There has been a lot of excitement around the possibility of using CBD – the non-high-inducing other half of marijuana – as a natural treatment for Parkinson’s. People with Parkinson’s online have long celebrated CBD as a way to treat a variety of symptoms related to the disease. And now that CBD is legal in most of the world (read: not everywhere yet), and as more and more people come to realize that CBD is not the high-inducing substance in Reefer Madness, more people are trying it to calm symptoms.
Does it work?
The real question is, you guessed it, does it work? Well – officially – the jury is still out on it. When I say officially, I mean science – real science, backed by real experiments and using the scientific method. Why is this important? Because in my 10 years with Parkinson’s, I’ve seen this before. Someone says, “I’ve tried this and it worked for me,” and then everyone piles onto the XYZ train and all sorts of claims appear, and snake-oil salesmen are quick to sell us what we think we need. I’ve seen it with Low Dose Naltrexone (also known as LDN), supplements like Vitamin D and Fish Oil, and in the end, the effects of these on Parkinson’s were inconclusive at best.
Drugs work, though
When someone is just diagnosed with Parkinson’s, often the tendency is to not take medication at first and explore all non-pharmaceutical options first. This is a great strategy – long term use of Carbidopa/Levodopa leads to severe dyskinesia (think Michael J. Fox). So it is understandable that you would want to delay taking pharmaceuticals for as long as possible. However, it should be made clear: medications DO work. If you’re looking for instant relief from Parkinson’s, there is nothing like a dose of Carbidopa/Levodopa to alleviate symptoms. So there are tradeoffs here, just like with everything in life.
But so many fans can’t be wrong!
People who use CBD to treat everything from dyskinesia to tremor and stiffness tend to swear by it. It works for them. Again, this is one person who has had one experience. We need a lot more research before we definitively say that CBD helps with Parkinson’s. The cynical Parkinson’s patient inside of me says that if CBD really did something to our bodies and minds, we would all know about it and big pharma would be rushing to cash in. Instead, CBD is on the shelves at pharmacies with other supplements that carry the “claims not supported by the FDA” disclaimer. On the other hand, CBD’s cousin THC is outlawed in so many jurisdictions BECAUSE it is a powerful substance that alters body and brain activity.
As with everything, a bit of skepticism goes a long way
This article is not here to say “don’t waste your time and money on CBD.” Actually, quite the opposite; try CBD and see if it works for you. It may work, it may do nothing, or it may cause you to experience the Parkinson’s Placebo Effect – thinking something is working because you want it to work, hence boosting dopamine levels – until you crash back down to earth.
You can’t manage what you don’t track!
The best way to see if CBD is working for you is to track your symptoms over time while using it. I would, of course, recommend using the Parkinson’s LifeKit app to track your central nervous system, cognition, mental health, and tremors and dyskinesia over time to see if CBD is having a real effect. A week would be too little time, thanks to the placebo effect, but a month or even two is the best way to see if CBD is working for you.
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Nick Pernisco is the Parkinson’s Warrior, a person with Parkinson’s who has dedicated his life to helping others with Parkinson’s. Get the Parkinson’s Warrior book here. Join the discussion on Facebook.
I have had Parkinson’s for 12 or so years ( diagnosed at least) and have been taking CBD oil for about 4 months. I feel much better during the day and sleep has improved. Sometimes I get that ‘foggy’ feeling like you are walking through cotton wool or syrup. CBD oil stops that feeling and makes my muscles more flexible. However I have not reduced my meds. I find I can exercise more which is ultimately better for my Parkinson’s. There is nothing especially tangible that the CBD oil does as it just makes you feel ‘normal’ again but the effects wear off after a couple of hours.
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