CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease and Enhancing Neurocognitive Health

Doctors, neurologists, and patients alike have much to be excited about the potential of cannabidiol (CBD). Now available over the counter across the United States, CBD can help with a wide range of health conditions. Early clinical trials show that CBD may be especially helpful in the management of Alzheimer’s disease.

For anyone currently struggling with symptoms of Alzheimer’s or who is at risk of developing it in the future, CBD offers hope of relief.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a type of cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemicals that have biological activities. Your body produces many of its cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. Others, known as phytocannabinoids, are produced by plants. CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids come from hemp plants (Cannabis sativa) [1].

The endocannabinoid system

Your body uses cannabinoids to send chemical signals. Neurons, the active cells in your brain and nerves, contain cannabinoid receptors. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they cause the neurons to act in a certain way. These chemicals and their receptors are all a part of the endocannabinoid system, which regulates several essential functions in your body, [1], [2] including:

  • Memory
  • Emotions
  • Cognition and focus
  • Body temperature
  • Pain and pleasure sensations
  • Reward (feelings of accomplishment)
  • Appetite
  • Immune system regulation

What does CBD do?

When you take CBD, it circulates through your bloodstream until it binds to specific cannabinoid receptors on your neurons. It affects the way that your neurons send signals to each other through neurotransmitters. [1], [3], [4] It can cause several effects, such as:

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a type of neurodegenerative disorder. Over time, neurons in the brains of people with AD die off, leading to cognitive decline and dementia. The exact reason why this happens is not fully understood yet [5].

Misshapen proteins that accumulate in the brain, causing plaques to build, are a major contributing factor. Inflammation in the brain, due at least in part to these plaques, causes cellular damage and death. Scientists believe there may also be a genetic link, as the risk of AD tends to run in families.

Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system also seems to change in patients with AD. [5] Restoring this system, therefore, is of interest to neurologists studying the disease.

CBD and Alzheimer’s Disease

Drugs containing CBD are already approved by the FDA for the treatment of certain kinds of epilepsy and seizures. Researchers are now investigating its use for other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. So far, the results have been quite promising.

Neuroprotective effects of CBD- protection against neurodegeneration

Laboratory studies show that CBD has potent neuroprotective effects. It means that CBD helps protect neurons and other brain cells from damage and death. Much of this is attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and eliminate reactive oxygen species before they cause harm [4], [6].

CBD in animal models of Alzheimer’s

Much of the research on Alzheimer’s is done using mice and rats with the disease. In these studies, rodents with AD show both physical and mental improvements after being given CBD for several months. The inflammation and plaques in their brains decrease, and their memory and cognitive function increase [3], [7], [8].

Recent clinical trials using CBD for Alzheimer’s

Most clinical trials so far have focused on CBD for the management of AD symptoms rather than its long-term progression. However, these studies have been promising. Patients who take CBD daily show improvements in symptoms such as agitation, mood swings, and motor control (movement) [9].

More extensive clinical studies are now in the works to determine the long-term effects of CBD on Alzheimer’s. We shall know more shortly.

cbd oil alzheimer's

Taking CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, CBD is not approved by the FDA as a treatment for AD. However, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD derived from industrial hemp is available over-the-counter in all states and Washington, D.C. It means you may take CBD however you wish, including for its potential neuroprotective effects.

While you may not be able to purchase CBD in every state, you may still order it and have it delivered anywhere in the United States.

Using CBD for the first time

The general advice for trying CBD is to start low and go slow. If your body is not used to taking CBD yet, you don’t want to overwhelm it. That being said, some research shows that the neuroprotective effects of CBD don’t kick in until it is at a much higher dose [7].

Our advice, as always, is to make sure you talk to your doctor before you start taking CBD. They can give you suggestions and inform you about any possible interactions CBD could have with other medications you take. Your doctor would also best be able to help determine your optimal starting dose of CBD.

Find a CBD product which has a guaranteed strength and purity. Companies that sell cheaper CBD products often have contaminants in their products or sell products that don’t have as high of a dose as they claim. High-quality brands will have their products tested by third-party labs and post those results on their webpage where anybody can view them.

What dose of CBD is right for you?

You will want to find the lowest dose of CBD that gives you the effects you want. You may not notice any changes in your AD symptoms right away. Once you are used to a low starting dose and know that you tolerate it well, you can start increasing the dose. Stick to each higher dose for at least a week before moving on. Stop if you notice yourself having any unpleasant side effects.

Ask your doctor for advice, or find a doctor who has experience with CBD to help you figure out how much CBD to take, and give you suggestions for making it.

Is CBD safe to use?

CBD has an excellent safety profile. Its side effects are very mild, especially compared to pharmaceutical drugs for neurological conditions [3].

The most common possible side effects of CBD include:

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite or weight

Types of CBD products for health

You don’t need to smoke weed to get the health benefits of CBD. Smoking and vaping CBD may add other health concerns, especially for those with pulmonary or respiratory problems. There are many other forms you can take CBD in, including:

  • Oils and tinctures (either full-spectrum hemp oil or pure CBD oil)
  • Edibles (gummies, cookies, chocolates, etc.)
  • Topicals (lotions, balms, and salves)
  • Transdermal (skin patches)
  • Isolates (purified, concentrated CBD which you can add to food, drinks, or cosmetics)

CBD oils for Alzheimer’s disease

CBD oil is one of the best ways to take CBD for Alzheimer’s and other health conditions. You can buy oils in different strengths, and it is easy to administer a specific dose with a dropper. When you take CBD oil sublingually (absorbed under your tongue) it gets into your bloodstream quickly and efficiently.

At the Conclusion

Early studies show great potential for the use of CBD for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. It could be especially helpful for managing the symptoms of AD without the health complications that come with pharmaceutical drugs.

As with any experimental therapy, there are no guarantees, however. Talk to your doctor about taking CBD so they can help you find the right dose for your individual needs.

The statements above have not been evaluated via the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these merchandise has not been tested by using FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, therapy, or stop any disease.

Disclaimer

References

  1. Di Marzo V, Piscitelli F. The Endocannabinoid System and Its Modulation by Phytocannabinoids. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):692-698.
  2. Covey DP, Mateo Y, Sulzer D, Cheer JF, Lovinger DM. Endocannabinoid modulation of dopamine neurotransmission. Neuropharmacology. 2017;124:52-61.
  3. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154.
  4. Mannucci C, Navarra M, Calapai F, et al. Neurological Aspects of Medical Use of Cannabidiol. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets. 2017;16(5):541-553.
  5. Basavarajappa BS, Shivakumar M, Joshi V, Subbanna S. Endocannabinoid system in neurodegenerative disorders. J Neurochem. 2017;142(5):624-648.
  6. Paloczi J, Varga ZV, Hasko G, Pacher P. Neuroprotection in Oxidative Stress-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases: Role of Endocannabinoid System Modulation. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2018;29(1):75-108.
  7. Cheng D, Spiro AS, Jenner AM, Garner B, Karl T. Long-term cannabidiol treatment prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease: JAD. 2014;42(4):1383-1396.
  8. Watt G, Karl T. In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:20-20.
  9. Walther S, Halpern M. Cannabinoids and Dementia: A Review of Clinical and Preclinical Data. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(8):2689-2708.

By Karen Viera

Karen Vieira, MBA, PhD, health expert in medical research, medical procedures, food ingredients, herbal remedies, pharmaceutical drugs.

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