• Ataxia refers to a group of neurological disorders that can cause uncoordinated movements in the body(1). This disorder can also affect the peripheral nerves and spinal cord. Individuals with ataxia often experience cognitive and emotional issues(2).
  • A recent study has focused on using cannabidiol (CBD) to address neurodegenerative diseases. According to experts, CBD’s purported anti-inflammatory qualities may benefit individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders(3).
  • The plant Cannabis sativa L. and its derivatives with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis are federally legal(4)

CBD Oil for Ataxia

Ataxia is a set of neurological disorders that affect the spinal cord and peripheral nerves(5). The disorder causes emotional and cognitive difficulties as well as motor impairment. For instance, an individual with ataxia might not be able to walk correctly or speak clearly.

Recent studies have focused on using cannabidiol (CBD) to manage neurodegenerative disorders. According to researchers, CBD’s purported anti-inflammatory properties may benefit patients with neurodevelopmental disorders(6).

The death of nerve cells causes neurodegenerative disorders. Such diseases affect mental functioning and cause problems with the movement known as ataxia(7).

CBD has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant(8), and neuroprotective agent(9)

According to experts, CBD may also help with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and medical conditions like multiple sclerosis(10).

Meanwhile, in cannabis, the two cannabinoids that have been studied the most are THC(tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD(cannabidiol), which are both found in the Cannabis sativa plant(11). THC is the substance that makes users feel high from marijuana. On the contrary, CBD does not get CBD users high. 

THC and CBD are present in the resin of the cannabis plant. Both compounds interact with the cannabinoid receptors, one of the components of the endocannabinoid system or ECS(12)

Ataxia and the Endocannabinoid System

The British Journal of Pharmacology suggested that SCA (spinocerebellar ataxia) alters cannabinoid receptor levels in the post-mortem cerebellum(13).

SCAs are a group of chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorders characterized by loss of motor coordination and balance due to cerebellum degeneration. 

​​The Journal of Young Investigators noted that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is crucial for human survival. The ECS plays a vital part in maintaining the human body’s homeostasis or balance, which includes the brain, endocrine, and immunological systems, to mention a few(14).

THC and CBD compounds interact with ECS cannabinoid receptors(CB1 and CB2) and may significantly affect the body and brain(15).

Although cerebellar ataxias lack a cure, the disorder can be managed by blocking the activation of the endocannabinoid system, which includes the cannabinoid receptor(CB1)(16). The ECS contributes to motor coordination deficits in the cerebellar cortex.

Recent studies on the systematic review of the CB1 receptor protein absence may contribute to developing a progressive ataxic phenotype. These findings support the idea that motor coordination is dependent on the correct balance of the ECS signaling(17).

In the clinical trials, the effects of cannabinoids on the ECS were studied to identify potential therapeutic targets for managing cerebellar ataxia disorder(18).

Research on CBD and Ataxia

In recent years, research has focused on cannabidiol (CBD) and its potential to help manage neurodegenerative disorders(19)

Even though there has only been a little research on CBD and ataxia, there have been numerous studies showing that CBD may assist cure dystonia(20)

Dystonia, a movement disorder like ataxia, is a neurological condition marked by uncontrollable muscular contractions that cause repeated motions or improper posture(21).

Meanwhile, the findings of the 2018 research describe CBD‘s antipsychotic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects on subjects with movement disorders(22)

CBD has shown potential in managing the symptoms of movement disorders, which are strongly associated with oxidative stress and neurodegeneration(23). Oxidative stress is the imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body.

Likewise, in another pilot study, patients with dystonia were given CBD. The patients experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms(24).

Five participants with dystonic movement disorders received CBD. Oral CBD dosages ranging from 100 to 600mg of CBD per day in conjunction with conventional medicine were given to the participants for six weeks. All patients showed dose-related improvement in dystonia, ranging from 20% to 50%(25).

How to Use CBD Oil for Ataxia

Dispensaries sell a variety of strains of medicinal cannabis for the spinocerebellar ataxia reflex. However, individuals who cannot get medical marijuana or Sativex may still be able to buy hemp-derived CBD oil

CBD oil comes from industrial hemp and has less than 0.3% THC. Even though CBD oil products only have a small amount of THC, they contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. 

Terpenes are mainly found in plants and are used as the main component of essential oils(26). On the other hand, flavonoids are the active components that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties(27).

CBD oil can be taken sublingually (under the tongue), allowing dose modification.

