Can CBD Help With Tourette’s Syndrome?

  • CBD (cannabidiol) is believed to have antipsychotic properties(1) that may benefit individuals with mental health disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome (TS).
  • A study published by the journal Brain Sciences revealed that a combination treatment of CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) resulted in significant improvements in tic severity and premonitory urges in a TS patient(2).
  • Another study on a subject with Tourette’s syndrome demonstrated marked improvement in vocal and motor tics after being treated with medication containing the same cannabis combination(3).
  • Although quite limited, these findings provide hints that CBD may be a therapeutic agent that could benefit people with Tourette’s syndrome.

Why People Are Turning to CBD for Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome (TS) is a mental disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations known as tics. The motor tics represent a cardinal symptom traditionally linked to a dysfunction of the basal ganglia(4).

Some examples of simple tics include eye blinking, facial grimacing, and head or shoulder jerking(5).

The onset of TS usually occurs before the age of twenty-one, and its cause is relatively unknown(6).

Cannabidiol (CBD) is believed to cause antipsychotic effects(7), which may benefit people with mental illnesses, such as Tourette’s syndrome.

CBD is a chemical compound acquired from cannabis plants that have shown potential therapeutic applications in neuropsychiatric disorders(8)

CBD is the opposite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabis constituent, in that it does not cause mind-altering effects upon use.

A study published by the journal Brain Sciences analyzed the effects of nabiximols, a combination drug containing THC and CBD, on a TS patient. The twenty-two-year-old male subject was given a daily dose of the medication for two weeks.

Researchers discovered that the treatment resulted in significant improvements of both tics and premonitory urges in the patient(9)

They also noted that CBD’s presence might have made the combination a more effective treatment, due to its ability to mitigate THC‘s psychotropic effects.

These findings are similar to a 2016 study wherein a TS patient demonstrated marked improvement in movement and vocal tics after treatment with Sativex(10), the trade name for nabiximols.

This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Sativex when applied to a treatment-resistant TS. The subject was given a daily dose containing 10.8 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD for several weeks.

Based on subjective and objective measures, the Tourette’s syndrome patient displayed significant improvements in the frequency and severity of motor and vocal tics post-treatment(11)

The study’s authors concluded that their results support the suggestion that cannabinoids, like CBD, may be used to treat Tourette’s syndrome.

Although the data on CBD for Tourette’s patients are minimal, these findings hint that the cannabis compound may be a potential therapeutic agent for the mental disorder.

How CBD Oil Works to Help with Tourette’s Syndrome

To understand how CBD may benefit people with Tourette’s syndrome, learning about its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is essential.

The ECS is a part of the human body that researchers believe regulates a variety of crucial bodily functions. There is evidence implying that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the cause, symptomatology, and treatment of mental illnesses(12).

The CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, the primary transmitters used by the ECS, are said to be involved in neurodegenerative disorders(13)

This idea may stem from findings, particularly of CB1 receptors, which are found to be abundant in areas associated with movement and mental processes.

Cannabinoids, such as CBD, are believed to have neuroprotective properties based on their interaction with these ECS receptors(14).

CBD is also reported to modulate various receptors outside the ECS. For instance, the compound is said to exert its neuroprotective effects based on how it engages with adenosine receptors(15).

The compound is reported to increase adenosine levels in the brain. Increased adenosine has been linked to neuroprotection(16).

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Tourette’s Syndrome

The Pros

  • CBD may benefit individuals with Tourette’s syndrome. Early studies have shown that taking a dose mixed with cannabidiol improved motor and vocal tics in TS patients.
  • People in the United States can purchase CBD in most places. In states where cannabidiol is allowed, users can buy CBD products even if they do not present a doctor’s prescription.
  • CBD is a non-euphoric substance that does not cause a person to feel “high” after intake, unlike THC. CBD is also thought to counteract the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report stating that they found CBD to be well-tolerated in humans. The subjects that they assessed from past clinical trials did not seem to develop substance dependence after CBD use(17).
  • CBD‘s potential therapeutic applications have been acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)(18). The FDA supports medical research concerning the use of cannabis and its derivatives.
  • The United States 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp and the sale of hemp-derived products, so long as the items are produced in a manner consistent with the law(19).

The Cons

  • Human studies on CBD‘s efficacy for Tourette’s syndrome have been carried out on individual patients. The lack of more in-depth studies has made it difficult for experts to determine if CBD can effectively treat the condition.
  • Many CBD products sold today are prone to mislabeling(20). Buying cannabidiol online and in some physical dispensaries puts people at risk of consuming more or less of the compound.
  • A study in 2017 assessed the safety and potential adverse reactions of using CBD. Although considered safe, CBD can still interact with other prescription medications and cause harmful side effects to users(21).
  • Epidiolex, a drug used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, is the only CBD product that has been approved by the FDA thus far(22).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Tourette’s Syndrome

Hypnotherapy is considered an alternative treatment of Tourette syndrome for managing tics. The approach is meant to provide relaxation and concentration so that undesired thoughts are eliminated(23).

