A number of small studies and anecdotal tests suggest that cannabidiol oil (CBD) for Parkinson’s may help with some symptoms. However, there is no conclusive research showing the effectiveness of CBD in the treatment of Parkinson’s or its symptoms.
The Parkinson’s Foundation issued a Consensus Statement on the use of medical cannabis for Parkinson’s disease in 2020. Medicinal cannabis includes derivative compounds such as THC and CBD. The statement calls for caution, pointing out possible side effects and stresses the need for further research.
That said, so far the Food and Drug Administration has only approved one CBD-based drug for the treatment of a rare seizure disorder. This approval has increased interest in the use of CBD in the treatment of movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s.
Read on for more information on how to use CBD oil for Parkinson’s, including its benefits, risks, and more.
Read more about terminology and other important information about CBD here.
Several studies suggest that there may be some benefits of CBD for Parkinson’s. The problem is that most of these studies are small, low quality or animal studies instead of human studies.
Also, because the FDA does not regulate CBD products, there is no guarantee that the purity of the product will be consistent, making it difficult to get the right dose.
A 2019 article proposes that cannabinoids such as CBD oil may help reduce neurological inflammation, which could treat Parkinson’s. More research is needed to prove this claim.
A 2020 study tested Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD drug for seizures, for Parkinson’s. Of the 13 participants, three dropped out of the study due to side effects. The remaining 10 experienced improvements in their Parkinson’s disease symptoms. However, five of the 13 participants developed elevated liver enzymes, a side effect that researchers attribute to the high dose of the drug.
Although these results are promising, the sample size was very small and there was no placebo to compare the results.
A 2019 paper reviewed previous studies on CBD and Parkinson’s. The study included four randomized controlled trials. However, only one of these trials showed improvements in Parkinson’s symptoms among participants.
In seven preclinical models of Parkinson’s disease, six studies suggested that CBD could offer neuroprotective benefits.
In three additional CBD and Parkinson’s trials (a randomized controlled trial, a series of cases, and an open-label study), participants tolerated CBD well. In addition, all three studies reported improvements in non-motor Parkinson’s symptoms. Non-motor symptoms may be more difficult to treat with standard Parkinson’s treatment.
Again, however, these studies involved only small groups of participants and were short-lived.
Is CBD legal?The 2018 Agriculture Act removed the hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. As a result, some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC are federally legal. However, CBD products that contain more than 0.3 percent THC are still under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level but legal under some state laws. Be sure to consult state laws, especially when traveling. Also, be aware that the FDA has not approved over-the-counter CBD products, and some products may be incorrectly labeled.
There are no standard medical guidelines for using CBD for Parkinson’s because CBD is not a prescription drug. CBD studies often use doses of 150-400 milligrams per day.
People who want to try CBD should start with a low dose, and then increase the dose gradually only if they do not experience side effects.
Before testing for CBD, contact a physician about the risks and benefits, as well as possible drug interactions.
CBD oil is considered a supplement, not a medicine. This means that the FDA does not rigorously test CBD products to ensure they work.
Some potential risks include:
- liver injury, especially if a person uses large amounts of CBD
- injuries from other ingredients of CBD products
- pharmacological interactions
- allergic reactions
- drowsiness that can make driving dangerous
- anxiety and panic
- altered sleep
- agitation and irritability
- stomach problems such as nausea and diarrhea
Some animal studies suggest that CBD may affect male reproductive health. Researchers do not know if this effect extends to humans. Nor do they know the long-term effects of CBD use.
Parkinson’s is an untreated progressive degenerative disease. This means that even with treatment, the symptoms tend to get worse over time.
The lack of a cure and the challenges of finding effective treatment both help explain why some people with the disease try CBD.
Most people take Levodopa, which can help with movement symptoms. A doctor may also prescribe medications such as:
- carbidopa to alleviate the side effects of drugs
- pramipexole or ropinirole in younger people
- anticholinergic drugs
Parkinson’s drugs usually relieve symptoms for 3 to 6 years. However, they become less effective after this period.
A person may also need additional medications to control symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, depression, or mood swings.
Other treatments may also help. They include physical therapy to preserve physical strength, psychotherapy to meet the challenges of living with Parkinson’s, assistive devices and accommodation at work and at school.
Learn more about Parkinson’s treatment here.
Cannabis usually refers to products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
Learn more about the difference between CBD and THC here.
Studies on the use of cannabis to treat Parkinson’s experience deficiencies similar to studies on the use of CBD oil as a treatment.
A 2020 study used questionnaires completed by people living in Germany with Parkinson’s. About half of the participants were aware of the medical cannabis options in Germany (where it is legal) and 8.2% reported using it. In addition, 68% reported using THC products.
Participants generally reported an improvement in symptoms, which include:
- pain reduction and muscle cramps
- tremor reduction
- reduction of anxiety and depression
Participants also reported that cannabis had few side effects.
However, because the study was based on questionnaires and self-reports, it also has a high risk of bias. More research should compare cannabis to a placebo.
A combination of genetic risk factors and environmental influences can cause Parkinson’s. There is no evidence that a specific strategy can prevent Parkinson’s.
Despite this, some evidence suggests that exposure to harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals, can increase your risk of Parkinson’s, especially in people who are genetically susceptible to the disease.
Avoiding harmful chemicals or wearing protective equipment when exposure is unavoidable can reduce the risk.
Some limited research suggests that strategies to reduce inflammation and damage to the central nervous system may help slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Antioxidants and exercise can be helpful and can also improve overall health.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that affects the basal ganglia of the brain, slowly damaging muscle movement and control and often leading to dementia.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s, although the treatment may work for a short time. However, it has unpleasant side effects and may eventually stop working.
Cannabis products, including CBD oil, can help some people with Parkinson’s manage their symptoms and reduce the side effects of their medications. Research, however, has not shown that CBD oil works as a treatment method or is safe.
People who want to try CBD should talk to a doctor who knows CBD and start with a low dose. They should also discuss options for testing for CBD while continuing standard Parkinson’s treatments.