Sublingual administration relies on the mucous membranes under the tongue to absorb cannabinoids like CBD(28). In this route, the tiny blood vessels in the connective tissue diffuse CBD as it enters the bloodstream

CBD products like CBD oils or tinctures may be challenging to use, especially for individuals who have trouble with body coordination.

Individuals who have ataxia may want to take CBD in other ways, such as through oral administration using CBD capsules or edibles like CBD gummies.

The different CBD administrations are as follows(29):

  • Sublingual: CBD sprays or tinctures administered sublingually
  • Topical: CBD skin applications such as lotions, creams, balms, and salves for external use
  • Inhalation: CBD vape products and smokes for inhalation
  • Ingestion: Consumption of CBD-infused edibles such as capsules, gummies, cookies, or chews

CBD oil is available for inhalation through vapes. However, one research revealed that vapes contain substances that are possibly harmful(30). These vape substances may have a detrimental effect on the heart and lungs.

Meanwhile, full-spectrum CBD oil is known for the entourage effect, the theory wherein the biologically active compounds of cannabis work better when administered together(31)

Full-spectrum CBD variant contains all compounds of the cannabis plant with 0.3% THC concentration.

Also, note that choosing a reputable CBD brand is essential when buying CBD oil for ataxia. It is hard to keep an eye on the CBD market, and a few CBD businesses are selling low-quality goods. 

Consumers should look for a company that gives third-party lab reports for all its goods. Check for a certificate of analysis (COA) to validate the CBD oil‘s strength and purity. 

What Is Ataxia?

Ataxia is a neurological disorder that can cause uncoordinated movements in the body and affect some parts of the nervous system, such as the spinal cord(32)

Individuals with this condition suffer from motor dysfunction and experience emotional and cognitive issues. For instance, an individual with ataxia might not be able to walk correctly or speak clearly(33).

Types of Ataxia

Atrial encephalopathy is a neurological disorder that can be categorized into several categories. Knowing the ataxia classification helps doctors diagnose and treat the condition. Here are some of the types of ataxia(34).

  1. Ataxia-telangiectasiaAtaxia-telangiectasia is an inherited disorder that can affect babies and young children. The condition can cause enlarged blood vessels in the eyes and face. Symptoms of this disorder include difficulty walking and speaking. This type of ataxia can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of getting infections and illnesses, such as cancer.
  2. Multiple system atrophy (MSA)
    MSA is parkinsonism that impairs mobility and involuntary bodily processes. These functions include controlling blood pressure and urination. MSA symptoms include difficulties coordinating movements, fast blood pressure drops while standing up, urination issues, and erectile dysfunction in males.
  3. Episodic AtaxiaEpisodic ataxia is a disorder that can cause people to have difficulty with their balance and movement. The condition can occur at any age and can be triggered by various factors such as stress and medications.
  4. Friedreich’s AtaxiaIndividuals with Friedreich’s ataxia usually experience stiff muscles and loss of feeling in their legs and arms. Individuals with this form of ataxia often have a cardiac issue that causes the heart muscle to weaken, known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  5. Spinocerebellar ataxiaSpinocerebellar ataxia is hereditary ataxia divided into hundreds of subtypes depending on related characteristics other than ataxia.Aside from the normal movement and balance issues, ataxia patients often develop weakness, loss of feeling, and eye movement issues. Spinocerebellar ataxia may strike at any age. It advances slower than other types of ataxia.

Symptoms of Ataxia

Ataxia may develop gradually or unexpectedly. Ataxia, a symptom of a range of neurological diseases, may result in the following(35):

  • Poor coordination of hands, eye movements, and speech
  • Unsteady walking
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Involuntary back-and-forth eye motions during speaking (nystagmus)
  • Difficulty doing motor skills like eating, writing, or buttoning a shirt 

What Causes Ataxia?

 The loss of brain nerve cells, degeneration, or damage that controls muscle coordination (the cerebellum) may cause ataxia. The disorder makes it hard for ataxia patients to move their bodies(36)

The cerebellum is made up of two parts of folded tissue at the base of the brain near the brainstem. Humans use this part of the brain to stay balanced, move their eyes and eat or speak(37).

