How Medical Cannabis can help Parkinson’s Disease
Medical cannabis is used widely and for many different conditions. One condition which has attracted a lot of interest is Parkinson’s Disease. Over a third  of Parkinson’s patients also suffer depression and anxiety. Sometimes the depression and anxiety starts before Parkinson’s is diagnosed, and sometimes after. This is one obvious area of interest for cannabis users, let’s see how medical cannabis can help Parkinson’s patients.
What is Parkinson’s?
It’s a disease where the central nervous system suffers a long-term progressive deterioration. This affects movement, making walking slow and difficult, as well as causing shaking in the limbs and rigidity/stiff painful muscles. Some patients suffer difficulty sleeping and may have emotional problems.
The reason why Parkinson’s develops isn’t fully understood. Current scientific thinking believes Parkinson’s is a combination of genetic bad luck and environmental factors/triggers “The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown, but the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease is no longer viewed as primarily due to environmental factors. Instead, Parkinson’s disease seems to result from a complicated interplay of genetic and environmental factors affecting numerous fundamental cellular processes” 
There is no current cure for Parkinson’s, it usually occurs in the elderly, with around 1% of over-60’s affected. The ratio of male: female patients is around 3:2. Between 5-10% of Parkinson’s patients are under 50 (‘Young Onset Parkinson’s’)
How do you get Parkinson disease?
The death of brain cells in part of the midbrain results in a lack of dopamine, this is a chemical used to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. The reason for the death of the brain cells isn’t fully understood but is thought to relate to the accumulation of protein aggregates called Lewy Bodies inside the brain cells. In 2015 there were around 6 million people with Parkinson’s disease and around 117,000 deaths.  After Parkinson’s diagnosis the life expectancy is around 7-14 years.
Reasons to use cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease
Many people find cannabis is useful for helping with the effects of depression and anxiety. Smoking, vaping or eating cannabis produces a euphoric high followed by a very pleasant few hours of enjoyable relaxation. For any patient coping with a progressive and difficult illness, an occasional mental lift can be a great boost. Some Parkinson’s Disease patients find a THC rich cannabis variety (or THC rich cannabis oil) gives the best effects and can improve sleep quality. However, some people respond better to a variety with a high CBD content in the buds. CBD oil is increasingly available on the high street from health shops, CBD oil doesn’t have sufficient quantities of THC to get the user high.
Which cannabis varieties are the best for Parkinson’s patient?
THC rich vs CBD rich varieties
It’s worth pointing out that we all have slightly different endo cannabinoid systems, so people may respond differently THC-rich and CBD-rich varieties. Many medical cannabis users try several different varieties to find the type which best suits them. For some people it’s a THC rich variety, for others, a CBD-rich variety does the job. One of the reason so many medical cannabis users grow their own cannabis is to produce their own optimized buds which deliver the best results for their own condition. By cultivating a mother plant a medical grower can produce an endless supply of cuttings (clones) to produce a consistent supply of identical cannabis, with the correct cannabinoid profile for them.
Can CBD oil or CBD rich cannabis help with Parkinson’s Disease?
One advantage of CBD oil is that it provides a concentrated dose of CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD oil will not get you high, so you can use it during the day. No-one can say how much benefit CBD may or may not have for a specific patient. Medical cannabis users often describe quite different reactions depending on their condition. But many Parkinson’s patients have tried CBD oil, it is easy to buy online and increasingly on the High Street from Health Stores. In many places you can buy CBD rich buds, they can be bought in places like Italy, Switzerland, Austria and even the UK. These buds don’t contain enough THC to get you high, they come from hemp or from special ultra-low THC cannabis varieties. The buds can be smoked, vaporized or eaten. Dutch Passion sells their own high-quality CBD oil here.
Should You Use Sativa or Indica for Parkinson ’s?
Some Parkinson’s patients will prefer indica dominant seed varieties which are noted for producing a fast acting effect with a strong body stone. Others may prefer the uplifting and energising qualities of a Sativa variety. Indica and Sativa cannabis varieties are also available in CBD rich formats. When a patient is suffering physical discomfort and mental/emotional anxiety, and wants to try cannabis, it’s always a good idea to compare several different cannabis varieties to see the various effects. You may find that one specific type is perfect for your needs. By growing your own medical cannabis you can aim for optimised results instead of gambling on the locally available street cannabis.
