Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an extract of the cannabis plant that researchers first identified back in the 1940s. At the same time, though, public opinion was turning so strongly against marijuana that all cannabis products became difficult to obtain for research.
Such research that did occur, though, made it clear that CBD had no recreational uses. It doesn’t make people high, but it does interact with the nervous system in ways with many potential therapeutic benefits.
So far, regulators in various countries have approved CBD oil as an alternative option for a wide variety of applications. But there are also several reasons to believe that it could assist with the signs of Alzheimer’s disease in a way that improves upon current medicines.
Studies have tied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, supporting the thesis that neural inflammation is at least partly responsible for the disease. However, long-term use of these drugs can have bad health effects of its own, such as gastrointestinal distress.
CBD appears to modify the immune system, including the immune system’s inflammatory reaction. This effect is likely one reason why medical marijuana is a popular treatment for pain.
By itself, though, CBD seems particularly good at preventing inflammation of nerve cells. Experiments with rodents have found that CBD use can reduce the specific reaction in brain cells that create the neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
CBD is also reportedly well-tolerated in experiments on humans as well as animals, and unlike NSAIDs, may even help to reduce nausea.
Blood to the Brain
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia link to a decreased blood flow in the brain, which deprives it of needed oxygen and nutrients. It’s not known whether this is a cause or effect of the illness, but it can certainly aggravate it.
Studies indicate that CBD relaxes and expands blood vessels, including to the brain. Given that high blood pressure and poor circulation are common problems of old age in general, this can benefit Alzheimer’s patients for other reasons.
Memory and Learning
So all this biology is well and good, but what about the actual loss and memory and mental abilities that make the condition so tragic?
Research in mice has also found that CBD can help with this too. Chronic dosing headed off the mental deterioration in the early stages of dementia and brought improved memory of objects and other mice compared to the untreated group. Another study found that some mice seemed to learn better.
I should note, though, that these studies used Sativex, a combination of CBD and THC, the intoxicating part of cannabis. There is, actually, a reason to believe that the combo works better against Alzheimer’s than CBD alone. But CBD is currently more widely available and doesn’t have THC’s negative side effects.
Alzheimer’s Side Effects
The experience of Alzheimer’s disease brings on a lot of other mental effects, which is not surprising given how alarming it must be to be losing your mind.
Anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and irritability often go along with this loss of mental powers. More advanced Alzheimer’s can also bring psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and paranoia.
Studies of both animals and humans on CBD suggest that it can assist with some, or all, of these issues. While it doesn’t bring the totally blissed-out feeling that THC can, it still seems to mellow people’s moods, especially when they’re under stress.
There’s also some evidence that CBD can combat psychosis. This indication is especially promising since standard antipsychotic meds are dangerous for elderly folks.
Research on the science of CBD has a long way to go before we really understand its effects on Alzheimer’s in human beings. But its benign safety profile and its widespread availability in CBD oil and other forms can make it worth a try.
Be sure to consult a physician before starting a daily regimen. Although there is still more necessary research, CBD oil can serve as a more natural alternative with the potential to assist with a wide range of bodily needs.