Diseases that damage the spinal cord and other parts of the body that connect the cerebellum to the muscles can also make ataxia patients shaky. Ataxia is caused by(38):

  • Stroke: Ataxia may be caused by brain obstruction or hemorrhage. Brain cells may die when the blood supply to a portion of the brain is cut off, depriving it of oxygen and nutrition.
  • Head trauma: Getting hit in the head by a car or something can damage the brain, which comes on quickly.
  • Autoimmune disease: Multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, celiac disease, and other autoimmune diseases can cause ataxia, which makes it for ataxia patients to move.
  • Cerebral palsy: The disorder happens when a child’s brain is not developing correctly before, during, or soon after birth. Cerebral palsy can make it hard for a child to coordinate their body moves.
  • Infections: Viruses like HIV and Lyme disease may produce ataxia, making it difficult for patients to walk. Infection may take days or weeks to clear up. Usually, ataxia improves with time.
  • Abnormalities in the brain: Individuals who have an infected area (abscess) in their brain may not be able to move their bodies the way they should. When there is a growth in the brain, whether it is cancerous (malignant) or not (benign), it can hurt the cerebellum.
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes: The disorder pertains to a group of degenerative diseases produced by the immune system responding to a malignant tumor (neoplasm). This syndrome is most often caused by lung, ovarian, breast, or lymphatic cancer. Ataxia might begin months or years before the malignancy is detected.
  • Thyroid problems: Hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism can cause ataxia, making it hard for ataxia patients to move.
  • Toxic reaction: People who take barbiturates, such as phenobarbital, sedatives like benzodiazepines, antiepileptic drugs like phenytoin, and some types of chemotherapy may experience ataxia, which can make it hard for them to move their bodies.  

Individuals who have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs and those who have had lead or mercury poisoning can also have ataxia. Also, some individuals who are very high in vitamin B-6 may have trouble walking. 

  • Lack of vitamin E, vitamin B-12, or thiamine: Not getting enough of these nutrients can cause ataxia
  • COVID-19 infection: The infection from COVID-19 may cause ataxia, mostly in severe conditions. 

Life Expectancy 

The life expectancy of individuals with cerebellar ataxia can vary depending on the severity and type of ataxia condition. Some patients with this disorder have a relatively normal life expectancy(39).

On the other hand, individuals with genetic ataxia have a lower life expectancy than the average population. At the same time, some people may survive into their 50s, 60s, or beyond if they are in good health. More severe occurrences of the ataxia may become deadly throughout infancy or early adulthood(40).

In addition, the prognosis is determined by the underlying etiology when it comes to acquired ataxia. Some instances may improve or remain stable, while others may deteriorate progressively over time, shortening one’s life expectancy.

Also, the prognosis is determined by the underlying etiology when it comes to acquired ataxia. Some instances may improve or remain stable, while others may deteriorate progressively, shortening one’s life expectancy.

Traditional Ataxia Treatments (Not Marijuana or CBD)

There are several primary reasons for the ataxia condition, making it difficult for healthcare practitioners or neurologists to focus on a single treatment approach. 

Since there is no specific treatment for ataxia(41), therapies concentrate on assisting patients in their daily lives. 

However, in certain instances, addressing the underlying cause of the ataxia, such as discontinuing medicines that cause it, will alleviate the symptoms(42). The condition is likely to cure in other circumstances, such as ataxia caused by chickenpox or other viral diseases. 

John Hopkins Medicine notes that medication has little effect in slowing the course of ataxia unless dietary deficits cause it. In such cases, vitamins are beneficial(43). Also, ataxias that are curable include those caused by vitamin E or coenzyme Q10 deficiency and episodic ataxia type 2.

However, medicines for leg spasticity and some forms of cerebellar tremors are available. Likewise, various medications are available to address specific symptoms of spinocerebellar ataxia(44).

Additional treatments that may be beneficial include the following(45):

  • speech and language therapy 
  • physical therapy 
  • occupational therapy

With a few treatment options available, many individuals wonder if cannabis and CBD oil may assist with ataxia. There is a scarcity of information accessible, and conclusive studies are needed to prove the effectiveness of CBD in different types of ataxia.  

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is made by extracting cannabidiol from the cannabis plant. Then, CBD is infused with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil.

While CBD is an essential compound of marijuana, CBD does not cause a high. Thus, CBD is nonpsychoactive, which means it does not affect the brain like THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana(46)

Before CBD users start using CBD,  it is essential to consult with the doctor to ensure CBD does not interact with any medication(47)

Effectiveness of CBD

There are no direct studies linking CBD oil and ataxia. 

However, some studies show that CBD has the potential to manage symptoms of neurological disorders like spinocerebellar ataxia(48)

CBD may also manage various muscle-related conditions and improve the condition of individuals with mobility issues(49).

