The Potential of CBD For Neurodegenerative Disease
Updated: Feb 24
By Keith Alban
As more research emerges on the medicinal properties of CBD, we're seeing just how multifaceted the benefits of this potent cannabinoid are on the brain in particular. While not all people may experience amazing benefits, many people that have tried CBD have incredibly positive things to say about it. One particular area of medicine that CBD seems to be excelling in is for neurodegenerative conditions and overall protection of the brain. More research still needs to be conducted in this area, but cannabidiol may present an option that’s safe, effective, and would blend well with any type of medical or alternative protocol for neurodegenerative disease.
Although CBD is relatively new to the world of natural medicine, it has had research done for years prior to being legalized for use as a supplement. This article is meant to present some of the positive research that has been conducted up to this point. There are many different causes of neurodegeneration such as heavy metal toxicity, pesticide, herbicide, insecticide toxicity, certain pathogens and byproducts secreted by them, man-made toxins, glutamate, and a multitude of other compounds. All of these toxins have the potential to damage different types of brain cells. While CBD may not work with many of these causes, the protective properties along with little to no downside make it a definite candidate to consider. By no means are we saying that CBD will act as a cure or anything like that, but the research emerging shows surprising potential and excellent safety.
CBD's Powerful Protective Effect on Brain Cells
Common neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, Huntington's, ALS, motor neuron disease, and several others. Research in many of these areas is still progressing and requires more double-blind, placebo-controlled human studies. We know CBD excels at protecting brain cells no matter the state of health they may be currently at. You may be surprised at the amount of quality research that’s been done on cannabinoids despite it being relatively new.
A 2017 study at the Salk Institute in California showed that cannabinoids like CBD may actually help remove certain compounds within brain cells that are linked to dementia. The protective effects may that this action may accomplish may help to potentially slow the decline functions such as memory, cognition, and different symptoms of the disease. (1) A similar result was found with Alzheimer's patients in actual clinical trials. The study showed that CBD was able to slow down and even halt some of the negative manifestations and symptoms of Alzheimer's overtime! This study and model obviously needs to be replicated in humans, but it’s exciting news. Even more exciting is that the study done at Salk Institute showed that CBD may aid in the removal of toxic amyloid-beta plaque proteins that play a role in such a wide range of neurodegenerative conditions. (2)
The model for this study used THC, which in high doses can have side effects and cause certain problems for those with neurodegeneration. Research has shown that CBD and other cannabinoids are capable of aiding in the removal of this toxic plaque as well. A 2011 study led by two Australian researchers demonstrated that CBD may actually promote the growth and development of brain cells. (3) This finding may not be in the human body as of yet, but it does show the potential of CBD on brain cells. Other aspects in which CBD may help combat neurodegenerative processes is by helping to maintain calcium balance, decreasing some of the damage done by oxidative stress, and helping to inhibit glutamate toxicity within brain cells.
Toxins That Destroy Brain Cells
The two popular food additives MSG and aspartame have received their fair share of negative attention the last 10-15 years because of the damaging effect they have on neurons. Glutamate is categorized as an excitotoxin because it causes neurons in the brain to rapidly fire in an unnatural manner, causing damage to them. Excitotoxins can even cause our precious neurons to die over time. MSG and aspartame are thought to act as excitotoxins in the brain and play a role in neurodegenerative disease. There are dozens of other excitotoxins and damaging preservatives that are insidiously added to foods and drinks. Heavy metals such as aluminum, mercury, iron, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and others are a huge cause of neurodegenerative disease.
This is another avenue CBD may help to offer some protective benefits. It is still HIGHLY advised to stay far away from all possible neurotoxins. It’s pretty much an absolute must for improvements to be seen in any form of neurodegeneration. People with Parkinson's disease may respond positively to CBD as well. There was research done back in 1888 by a highly touted neurologist named Sir William Gowers that utilized an extract from hemp. It is not specified exactly what type of extract was used, but we can assume it contained cannabinoids.
In his book, Manual of Diseases of the Nervous System, he noted that this hemp extract quieted the tremors associated with Parkinson's and other conditions where tremors may be involved. Parkinson’s disease will certainly require a comprehensive approach, CBD alone may or may not make a tangible difference, but what we do know is that’s very protective to brain cells. (4) CBD seems to play a pivotal, multifaceted role in regulating neurons and neurotransmitters, which seems to elicit a calming, protective effect in those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson's, and other forms of neurodegeneration.
More research is certainly needed to confirm the level of efficacy for Parkinson’s disease, although it is certainly safe and gentle enough to try before that research may occur. Certain products with superior delivery systems may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier at higher rates than plain CBD and yield more powerful results. A very important aspect of Parkinson's is overall gut health and our gut microbiome. Although CBD is relatively new to the world of medicine, it is without a doubt a rising star in the field of brain health and many other areas of health and medicine.
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