In addition, researchers believe that there is a direct relationship between the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and the neurons affected by these degenerative illnesses.
However, despite the connection between cannabinoids, like with CBD and Parkinson’s, there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence for the FDA or medical professionals to approve the use of cannabidiol as a treatment for PD. More research is needed, experts say, to determine the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD oil
What Are the Biggest Obstacles in Doing More Medical Marijuana Research in Relation to Parkinson’s?
The legal status of cannabis is one of the biggest hurdles in researching medical marijuana benefits. Unless cannabis is legalized on a federal level, studies on Parkinson’s and CBD will continue to be limited.
Another issue is the stigma still associated with cannabis use and the lack of education among healthcare professionals over the benefits of medical marijuana. For instance, only 23% of physicians have had formal education on MM, resulting in just 10% of medical professionals recommending cannabis to PD patients.
Nevertheless, cannabis is considered an effective treatment by many PD sufferers as 80% of those living with this condition have used various types of medical marijuana for their condition.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and CBD Oil
Tremors and CBD
Tremors are one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s and also one of the most troublesome. Typically, tremors affect PD patients while they are resting or sleeping and they usually occur in the extremities, although internal tremor (in the chest or abdomen) is also reported by some PD sufferers.
Like some other symptoms of PD, studies have been done to determine if CBD oil has any effect on tremors, however, no significant improvements were found from administering pure CBD for Parkinson’s tremors. On the other hand, a combination of THC and CBD was shown to significantly improve resting tremors and rigidity with little or no side-effects.
One of the medical benefits of THC and CBD is anxiety relief, which is important for PD patients as stress and anxiety can increase the frequency and intensity of tremors.
There might not be enough scientific data to support the medical use of marijuana for Parkinson’s tremors, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show otherwise. In fact, there are numerous users of CBD oil for Parkinson’s who say that medical cannabis has offered considerable relief from tremors.
CBD for Sleep Issues
Sleep disruptions, such as vivid dreams, nightmares, or RLS (restless leg syndrome), as well as difficulties falling and staying asleep, often accompany Parkinson’s disease.
Cannabidiol is already known to induce sleep and treat some of the symptoms of sleeplessness, while a 2014 observational study went a step further and showed considerable improvements in sleep scores among the 22 PD participants included in the research.
Parkinson’s and CBD Oil for Pain Management
Despite the fact that pain is not usually associated with this disease, almost 75% of PD patients experience some type of discomfort during the course of the condition, mostly as a result of rigidity, or muscle stiffness.
The above-mentioned study also showed that the use of medicinal marijuana (which contains both THC and CBD) helped patients manage their pain better, whereas studies conducted on animals indicate that CBD treatment alone, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce pain and inflammation.
CBD Oil for Parkinson’s Hallucinations and Psychosis
It is estimated that around a third of patients with Parkinson’s also experience psychosis, most commonly hallucinations and delusions. Psychosis in PD patients becomes more severe the longer a person lives with the disease, while in some cases it can be caused by the very medication used to treat the condition.
Can CBD help with PD-related psychosis?
In a small 2009 study, 6 PD patients, suffering from psychosis for at least 3 months, were given an oral dose of CBD for 4 weeks. The results from this research on CBD and Parkinson’s on the NIH website showed a considerable decrease in psychotic symptoms. What’s more, the study didn’t find any adverse effects from CBD use on motor functions or negative effects on general well-being and health.
Last year, a new clinical trial was announced at King’s College London, the UK, that will test the possible effects of CBD on hallucinations and delusions among people suffering from Parkinson’s. Hopefully, this research, and others like it, will help generate more interest and encourage more studies into the benefits of CBD oil for Parkinson’s.
CBD Improves Quality of Life with PD
Living with Parkinson’s isn’t easy. This disease, which only gets worse with time, can seriously jeopardize a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Luckily, studies show that CBD treatment can offer some relief.
For instance, a study of 21 PD patients who were given CBD and a placebo found that the participants who received CBD experienced improvements in their quality of life after just 6 weeks.
Another study on CBD oil and Parkinson’s that included 119 patients also pointed out that CBD plays a significant role in the patients’ well-being and their quality of life. In this study, participants were given a placebo and CBD (either 75 mg/day or 300 mg/day) and although motor and general symptoms did not improve, findings showed a higher quality of life scores.
CBD Oil as Prevention for Parkinson’s
There are some indications that CBD use could prevent PD, however, up to now, research has only been conducted on animals and more data is needed to determine whether these claims hold any promise.
How to Administer CBD Oil for Parkinson’s Disease?
There are several ways that one can take CBD:
- CBD oils and tinctures — These liquids can be used sublingually (a few drops are placed under the tongue and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream), or they can be added to food or beverages. Oils and tinctures can also be applied to the skin, which is recommended for PD patients suffering from localized pain and muscle stiffness.
