Human beings have always relied on plant-based medicines to help them heal from injuries, manage and treat illnesses, and generally improve their lives. For as long as there have been people, there has always been plant-based medicine. What some people might not know, however, is that cannabis is one of those plants!
While medical cannabis might be a relatively new and ever-growing concept both in the U.S. and around the world, civilizations have been using cannabis in some form for thousands of years now. In the two decades or so since medical cannabis in the U.S. became legal and widely accepted by some of the largest and most populous states in the Union, we’ve seen medical cannabis show potential for a massive variety of issues and illness. One of those many illnesses is Parkinson’s disease.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. Over time, the damage done leads to symptoms like tremors, mainly at rest and described as pill-rolling tremor in hands, bradykinesia, limb rigidity, along with gait and balance problems.
The exact cause still remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, disease complications can be serious. Prominent public figures like Mohammed Ali, Alan Alda, George H.W. Bush, and Michael J. Fox have all been open about their diagnosis of and struggles with the illness.
And, unfortunately, the disease does its damage across the span of years, sometimes even decades. So for people living with the incurable illness, finding ways to treat symptoms and lessen their discomfort is absolutely vital. That’s where medical cannabis comes in!
Early research has shown that medical cannabis has tremendous potential for not only treating symptoms and issues associated with Parkinson’s but improving the overall quality of life for those suffering with chronic illnesses. That’s likely a key reason why Parkinson’s has already been approved as a qualifying condition in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
That’s why this article is going to break down three reasons why medical cannabis is great for those dealing with Parkinson’s Disease, the science behind those reasons, and how medical cannabis can play a role in helping improve the health, symptoms, and overall life of someone dealing with Parkinson’s.
1. Research Shows the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabis Help Parkinson’s Disease
It should come as no surprise to anyone that’s even remotely familiar with the many medical benefits of cannabis that cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties. Tons of studies have shown that not only does cannabis have a positive effect in taming inflammation and a myriad ailments associated with inflammation, the entourage effect created by the combination of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), gives a person an even better result.
With all of that in mind, it only makes sense that cannabis could play a major role in reducing the inflammation associated with Parkinson’s Disease. One study, for example, showed direct links between the effects of cannabis on inflammation caused by Parkinson’s Disease.
Medical cannabis is effective thanks to the impact of the 150 or so cannabinoids on the human body’s built-in endocannabinoid system, a body-wide network of nerves that play an essential role in important systems like fertility, pregnancy, pre and postnatal development, inflammatory responses, and immune system functions, the pleasurable effects of exercise, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory, and mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis.
While more research needs to be done to figure out the exact role that inflammation plays in the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, how effective cannabis is at reducing that inflammation, what the proper dosage is for patients depending on age, sex, and how other conditions would impact treatment, the early studies are promising to say the least.
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2. Medical Cannabis Improves Both Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms Associated With Parkinson’s Disease
When it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, there are two major types of symptoms that patients experience: Motor and non-motor symptoms.
Generally, motor symptoms tend to be the physical movements, tremors, and stiffness and rigidity that doctors can see patients physically doing. The most common example is bradykinesia, the hallmark feature of Parkinson’s Disease.
Along with those symptoms, however, are the non-motor symptoms that often go overlooked prior to a formal Parkinson’s diagnosis. Symptoms that are commonly reported include changes in memory and cognition, problems sleeping, mood symptoms such as anxiety and depression, or even hallucinations. The autonomic nervous system is often affected in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is the unconscious control system that regulates functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination and sexual arousal.
Parkinson’s is an illness that impacts the whole body due to its impact on the nervous system, which also runs throughout the body, and the brain, which controls the vast majority of your non-motor functions.
With that in mind, treatment options can be difficult to nail down that have a positive impact on a variety of issues at once. Early studies show that medical cannabis has the potential to do just that, however.
One study showed that doses of THC improved patients activity and hand-eye coordination, another showed patients suffering from Parkinson’s-induced tremors and dyskinesia reported significant relief, and another showed improvements to both motor and non-motor symptoms including bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, sleep, and pain. In fact, another comprehensive study found that 85 percent of patients reported either feeling better and feeling their symptoms were more managed or saw no negative effects from the doses they were given. That’s a massive improvement when compared with artificial pharmaceutical drugs.
The main point here is that, while every patient is different and should absolutely consult with their doctor before using cannabis to treat any condition including Parkinson’s Disease, medicating with marijuana has improved many symptoms including bradykinesia, tremor, rigidity, depression, sleep, and pain.
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3. CBD Plays An Important Role in the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease with Medical Cannabis
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, has absolutely exploded over the past few years. While those who have utilized cannabis medically have long appreciated the impact of CBD when it comes to reducing inflammation throughout the body, helping facilitate more restful, restorative sleep, and deal with symptoms of illnesses like multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, strokes, cancers, anxiety, chronic pain, and, of course, Parkinson’s Disease, the widely-known cannabinoid has exploded in commercial popularity since it became legal in 2018. Some experts predict the global consumer CBD market to be worth as much as $123.2 billion by 2027.
With that in mind, however, CBD has shown tremendous potential as a medical compound as well. Studies have shown this to be true for a few reasons.
First, CBD is the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. That means it gives users the healing hypnotic, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective effects without the high associated with THC. That means Parkinson’s patients will be able to experience pain relief, less severe tremors, and reduced effects of depression and anxiety often associated with the disease.
The next factor to consider is the entourage effect. It’s been shown conclusively by researchers that cannabinoids work better when combined with others. The same concept applies when it comes to Parkinson’s. As we covered in the section above, THC has a profound effect on those suffering from Parkinson’s. Adding CBD into the mix will only make those doses of THC work better!