Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death among older people. It is a progressively debilitating neurological condition and is not considered a normal part of aging.
The loss of cognitive functions and behavioral abilities disrupts and diminishes the quality of life of patients and their caregivers. Traditional drugs meant to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients often do not work or eventually stop working. More and more, when traditional medicine fails, people turn to cannabinoids to treat degenerative neurological disorders. Researchers have even discovered preliminary evidence that cannabinoids can prevent neurodegeneration.
If you are a patient or a caretaker considering using cannabinoids to treat Alzheimer’s, here are five things you should know:
- Studies show that cannabinoids can treat Alzheimer’s across several processes that play key roles in Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments targeting single causes or symptom produce limited effects. Cannabinoids, especially when full spectrum CBD is used, produce a cascade of effects. In the case of Alzheimer’s, cannabinoids have been shown to have therapeutic effects on neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress. They also improve behavioral disturbances in patients, causing them to sleep better and gain weight.
- Preclinical lab studies show that cannabinoids can assist in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Cannabinoids reduce brain inflammation and restore neurogenesis (growth of nerve tissue), which can effectively slow the brain processes underlying Alzheimer’s disease.
- Consult your doctor if taking other medications. Cannabinoids are safe with fewer side effects than most medications, which include:
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Drowsiness when taken in high doses
- Inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism and decreased activity of p-glycoprotein. (Similar to eating grapefruit when on certain liver medications.)
Because of this last side effect, it’s important to consult with a physician before taking cannabinoids if the patient is on other medications. CBD, however, is non-psychoactive (can’t get you high), nontoxic, well-tolerated, does not cause dependence, and does not cause withdrawal symptoms. A 2018 World Health Organization Report found that naturally occurring CBD:
- is safe and well tolerated in humans (and animals).
- is not associated with any adverse public health effects.
- does not cause physical dependence.
- is not associated with abuse potential.
- It’s important to use a high-quality, clean, tested product. For several reasons, it is very important to select a high-quality CBD product. First of all, the establishment from which you purchase your CBD should be knowledgeable about cannabinoids in general. Secondly, they should be able to tell you exactly what ingredients are in the product and where they were cultivated and produced. They should be able to provide testing data for their products, which should be pure and contaminant free.
This transparency is not only important so that you can get the optimal health effects from CBD, but also so that you do not buy a product that may not be what it claims to be. The CBD industry is growing quickly, and there are, unfortunately, some retailers taking advantage of the boon by providing substandard products. It’s no good ingesting a product for brain-healing if it is riddled with contaminants that may make it worse, or it does not contain the promised cannabinoids.
Nature’s Breakthrough, an educational resource for The Hemp Haus, recommends full spectrum CBD. The Hemp Haus currently carries Ananda Hemp full spectrum products. Full spectrum CBD refers to the pure hemp oil extracted from a hemp plant, containing unmodified cannabinoids and compounds. Unlike isolated or synthetic cannabinoids, full spectrum CBD oil contains an array of cannabinoids, as well as many essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, flavonoids, and terpenes. These compounds have been proven to work more effectively together in a specifically designed, synergistic manner known as the “entourage effect.”
- Hemp-derived CBD is legal. At the federal level, industrial hemp was finally defined apart from marijuana in 2014. According to section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (7 U.S.C. 5490), “the term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
The act also clearly states that “notwithstanding” (in spite of) the CSA, industrial hemp is allowed to be grown, cultivated, and marketed under an agricultural pilot program. This means that any industrial hemp CBD derived under one of these programs is legal.
In late March of 2018, Congress took extra precautions to protect the hemp industry. They passed an Omnibus Spending bill, which keeps the whole federal government going, that includes provisions to prevent the DEA and the FDA from using resources that would interfere with hemp farmers and businesses, along with interstate sale and transport.
“Undeniable Evidence: Cannabis, Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” United Patients Group. 15 March 2017. Web. Accessed 2 November 2018. https://unitedpatientsgroup.com/blog/2017/03/15/undeniable-evidence-cannabis-alzheimers-and-dementia/
Wenk, G. “Using Marijuana to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.” Psychology Today. 1 April 2016. Web. Accessed 2 November 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/201604/using-marijuana-prevent-alzheimer-s-disease
Aso, E. and Ferrer, I. “Cannabinoids for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: moving toward the clinic.” Frontiers in Pharmacology. 5 March 2014. Web. Accessed 2 November 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2014.00037/full