Antidepressants have also been reported as treatment options that help control symptoms of anxiety and sadness. 

For instance, a dose of imipramine (Tofranil) was found to improve depression and behavior in a patient with Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome (GTS)(24).

Similarly, cannabidiol is said to have properties that can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

One case report on a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder revealed that CBD improved the quality and quantity of the subject’s sleep. It was also found that CBD oil treatment resulted in a sustained decrease in anxiety(25).

A clinical study published by The Permanente Journal analyzed evidence concerning CBD‘s supposed effects in sleep and anxiety. 

The researchers assessed seventy-two adult patients and learned that more than half of the subjects experienced improvements in anxiety and sleep scores(26).

These findings suggest that CBD may be useful for people with Tourette’s syndrome.

How to Choose the Right CBD for Tourette’s Syndrome

Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates are the three types of CBD available today.

The full-spectrum CBD oil is considered to be the most popular among the three. It contains all of the naturally-occurring compounds of cannabis plants, such as flavonoids, terpenes, and THC.

Full-spectrum CBD products are high in cannabidiol and only contain small amounts of the other compounds.

Full-spectrum CBD is perhaps the most potent and effective form of CBD oil due to the cannabinoid synergism known as the “entourage effect(27). ” This effect is a proposed mechanism wherein cannabis compounds are more effective when consumed together.

The second type of CBD is known as broad-spectrum. This variant is similar to full-spectrum, except that it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol.

THC is a psychoactive compound that is often associated with medical marijuana. Some users prefer to use broad-spectrum CBD oil because of its lack of THC content.

The third option when buying cannabidiol products is CBD isolates. This CBD variant is often sold in powdered or crystalline form.

Users who want to take only pure CBD can purchase isolates. CBD products that only contain cannabidiol do not have a distinct taste or smell.

No matter the type of CBD one decides to purchase, it is essential to choose the best quality product all the time to maximize its supposed health benefits.

Below are additional tips that can help users select the best CBD oil for Tourette’s syndrome:

  • Acquire a laboratory report or a certificate of analysis (COA) of the chosen CBD product. This document indicates that the item has undergone strict testing and contains the exact specifications listed on its label.
  • Select and purchase only CBD derived from hemp. Industrial hemp is the most reliable source of obtaining top-quality cannabidiol.
  • Make sure to read up on product and shop reviews before buying from an online CBD store. When purchasing from a physical dispensary, ensure that the establishment has the authorization to sell CBD products.
  • Be aware of the legalities concerning the purchase and application of CBD in the state where one plans to consume it.
  • Consult a healthcare professional, particularly someone with experience in using medical cannabis, before using any CBD product.

CBD Dosage for Tourette’s Syndrome

At the time of writing, the FDA has not approved any CBD product for treating patients with Tourette’s syndrome. Therefore, no official dosage guidelines are available.

However, studies on CBD showed that doses of 300 mg to 600 mg of CBD were able to reduce anxiety in human subjects(28).

A single dose of 160 mg of CBD reportedly improved sleep duration in a crossover case study with nitrazepam, a medication for anxiety and insomnia(29).

Meanwhile, doses reaching 1,500 mg of CBD per day have repeatedly shown to be well-tolerated in human participants(30).

How to Take CBD Oil for Tourette’s Syndrome

Users who want to measure CBD hemp oil they take accurately may benefit from CBD tinctures. This delivery format allows a person to apply the cannabidiol oil sublingually.

CBD as tinctures come with droppers, making it easy to measure and apply the compound under the tongue.

For those looking to use CBD for relaxation, topicals are the most recommended choices. CBD in topical form is available as balms, creams, and salves and may be used in massage therapies.

Meanwhile, CBD is also sold as edibles or capsules. These products are the most straightforward way of taking cannabidiol and are great for those using CBD for the first time.

CBD gummies can be found in different shapes and sizes. The most common flavors are apple, blueberry, and watermelon. 

Symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome

Tics are the main symptoms of people with TS. These symptoms often show up when a child is between five to ten years of age. 

Motor and vocal are the two types of tics.

Motor tics are the involuntary movements of the body, such as jerking an arm or shrugging the shoulders.

Vocal tics are the sounds that a patient makes with their voice. Some examples of vocal tics include humming, yelling, and throat clearing.

