CBD or cannabidiol is a cannabis-extracted compound that has many potential medicinal properties. Due to their medicinal properties, CBD capsules have created a considerable market in the healthcare and wellness sector. Although most healthcare professionals don’t treat CBD as a drug, the case of self-medication of CBD is relatively high.
People self-medicate CBD for various conditions ranging from chronic pain to inflammation, neural disorders, etc. In recent years, there has been an increase in the cases of using CBD to alleviate the symptoms of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
What is ALS?
ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the motor neurons of the brain and spinal cord. These motor neurons are nerve cells responsible for communication between the brain and the body’s muscles. The neural damage due to ALS affects the brain’s ability to control muscle movement over time. Due to this, patients lose the ability to do basic activities over time.
At present, there isn’t any cure for ALS; however, there are medications that may help slow down the progression of the disease. After the initial diagnosis, the average life expectancy is currently around 2 to 5 years for ALS patients. Symptoms of ALS include
- Loss of muscle power over time
- Speech problem
- Abnormal fatigue in arms and legs
- Muscular cramps
Experts believe CBD has many properties that may help ease the symptoms of ALS and can also help increase the life expectancy of patients. So, let’s see how CBD capsules may help ALS patients.
How can CBD help ALS patients?
The recent awareness of ALS has paved the path for much groundbreaking research in this domain. Some researchers have found that cannabis and cannabis-based products such as CBD might be able to help ALS patients.
According to these researchers, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can be quite helpful in treating the symptoms of ALS. Below are some of the well-researched properties of CBD that may help ease the symptoms.
The degeneration of motor neurons causes intense pain in the arms and legs of the patients. Moreover, there is quite a severe pain in the muscles too. Researchers have found that CBD is quite beneficial in treating different types of pain, whether chronic pain or neuropathic pain.
A small 2020 study has found that CBD oil can significantly reduce neuropathic pain caused due to the degeneration of neurons. Similarly, a 2014 rat study has found that CBD can help in reducing nerve pain caused due to chemotherapy.
In ALS, the muscles permanently get stiffened up, causing muscle cramps and tension. CBD capsules may work on a neurological level to relax muscles and stop spasms. As the disease progresses, advanced ALS patients may get help in relaxing without worrying about midnight spasms.
The death of ALS patients is often caused due to the inability to breathe. As the disease progresses, the brain loses control over the functions of many vital organs, including the lungs. In severe ALS cases, patients require a ventilator to maintain breathing. However, some research suggests that CBD can open up the lungs’ airways, making it easier to breathe.
Rich in antioxidants:
CBD is said to be quite rich in antioxidants, and these antioxidants help fight the formation of free radicals. Researchers have found that CBD can affect the redox balance by changing the levels and activity of both oxidants and antioxidants. This biological activity of CBD helps in giving protection and slowing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS.
The science behind the potential working of CBD in managing symptoms of ALS:
CBD is a cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant; similarly, our body also produces cannabinoids. The cannabinoids produced by the body are called endocannabinoids. And together, these endocannabinoids form a molecular system that controls pain management, inflammation control, immune response, and sleep cycle.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has two primary receptors, CB1 & CB2. While CB1 receptors are present on the surface of neurons in the brain and spinal cord, CB2 receptors are mainly present in immune cells. The CB1 receptors primarily regulate the functions of neurons, whereas CB2 receptors are responsible for managing inflammation and immune cell function.
Researchers have found that CBD affects both CB1 and CB2 receptors. By affecting CB1 receptors, CBD gives rise to a chemical reaction that inhibits the release of chemicals from the nerve cells. These chemicals are neurotransmitters that, in excess, can cause damage to the nerve cells leading to neurodegeneration.
Studies have shown that CBD is quite effective in alleviating ALS symptoms when used with THC. While CBD only affects CB receptors, THC binds with them giving a more intense effect.
A recent study investigated a 1:1 mixture of CBD and THC, commercially known as Sativex, for its potential use in ALS. The researchers found that the drug was quite effective in delaying the disease progression in the starting phases of the disease. Moreover, researchers also found that many of the drug’s benefits were due to the activation of CB2 receptors.
Apart from the animal studies, even in some human studies, Sativex was safe and effective in lowering muscular spasms in ALS patients.
Researchers from Germany investigated the real-life experience of 44 ALS patients who used Sativex to control their spasticity. The researchers found that patients with severe to moderate spasticity in the lower limbs used Sativex more often. Moreover, this group of patients was also more likely to recommend Sativex to people with mild spasticity.
The drug Sativex is approved in the European Union as an add-on for multiple sclerosis, another neurodegenerative motor disease. So, in these countries, Sativex is often used with patients with ALS as an off-label treatment option for ALS-caused spasticity.
Now that we have seen that CBD may help with the symptoms of ALS, it’s important to note that, at present, there is no cure for ALS. At the same time, CBD capsules may help alleviate some of the symptoms, but using them as medication could be dangerous without any expert advice. CBD could be used as an add-on or complementary therapy with other ALS medications.
Moreover, CBD could also interfere with some medications, so consult with a doctor before trying CBD for ALS symptoms.