Can a Daily Dose of CBD Help With Dementia?
- The World Health Organization states that no treatment has been found to cure dementia completely(1). The common medications can only manage but not reverse the progression of dementia. Also, these drugs tend to have adverse effects on patients(2).
- Dementia patients and their families are turning to CBD use in treating the syndrome because of CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties(3).
- A study has shown that CBD has neuroprotective effects that prevent cell death(4). Another study outlines CBD’s antipsychotic properties in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a form of dementia(5).
- Further studies need to be made on CBD’s therapeutic benefits to dementia patients, especially on the proper CBD dosage for effective treatment of the syndrome.
- Before using CBD on dementia patients, always inform medical professionals first.
Why People are Turning to CBD for Dementia
According to the World Health Organization, no treatment has been found to cure dementia completely(6).
There are many types of dementia, namely Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia(7).
The treatment options available cannot stop dementia nor reverse its progression(8). The approved treatments also have limited therapeutic effects and have been discovered to have adverse effects on dementia patients.
Medications used to treat Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, hallucinations, dizziness, and fatigue(9).
For these reasons, family members of dementia patients are turning to cannabidiol (CBD), the active ingredient of the cannabis plant that does not generate a high in users.
Recent studies suggest that CBD may help in the treatment of dementia.
A study in 2019 that was published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety has shown that cannabinoids, like CBD, had promising therapeutic effects on dementia(10). The study reported that the use of CBD on dementia patients was proven to be safe.
Another study was conducted on ten female dementia patients that had severe behavior problems.
Researchers concluded that higher dosages of a combination of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) improved the test subjects’ behavior problems(11). THC is the active ingredient of Cannabis Sativa that can generate a high in users.
Muscle rigidity also markedly improved, thereby making transfers and daily care easier for staff handling dementia patients.
In the 2019 study, the researchers gradually increased the dosage of the THC and CBD combination, hence exhibiting positive results.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Dementia
CBD’s potential benefits to manage dementia include its ability to reduce inflammation. It also might help stimulate the brain and protect the nervous system(12).
CBD may also attenuate anxiety and stress and reduce the decline of cognitive functions, such as memory.
According to a 2017 study, CBD demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also acts as a neuroprotectant that improves brain functions(13).
The study focused on Alzheimer’s and discovered that CBD is anti-inflammatory, as it reduced critical elements in reactive gliosis, namely inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP).
In gliosis, glial cells undergo a reactive change caused by damage to the central nervous system (CNS).
Glial cells are the most abundant cells in the CNS. They surround, support, and provide insulation between neurons(14).
Another study conducted on Alzheimer’s patients outlined CBD’s ability to prevent the production of amyloid-beta proteins(15), which are large membrane proteins essential for neural growth and repair.
In later life, these proteins collect in the brain cells, destroy synapses, and clump into plaques that eventually result in nerve cell death(16), leading to the loss of thought and memory.
The researchers also concluded that CBD helps in the suppression of gene production related to Alzheimer’s disease.
CBD as Anti-Inflammatory
A 2018 study said that CBD reduced neuroinflammation(17). The study also demonstrated CBD’s ability to decrease inflammatory cytokine production.
Cytokines are molecules that help in cell-to-cell communication in immune responses. They are also responsible for the movement of cells towards infection, trauma, and inflammation sites in the body(18).
CBD as Antioxidant
Oxidative stress occurs when oxidants outnumber antioxidants(19).
Oxidative stress is a major cause of neurodegenerative diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia(20). It is also involved in other diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
A study on mice reveals that CBD has antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects(21).
CBD as Brain Stimulant, Neuroprotectant
CBD may have therapeutic benefits to the nervous system and its brain cells.
According to a study done in 2017 and published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, CBD promotes hippocampal neurogenesis(22). This occurrence is the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.
Hippocampal neurogenesis significantly decreases in patients with Alzheimer’s(23).
A study on the treatment of Alzheimer’s reveals that long-term use of cannabidiol helps prevent the development of social recognition memory impairments in rodents(24). The study highlights CBD’s antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers revealed that CBD’s neuroprotective properties are related to its ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It also helps modulate glial cells and helps prevent the death of nerve cells(25).
