Can CBD Help With Alzheimer’s Disease, and if So, How?
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an unfortunately common, disabling dementia characterized by an accumulation of brain proteins that disrupt cell function(1). AD is a known cause of dementia in elderly individuals(2).
- Several studies have shown that neuroinflammation contributes to the development in Alzheimer’s disease(3). Meanwhile, there is compelling evidence pointing toward the involvement of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of AD(4).
- Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is believed to exert neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties(5). A review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology noted that CBD promotes neurogenesis, or the production of neuron brain cells, which are diminished in patients with AD(6).
- However, most of the studies were performed on animal models. There is a distinct lack of human trials on CBD use and Alzheimer’s disease.
Why People Are Turning to CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects a growing number of people worldwide. It is characterized by an accumulation of certain proteins in the brain that clump together and disrupt cell function(7).
AD is a common cause of dementia in older individuals(8). The earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease starts with lapses in memory and difficulty in remembering day-to-day events, familiar people, or objects.
Other symptoms of AD may include persistent memory loss problems, deterioration of social skills, inability to process instructions, and emotional unpredictability.
At this time, treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is targeted toward alleviating its symptoms. Established treatments like cholinesterase inhibitors and NDMA antagonists have demonstrated benefits and are FDA-approved for improving cognitive function and daily living in AD patients.
However, experts are still trying to find a solution that can reduce the production of proteins that cause brain deterioration in patients.
There is growing evidence that neuroinflammation contributes to the pathogenesis or the manner of development in AD.
According to a study, researchers learned of this association by analyzing recent findings in Alzheimer’s disease patients. They discovered that specific genes for immune receptors are involved in this condition(9).
The study assessed past clinical trials on patients with AD to learn about the role of neuroinflammation in the human nervous system.
The researchers studied clinical manifestations preceding AD and found clues that inflammation could be involved even during the early stages of the disorder(10).
By the end of the report, the authors concluded that the brain is no longer an immune-privileged organ, meaning it may also be susceptible to inflammation.
It was also suggested that modifying the immune system might delay the onset or progression of AD(11).
Researchers in a 2016 review stated that neuroinflammation plays a significant role in the degeneration of the nervous system.
However, there is still much debate concerning its precise function, whether inflammation is protective or harmful to patients with AD(12).
In a 2002 study, researchers noted a compelling evidence that oxidative processes are involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease(13). Based on cellular changes, such as protein accumulation, oxidative stress occurs before the appearance of AD’s hallmark pathologies.
A review published in 2014 summarized pieces of evidence linking oxidative stress to Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that there were increased levels of protein oxidation in the brains of AD patients(14).
According to the authors, the markers for oxidative stress are likewise reflected in the subjects’ spinal fluid. These findings have led them to theorize that oxidative stress could be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers of the study also explored the possibilities of whether or not antioxidant therapies may be used to treat AD(15). They mentioned that endogenous antioxidants containing vitamin E might help with oxidative stress.
Furthermore, they also implicated ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as a necessary antioxidant that can help reactivate vitamin E.
The researchers believe that ascorbic acid has an essential role in Alzheimer’s disease due to its reduced presence in AD patients(16).
They presume that this lack of nutritional antioxidants is caused by increased oxidative stress, leading to higher consumption of antioxidants.
Since the current forms of AD treatment are unable to halt the progression of the disease, scientists have started looking at new methods of treating this condition.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound from cannabis plants that is said to possess neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties(17). Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause mind-altering effects upon application.
A review published by Frontiers in Pharmacology analyzed studies showing CBD‘s potential to reduce cell damage and neuroinflammatory response(18).
They learned that cannabidiol promotes the production of neurons (neurogenesis) in the body. Neurons are specialized nerve cells that are gradually lost in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, the review assessed several rodent models of AD, where CBD and CBD-THC combinations were shown to reverse and prevent the development of cognitive deficits(19).