Advantages and disadvantages of cannabis oil vs vaping
Cannabis oil is a concentrated extract from the cannabis plant. It can be very high in THC, 60-70% or more which makes cannabis oil very potent. Cannabis oil tends to be made and used by more experienced cannabis growers who prefer the extra medication offered by the concentrated oil. The oil is often mixed with a fatty material such as coconut oil, this makes the THC more easily absorbed. However, cannabis oil can take an hour or two to take effect when eaten/drunk. One advantage of using a vaporizer is that the effect of the cannabis is almost instantaneous, and for some medical cannabis users that is vital. A vaporiser is also a safe way to consume cannabis, smoking a joint creates a lot of smoke and many medical users feel a vaporizer is a healthier alternative.
Can cannabis and cannabis oil actually slow the progress of Parkinson’s Disease?
One recent study  suggests that THC actually reduces the levels of the dangerous brain cell proteins known as beta amyloids. The study was made by Prof. Zvi Loewy and is attracting a lot of interest from the Parkinson’s community. But why is cannabis of such specific interest for Parkinson’s Disease? According to the research team, the cannabinoid compounds in cannabis bind to dopamine receptors to reduce the effects of lower dopamine in the brain.
“Essentially, the compounds replace the normal compounds that are adversely affected by Parkinson’s,” explained Prof. Loewy. Perhaps that explains why cannabis is of such interest to medical researchers. Maybe cannabis can actually slow down the progress of Parkinson’s Disease? Future research has some very exciting possibilities to investigate.
Main reasons to use cannabis for Parkinson’s disease
There are two main areas of interest in cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease patients.
- The first area of interest is the use of cannabis to relieve symptoms and improve the patient quality of life. Cannabis can ease the understandable worry, depression and anxiety caused by living with a long-term illness. Most recreational cannabis consumers will be familiar with the rapid and enduring mental pleasure from cannabis use.
- Secondly, cannabis seems to help some Parkinson’s patients with reduced muscle tremor, pain, improved sleep and an improvement in appetite and mood. But many researchers into Parkinson’s Disease are especially interested to know if cannabis use will actually slow down or prevent the build-up of the dangerous beta-amyloid proteins that are directly linked to Parkinson’s Disease. If that can be proven, it will indicate that cannabis does much more than just ease the symptoms and discomfort, it could provide a way to create future medicines that will delay or even prevent Parkinson’s Disease.
Neuroprotective effects of cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease and Huntingdon’s Disease.
A study by Dr. Benzi Kluger ‘The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids for Movement Disorders’  suggests that cannabis may have ‘neuroprotective’ properties. This means that the use of cannabis could protect the body against future illness from Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s Disease. This work has been done on animals, but needs future repeat work for humans in clinical approved conditions. The most interesting quote from the work is here: “Preclinical research in animal models of several movement disorders have shown variable evidence for symptomatic benefits but more consistently suggest potential neuroprotective effects in several animal models of Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD).” Again we should emphasize, this work has only been done on animals so far.
How to relieve pain with cannabis
Many people suffering from progressive and degenerative diseases find that cannabis offers a soothing and relaxing effect that helps patients get through the day thanks to the very pleasant high which can help dissolve anxiety/worry and lift depression. But there are other benefits of cannabis, such as the ability to reduce tremor (shaking) in some people. The following video is an excellent demonstration showing a Parkinson’s Disease patient (Ian Frizzell) who uses cannabis to control his Parkinson’s Disease shaking.
The video clearly shows how cannabis helps the Parkinson’s Disease symptoms by reducing the tremors/shaking in the patient’s arm muscles. The patient also says that speaking is easier after using cannabis. Many medical cannabis patients use a vaporizer, cannabis buds are ground into a powder and warmed inside the vaporizer. The patient simply inhales the vapor which contains the cannabinoids, which are absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream. If preferred the patient can also use cannabis oil, which can be mixed with food or drink and consumed. Many medical cannabis users feel that a cannabis vaporizer is a much healthier alternative to smoking a joint.