The study also discovered that CBD had neuroprotective effects and therapeutic benefits for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Another study that was also done on Parkinson’s disease patients showed CBD’s efficacy in treating psychosis that comes with the disease(26). For four weeks, the test subjects were given a flexible dose of CBD, starting with an oral dose of 150 mg per day.
The researchers concluded that CBD might be useful in treating psychosis in Parkinson’s disease patients. The test subjects did not experience adverse side effects during the clinical trial.
CBD for Nightmares
A study has found that CBD helps improve sleep-related conditions that are associated with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder in patients who have Parkinson’s disease(27). Some of these conditions include paralysis of muscles during nightmares and active behavior when one is dreaming.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Dementia
- Studies conducted on humans and animals have revealed CBD’s therapeutic properties that may help treat the various conditions classified under dementia.
- Medications for dementia have several side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hallucinations, among others(28). Meanwhile, CBD generally has an excellent safety profile as its side effects are minimal. The most common are diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in weight or appetite(29).
- The World Health Organization has not recorded any case of CBD dependence in humans (30). Hence, it is not a substance that has the potential for abuse.
- As long as state laws allow CBD use, buying CBD products does not require a prescription.
- There is a need for further research on medical cannabis-related products, like CBD, in the treatment of dementia and its many diseases.
- There is a need for a standard dosage for CBD when used as a dementia treatment. Currently, the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use for mental health-related conditions and other ailments except for epilepsy.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors are typically prescribed for dementia treatment. Some of the commonly used cholinesterase inhibitors include donepezil and galantamine. These are both metabolized by cytochrome P450(31). Caution should be taken when using CBD with these dementia medications because of possible drug interactions. CBD may reduce the efficacy of these medications as it can inhibit these liver enzymes(32).
- There have been incidences of mislabeled CBD products because the FDA does not regulate these(33). Buyers should be cautious and should only purchase from credible manufacturers.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Dementia
Dementia medications typically cause the following:
- Appetite loss
- Muscle pain
- Sleep problems
- Itchiness or rashes
- Agitation or aggression
Because of these side effects, which can be especially detrimental to elderly dementia patients, people have been exploring alternative treatments.
One alternative dementia remedy is acupuncture. Compared to massage therapies that focus on the stimulation of movement and blood flow in the body, acupuncture is believed to enhance the flow of energy in the body(34).
A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that acupuncture was more effective when used alongside Western medication and herbal medication(35).
The researchers concluded that acupuncture had mixed efficacy in treating cognitive impairments and dementia.
Herbal supplements are also used for the treatment of dementia. These herbal remedies include Ginkgo Biloba, as clinical studies have shown that it helps in memory loss(36).
Reports state that a standard preparation of the herb improves neurocognition and enhances the everyday activities of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia patients.
Compared to these remedies that only treat a few aspects of dementia, the use of cannabis-related products, like CBD, may have more advantages.
CBD’s antipsychotic and neuroprotective properties may help alleviate the various symptoms of dementia.
World Health Organization findings show that in the early stages of dementia, it is overlooked as its onset is gradual(37).
Symptoms vary, but they are generally cognitive and psychological changes.
Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of dementia(38):
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty with spatial and visual abilities (getting lost while driving)
- Difficulty solving problems or reasoning
- Difficulty handling tasks that are complex
- Planning and organizing difficulties
- Coordination and motor function problems
- Disorientation and confusion
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
CBD for Cognitive Functions
A study in 2018 has found that long-term medical use of CBD results in improved cognition, particularly in memory, verbal learning, and attentional switching(39).
Another study conducted on schizophrenic patients has shown that CBD improves cognition in multiple impairment studies(40). These preclinical models of cognitive impairment include Alzheimer’s, neuro-inflammatory, and neurological disorders.
CBD for Depression
A study in 2018 and published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology outlines CBD’s ability to alleviate the symptoms of depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, social phobia, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, among others(41).
The researchers concluded that CBD’s antipsychotic and anxiety-reducing effects help in the treatment of various conditions.
CBD for Anxiety
A study reports CBD’s anxiety-reducing effects and its potential in treating various types of anxiety, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder(42).