An individual with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is believed to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, another form of dementia. (20)
The authors of the study also analyzed combination therapies of CBD and THC. They learned that CBD inhibits the psychoactive effects of THC, concluding that both compounds may be used to treat AD patients(21).
Another review in 2019 also assessed the results of several clinical trials on AD patients that were provided a mixture of CBD and THC.
The authors discovered that treatments combining both chemical compounds resulted in the suppression of the main causal factors of AD(22).
Furthermore, the authors claimed that using CBD and THC works better than using either of the two separately.
They also learned that CBD activates a particular receptor in the body, which could be the reason for the chemical to express its properties as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant(23).
Despite these positive findings, most of the studies on cannabidiol have been performed on animal models.
More research is necessary, particularly on human subjects, to determine whether or not CBD can effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease.
How CBD Oil Works to Help with Alzheimer’s Disease
Understanding how CBD works in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is crucial to learning how it may benefit people with AD.
The ECS is a system present in humans and animals that researchers believe modulate a range of functions in the body.
The system’s ability to regulate physiological functions, such as cognition and pain perception, is supposedly possible through its numerous receptors(24).
A study in 2008 published by the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management implicated CBD as a modulator for the endocannabinoid system.
The study mentioned that the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD are expressed by its interaction with certain receptors in the ECS(25).
A research study noted that the ECS is associated with various processes related to AD, one of which is oxidative stress(26).
Authors of a 2012 study supported the concept that cannabinoids suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cells by engaging with the CB2 receptors of the ECS.
Results suggested that cannabidiol might help fight inflammation and oxidative stress(27).
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease
- CBD may help with Alzheimer’s disease. Mouse studies have shown that CBD possesses neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, which it expresses by interacting with specific receptors in the body.
- CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound from cannabis. It does not cause mind-altering effects, unlike THC, upon consumption.
- Users are allowed to purchase and consume cannabidiol in most states in America. In areas where it is sold legally, people can obtain CBD products even without a prescription from their doctor.
- The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, like CBD(28).
- A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) mentioned that CBD is generally well-tolerated based on several controlled and open-label trials. The WHO also stated that they did not find the compound to be addictive as none of the human subjects developed substance dependence with the use of CBD(29).
- Most of the studies concerning CBD were performed on animal subjects. There is a distinct lack of clinical trials done on human models to help determine its effectiveness in treating various conditions.
- At this time, the FDA has only approved one CBD product, called Epidiolex, for two rare forms of epilepsy. The agency has not adopted a marketing application for cannabis constituents for treating any disease or condition(30).
- In a 2017 review, researchers assessed the safety and potential side effects of CBD. Although the compound has a favorable safety profile, it could cause drug interactions that can lead to adverse side effects(31).
- CBD products sold online and in some dispensaries are especially prone to mislabeling(32). Individuals who decide to purchase CBD through these channels are at risk of consuming more or less of the chemical compound than what they expect.
- At the time of writing, no health insurance companies in the United States cover CBD, even if advised by a doctor.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease
A growing number of herbal remedies are being promoted as memory enhancers or treatments to delay AD and dementia symptoms. However, the claims of their safety and effectiveness are based mostly on anecdotal evidence.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, alternative treatments for AD include the consumption of coconut oil, ginkgo, and omega-3 fatty acids(33).
A study published in 2018 assessed the effectiveness of coconut oil as a pharmacological alternative for AD treatment.
A group of AD patients were given a coconut oil-enriched Mediterranean diet for twenty-one days and were observed for cognitive changes.
The authors discovered that, after coconut oil intervention, the patients had shown improvements in semantic memory and temporal orientation(34).
By the end of the clinical trial, coconut oil seemed to have improved cognitive functions in the AD patients.
The plant extract known as ginkgo is believed to contain several compounds that may benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease.
A study in 1997 mentioned that ginkgo extracts might help with oxidative stress by facilitating the uptake of neurotransmitters in the brain(35).