Dyskinesia (difficulty moving) with Parkinson’s Disease and cannabis use.
The YouTube video (above) is the strong patient testimony of how cannabis can help with managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But clinical studies also support the improvement in the movement for Parkinson’s patients using cannabis. This study  by Scientists from the Royal Manchester Infirmary (UK) suggests that cannabis use stimulates the brain’s cannabis receptors and may alleviate dyskinesia.
Could Cannabis prevent or delay the nerve damage of Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurological condition after Alzheimer’s. Inflammation can damage the neurons (nerve cells) which produce dopamine. Perhaps the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are further studied in clinical trials. Although there have been several studies, the illegality of cannabis has prevented much of the research until recently. This article from Medical News Today  summarises the current research, and points out that more medical research is needed. Many involved in the treatment and care of Parkinson’s Disease patients will be both fascinated and hopeful that the current interest in cannabis as a preventative medicine can be confirmed by future medical research.
How to grow your own cannabis from feminized or autoflower seeds
Research from the academic and medical communities indicates there is plenty of scope for cannabis use as an effective way to tackle some of the difficulties caused by Parkinson’s Disease. Hopefully, medical research will continue, with a strong focus on whether cannabis can delay or postpone the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. If it can, it would be one of the most important uses of cannabis so far discovered. In the meantime, cannabis has many other established properties which could help Parkinson’s patients such as reduction of nausea, lifting of emotions/mood, tremor reduction, sleep assistance, pain reduction and appetite enhancement.
For those lucky enough to be in countries with legal cannabis, it is easy to buy exactly what you want from a dispensary or cannabis social club. But for many medical cannabis users, the best (and cheapest) way to get cannabis is to grow your own. Growing your own cannabis from seed has the very important benefit that you can grow specific varieties with the properties that you need. For example, you can choose whether you want a CBD rich variety or a THC rich variety. You can even grow your own varieties with ultra-low THC levels (below 0.7%) with CBD Charlottes Angel (feminized photoperiod seeds) and CBD Auto Charlotte’s Angel (autoflower seeds). Both these varieties have around 15% CBD and will not get you high.
Growing your own cannabis also allows you to select whether you want to grow indica or sativa varieties. You can also decide whether you want to grow from autoflower seed, feminized photoperiod seeds or outdoor cannabis seeds. Growing your own medical cannabis from seed gives you maximum control over the type and quality of the cannabis you will eventually consume. And growing cannabis is easy, even if you have never grown it before. You can get everything you need online or from your garden center.
Simple ways for Parkinson’s patients to grow cannabis indoors.
Parkinson’s patients may already be experienced cannabis connoisseurs and know exactly which types of cannabis best suit them. That makes life easy, just grow cuttings of your preferred variety or grow from cannabis seed. But if you don’t know which varieties suit you then one option is to grow several different types. Here are a few different types of cannabis that future medical growers may want to think about growing and evaluating:
1:1 CBD:THC variety
These varieties tend to have a 1:1 ratio of THC: CBD. They don’t get you as high as a THC-rich variety, but they do still have a psychoactive effect along with a very pleasant ‘body stone’. Often a 1:1 variety will have around 5-10% THC and 5-10% CBD in the dried buds. Many medical cannabis growers enjoy having both THC and CBD in their buds, or the extracts made from them. Examples of Dutch Passion varieties are below.
THC rich indica
These varieties will often have THC levels of 15%-20%, sometimes higher. A THC rich indica generally delivers a fast acting and deliciously pleasing high. You may feel euphoric, happy and relaxed. Different people can experience different feelings. Some people can feel a raging hunger and need to eat, others will want to lay down and rest, watch TV or simply sleep. For some people, indica varieties have a strong body stone and good physical effects.
THC rich sativa
THC levels are often 15-20% and sometimes higher. A good sativa can deliver a strong soaring high, with strong cerebral effects. Many people feel more energized after a sativa, ready to take on a challenge.