- Capsules and pills — This form of CBD administration is especially helpful to PD patients who cannot properly dose liquids as a result of tremors. The effect when taking CBD oil for Parkinson’s with pills and capsules is a bit delayed, but once it kicks in, it can be felt for 4 hours or longer.
- Edibles — Although they can be effective, edibles are not recommended for people with Parkinson’s because the dosage might not be as accurate as with other methods of administration.
- Smoking cannabis — Cannabis can be smoked, vaped or inhaled, though experts advise PD patients to avoid smoking as it may cause damage to the lungs or throat.
CBD Oil Recommended Dosage for Parkinson’s
How much and how often can you take CBD oil? Don’t start with too much too soon. When it comes to PD (and other diseases too), it’s best to start with low doses and work your way up if necessary.
The baseline dosage, around 2 to 5 mg, two or three times a day, should be maintained for about seven days after which patients can increase the dosage by 1 to 2 mg a day if they are not seeing benefits. On the other hand, if they believe that their CBD dosage for Parkinson’s is too much, the dosage can be decreased.
Some studies indicate that 150 mg over the course of four weeks alleviates psychotic symptoms, while 75 to 300 mg of CBD oil improves REM sleep disorders, albeit the dosage may vary according to body weight and method of consumption.
The good news is that most CBD products on the market either contain the required dose (edibles, pills, and vapes) or come with droppers (oils and tinctures), making dosing CBD oil relatively easy and straightforward.
Which CBD Oil Is Best For Parkinson’s Disease?
Getting the best CBD oil for your condition depends on many factors, and the only way you can make sure that you buy a high-quality product is to shop smart:
- Read the label. Carefully check how much CBD (and what kind: isolate, full-spectrum, or broad-spectrum) and THC the product contains.
- Check for third-party testing. Companies that have independent evaluation facilities test their products usually provide higher quality.
- Check onlineCBD oil for Parkinson’s reviews to make an informed and educated decision.
- Check the sourcing location. Where the product comes from and how the plant is grown is important. Some states require growers to adhere to stricter quality assurance regulations regarding the use of pesticides or chemicals.
- Check the oil type. Full or broad-spectrum CBD oil will probably be a better option than an isolate.
- Choose where you buy CBD. Although online purchases are a good option, the best place to find CBD oil for Parkinson’s for sale is from licensed dispensaries. This way you know what you are buying and you are less likely to get into any trouble over potential legal issues.
Side Effects of CBD
Most of the research conducted on cannabidiol shows that CBD treatment is usually well-tolerated with little or no side effects. Admittedly, not everyone reacts the same and there can be some unwanted effects, such as changes in appetite, fatigue, and nausea.
Also, CBD is known to interact with some other medication, so make sure you check that cannabidiol doesn’t interfere with your prescribed treatment.
To Sum Up
Does CBD oil help with Parkinson’s? Yes, thanks to its sedative and anti-inflammatory effects, cannabidiol has the potential to offer relief from some of the most disruptive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Nevertheless, more research is needed not just to substantiate anecdotal accounts but to also discover other beneficial properties of CBD.
With science becoming more interested in cannabidiol and its effects, and patients shifting their focus to natural and alternative remedies, as opposed to traditional medication, there is hope that someday CBD oil for Parkinson’s will be approved as a valid treatment.
What helps with Parkinson’s tremors?
The usual treatment for tremors can range from first-line medication (levodopa and dopamine agonists) to second-line medications, such as clozapine, clonazepam, or propranolol.
In some cases, patients might not respond to the medication, meaning neurosurgical intervention might be needed. Although this type of surgery is proven to be effective and carries a very low risk for the patient, it is surgery nevertheless and should be considered only as a last resort.
What essential oils are good for Parkinson’s disease?
In addition to prescribed medication, there are other remedies that can alleviate some of the symptoms of PD.
Coconut oil, for instance, is said to help with some of the tremors, as well as constipation issues caused by this condition.
Cedarwood oil can be used as a sedative and to eliminate some of the muscle and joint stiffness associated with PD. Other oils include Frankincense (for pain) and sandalwood oil (which has relaxing properties).
Can THC help with Parkinson’s symptoms?
According to people who have used CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease, a combination of both THC and CBD is considered the most effective in the treatment of PD symptoms, rather than using just one of them.
Strains containing THC and CBD are said to help with dyskinesia, or involuntary muscle movement, which usually occurs as a side-effect of traditional treatment for Parkinson’s. Others cite medical marijuana benefits for depression, nausea and sleep issues, all of which are nonmotor symptoms of this condition.
What’s Slowing Medical Cannabis Clinical Research?
