Can cannabinoids treat early symptoms of Parkinson’s?
It would be unconscionable not to educate people about the effects of cannabinoids on a disease that affects more than 10 million people globally. Patients and their loved ones are devastated by the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Meanwhile, recent studies have shown that cannabinoids have the potential to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s.
So why aren’t cannabinoids a well-known treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s?
First, a little bit about the disease:
- Parkinson’s disease alters the function of the neurological system by inhibiting the production and secretion of dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter. Dopamine is responsible for the transmission of signals between the brain’s neurons and is widely known as the chemical that influences a person’s mood, pleasure, and emotions.
- Dopamine plays a vital role in coordinating a person’s daily behaviors and activities. A person who is deficient in this neurotransmitter can suffer memory loss, inability to maintain a steady gait and balance, and tremors.
- It is extremely difficult to treat Parkinson’s. Most treatments are painful, ineffective, and expensive.
It is unfortunate that people with diseases like Parkinson’s continue to suffer while misinformation, waffling legislators, and special interests hinder the development and widespread use of cannabinoids to alleviate the brutal effects Parkinson’s.
Why you don’t know and what you should know about Parkinson’s and cannabinoids
The mythology of marijuana still clouds the science of cannabinoids. Legislation has been passed since 2014 to support the growth, development, sales, and use of industrial hemp, and yet many people are still unaware of the health benefits of cannabinoids.
You may have heard of marijuana being used to combat early signs of Parkinson’s and similar diseases. But the popular perception persists that there is something controversial about using marijuana medicinally. This is because people are either not aware of or have not fully grasped the science behind it.
What are cannabinoids?
Our experience associates them with negative counterculture; getting high. But in reality, a cannabinoid is a chemical compound. And we all have cannabinoid receptors within us, in what is called our endocannabinoid system (ECS). In essence, we are designed to receive cannabinoids.
Cannabis is very effective in combating Parkinson’s disease because it slows the progression of symptoms. Patients who contract the disease early are able to retard the progress of symptoms, making cannabinoids a more legitimate way to treat Parkinson’s symptoms, if not the most effectual.
Here’s how and why it works:
- Cannabis affects the ECS directly. The ECS regulates the interaction between the mind and the body. It affects the nervous system, organ function, and even the immune system. It works to maintain homeostasis, a term which describes the state of balance of the internal environment.
- Parkinson’s disease has a negative effect on the ECS. Cannabinoid receptors are located in the brain’s basal ganglia. Depletion of dopamine due to Parkinson’s causes a weakening of the basal ganglia. This takes a cruel toll on the movement and mobility of a person with Parkinson’s.
- This particular region of the nervous system is filled with CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are G-proteins. Cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) bind to these receptors. This binding helps alleviate symptoms associated with dopamine deficiency.
- Re-regulation of these functions is made possible with the binding of CBD to the CB1 receptors. This can also jump-start the body into making good use of its own cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoids do not just promote healthy function of the brain. They are known to offer neuroprotective properties, potentially safeguarding the neurons against aging and disease.
- Protection of the neuron is vital to dopamine protection. One of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease is damage to the neurons. CBD oil may be able to assist in combating neural damage, regulate the production of dopamine, and inhibit the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Rampant misconceptions about marijuana have stifled awareness and hindered the benefits of cannabinoids for people with life-shattering diseases. Parkinson’s wrecks homeostasis while cannabinoids by their very nature re-regulate, promote, and maintain homeostasis. Scientific explanation alone can promote the benefits of cannabinoids while dismantling the myths surrounding them. It is our responsibility to bring this information to the people who need it most.
Research on the effects of cannabinoids on Parkinson’s
A number of studies have been conducted on the effects of CBD on Parkinson’s disease. A 2015 study showed that CBD enhances the viability of cells, differentiation, and expression of synaptic proteins and axonal proteins.
Subjects that participated in the study took CBD. It was observed that the CBD helped protect against a decrease in NGF. NGF helps regulate growth and survival of target neurons.
CBD also assists with neuritogenesis. This is the formation of neurites which repairs damaged cells. The loss of neurites kick-starts neurodegenerative diseases. This research was an eye-opener to the possibility CBD in fighting Parkinson’s.
A 2014 study tested the efficacy of cannabis in controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Twenty-two patients afflicted with Parkinson’s were given marijuana. The researchers evaluated the patients 30 minutes after consumption of the medical marijuana. Upon evaluation, it was discovered that the mean score of the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale had a dramatic improvement from 33.1 to 23.2! Motor symptoms, pain, and sleep scores were also significantly improved in the patients. Also, there were no side effects.
It is obvious that cannabinoids can protect and repair neurons and dramatically ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s. And while the results of these studies are encouraging, we need to continue to research and develop cannabinoids in order to fully understand their potential to prevent and minimize the devastation of diseases like Parkinson’s.
We must educate patients and generate awareness about cannabinoids. There is a huge population of people suffering from degenerative diseases and a world of people who do not know that cannabinoids could help protect them from such a fate. Why would we not do everything in our power to get this life-altering knowledge into the hands of people immediately?
Neife et al. (2015). The neuroprotection of cannabidiol against MPP+ – induced toxicity in PC12 cells involves trkA receptors, upregulation of axonal and synaptic proteins, neuritogenesis, and might be relevant to Parkinson’s disease. Toxicology in vitro; 30(1): 231-240.
Lotan et al. (2014). Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: an open-label observational study. Clin Neuropharmacol; 37(3): 41-4