Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder. It’s the second most prevalent neurological illness in the U.S.
Selective degeneration of specific cells—the nigrostriatal dopamine neurons mark the medical condition. As a result, PD causes damage to the substantia nigra— a section of the brain that houses nerve cells responsible for normal production of dopamine. Dopamine plays the role of neurotransmission, regulating mood, behavior, sleep, as well as cognition.
These neurotransmitters transmit messages between nerve cells, conveying impulses through electrical and chemical signals. Through these neurotransmitters, your brain receives desirable instructions to simulate everyday activities.
But once the substantia nigra is damaged, this constrains the production of dopamine. And as these nerve cells progressively die, protein bundles buildup, hence further exacerbating the disease.
Current treatment is symptomatic and commonly involves replacing dopamine deficiency. While this conventional therapy approach only serves to improve motor-symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it’s, however, also linked to several adverse effects, including dyskinesia.
Medical Marijuana has generated considerable research interest as a potentially favorable therapy strategy in the treatment of neurodegenerative and movement disorders.
So, let’s explore the promising attributes of medical cannabis in the management of motor and non-motor symptoms plus its ability to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Can Marijuana Help Balance the Endocannabinoid System?
While medical marijuana can provide relief for undesirable motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, it also shows considerable promise in the treatment of the condition.
Preliminary research lays more focus on:
- Curbing protein buildup
- Reducing inflammation in nerve cells, thus curtailing disease progression
- Slowing or halting the disintegration of dopamine-producing neurons
Since Parkinson’s disease alters many body processes, it’s critical to evaluate the mechanism through which cannabinoids enhance motor function.
Medical Marijuana (cannabinoids) comprises of two receptors that present substantial potential in relieving motor symptoms;
1) Agonist—substances that typically attach directly to receptors. Or,
2) Antagonist—substances that impede binding to receptors
While experts are yet to conduct adequate research on the ability of medical Marijuana to check protein buildup in PD patients, tentative studies allude to a relationship between the protein build up and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
Most of these preliminary studies also aim at investigating the therapeutic potential of cannabis in decreasing the accumulation of proteins such as amyloid clumps prevalent in other neurodegenerative diseases.
Marijuana and Neurodegenerative Conditions
Further research has shown the anti-inflammatory action of cannabis on ECS receptor, CB2 can help slow Parkinson’s disease progression. Usually, microglial cells within the brain “clean up” debris resulting from neurodegenerative disorders.
Yet, there’s a caveat—sometimes the cleaning actions of microglia may have a detrimental impact on the surrounding cells.
Often, you’ll find activated microglia near disintegrating dopamine-producing cells in subjects with Parkinson’s disease. As such, researchers view controlling the microglial action as an option that could provide neuroprotective benefits.
Indeed, studies in mice models of Alzheimer’s disease seem to indicate that CBD’s anti-inflammatory attributes diminish the action of microglial cells.
Based on these research findings, derivatives that bind to CB2 hold the potential of reducing neuronal inflammation in PD, as well as in other neurodegenerative disorders.
Current Parkinson’s therapies tend to only cater to symptoms relief or on supplying the body with dopamine without addressing the detrimental impact of dopamine-producing neurons—the primary cause of the disorder.
Here, medicinal Marijuana’s neuroprotective properties illustrate considerable promise:
- Studies show THC and THCA can shield brain cells that produce dopamine from neurotoxins. Furthermore, human cell culture studies show tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has additional potential neuroprotective properties.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is also neuroprotective, though perhaps it uses different means as compared to THC. In rats, studies show CBD acts to protect the brain cells of the subject projecting into the substantia nigra—part of the brain impacted by PD and other neurological conditions.
As an integral segment of the basal ganglia processes, any disproportionate disruption of dopamine thresholds in the body usually triggers a reaction in the ECS to compensate—hence impacting a subject’s internal equilibrium (homeostasis).
Chiefly, cannabinoids show substantial potential in helping bring this mechanism back into balance.