Meanwhile, omega-3 fatty acids in the form of supplements are said to help reduce markers of inflammation.
A 2015 study mentioned that omega-3 fatty acid could potentially prevent or delay cognitive decline in the early stages of AD(36).
There are CBD products sold today that are infused with coconut oil. CBD with coconut oil is also available as tinctures, allowing users to take the compound directly under the tongue.
CBD combined with ginkgo extract is usually sold as capsules for oral consumption. These products can be infused with other herbal remedies and are advertised to support both mind and body.
Finally, CBD hemp extract with omega-3 fatty acids is available as supplements. One may find them in the form of capsules or soft gels that are easy to swallow.
How to Choose the Right CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease
CBD is available in three forms: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
Full-spectrum CBD is the most well-known among the three. This type of CBD has all of the natural compounds found in Cannabis sativa plants.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and other minerals. Quality full-spectrum CBD products are rich in cannabidiol and contain small amounts of other compounds.
The second CBD variant is the broad-spectrum. This type contains the same phytocannabinoids as that of full-spectrum but without the THC.
Since THC is a psychoactive compound of medical marijuana, some people may prefer not to consume CBD with it.
The third type of CBD is known as isolates, which are often sold in powdered or crystalline form. Cannabidiol isolate is the purest form of CBD, with all of the other compounds removed upon extraction.
Whichever type of CBD one chooses, buyers must purchase only the best quality product available to maximize the supposed health benefits of CBD.
Choose only the best CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease following these tips:
- Look for the certificate of analysis (COA) or the laboratory report of the CBD product selected. This document is especially important since it indicates that the item has undergone thorough testing and contains precisely the specifications listed on its label.
- Read up on product and shop reviews if buying from an online store. If purchasing from a physical dispensary, check if it has proper authorization to sell CBD.
- Buy only organic CBD derived from hemp. The hemp plant is the most reliable source of high-quality cannabidiol.
- Ensure that the legalities (federal level farm bill legalization) involving CBD are followed in the state where it is going to be bought and used.
- Consult a health care professional, preferably someone experienced in medical cannabis, before deciding to use CBD or if you are concerned about someone’s symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Additional Tips to Get the Best CBD Oil Products
- Avoid purchasing from CBD brands claiming to have cannabidiol obtained from stalks and seeds of hemp plants. There are small amounts of CBD present in hemp stalks, while its seeds simply do not contain cannabidiol.
- It is essential to assess the quality of CBD edibles, such as gummies, before buying. Be cautious of brands that sell CBD snacks made of sub-standard or artificial ingredients.
- Do not hesitate to contact CBD brands for questions concerning their products. It is best to switch to another CBD provider if they fail to respond appropriately.
CBD Dosage for Alzheimer’s Disease
Since the FDA has not approved CBD for treating Alzheimer’s disease, there is no official guide on the proper dosage.
Some individuals believe that there are several factors that need to be considered to determine the right dose of CBD. Two of the most commonly cited are the amount of CBD present in each product and the user’s body weight.
Past clinical trials may provide users with a concept of the safe dosing range fit for human consumption.
The World Health Organization mentioned CBD dosage in one of the reports they published in 2018. A human study was referenced wherein its subjects were given as much as 600 mg of CBD(37).
They learned that even taking high doses of CBD did not result in adverse reactions to the users. The WHO also mentioned that CBD has a generally favorable safety profile.
How to Take CBD Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease
The most direct way of consuming CBD oil for Alzheimer’s disease is to take CBD cannabis oil in the form of capsules or edibles. CBD gummies, brownies, and tablets are ideal for beginners.
Applying CBD oil under the tongue through tinctures or drops is suitable for those who want to control their CBD dosage. CBD tinctures come with droppers that make it easy to measure the amount of cannabidiol one should take.
CBD sold as topicals may also benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease since these can be used in massage therapies for relaxation. Many CBD brands are selling CBD products in the form of creams, lotions, balms, and salves.