CU scientists hail recent supply expansion as game-changer in drive for evidence-based care
Despite the urgency for rigorous clinical research on medical marijuana, government red tape has slowed progress and tied scientists’ hands. CU Anschutz researchers discuss the need for their pioneering efforts and applaud a new development that could speed progress in the emerging field.
Artin (Art) Shoukas, PhD, a Johns Hopkins University professor emeritus, would have never dreamed he’d be using marijuana every night in his retirement years. He melts the medicinal form – mostly cannabidiol (CBD) with just a touch of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – under his tongue before dinner.
It helps him sleep. But not just because of its reported slumber-inducing effects. He takes a full-spectrum, cannabis-based product to calm his legs.
Diagnosed with restless legs syndrome (RLS) in 1991, when the relentless feeling of “ants crawling” inside his legs became intense and life-altering, Shoukas tried everything his doctor at Johns Hopkins suggested. Iron supplements. Quinine. Eventually, he resorted to OxyContin after finding it helped his RLS following an unrelated surgical procedure.
The opioid worked. But the professor of physiology and biomedical engineering knew the drug class behind a nationwide health crisis wasn’t a sustainable answer. Then he found Jacquelyn (Jacci) Bainbridge, PharmD, a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Bainbridge, a professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, helps conduct cannabis-related clinical trials on campus and educates students and consumers on the growing need for evidence-based facts.
‘Does it work for everybody?’
“I started to get worried about the use of OxyContin,” Shoukas said. “It’s habit-forming. So I tried to come off it, and I did. But the RLS came back, and it was instantaneous.”
In search of an alternative, Shoukas went to the RLS Foundation website, where he spotted a webinar by Bainbridge on CBD effects. She and colleagues study cannabis for medicinal uses, including groundbreaking investigations led by Emily Lindley, PhD, and Rachael Rzasa Lynn, MD, into using cannabis as an opioid alternative.
After much trial and error working closely with Bainbridge and his healthcare provider, Shoukas’s “itchy, twitchy” legs are still. He doesn’t promote other people experimenting with cannabis on their own. But he’s excited about the related research taking place on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus that might lead to other patients finding cannabis-therapy success.
“It actually is more effective,” Shoukas said of his CBD-based therapy compared to the opioid. “This is very individualized, though. As my colleague (Bainbridge) says, cannabis comes from a plant,” Shoukas said. “It depends on where it’s grown, how it’s grown, what time of the year it’s harvested and how it’s processed.
“It’s not a pharmacological agent (except for Epidiolex®, FDA approved for certain types of epilepsy) where you give a strict formula for it. It’s a plant. Does it work? Works for me. Does it work for everybody? I’d like to know.”
It’s one of many questions Bainbridge and colleagues have been trying to answer since becoming the first university in the state to launch cannabis clinical trials in 2016. Can cannabis reduce opioid use? Can it work with other issues, from Parkinson’s disease to back pain? Does THC improve the effects of CBD or other cannabinoids? What are the potential side effects and serious drug contraindications consumers need to know?
As cannabis legalization progresses, and product marketing surges across the country, many states and universities are seeking to address the questions regarding cannabis’ clinical applicability, but it isn’t easy.
Patient use fuels research drive
After Colorado and Washington became the first states to open marijuana dispensary doors to recreational use in 2012, many people began experimenting with cannabis to ease ailments, said Maureen Leehey, MD, a University of Colorado School of Medicine neurology professor and one of the first researchers on campus to launch cannabis trials.
“My Parkinson’s patients are usually in their 60s and 70s, and their adult children were telling them: You should give this a try,” Leehey said. Of those patients who did try cannabis, some reported improved symptoms, from better sleep to reduced tremors; however, others described bad experiences, including hallucinations, dizziness, nausea and sleep disturbances, she said.
“That’s what stimulated us,” Leehey said of herself and her colleagues, who wanted to protect their patients while providing evidence-based care.
“We need to know: Is it effective, and is it safe?” said Bainbridge, also a professor in the Department of Neurology, who works closely with Leehey. “We need answers to these questions, answers that we can only get through clinical research.”
Hurdles stall clinical studies
Winning the government green light for clinical trials at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus took two years after Lindley and Leehey received the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment first-ever grants for cannabis clinical trials in 2014.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has strict licensing regulations for providers to dispense cannabis and complex requirements for securing cannabis products at the facility conducting the clinical trials – which the university worked hard to make happen, Leehey said.
But one of the biggest hurdles Leehey and medical scientists across the country have faced is a government restriction on the cannabis supply they can use. Since 1968, researchers have been limited to only one cannabis supplier: a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)-contracted facility at the University of Mississippi. “It wasn’t supplying the full gamut of products that we needed,” Leehey said.
