“After 11 years of having Parkinson’s disease, I can’t really remember what my life was like without it,” admits Allison Smith to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Allison was only in her thirties when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She’s not your typical Parkinson’s patient, who is generally over the age of 50 and 1.5 times more likely to be male.
Her diagnosis was understandably earth-shattering. She recalls hearing “You have Parkinson’s disease. There is no cure, and you will struggle with this the rest of your life” as an out-of-body experience.
While tragic, her story is not uncommon. Over 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and 10 million people suffer worldwide, claims the Parkinson’s Foundation.
With a multitude of progressively-worsening symptoms and undesirable side effects from expensive medications, it’s no wonder people with Parkinson’s disease are searching for more reasonably priced relief.
Exciting new research now supports CBD as a viable treatment option for managing the many symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with powerful results.
Parkinson’s Disease: Overview and Symptoms
Parkinson’s disease, also known as PD, is a neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system.
Neurodegenerative illnesses involve the death of nerve cells in the brain or nervous system; the most common neurodegenerative diseases are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In patients with PD, the neurotransmitter dopamine that sends movement signals to the body becomes damaged and dies. The result is various movement difficulties, described by Dementia Care Central as:
●Lack of facial expression
One hallmark of PD is how a person walks, specifically a “Parkinson’s gait,” which is characterized by a “stooped posture,” shuffling with short steps, and limited arm movement.
Many people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease also develop Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), and experience cognitive decline, affecting:
●Memory, including memory loss
●Decision-making and judgement
●Attention span and concentration
Parkinson’s disease is progressive, meaning symptoms worsen gradually with time. Presently, there is no cure, only symptom management. Over time, people with PD and PDD may also experience:
●Loss of smell
●Delusions and visual hallucinations
●Anxiety, depression, or apathy
●Pain and irritability
Traditional Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Conventional treatment of Parkinson’s disease is costly and often accompanied by unpleasant side effects from medications.
Prescription medications for Parkinson’s disease often come with “adverse side effects” reveals Dementia Care Central, including but not limited to:
●Nausea and vomiting
●Loss of appetite
Additionally, medications and other forms of treatment are expensive for patients and their families.
The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates those with PD and PDD pay an average of $2,500 in medications alone each year, and therapeutic surgeries can set families back up to $100,000 per person.
CBD as Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the active ingredients found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not give you the “high” associated with other marijuana products.
As a cannabinoid, CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, the signaling system responsible for homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system regulates many important bodily functions, such as memory, stress response, and pain sensation.
Cannabinoid receptors are affected by Parkinson’s disease, so in terms of treatment “the endocannabinoid system has emerged as a promising target,” notes researchers.
CBD has been studied as a treatment for improving quality of life, psychosis, anxiety, and tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
CBD for Psychosis in Parkinson’s Disease
CBD was first tested as a treatment for psychosis in Parkinson’s disease in 2008. In an open-label pilot study, six PD patients with psychosis received flexible doses of CBD starting at 150mg/day for four weeks. Scientists measured the psychotic symptoms of the patients using both the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Parkinson Psychosis Questionnaire.
The patients exhibited a “significant decrease” in psychotic symptoms under both measurements, with “no adverse effect.” Researchers concluded their results “suggest that CBD may be effective, safe and well tolerated for the treatment of the psychosis in PD.”
Psychosis in PD has long been a great challenge for doctors and patients alike. Allison Smith recalls “Just like many other illnesses, the mental health aspect was completely neglected. It was just not spoken about.” The antipsychotic properties of CBD can provide invaluable soundness of mind back to people with PD.
CBD Improves Quality of Life in PD Patients
Later, in a 2014 exploratory double-blind trial published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, 21 patients with PD were given either 75mg/day CBD, 300mg/day CBD, or a placebo. Researchers monitored their movement and general symptoms, quality of life, and possible protection of nerve cells (neuroprotective effects).
Compared to the placebo group, patients who received 300mg of CBD daily scored significantly higher on their quality of life. The study concluded their “findings point to a possible effect of CBD in improving quality of life measures in PD patients.”
CBD Reduces Anxiety and Tremors
Most recently, a 2020 study examined the effects of CBD on anxiety and tremors in patients with PD. Researchers conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial with 21 patients, engaging them in an anxiety-inducing simulated public speaking test (SPST).
A variety of data measures were collected during the SPST, such as “heart rate, systemic blood pressure and tremor frequency and amplitude,” and the visual analog mood scales (VAMS).
The study concluded “there were statistically significant differences in the VAMS anxiety factor for the drug; CBD attenuated (reduced) the anxiety experimentally induced by the SPST,” and “decreased tremor amplitude.”
How to Take CBD for Parkinson’s Disease
While there is no specific method for taking CBD for PD, Dementia Care Central recommends choosing a method that is “comfortable,” “not hampered by tremors,” and “can accommodate frequent and ongoing usage.”
Taking CBD sublingually, or “under the tongue,” from a tincture is a quick and easy method that offers greater CBD absorption than just oral ingestion. Additionally, the dropper lids of tincture bottles make dosing effortless—filling the dropper completely results in a 1mL dose.
CBD oil from tinctures can also be added to food or drinks. Add CBD oil to your morning coffee or tea to create a consistent routine, as is recommended for Parkinson’s patients.
Topical CBD products, which are applied directly to the skin, are great for targeting specific areas of pain, such as sore joints or chronic back pain. Examples of topical CBD products include scented lotions, soothing ointments, and calming bath products.
Essential oils present in topicals employ aromatherapy to calm anxiety and stress, symptoms often experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is progressive and incurable, and success is measured by symptom management.
CBD is a cost-effective form of alternative medicine for treating Parkinson’s disease as opposed to pricey prescription medications with unfavorable side effects.
Numerous studies support the use of CBD for a variety of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including psychosis, anxiety, and tremors.
Patients with PD who have used CBD reported a significant increase in their quality of life.
To read more stories from real patients with Parkinson’s disease, visit the Parkinson’s Foundation.
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Chagas, M., Zuardi, A., Tumas, V., Pena-Pereira, M., Sobreira, E., Bergamaschi, M., . . . Crippa, J. (2014). Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson's disease: An exploratory double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(11), 1088-1098. doi:10.1177/0269881114550355, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25237116/
Dementia Care Central.com. (2020, February 18). CBD: A Natural Remedy that Decreases Symptomatic Behaviors of Parkinson's Disease? Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/parkinsons/treating/cbd/
Faria, S. M., Fabrício, D. D., Tumas, V., Castro, P. C., Ponti, M. A., Hallak, J. E., . . . Chagas, M. H. (2020). Effects of acute cannabidiol administration on anxiety and tremors induced by a Simulated Public Speaking Test in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 34(2), 189-196. doi:10.1177/0269881119895536, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31909680/
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2020). Neurodegenerative Diseases. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/health/neurodegenerative/index.cfm
Parkinson's Foundation. (2020). Statistics. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics
Smith, A. (2020). Living with Parkinson's: My PD Story: Allison Smith. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from https://www.parkinson.org/get-involved/my-pd-story/Allison-Smith
Zuardi, A., Crippa, J., Hallak, J., Pinto, J., Chagas, M., Rodrigues, G., . . . Tumas, V. (2008). Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 23(8), 979-983. doi:10.1177/0269881108096519, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18801821/
About the Author
Lily Kiepke is a freelance writer and blogger based in the Denver metropolitan area. She enjoys using CBD to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. When she is not writing about cannabis, she can be found hiking in the Rocky Mountains or curled up with a good true crime book.