Among the ever-increasing amount of research being done on CBD – the darling of cannabinoids – several are looking at the therapeutic potential of the small molecule with regard to neurodegenerative diseases… Given the renowned effect of THC on neurons, this may seem surprising. And yet!
- What is CBD? Reminder shot!
- Cannabis to treat neurodegenerative diseases
- What is a neurodegenerative disease?
- Why could CBD treat and prevent neurodegenerative diseases?
- CBD and Alzheimer’s disease: could it slow down the programmed neurological death?
- CBD and Parkinson’s: towards an improvement in living conditions
What is CBD? Reminder shot!
CBD, CBD … These three letters tell you something, but what is it exactly? Come on, let’s take a few lines to bring you up to speed.
Cannabidiol is one of the main active substances in Cannabis. Along with THC, it belongs to the cannabinoid family.
Or rather, phytocannabinoids, since they are of plant origin … Yes, because we will see later that our body also produces cannabinoids, and endocannabinoids. In short.
Cannabis to treat neurodegenerative diseases
THC and CBD are very similar. They share for example the same raw formula (C21H30O2). Nevertheless, CBD has no psychotropic effect. And it is important, because it is for that that all the products containing CBD are authorized in the USA!
You will probably have noticed, the specialized stores have flourished everywhere in the USA. And if these stores thrive, it is not for nothing. Indeed, the products containing CBD present many advantages, of which the therapeutic virtues which science allots to cannabinoids.
At The Guide, it will not have escaped you, we love this small molecule and we could talk to you about it for hours … But it is time to return to our subject: CBD and neurodegenerative diseases.
What is a neurodegenerative disease?
The name of these diseases says it all, since it is indeed a neurological abnormality whose symptoms manifest and worsen gradually.
As you know (but we remind you anyway), neurons are the basis of the functioning of our nervous system (which includes our brain and spinal cord). And our nervous system… Well, it controls a lot of things: it manages sensory information, motor coordination and the proper functioning of our organs as well.
But our nervous system is relatively fragile. It ages rather badly and a little can damage its good functioning. And to top it all off, our neurons do not generate, so from the moment something causes their death, the after-effects are irreversible…
These after-effects are of two kinds: they can be linked to movement, in which case we speak of ataxia, or linked to mental functioning, in which case we speak of dementia. These symptoms manifest themselves to varying degrees depending on the individual and the neurodegenerative disease in question
According to figures from the Brain Institute, nearly one-third of the American population is affected by at least one brain disorder.
Due to the complexity of our nervous system, there are dozens and dozens of different neurodegenerative diseases. The most common ones being :
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- And Huntington’s disease
Although genetics seems to be an aggravating factor, in reality at the present time we do not really know what causes these diseases. And as we said in the introduction, there is no conclusive treatment…
Why could CBD treat and prevent neurodegenerative diseases?
The role of the endocannabinoid system
To understand how CBD could treat and/or prevent neurodegenerative diseases, we need to take the time to tell you about the endocannabinoid system.
Therapeutic role of the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system of communication between cells that is found in all animals, including us, human beings.
Yes, you may not have known it, but we all have receptors specially designed to receive the active substances in cannabis, the cannabinoids (CBD, THC, etc.).
And by the way, if you remember, we were talking about endocannabinoids earlier. This is because our SEC produces cannabinoids itself! To date, two are known: anandamide and AG-2. Our body is therefore equipped with cannabinoid receptors.
That’s fine, but what are they used for? Well, nothing more and nothing less than to maintain our entire body in optimal conditions.
This is what we call homeostasis.
But to really get to the bottom of things and understand the link between CBD and neurodegenerative diseases, we need to talk about how the ECS works. And more particularly that of the receptors, which constitute this vast intercellular communication network.
The CB1 receptor and the CBD/THC duo
The discovery of our endocannabinoid system is quite recent, since it dates back to the 90s. We still have a lot to learn about it, but what we know so far is enough to motivate scientists to continue their research.
It would seem that cannabinoid receptors are distributed throughout the body, particularly in key organs such as the brain.
There are two types of cannabinoid receptors:
CB1, which seems to be linked to the functioning of our nervous system. It is mainly found in brain tissue and in the spinal cord.
And CB2, which is found in several organs related to the functioning of our immune system such as the spleen, the pancreas or the liver.
As you can see, with regard to neurodegenerative diseases, it is the interaction between cannabinoids and CB1 that interests us most. Indeed, once in our body, CBD and THC will bind to CB1 type receptors, which is related to :
- The memory
- The pain
- And motor skills
Need I say more? … Let’s see what the scientific body has discovered about the therapeutic potential of CBD for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
CBD and Alzheimer’s disease: could it slow down the programmed neurological death?
As a reminder, Alzheimer’s disease causes a progressive loss of memory, but also affects other cognitive functions such as language (aphasia) and motor skills. In any case, as with any neurodegenerative disease, these symptoms are due to the progressive death of neurons.
In the specific case of Alzheimer’s disease, this neurological agony is due to the excessive deposition of a protein (beta-amyloid) between the nerve connections. The plaques thus formed between neurons prevent nerve impulses from flowing properly.
Roughly speaking, this is kind of what happens in the case of multiple sclerosis. This degenerative disease is actually also in the sights of researchers who believe in the therapeutic potential of CBD.
In any case, several studies have been conducted regarding the link between CBD, CB1 and Alzheimer’s. Cannabinoids help slow down the programmed death of neurons (apoptosis).
Without going into too much technical detail, it seems that CB1 receptors can manage the proper functioning of lysosomes…
Lysosomes are in charge of assimilating waste generated by the cells. And therefore, they could assimilate the excess of this famous protein that creates plaques between neurons.
The second study that we thought was interesting to present to you looked at the anti-inflammatory action of CBD.
Indeed, these plaques of proteins in excess cause inflammation of neurons, which complicates the flow of nerve impulses.
Researchers have conducted several experiments on mice during which it was shown that the consumption of CBD could effectively reduce this neurological inflammation.
CBD and Parkinson’s: towards an improvement in living conditions
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world. If the causes are still quite mysterious, on the other hand we know that the onset of symptoms is due to a dopamine deficiency.
Among all the studies made about a possible CBD-based treatment, three seem interesting to us to cite, even if we must admit that the tested samples are too small to conclude and decide in favor of our dear cannabinoid: