Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical found in the marijuana plant alongside tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is being looked at as a treatment option for many diseases from mental disorders to degenerative nerve diseases. CBD is the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis and the major chemical in hemp, the sister plant to marijuana. Because of relaxed laws, medical scientists have been performing research studies into the effects of CBD.
CBD has receptors in the immune system called CB2, but also in the brain (called CB1), and these receptors in the hippocampus work with other neurotransmitter receptors to help our brains work properly. After discovering CBD’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the body, scientists turned to studying the effects of CBD in the brain. Researchers are now exploring the connection between the CB1 hippocampus receptors and nerve diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Let’s look at the current research to see how CBD hemp oil could be a supplementary treatment for these diseases.
Alzheimer’s Disease & Cannabidiol
Before we get into exactly how CBD hemp oil could help patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, let’s understand how these diseases work.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition, which means that the disease involves nerves and progresses over time. The general term is dementia, or the decline in mental abilities considered drastic enough to affect daily life, but Alzheimer’s Disease is the most severe form. This disease affects a person’s ability to access memories, to learn new things, to reason or make judgments, to communicate, and to carry out regular daily activities such as driving. One in nine adults over 65 live with this disease, and there is a great need for new treatments.
Alzheimer’s is a sneaky disease, starting with subtle memory loss and personality changes that are different from normal aging. People suffering from Alzheimer’s may get tired quickly or become upset or anxious more easily than before. They also don’t like change. As the disease gets worse, there is greater memory loss and making decisions can become difficult. Eventually, Alzheimer’s sufferers may not remember old friends or family members and may also need help with daily functions.
The diagnosis of this disease starts with a physical and neurological exam; the patient’s medical history and mental status will also be evaluated. Part of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis includes ruling out other problems such as strokes, tumors, or head trauma. The physician will also rule out medical conditions like depression, chemical imbalances, and thyroid conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible, but currently there are medications and treatment plans that can help with memory and behavior. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved four drugs that work to slow down the symptoms of the disease; there are also different drugs for different stages of the disease.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs that stop the disease from breaking down an important neurotransmitter that sends signals between brain cells.
- Brand names: Donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine
- An NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonist is a drug that helps the brain make glutamate, another critical neurotransmitter.
- Brand name: Memantine
Many of these treatments work well, but they can have side effects such as . Supplemental CBD treatments can help boost the activity of these drugs and help heal the brain using those CB1 receptors and the natural cannabinoids made by the brain.
CBD & Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Because cannabidiol has neuroprotective qualities, it is a natural candidate for an alternative or supplemental Alzheimer’s treatment. A groundbreaking new study looks at the effect of CBD on rat models of Alzheimer’s disease, studying the effects of CBD on a receptor that is known to be involved with the disease. Scientists split their study into two parts, so let’s see how they worked.
- The first part of this study involved allowing CBD to work with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-y (PPARy), and they noticed that CBD supported activity of important neurotransmitters and also slowed down the death of neurons. This confirmed CBD’s results in helping with Alzheimer’s disease.
- The second part of this study attempts to pin down why they got the results of the first part of the study. In the second part of the study, the PPARy receptor was blocked so it couldn’t accept CBD. Subsequently, that blocked the positive effects that CBD had on the neurons.
Results of CBD research?
CBD hemp oil has many different properties that medical scientists have discovered. There are three main ways CBD can help with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative nerve diseases.
Anti-inflammatory – The beginning stages of neurodegenerative diseases are marked by chronic inflammation of neurons in the brain involved with memory and learning. CBD oil as an anti-inflammatory can help reduce inflammation and progression in those early stages.
Antioxidant – A major part of Alzheimer’s disease is the release of oxidative stress and reactive oxygen. When inflammation happens, oxidative stress happens, and free radicals are produced. This can result in a loss of neurons and synapses in the brain and this can lead to memory loss and other neurological symptoms. Cannabidiol gives the free radicals something to pair with, settling the reactions they have with other cells.
A Neuroprotector – CBD is suspected in aiding in the neurogenesis process, or generating new neural tissue. In Alzheimer’s, neural tissue is being destroyed, which is what leads to the memory loss, the cognitive loss, and the changes in personality. CBD oil has the potential to slow down neurodegeneration by creating new neural tissue at the same or similar rate as it’s being destroyed by the body.
CBD Hemp Oil as a Brain Health Supplement
Because Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases are progressive, starting with mild symptoms, CBD is an excellent supplement to protect the brain from damage over time. People at risk for dementia or progressive diseases involving inflammation can start taking CBD hemp oil just like Omega-3 oil or other vitamins. By the way, Omega-3s are neuroprotective and a good pairing with hemp oil too.
Even if you have no outward ailments, cannabidiol helps the body in ways that you can’t see by supporting metabolism, immune function, and neurotransmitter activity. This makes it a good supplement for many different people. Luckily, CBD is not as tightly controlled as cannabis because it’s made from hemp and has very low levels of THC present. Always check if CBD hemp oil, CBD tincture, or CBD concentrates are legal where you live before purchase.