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Cannabis and Parkinson’s

Earlier this year, 1,600 people with Parkinson’s and 29 health and care professionals shared their views about and experiences of using cannabis-derived products.

Here’s what they said.

When it comes to evidence of the benefits of cannabis-based products for people with Parkinson’s, the jury is definitely out.

Although lab studies have shown some promising effects, there isn’t enough evidence yet to show that cannabis-based treatments are beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. And there are very real risks.

There’s a lot more research needed, both in the lab and in clinical trials.

In fact, we’re funding a clinical trial through our Virtual Biotech right now. In a world first clinical trial, Professor Sagnik Bhattacharyya and Dr Latha Velayudhan at Kings College London (KCL) will be testing whether cannabidiol (CBD) can treat Parkinson’s psychosis symptoms.

Over the next 3.5 years, researchers will test whether Cannabidiol (CBD) helps people’s psychosis symptoms. During this trial they’re aiming to find out how safe it is, whether there are any side effects, the best way to administer it and the ideal dosage.

The legal stuff

Cannabis is a class-B controlled drug in the UK. Possessing, producing and supplying it are all against the law. ‘Supply’ includes sharing the drug with someone or giving it (even for free) to friends or relatives.

Cannabis-based products are not available on prescription for people living with Parkinson’s. And using cannabis to help with your Parkinson’s symptoms is not a valid defence in the eyes of the law.

CBD oil is available to buy legally as a food supplement. But it can’t be advertised as beneficial for medicinal purposes as there is not enough evidence currently.

Our survey results

Between January and March 2019, we asked people with Parkinson’s and health professionals to tell us about their experiences with and opinions on using cannabis-based products.

We’ve now analysed their answers and produced a short report sharing our key findings.

Our policy panel will discuss these findings at their November 2019 meeting and agree what we think as an organisation and our next steps.

Key findings

How many people with Parkinson’s use cannabis?

  • 59% hadn’t used cannabis-derived products before, but would consider using them to control their symptoms.
  • 26% had used cannabis-derived products (16% are currently using them for their Parkinson’s and 10% have used them in the past).
  • 16% hadn’t used cannabis-derived products and aren’t interested in using them in the future.
  • Overwhelmingly, people with Parkinson’s would continue to use, or start using, cannabis-derived products if robust evidence became available that they’re safe and effective in treating Parkinson’s symptoms.

What products are people using?

The most common cannabis-derived product people with Parkinson’s used was CBD oil. People interested in using a cannabis-derived product in the future said this is what they’d consider using.

Where do people get cannabis from?

People who currently use cannabis-derived products, and those who had previously used them, buy them from high street shops.

However, 87% of people who hadn’t used cannabis-derived products said they would want a doctor or pharmacist to prescribe them.

What are the side effects?

Respondents who had used cannabis-derived products in the past said they didn’t experience side effects, and that the products didn’t interact with their Parkinson’s medication. This was backed up by professionals.

However, people who hadn’t used them said they were worried about potential side effects and interactions with Parkinson’s medication.

Professional advice

Most people currently using cannabis-derived products, or those who had used them in the past, didn’t get advice from professionals beforehand. Those who did are split on whether the advice was helpful.

Professionals reported that people with Parkinson’s regularly ask them about using cannabis-derived products. 70% of professional respondents said they offer advice.

86% of professionals didn’t feel confident about prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products for their patients. Many weren’t sure if the prescribing guidance is fit for purpose (it doesn’t specifically mention Parkinson’s).

Earlier this year, we surveyed 1,600 people with Parkinson's and 29 health professionals about using cannabis-derived products. Here are the results.

As a Colorado resident, I often wonder about the healing power of plants. We live in a time when the pharmaceutical industry is booming. Pills exist to tame nearly any symptom, but they often can have unwanted side effects. The side effects of plants, however, may be less harsh, or even nonexistent. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a great example of this phenomenon.

What is CBD?

CBD is a compound derived from the cannabis plant and is commonly sold in oils and foods. Depending on the product, CBD could potentially treat pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and inflammation, among other issues. Additionally, research suggests that CBD potentially could be useful for other conditions, including improving well-being and quality of life in Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD generally has relaxing effects. Users do not feel “stoned” or intoxicated.

Why is CBD controversial?

The use of CBD is legally gray, as marijuana is illegal at the federal level. However, the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill legalized the use of CBD produced via the cultivation of hemp with THC levels below 0.3 percent.

You also can use a medical marijuana card to obtain CBD in some states. Nevertheless, a few states currently forbid the use of CBD. Check to see if CBD is legal in your state here.В

Because CBD is unregulated at the federal level, it can be difficult to determine the amount of THC in certain products. Purchasing CBD products from reputable brands that conduct third-party testing is currently the safest option.

What might CBD do for Parkies?

CBD has shown potential in early studies for reducing dyskinetic activity in people with PD and treating motor symptoms in various neurodegenerative conditions.

According to a 2018 review study published by the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, “Cannabidiol is a non-psychotomimetic compound from Cannabis sativa that presents antipsychotic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.” Data also suggest that CBD could potentially play a protective role in the treatment of certain movement disorders. Results are promising, but further studies are needed to clarify the efficacy of CBD.

Our experience

My dad kept hearing about the potential benefits of CBD. He doesn’t like the sensation of getting high, so he investigated products that would yield similar benefits without the possibility of intoxication. Eventually, he purchased two tinctures that he consumed orally for several weeks. He doesn’t believe the tinctures had a substantial impact on his everyday life, but I’m not ready to let him stop hoping.

Of course, it is important to consult your physician before trying CBD or any other treatment.

Has CBD helped you in any way? Please share in the comments below.В

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment . This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment . Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Columnist Mary Beth Skylis joins the discussion about using cannabidiol (CBD) products to help ease symptoms of Parkinson's and other conditions.