Typical initial symptoms of TS are motor tics that occur in the neck and head area. These tics usually become worse when the individual becomes stressed or excited but tend to improve when they are calm or focused.

In most cases, Tourette’s syndrome tics decrease once a person reaches adolescence and sometimes disappear entirely. However, many individuals with TS retain their tics in adulthood and, in some cases, become worse(31).

Besides tic disorders, people with Tourette’s syndrome can also exhibit other symptoms.

They may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other significant learning difficulties(32).

Excessive foul language and swearing (coprolalia) are rare and only affect about one out of ten people with Tourette’s syndrome

Repeating sounds, words, or phrases (echolalia) is also another symptom of TS.

Tourette’s syndrome patients may also display behavioral problems, such as antisocial behavior, rage attacks, and inappropriate behavior.

Most people with TS experience a strong urge before a tic. Known as premonitory sensations, they are often relieved once the movement has been carried out.

Some examples of premonitory sensations include a burning feeling in the eyes before blinking, a dry or sore throat before grunting, and an itchy muscle before jerking.

Conclusion

The nervous system disorder known as Tourette’s syndrome is characterized by repetitive, involuntary motor and vocal tics. Some examples include facial grimacing, muscle spasms, head or shoulder jerking, and eye blinking.

CBD is believed to have antipsychotic properties that may be beneficial to people with neurological disorders, like Tourette’s syndrome.

Researchers in follow-up studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC was able to significantly improve both tics and premonitory urges in patients.

Cannabidiol is believed to interact with the endocannabinoid system through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Studies have also shown that CBD engages with other receptors outside of the ECS.

Although the data on CBD Tourette’s syndrome is quite limited, these findings suggest that the medicinal cannabis compound may be used as a treatment for Tourette’s syndrome.

There are various types of CBD products sold today. One can purchase edibles, topicals, and tinctures, depending on their preference.

CBD use is legal in most states. The United States Farm Bill of 2018 allows the sale and transport of CBD products, provided they are made in a manner consistent with the law.

Interested individuals should seek advice from a doctor before using a CBD product for their condition.


  1. Kogan NM, Mechoulam R. Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(4):413-430.
  2. Kanaan AS, Jakubovski E, Müller-Vahl K. Significant Tic Reduction in An Otherwise Treatment-Resistant Patient with Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome Following Treatment with Nabiximols. Brain Sci. 2017;7(5):47. Published 2017 Apr 26. doi:10.3390/brainsci7050047
  3. Trainor D, Evans L, Bird R. Severe motor and vocal tics controlled with Sativex®. Australas Psychiatry. 2016;24(6):541-544. doi:10.1177/1039856216663737
  4. Caligiore D, Mannella F, Arbib MA, Baldassarre G. Dysfunctions of the basal ganglia-cerebellar-thalamo-cortical system produce motor tics in Tourette syndrome. PLoS Comput Biol. 2017;13(3):e1005395. Published 2017 Mar 30. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005395
  5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Tourette-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet
  6. Müller N. Tourette’s syndrome: clinical features, pathophysiology, and therapeutic approaches. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(2):161-171.
  7. Kogan NM, Mechoulam R. op. cit.
  8. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009
  9. Kanaan AS, Jakubovski E, Müller-Vahl K. op. cit.
  10. Trainor D, Evans L, Bird R. op. cit.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Scotter EL, Abood ME, Glass M. The endocannabinoid system as a target for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(3):480-498. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00735.x
  13. Ibid.
  14. Basavarajappa BS, Shivakumar M, Joshi V, Subbanna S. Endocannabinoid system in neurodegenerative disorders. J Neurochem. 2017;142(5):624-648. doi:10.1111/jnc.14098
  15. Maroon J, Bost J. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surg Neurol Int. 2018;9:91. Published 2018 Apr 26. doi:10.4103/sni.sni_45_18
  16. Ibid.
  17. World Health Organization (2018 June). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  18. U.S. Food & 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
  19. Hudak J (2018, December 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, March 11). op. cit.
  23. Kumar A, Duda L, Mainali G, Asghar S, Byler D. A Comprehensive Review of Tourette Syndrome and Complementary Alternative Medicine. Curr Dev Disord Rep. 2018;5(2):95-100. doi:10.1007/s40474-018-0137-2
  24. Sandyk R, Bamford CR. Beneficial effects of imipramine on Tourette’s syndrome. Int J Neurosci. 1988;39(1-2):27-29. doi:10.3109/00207458808985689
  25. Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):16-005. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-005
  26. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
  27. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  28. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. op. cit.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. op. cit.
  31. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Tourette Syndrome? Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/facts.html.
  32. NHS. Tourette’s syndrome. Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tourettes-syndrome/
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