The constraint has delayed moving forward with clinical trials involving the use of cannabis and slowed progression of publishing evidence-based data establishing efficacy and safety parameters.
Now, after years of pressure on the government to open the door to more manufacturers, the restriction is lifting. This past year, the DEA announced it was in the process of approving more domestic manufacturers. “I think it’s going to be any day now that we can get the products,” Leehey said.
The move, she said, will be a game-changer for cannabis-related studies.
“It means everything to me as a researcher. I need a good variety of products. These other companies are producing a much better range of types of products, combinations of different components of cannabis and different methods of delivery.”
Strains and delivery method matter
Studying varying strains, or chemovars, is important, especially as the types of cannabis consumers are getting from dispensaries today are far more diverse and potent than cannabis of the past.
“I know exactly what’s inside of it,” Shoukas said of the pills he gets from a “highly-controlled” provider. “With most cannabis products, you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said, emphasizing the need for clinical trials.
“Even if it’s a pharmacological agent, you still need to do clinical trials, because everybody’s different. You don’t know what the reaction is going to be for a lot of agents. It gets worse with cannabis, because there’s really no fixed control over what you are doing and what you are getting.”
Mode of delivery also matters, Bainbridge said. “Products are absorbed differently, depending on how they’re consumed. So, is it an edible? Is it oral? Is it smoked? Is it vaporized?”
“With the oral products you can actually see variations in bioavailability with your dosage, even if it’s the same product, in the same person,” Bainbridge said. “There’s also a lag to onset with the oral products, and they can last longer depending on if and what you ate prior to administration.”
Often, vaporizing the product for trial participants is a preferred research method because its effects are quicker, and it’s safer than smoking, since combustibles pose a health risk, Bainbridge said.
Now, with the upcoming greater supply, sublingual products will be available, Leehey said. Melting a product under the tongue, as Shoukas does each night, is also quicker-acting (for some products) than edibles and a popular mode with consumers, she said. “It’s offering us much better opportunities.”
Other big questions need answers
A question Leehey is often asked and has been unable to adequately study is whether having some THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, makes a therapy more effective.
“In my opinion, yes, but that is just my opinion,” she said. “That is a major, basic experiment that needs to be done, and we haven’t been able to do it because we haven’t been able to get the variety of products that we need.”
While researchers know CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid, inflammatory and nociceptive (pain-sensing) systems in the body, the exact nature of how they do so still needs to be studied.
Although side effects with CBD are low, Bainbridge said, potentially-harmful drug interactions and/or contraindications exist. That creates a real danger to patients using products without medical supervision.
“CBD is metabolized through the liver like other drugs are, so they can interfere and compete,” Leehey said. “There are a lot of interactions that can happen. CBD is also a highly protein-bound drug, so it can displace other protein-bound drugs and make them more potent. It needs to be studied further.”
Serious negative CBD interactions, for example, have been seen with blood thinners, heart medications, acid-reflux drugs, immunosuppressants and anti-seizure medications.
Leehey and colleagues are finding some promising results, although their studies are still preliminary, she said. The need to close the knowledge gap grows along with the number of people like Shoukas trading pharmaceutical agents for cannabis products.
“The medical marijuana thing is real, and it helps people,” said Shoukas, who can now sleep next to his wife without waking her and sit comfortably for longer than 20 minutes again.
But with too many people “just taking cannabis off the shelf,” his success story is not enough, Shoukas said. “That’s why you need clinical trials. You need to really settle in on what works, what doesn’t work, for most of the population. Not for a man of one.”
Keeping trial supplies in the right hands
The CU Anschutz Medical Campus funded and established a government-approved space for medical-cannabis research, allowing pioneering work in the emerging area. Housed for years in the Leprino Building, the research space will move to the new Anschutz Health Sciences Building.
The space’s features include:
- A HEPA-filtered ventilation system that eliminates vapor and odors.
- Security locks that require two keys to access product or supplies. Two people are responsible for each key, so that no one person has access. Using a wrong key automatically locks access, reversible only by drilling out the lock.
- Bolts that secure all cabinets, freezers and other storage units to the walls or floors.
- A security camera that monitors the storage room 24/7.
Terminology: What’s the Difference?
Cannabis is a plant subdivided into two categories: marijuana (containing > 0.3% THC by dry weight volume; and hemp (containing < 0.3% THC by dry weight volume). Originating in Asia, cannabis contains more than 480 chemical constituents, as defined by U.S. federal law. (1-3) The two main varieties of cannabis are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Most plants grown today are hybrids. (4) Additionally, the cannabis plant contains over 100 known phytocannabinoids with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well studied.
Cannabidiol (CBD): An extract from either the cannabis/marijuana or hemp plant.