How To Choose The Right CBD for Dementia
Before purchasing a CBD oil product, it is essential to know its three types: full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum, and isolates.
In a full-spectrum CBD oil, all the parts of a cannabis plant are used. These are trace amounts of THC, terpenes, fatty acids, flavonoids, and essential oils. F
Full-spectrum CBD oil is believed to be the most effective type of CBD oil because all the ingredients of Cannabis Sativa synergize for maximum therapeutic effect, known as the entourage effect.
It is important to note that THC, however, may be detected via drug tests. It can also cause mild psychoactive effects. For those who want to avoid these risks, using broad-spectrum CBD is more recommended.
Broad-spectrum CBD oils have the same components as full-spectrum oils except for THC. People seeking to use CBD purely or avoiding its other components because of allergies may resort to using CBD isolates. These are made from isolated cannabidiol alone, so they are pure CBD.
There is a significant difference between CBD oil and hemp oil (also known as hemp seed oil or hemp extract). CBD is derived from a hemp plant’s flowers, stalks, and leaves. Meanwhile, hemp oil is extracted from raw hemp seeds. Because of this method, there are only trace amounts of CBD in hemp oil or none at all.
Here are tips to consider before buying CBD products:
- Before making any purchase, patients should ensure first that CBD use is legal in their state.
- Buy high-quality items only such as non-GMO and organic, hemp-derived products.
- When purchasing online, make sure to check reviews and research on the brand and its offerings.
- Different methods are employed in extracting CBD oil. A report says that the US FDA in pharmaceutical manufacturing recommends CO2 extraction because it is recognized as a safe process (43).
- High-quality CBD products give consumers access to batch testing reports and lab analyses. Accredited third-party laboratories issue certifications on a CBD product’s components and quality.
- Patients with dementia or their family members should consult with a medical professional first before buying CBD products.
CBD Dosage For Dementia
There is no standard dosage chart for CBD, as the US FDA has not approved its use other than for epilepsy. The rule is to start with small amounts and increase dosage if no adverse reactions are observed.
It is recommended to begin with a small dose of 1 to 2 mg daily for one week, then increase by 2 to 3 mg weekly until significant symptom improvements are noticed(44).
The dosage should be based on the patient’s body weight—the heavier the patient, the larger their dose. For average adults, the standard dose is approximately a maximum of 5 mg.
Dementia patients or their family members should talk to a doctor before adding CBD to their medication regimen.
How to Take CBD Oil for Dementia
Several forms of CBD products are available in the market. It is recommended to administer CBD in gelcap form to dementia patients(45).
Compared to tinctures (dropper), gel caps help in the administration of consistent CBD amounts. For elderly patients, the act of swallowing pills also feels more familiar.
Other product forms that will enable patients to take CBD orally include CBD oil, sprays, capsules, or gummies. If the administration of CBD to dementia patients and other diseases is complicated, CBD products can be mixed with food and beverages.
For more efficacy, tinctures may be applied sublingually (under the tongue) for 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing.
CBD oil, meanwhile, can be used during massages to relieve chronic pain in patients.
There are also topical CBD formulations available to patients, including lotions, salves, and creams. Since CBD has limited absorption when applied topically, it is recommended to purchase products that use CBD micellization, encapsulation, or nanotechnology.
The methods and technologies mentioned above guarantee that the active ingredient CBD is transmitted through dermal layers and does not merely stay on the skin.
CBD vapes and pens are also available, but these are not recommended for dementia patients who are usually elderly.
Currently, there is no absolute cure for dementia.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases can only be managed, not cured completely. Thus, patients and their family members are turning to alternative treatments like CBD.
Several studies support the use of CBD in the treatment of dementia because of its excellent safety profile. Side effects of CBD are minimal and rarely adverse.
CBD’s benefits on neurodegenerative diseases include its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also has neuroprotective and brain-stimulating effects that may have therapeutic benefits on dementia patients.
Further studies need to be conducted, especially on the proper dosage of CBD to achieve maximum efficacy in treating dementia.
Family members are recommended to consult with a doctor first before administering CBD to their loved ones with dementia.
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