Some individuals prefer to inhale CBD by using vape products. However, vaping CBD may not be suitable for users suffering from lung disorders, as it may worsen their conditions.
One should seek medical advice from a doctor, especially one who is experienced with cannabis use, before purchasing any CBD product.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease identified by an accumulation of proteins in the brain that group together and disrupt brain functions.
AD is a well-known cause of dementia. Its earliest signs are identified by lapses in memory and difficulty in remembering everyday items.
Currently, the treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is aimed at alleviating its symptoms.
Findings from past clinical trials have shown that neuroinflammation may contribute to the development of AD. There is also compelling evidence that points toward the involvement of oxidative stress in the condition.
Cannabidiol is believed to be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients because of its reported anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects.
Several studies have shown that the cannabis compound may exert these effects by how it engages with receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
However, most of the studies on CBD have been performed on animal models. There is still no direct proof that cannabidiol can halt or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- National Institute on Aging. What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease.
- Dementia Australia. Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved from: https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/types-of-dementia/alzheimers-disease.
- Heneka MT, Carson MJ, El Khoury J, et al. Neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. Lancet Neurol. 2015;14(4):388-405. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(15)70016-5; Calsolaro V, Edison P. Neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease: Current evidence and future directions. Neurology Imaging Unit, Imperial College London, UK Available online 11 May 2016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2016.02.010
- Perry G, Cash AD, Smith MA. Alzheimer Disease and Oxidative Stress. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2002;2(3):120-123. doi:10.1155/S1110724302203010
- Booz GW. Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress. Free Radic Biol Med. 2011;51(5):1054-1061. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.01.007
- Watt G, Karl T. In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:20. Published 2017 Feb 3. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00020
- National Institute on Aging. op. cit.
- Dementia Australia. op. cit.
- Heneka MT, Carson MJ, El Khoury J, et al. op. cit.
- Calsolaro V, Edison P. op. cit.
- Perry G, Cash AD, Smith MA. op. cit.
- Persson T, Popescu B, Cedazo-Minguez A. Oxidative Stress in Alzheimer’s Disease: Why Did Antioxidant Therapy Fail? KI-Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/427318
- Booz GW. op. cit.
- Watt G, Karl T. op. cit.
- Alzheimer’s Association. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment.
- Watt G, Karl T. op. cit.
- Kim SH, Yang JW, Kim KH, Kim JU, Yook TH. A Review on Studies of Marijuana for Alzheimer’s Disease – Focusing on CBD, THC. J Pharmacopuncture. 2019;22(4):225-230. doi:10.3831/KPI.2019.22.030
- Stampanoni Bassi M, Gilio L, Maffei P, et al. Exploiting the Multifaceted Effects of Cannabinoids on Mood to Boost Their Therapeutic Use Against Anxiety and Depression. Front Mol Neurosci. 2018;11:424. Published 2018 Nov 20. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2018.00424
- Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245-259. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928
- Watt G, Karl T. op. cit.
- Saito VM, Rezende RM, Teixeira AL. Cannabinoid modulation of neuroinflammatory disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2012;10(2):159-166. doi:10.2174/157015912800604515
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
- World Health Organization (2018 June). Cannabidiol Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. op. cit.
- 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. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
- Alzheimer’s Association. Alternative Treatments. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/alternative-treatments.
- de la Rubia Ortí JE, García-Pardo MP, Drehmer E, et al. Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;65(2):577-587. doi:10.3233/JAD-180184
- Droy-Lefaix MT. Effect of the antioxidant action of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) on aging and oxidative stress. Age (Omaha). 1997;20(3):141-149. doi:10.1007/s11357-997-0013-1
- Thomas J, Thomas CJ, Radcliffe J, Itsiopoulos C. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Early Prevention of Inflammatory Neurodegenerative Disease: A Focus on Alzheimer’s Disease. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:172801. doi:10.1155/2015/172801
- World Health Organization. op. cit.
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