These varieties will not get you high, THC is usually below 1% and CBD levels are around 15%. Perfect for someone that wants to try the effects of cannabis without the THC. But for some medical cannabis users, THC is required. A good example of feminized seed would be CBD Charlotte’s Angel or its autflower version CBD Auto Charlotte’s Angel.
In conclusion: the role of Cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease
There is plenty of existing medical research into Parkinson’s, possibly the most important research is regarding the role cannabis may play in preventing the accumulation of damaging beta-amyloid proteins that are directly linked to Parkinson’s.
Should all Parkinson’s Disease patients use cannabis or cannabis oil?
It is preferred that patients with Parkinson’s Disease speak to their Doctor about cannabis before using it. In countries where medical cannabis is already, legal Doctors may recommend cannabis and offer a prescription for it. In countries where cannabis is illegal, many doctors are very sympathetic about the use of cannabis with Parkinson’s Disease and may be able to offer advice. But cannabis doesn’t suit everyone, some people can react badly to cannabis in high doses. It helps to do research first and to speak to experienced medical professionals where possible.
Some Parkinson’s patients use cannabis to deal with some of the symptoms, such as tremors, as a sleep aid, to reduce pain, depression or anxiety. Where possible we recommend that Parkinson’s patients discuss cannabis use with their doctor and also conduct their own research. Start growing medical cannabis and relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s, you won’t get dissapointed.
Read on to learn the latest on medical cannabis use with Parkinson’s Disease. Can cannabis be used to treat Parkinson’s?
Using marijuana for Parkinson’s disease
In this guide, we explore the role of cannabis in treating Parkinson’s, how it reduces main symptoms and the best strains for PD.
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Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder related to age, just after Alzheimer’s Disease. The stats are alarming—between 7 and 10 million people around the world live with this disease. In fact, every year, about 6,600 Canadians are diagnosed with PD, and about 100,000 Canadians are living with the disease.
There’s still little known about its cause, and unfortunately, medicine does not have a cure. However, it seems that plant cannabinoids could be a new, helpful treatment for the disease.
Using marijuana for Parkinson’s disease Back to video
Recent studies—one of them titled, “Promising cannabinoid-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease: motor symptoms to neuroprotection”—have found that: Cannabis is useful in relieving Parkinson’s symptoms because cannabinoids modulate CB receptors (which improve motor and non-motor symptoms) and protect dopaminergic neurons (which provides neuroprotection and a dopamine boost).
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But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s try to get the whole picture.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system, which has motor and non-motor symptoms. The disease often starts with slightly shaky hands, and as the condition develops, patients have more and more difficulties controlling their movements. Their motor skills become slower and more rigid, and they develop walking difficulties. Other symptoms include emotional and sensory problems, as well as sleep disorders. A number of patients will also develop depression and dementia.
Parkinson’s typically affects people over 60, but it can be diagnosed before the age of 50, which is known as young-onset Parkinson’s disease. Men are affected more than women. Unfortunately, we still don’t know a great deal about Parkinson’s. What do we know so far is that the brains of PD patients don’t produce enough dopamine and that the death of the dopamine-producing brain cells, is likely caused by abnormal clumps of proteins in the neurons.
Parkinson’s is partially genetic, as many as 15% of patients have a first-degree relative with the disease. However, research has also found that environmental factors may cause PD. Head injuries (such as concussions) have also been linked to developing the disease. There is no definitive cure, but there are some therapies that can help reduce the symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for patients.
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The typical treatment for Parkinson’s includes medications. The drugs used for Parkinson’s Disease have side effects, and they lose effectiveness over time. For severe cases, a deep brain stimulation surgery can be performed by placing micro-electrodes to stimulate the brain and reduce the symptoms affecting a patient’s motor skills.
So, are there additional treatments? What about cannabis?
Using medical cannabis for Parkinson’s disease looks promising
Back in 2004, 339 Parkinson’s patients attending Prague Movement Disorder Center took an anonymous questionnaire about the subjective improvement in their motor symptoms after taking cannabis.
Of those who had used cannabis, 45.9% said they noticed some improvement in symptoms. About 30% of patients who used marijuana said they noticed fewer tremors and 44.7% noticed an improvement in the slowness of movement. In one small study conducted at the Tel Aviv University in Israel, 47 PD patients were observed. During a period of few months, participants used medical marijuana and 82% reported improvement in their symptoms like stiffness and tremor. They also noticed an improvement in non-motor symptoms such as pain, mood, and sleep.
