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CBD for Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases is currently being examined by the medical community.
There is no hard evidence showing that CBD or CBD products can stop, prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. However, CBD has been shown to be effective in treating some of the most common behavioral symptoms of the disease, such as mood swings, agitation and aggression.
In our new golden age of natural medicine, the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) is receiving by far the most attention, both in the medical field and the mainstream. CBD’s medicinal and therapeutic properties have been linked in numerous studies to the reduction or improvement of symptoms associated with a wide range of disorders. These include:
- Chronic Pain Disorders
- Anxiety Disorders
- Seizures and Epilepsy
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Inflammatory Diseases
There are several other disorders that CBD is now commonly being prescribed for, but what about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia? Before exploring the viability of CBD oil for Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand not only the difference between AD and dementia, but the difference between the two and the other disorders listed above.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia: What’s The Difference?
While the two terms are commonly used interchangeably, they are in fact quite different from one another. Dementia is what’s known as an “umbrella term” — one used to describe a group of brain disorders that impair a patient’s memory, reasoning or thinking ability. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of these disorders.
There are many other forms of dementia, including Parkinson’s disease, lewy body dementia (LBD) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Of all these various forms, Alzheimer’s is simply the most well-known. The most common symptoms of the onset of dementia include:
- A progressive decline in memory skills
- Drastic changes in ability to communicate
- Affected judgment or reasoning
- Uncharacteristic language and/or thinking
- Severely decreased attention and focus
Dementia is different from chronic pain disorders such as arthritis and gout, or inflammatory diseases such as asthma and coeliac disease because it affects brain function directly. While hereditary factors are the most compelling possibility currently being explored, the root causes for dementia in its many forms are still largely undetermined. In the same way, medical researchers are still hard at work finding a cure for these disorders.
So how about CBD for Alzheimer’s and dementia? In this post, we explore some of the established benefits of CBD, and its viability in reducing or improving some of the symptoms associated with dementia-related disorders.
CBD & Common Symptoms of Disorders Related to Dementia
As of this writing, there is no hard evidence showing that CBD or CBD products can stop, prevent or slow the progression of dementia. However, CBD has been shown to be effective in treating some of the most common behavioral symptoms of the disease, such as mood swings, agitation and aggression.
What is CBD in a nutshell, and where does it come from?
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of two primary compounds found in the cannabis plant, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive —meaning it does not alter a patient’s state of mind or cognition of time — nor does it provide the “high” popularly associated with cannabis consumption. Instead, there is a growing body of research suggesting that CBD has the potential to provide a variety of medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
Aside from the cannabis plant, CBD can also be safely sourced from hemp. Because of this, CBD products such as oils, concentrates, isolates and tinctures are legal throughout the United States.
Currently, there is no evidence of any known benefit to the introduction of psychoactive compounds (such as THC) to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. On the other hand, studies show isolated pharmaceutical-grade CBD can considerably improve their quality of life by treating symptoms related to their disorders. Let’s explore how by taking an in-depth look at Alzheimer’s disease, as an example.
CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s: How It All Works
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of protein amyloids (commonly called “plaques”) and fiber bundles in the brain, which result in the blocking of neural signal processing and the gradual destruction of nerve cells. A common external manifestation of this process is mild memory loss, which can worsen into a seriously debilitating condition over time.
Common accompanying symptoms during this process are disorientation, confusion, mood swings and a steady degrading in ability to communicate. While Alzheimer’s is still impossible to diagnose with full certainty, a series of tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) can determine the likelihood of the disease to a reasonable degree.
In the laboratory: where CBD comes in.
A California study conducted in June 2016 by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that cannabis compounds including CBD have the ability to remove plaque-forming proteins from lab-grown neurons. A similar study found that CBD oil administered to mice exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s not only produced improvements in their cognitive ability; the mice also showed less evidence of amyloid accumulation in their bodies.
These and other studies have long produced evidence of the neuroprotective properties of cannabis compounds. For this reason, medical researchers continue to explore the viability of CBD oil for Alzheimer’s and other diseases categorized as forms of dementia.
While a number of laboratory studies have provided promising preliminary evidence that cannabinoids can remove Alzheimer’s proteins from the brain, they haven’t yet been able to reproduce these effects in human patients. For this reason, the jury is still out on whether CBD and CBD products could indeed be used to treat dementia in the future. It’s also the reason further, more ambitious research and study is needed.
For the present, there is a reassuring amount of solid evidence that CBD is at least definitely viable for treating the behavioral symptoms associated with various forms of dementia, such as agitation, anxiety and depression. To understand this, it’s important to take a closer look at the distinctive characteristics of dementia as a whole — and how they can be ameliorated with natural medicine.
Hallmarks of Dementia & The Viability of CBD Dementia Medication
While Alzheimer’s is indeed the most well-known form of dementia, it is certainly not the only one worth noting. Equally debilitating types of dementia are unfortunately common in American society, and usually begin after the age of fifty. Some examples include:
Vascular Dementia is the second most prevalent form in the United States. Vascular dementia is typically caused after a stroke or severe trauma, characterized by blockages or damage in blood vessels which prevent adequate flow of blood to the brain.
Instead of memory loss, the first symptoms of vascular dementia are usually complications in a patient’s judgment and/or planning abilities. Other names for this disease are Post-Stroke Dementia and Multi-Infarct Dementia.
Lewy Body Dementia is another well-known form of dementia caused by the abnormal buildup of the protein alpha-synuclein in the cortex — which is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
The first symptoms of lewy body dementia are a diminished attention span and mild to moderate loss in coordination. Because of this, lewy body dementia is sometimes mistaken for the onset of Parkinson’s disease at first. Advanced symptoms include memory loss, erratic sleeping patterns and hallucinations.
One major factor common to all forms of dementia is a disruption to the supply of blood or vital neurotransmitters to the brain, whether caused by damage or buildups of protein. In fact, because of this vital similarity, it can be difficult for a doctor to determine which type of dementia a patient is suffering from in the initial examination.
As established in the Salk Institute study, cannabinoids including CBD can be used to remove abnormal buildups of protein. There is also plenty of evidence in scientific literature proving CBD’s anti-inflammatory and vasodilative properties, both relieving the effects of damage or constriction in vital blood vessels. CBD is even shown to maintain circadian rhythms, regulating and promoting healthy sleep cycles in patients showing signs of dementia.
CBD, Dementia & The Proper Dosages For Medicinal Use
There are several considerations to make for patients considering CBD for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The biggest factors to take into account are the patient’s age, height and weight, as well as the severity and stage of his or her respective disease. As part of a prescription, any qualified physician will be more than able to ascertain the correct micro, standard and macro dosages according to these considerations.
As a simple supplementary or home medication, CBD dosages can be calibrated using Leinow and Birnbaum’s “step-up method,” which involves the patient starting at 1-2mg in week one (depending on his or her body weight) and then progressing by 2-4mg every following week until a noticeable change in behavioral symptoms is reported. This is an example of a step-up table for standard dosages; starting and incremental values would be increased and decreased accordingly for micro and macro dosage tables.
While CBD is not currently considered a viable cure for any form of dementia, numerous independent studies and anecdotal testimonies lend credibility to the argument that it can considerably improve patients’ quality of life. Ultimately, time and continued research will be necessary for a reasonable consensus to be formed within the medical and scientific communities.