Beneficial Effects of Medical Marijuana in the Rehabilitation of Non-motor Symptoms & Advancement of Parkinson’s Disease
1. Neuroprotective Actions of Cannabinoids
Aside from their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, cannabinoids also can suppress excitotoxicity.
As such, plant-derived cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, can avail neuroprotection against the effects of in vivo and in vitro toxicity of 6-hydroxydopamine.
Experts give credence to the compounds’ antioxidative properties or ability to modulate glial cell functions else the combination of both to the above outcome.
Apart from its ability to recover 6-hydroxydopamine-induced dopamine depletion, CBD also can retrieve elicited upregulation of both Cu and Zn-superoxide dismutase. This is an integral enzyme that plays a significant role in endogenous defense combating oxidative stress.
Research on CBD also suggests it can curb increases in Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate (NADPH) oxidase expression. Equally, it diminishes the accelerators of oxidative stress, inflammation, plus markers of cell deaths in the kidneys.
Other studies emphasize the role of superoxide anion released by microglial NADPH oxidase. Accordingly, it reinforces the disintegration of dopaminergic neurons in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients.
Broadly, the process by which CBD elicits the reduction of NADPH oxidase expression, while similarly, inhibiting oxidative injury in the PD subject’s brain remains undefined. Yet, it seems the compounds act through means independent of CB1 & CB2 receptors.
Regardless, recent studies show a probable correlation between CB1 receptors and the mitochondrial functions in the patient’s brain.
Briefly, other studies show the ability of cannabinoids to activate CB2 receptors linked to the mediation of anti-inflammatory effects of the elements. Also, medical marijuana preserves cells from excessive apoptosis as well as:
- Possibly attenuate the neuroinflammation linked with PD patients
- Medical Marijuana’s anti-inflammatory qualities can elicit desirable outcomes in acute inflammation plus chronic neuropathic conditions
- Medical Marijuana may have the ability to prevent brain damage in PD subjects by shielding against neuronal injury. These cannabinoid mechanisms encompass the induction/upregulation of cannabidiol CB2 receptors, mostly in reactive microglia. Besides, it also regulates the impact of these glial cells on the normal chemical conditions and functions (homeostasis) of surrounding neurons.
- THC can reduce the erosion of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons present in the substantia nigra whereas also exhibit neuroprotective ability through activation of the PPAR?? receptors.
2. Analgesic Effects of Medical Marijuana:
Pain is a primary concern for Parkinson’s disease patients and can cause severe physical, psychological, and social issues that can worsen the PD condition. Usually, conventional medication options have considerable side effects and inefficiencies.
As an alternative approach, medical Marijuana has an excellent track record for its pain-relieving properties.
- Marijuana can significantly reduce neuropathic pain intensity (both central and peripheral) while also improving mood and quality of life in PD subjects
- Cannabis-based medication can decrease chronic pain significantly
3. Antidepressant Effects of Medical Marijuana
Depression is a leading symptom of PD subjects. Expressly, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is responsible for the regulation as well as emotional behavior. As a result, any breakdown in the standard ECS signaling system elicits depressive symptoms.
Epidemiological studies show that subjects who use medical marijuana exhibit less depressive moods. Thus, prescription cannabis can help PD patients alleviate depressive symptoms while also improving their quality of life.
4. Impact of Medical Marijuana on Sleep Disorders
Causes of sleep disturbances in PD patients can be multifaceted and may include neurodegeneration, medications in use for the treatment of motor symptoms of PD.
As such, a patient may exhibit various sleep disorders such as;
- Rapid eye movement while sleeping
- Sleep fragmentation
- Intense daytime sleepiness
- Restless leg syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Because cannabidiol is nonpsychotic, it can provide a solution to most of these sleep disorders. Additionally, medical marijuana can improve the quality of a subject’s sleep parameters.
More research is ongoing in the field of medical cannabis to bring about a better understanding of its ability to treat Parkinson’s disease patients. These studies also include how the ECS functions in the context of the PD condition.
Do you want to learn how marijuana therapy can help you slow—or even halt—the progression of Parkinson’s disease? Please book an appointment with MmjDoctor’s certified medical marijuana doctors today!