Furthermore, in a similar study—titled, “Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease”—patients noticed an improvement in symptoms just 30 minutes after taking cannabis.
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Indica or sativa for Parkinson’s disease?
Long story short, while Sativa is like having a cup of coffee, indica is more like having a nice relaxing cup of herbal tea.
Cannabis sativa is one of several types of marijuana plants. Sativa strains are usually recommended for daytime use because of their energizing properties, but they also have strong cerebral effects. On the other hand, Cannabis indica produces sedative effects which makes it favorite among people with sleeping problems. These strains are usually more potent than sativas, making people feel relaxed, sleepy and very hungry. Indica strains are usually recommended for nighttime use.
But, when it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, the first recommendation would be to use indica strains, because of their relaxing and painkilling properties, and since indica is most likely to help with sleep.
10 best strains* for Parkinson’s disease
Finding the right strain for your specific needs can be a challenge. We are all unique and certain strains can have different effects on people. That’s why it’s super important to be patient and do some research before signing up for an LP or visiting a dispensary. Here are a few strains* to help you start your journey on finding the right one.
Named after the famous rock-star, Kobain Kush is a perfect Indica for PD patients since it’s well balanced and doesn’t induce sleepiness. Very effective in reducing pain and stress, its relaxing effect makes patients forget their worries while calming both body and mind. For PD patients the main benefit from this strain is that it’s great for muscle spasms and tremors.
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Great for daytime use, this Indica strain does not produce the couch-lock effect or sedation. For Parkinson’s patients who wish to avoid intense psychoactive effects, Harmonia front-loads CBD behind a slightly decreased THC profile. This harmonious balance (hence the name) stands a good chance of blocking the protein production associated with nerve cell damage in PD.
Although its name sounds like hell, Trainwreck actually has stimulating and soothing effects on our whole system. This one is potent in the THC department but its calming effect helps get rid of tremors and improve the balance.
A few hits of Critical Cheese provides a very fast uplifting effect. This is one of the first strains to be recommended to PD patients because of its high CBD levels.
One of the potent Indica strains, Bubba Kush is best known for its calming qualities. It relaxes, relieves pain and reduces stress. It increases the dopamine levels which is associated with PD.
Amnesia Haze is a Sativa strain usually recommended for daytime use since it provides a boost of energy. It is effective in combating depression, fatigue, and pain too.
From the experience of chronic pain patients, Hashberry does not seem to work in severe pain, and is more effective in low to moderate pain. It has strong sedative effects so it’s best to use it in the afternoon and evening. It’s great for treating insomnia, depression, anxiety, and everyday stress.
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Preferred for daytime use since it has no couch-lock and numbing effects. Instead, the effect of Blue Diesel is slow, smooth and long-lasting. It contains high levels of CBD, too, which makes it welcome for Parkinson’s.
This Indica dominant hybrid is a very potent strain, best recommended for after-work use. Beginners report being very sleepy after using Lavender Haze, while more experienced consumers feel more energized. It’s been used for different medical conditions such as insomnia and depression, including PD, too. Don’t overdo it, as it can cause slight paranoia.
Very high in THC (up to 21%) and very low in CBD, which makes it perfect for conditions such as stress, anxiety, and pain. Since it has a strong sedative effect, it’s recommended for nighttime use, for deep relaxing feeling and peaceful sleep.
Not a miracle cure, but a much-needed relief
It’s really important to point out one thing—cannabis can’t cure Parkinson’s Disease but it can provide some much-needed relief from tremors and stiffness. Furthermore, Parkinson’s patients tend to suffer from other symptoms which marijuana can treat. Sleeping disorders, chronic pain, and spasms can all be helped with just a few puffs.
Cannabis can be tricky to use and it has a different effect on every person. Before consumption, ask your marijuana doctor for advice and take some time to experiment and find the perfect strain.
In this guide, we explore the role of cannabis in treating Parkinson’s, how it reduces main symptoms and the best strains for PD.