In another study, the use of CBD emphasizes the neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties of phytocannabinoids and their potential use in a variety of clinical disorders(50)

Thus, CBD’s neurological benefits(51) may potentially slow down the progression of a disease such as ataxia.

For instance, a CBD oral solution has been widely accepted in the treatment of epileptic disorders(epilepsy)(52), which can cause movement disorders(53)

Although antiepileptic drugs are commonly used for treating movement disorders, there is also an overlap between these drugs and epilepsy conditions. 

Meanwhile, there is currently no strong evidence supporting cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for managing other neurological disorders.

Although it has been shown that CBD may improve the frequency of seizures in children with Lennox Gastaut and Dravet syndromes(54), further studies are needed to analyze CBD’s effects on the brain.

Side Effects and Safety Use of CBD

Mild side effects of CBD were observed in patients with coexisting features of dystonic movement disorder(55). In two cases, high doses of cannabidiol were exacerbated by hypokinesia (primary motor control impairment) and resting tremors.

Also, CBD may induce adverse effects, including dry mouth, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and fatigue(56)

CBD may also potentially interact with other drugs, such as blood thinners, thyroid medication, and several drugs for seizures(57).

Note that there is no dosage guideline for CBD. However, it is recommended that CBD  be consumed in small doses to get the most benefit(58). If there are no adverse side effects, the dosage may be steadily raised.

More importantly, it is recommended that individuals with ataxia seek medical advice before using CBD.

While CBD is being explored as a therapy for some medical conditions, including neurological disorders, the evidence is still limited.


Currently, the FDA has only authorized one CBD product (Epidiolex) for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy(59). State laws regarding CBD also differ(60)

Aside from Epidiolex, there is not enough information about other CBD products to make an informed decision.

Since the FDA does not approve most CBD products, the agency does not have the necessary information to evaluate their safety and effectiveness(61). Also, the manufacturing process of CBD products is not subject to the agency’s review.

Thus, consumers must consult a healthcare expert about the most effective way to treat illnesses or disorders using currently authorized treatment choices.

  1. Symptoms of Ataxia
  2. Ibid.
  3. Cannabidiol: a Promising Drug for Neurodegenerative Disorders?
  4. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)
  5. Symptoms of Ataxia
  6. Cannabidiol: a Promising Drug for Neurodegenerative Disorders?
  7. Neurodegenerative Disease
  8. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol
  9. Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?
  10. Cannabidiol as a Promising Strategy to Treat and Prevent Movement Disorders?
  11. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
  12. Cannabidiol
  13. Changes in CB1 and CB2 receptors in the post-mortem cerebellum of humans affected by spinocerebellar ataxias
  14. The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator
  15. Changes in CB1 and CB2 receptors in the post-mortem cerebellum of humans affected by spinocerebellar ataxias
  16. Does modulation of the endocannabinoid system have potential therapeutic utility in cerebellar ataxia?
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Cannabidiol: a Promising Drug for Neurodegenerative Disorders?
  20. Ibid.
  21. Movement Disorders
  22. Cannabidiol as a Promising Strategy to Treat and Prevent Movement Disorders?
  23. Ibid.
  24. Cannabidiol as a Promising Strategy to Treat and Prevent Movement Disorders?
  25. Open label evaluation of cannabidiol in dystonic movement disorders
  26. Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes
  27. Health Benefits of Flavonoids
  28. CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis, page. 105.
  29. Page 190-193 of Healing With CBD
  30. 5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know
  31. The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain
  32. Symptoms of Ataxia
  33. Ibid.
  34. Ataxia
  35. Ataxia
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Cerebellar Ataxia
  40. Ataxia
  41. Ataxia
  42. Ibid.
  43. Ataxia Treatment
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ataxia
  46. The effects of cannabinoids on the brain
  47. CBD and other medications: Proceed with caution
  48. Changes in CB1 and CB2 receptors in the post-mortem cerebellum of humans affected by spinocerebellar ataxias
  49. Ibid.
  50. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids
  51. Ibid.
  52. FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms#
  53. Seizures and movement disorders: phenomenology, diagnostic challenges and therapeutic approaches
  54. FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epileps
  55. Open label evaluation of cannabidiol in dystonic movement disorders
  56. What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?
  57. CBD and other medications: Proceed with caution
  58. CBD Dosing
  59. What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?
  60. States with Legal Cannabidiol (CBD)
  61. FDA warns 15 companies for illegally selling various products containing cannabidiol as agency details safety concerns
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