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CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurological Conditions

It seems like every day, we hear more about the incredible cannabis compound that is cannabidiol (CBD). It helps with conditions as varied as:

And that’s just the beginning. Unfortunately, due to its Schedule I drug classification by the United States federal government, cannabis research is currently moving at a slow pace.

Slow, but steady and determined.

While knowledge of all the cannabis plant has to offer is limited, the studies that have been conducted show a promising future for CBD in medicine, especially for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and Migraine.

But how exactly does CBD affect the brain? And how does it help with neurological functions? Read on to find out.

What are Neurological Disorders and How do They Occur?

In animal studies, CBD has helped prevent Alzheimer's-related memory lossSimply put, a neurological disorder is any disorder of the nervous system.

The brain and spinal cord are the central nervous system, while the nerves that originate in the central nervous system to relay information to the rest of the body make up the peripheral nervous system.

The membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord are extremely sensitive to force and pressure. Even a slight shock to these structures, such as injuries or infections, can disturb normal functions and result in a range of neurological disorders. Genetics can play a role in the occurrence of neurological disorders, as well.

But even if you never experience injuries, infections, or genetic mutations that cause neurological disorders, we will all face the effects of aging. As we age, the volume of nerve cells in our brains decreases, and functions of the remaining nerve cells slow down, resulting in memory loss, delayed reflexes, and an increased susceptibility to neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Depending on one’s health, the rate at which we lose these cells varies from person to person.

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CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative form of dementia. It slowly destroys neurons in the brain that control memory and cognitive functions. Currently, an estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and the number of reported cases grows every year.

Alzheimer’s disease is complex and the therapies currently in practice only work to slow down the symptoms of the disease, rather than to cure them. These approaches strive to help patients maintain mental function and manage behavioral symptoms. They also attempt to deliver the best quality of life possible before the disease takes its inevitable toll. This has been the same tale for many decades.

Particular cannabis components have potential [to treat] a variety of diseases, but those must be validated first.
– Tim Karl, PhD
But in 2017, a research review published by Australian researchers in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated CBD’s effects on the debilitating neurodegenerative disease. They concluded that the compound may be therapeutically beneficial.

Preclinical researcher Tim Karl, PhD, of Karl Group Behavioural Neuroscience at Western Sydney University explained in the review several things:

  1. In vitro, CBD showed neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties
  2. In vivo, CBD had the ability to reduce gliosis and the neuroinflammatory response, which has been linked to a significant portion of the neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s progression
  3. Findings also indicate that CBD promotes the growth and development of neurons, to in turn reduce the deterioration of cognitive functions
  4. In one preclinical animal study, three weeks of daily CBD treatments was effective at reversing the cognitive deficits of mice with injection-induced Alzheimer’s disease; another preclinical animal study found that eight months of CBD treatments helped prevent the development of social recognition memory deficits

CBD Hacker contacted Dr. Karl about his findings in vitro, in vivo, and in animal studies. He informed us that CBD for Alzheimer’s has not yet been approved for clinical trials on humans, and there is no way to determine when that would happen. However, Dr. Karl said he believes “particular cannabis components have potential [to treat] a variety of diseases, but those must be validated first.”

CBD for Epilepsy

Epilepsy is an overarching term used to categorize neurological disorders that cause unpredictable seizures. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder, affecting approximately 50 million people of all ages worldwide, and may occur from a genetic disorder or as a result of a brain injury or trauma.

After many years of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials, the FDA approved Epidiolex in June 2018. This drug is derived from 99 percent pure CBD and treats two very serious forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Both of these syndromes have previously been resistant to other medications and treatments.

It was one boy’s fight against epilepsy that led to this major breakthrough in medicine. Sam Vogelstein was only four years old when he experienced his first seizure in 2005. Over the next few months, the episodes grew in frequency and severity. At his worst, Sam would have up to 100 seizures per day.

Then in 2011, Sam’s mother Evelyn stumbled upon an article in a British medical journal. Researchers had successfully treated rats with CBD to stop seizures. Unable to access CBD in the United States, the family flew to London so Sam could try the drug under a doctor’s supervision. By day three of treatment with the highly concentrated CBD, Sam was down to one seizure a day.

Now at age 17, Sam hasn’t had a seizure in more than two years. He was the first patient in the world to be treated with Epidiolex, and he is just one of thousands who will benefit from the cannabis-based drug.

CBD for Migraine

I’d never put much stock into ‘essential oils’ or naturopathic remedies, but several friends recommended CBD oil and I tried it out of sheer desperation. I use it every night before bed and haven’t had a migraine in a month. I can’t express how much CBD has done for me.
– Justin Bishop
Migraine is a debilitating neurological condition that affects 38 million people in the United States alone, with two to three million experiencing chronic migraine (i.e., more than 15 attacks per month). Migraine may be genetic, hormonal, or can be triggered by other factors such as certain foods or food ingredients, bright or flashing lights, smoking, and fumes.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what is happening in the brain during a migraine. The research surrounding CBD for migraines is also limited. But anecdotal evidence shows that many migraine sufferers have found slight to moderate relief with highly concentrated CBD oil.

When administered daily, CBD oil may have a positive response as a preventive measure for migraines due to its analgesic, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory effects on the brain.

Justin Bishop, host of Psychotronic Film Society podcast and lifelong migraine sufferer, started using Lord Jones High CBD Tincture earlier this year. He was having two to three migraines per week and was desperate for relief.

Justin told CBD Hacker, “I’d never put much stock into ‘essential oils’ or naturopathic remedies, but several friends recommended CBD oil and I tried it out of sheer desperation. I use it every night before bed and haven’t had a migraine in a month. I can’t express how much CBD has done for me.”

Although there is only preliminary research into CBD treatment for most neurological disorders at this time, all signs point to successful outcomes for CBD therapy in the coming years.

On September 13, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (HR 5634), bringing us one step closer to unlocking all the medicinal value that cannabis has to offer.

Even if cannabis is prohibited in your state, there are many online retailers that carry high quality CBD oil. However, if you have been diagnosed with a neurological disorder and want to try CBD, talk to your physician first.

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The Author

Erin Cline

Erin Cline

Erin Cline is a freelance writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona and enjoys covering topics such as cannabis, real estate, and content marketing. Erin is a proud dog mom and karaoke champion.