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Can CBD Treat Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms? 

By Sherry Christiansen

Key Takeaways

  1. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that results in a disruption in the ability of neurotransmitters to properly signal body movement. 
  2. Pharmacological treatment of PD often causes severe side effects, such as Levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID).   
  3. Cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD), have shown promise in the treatment of PD symptoms including tremor and psychosis. 
  4. Cannabinoids have been shown to improve the overall quality of life for those with PD due to the anti-anxiety and sleep promotion qualities of cannabinoids such as CBD.  
  5. Despite the lack of quality research studies on cannabinoids in the treatment of PD, the American Parkinson’s Foundation reports many people with PD already take CBD for insomnia, anxiety, tremor, dystonia and pain.  

Can CBD Treat Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological condition; the disease is caused by degeneration of the brain’s basal ganglia, and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. PD usually affects people aged 60 and older; the condition negatively affects a person’s quality of life. Pharmacological treatment modalities, such as Levodopa, cause severe side effects, such as Levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID). Because of the severity of adverse effects from PD medication, scientists are on the lookout for alternative, long-term treatment, such as cannabidiol (CBD) that can control symptoms of PD without major side effects. 

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological condition, caused by degeneration of the brain’s basal ganglia, and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The disease usually affects people aged 60 and older. The chemical messenger, dopamine—a neurotransmitter—is responsible for controlling movement, emotional responses, and the ability to experience pain and pleasure. Dopamine is involved in communicating with nerves to control body movement. The disruption in normal nerve transmission caused by PD results in early signs and symptoms such as: 1 

  • Tremor 
  • Small handwriting 
  • Loss of smell 
  • Insomnia 
  • Difficulty walking or moving voluntary muscles 
  • Constipation 
  • Masked face 
  • A low, soft voice 
  • Hunching over 
  • Faintness or dizziness 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Cognitive changes 
  • Psychosis 
  • Rigidity/stiffness 
  • Dyskinesia (impairment of voluntary movements, fragmented or jerky motions) 
  • Dystonia (involuntarily contractions of muscles, causing repetitive or twisting movements) 
  • PDD (Parkinson’s disease dementia) 

CBD and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that negatively affects a person’s quality of life. Pharmacological treatment modalities, such as Levodopa, cause severe side effects, like Levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID).  Scientists are on the lookout for alternative, long-term treatment that can control symptoms of PD without these major side effects.  

Phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids, such as CBD) have been a major consideration for PD treatment for the past 10 years. Scientists believe that maneuvering the endocannabinoid system (ECS) with phytocannabinoids may be a viable solution for PD treatment and control of LID symptoms. 2  

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, studies have shown many benefits of CBD for PD related symptoms, including: 3 

  • A small study involving just six study participants with psychosis, discovered CBD use resulted in a reduction of psychotic symptoms; the participants did not have PD, but this study shows CBD may be effective for psychosis caused by PD.  
  • A clinical research trial, involving CBD administration in four study participants, found that symptoms of REM behavior sleep disorder in people with PD decreased. 3 
  • A double blinded placebo study, involving 21 people with PD was conducted. The study did not show an improvement in motor scores, but overall quality of life scores improved. 
  • A double blind, placebo study involving study participants with PD, who were administered CBD (30 received a placebo, 30 received CBD) is currently ongoing.  
  • Epidiolex, the FDA approved formulation of CBD, was administered in a small trial of 10 study participants with PD; improvements in motor scores, sleep, and emotional dysregulation scores were observed. 
  • A small study, involving 13 study participants with PD, is being conducted to evaluate the results of CBD on tremor; the study results have not yet been released. 
Download CBD and Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms Infographic:

The American Parkinson’s Association reports there is not enough reliable clinical trial data yet to determine whether CBD is effective to treat Parkinson’s disease, but according to the organization, “People with PD are already using CBD in various forms for all sorts of symptoms of PD including insomnia, anxiety, tremor, dystonia and pain.”   

Studies

A 2020 Review Study 

A 2020 review study suggests that CBD and other cannabinoids provide therapeutic effects, such as neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as potential to treat motor disorders, such as those caused by PD and LID. 2 

A 2020 Randomized, Double Blinded Placebo Study 

In a small study of 24 study participants with PD, CBD or a placebo was given; the study revealed a significant improvement in tremor amplitude in those who were given CBD. 4 

Another study, conducted by Alyssa S. Laun and Zhao-Hui Song, discovered that CBD is an inverse agonist of the CPR6 receptor found in the basal ganglia area of the brain. This means that CBD has a strong affinity to this receptor, with an ability to provide therapeutic effects in treating symptoms of PD and cerebral palsy. 4 

A 2020 Brazilian Study 

In a 2020 study conducted by Brazilian researchers, CBD lowered anxiety and tremors in over 60 people with PD who performed a public speaking test; 300 mg of CBD was given before the study participants engaged in a speaking event. The CBD was found to lower anxiety and tremors, compared to the group who took the placebo. 5 

Resources

  1. The Parkinson’s Foundation. 10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease.
  2. Junior, N.C.F., dos- Santos-Pereira, M., Guimarães, F.S. et al. Cannabidiol and Cannabinoid Compounds as Potential Strategies for Treating Parkinson’s Disease and L-DOPA-Induced Dyskinesia. Neurotox Res 37, 12–29 (2020).  
  3. Gilbert, R. Use of Cannabidiol (CBD) for PD Symptoms. American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA). Published February, 2021. 
  4. Laun AS, Song ZH. GPR3 and GPR6, novel molecular targets for cannabidiol. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2017;490(1):17-21. doi: 10.1016/J.BBRC.2017.05.165  
  5. de Faria SM, de Morais Fabrício D, Tumas V, et al. Effects of acute cannabidiol administration on anxiety and tremors induced by a Simulated Public Speaking Test in patients with Parkinson’s disease. J Psychopharmacol. 2020;34(2):189-196. doi: 10.1177/0269881119895536   
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