The likelihood of CBD being used in the future to potentially treat symptoms in Alzheimer’s and dementia is quite high and for several good reasons which would be explained further below, but before we get to that, let get to some basics:
Dementia & Alzheimer's – What are they?
Dementia is a syndrome rather than a disease. It is a term used to describe someone with a host of symptoms affecting memory, learning, language, and social abilities.
Dementia can be brought on by over 400 diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s to name a few.
Real life example:
“Standing in line at a Saint Patrick's day parade recently, I met my old German teacher, Mrs Francis. She didn't remember me from school but we spoke briefly and I got to tell her how much of an influence she had on my life.
A few minutes later my wife came over with the kids, I turned to introduce them to this infamous woman who Daddy has been talking about for years and I was shocked.
She turned around, looked at me, and asked: “Who are you now?” I hesitated momentarily, smiled and then reintroduced myself and my kids.
Later I would learn that Mrs Francis had developed Alzheimer’s. A sad, harrowing disease for which there is currently no cure, but a well-known molecule may help.”
Alzheimer’s is a slow and fatal disease of the brain wherein cells are destroyed by “plaques” and “tangles”. Degeneration occurs in stages typically over 8-10 years on average.
First, the hippocampus cells are destroyed (which is where memories are formed) resulting in short term memory loss, then it spreads around the brain to the language processing centre, then logical thought, emotional regulation, senses, long term memories, balance coordination, and finally breathing and the heart leading to death.
CBD – What is it?
Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) is a compound from the cannabis plant that has received a lot of media attention recently as a safe and natural medicine to treat seizures.
In fact, scientists have labelled this potent yet non-intoxicating compound “a pharmacological wonder”. CBD oil's benefits are believed to far exceed its incredible anticonvulsant properties.
What're the Differences Between Them?
One of the most common questions that people ask is what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's. Below are listed the five main variations between the two diseases.
- Alzheimer’s is one of several diseases of the brain that can cause the condition known as dementia.
- Alzheimer’s can cause dementia but not the other way around.
- Alzheimer’s is a disease but dementia can be caused by over 400 diseases.
- Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease but dementia is a syndrome.
- Their differences may separate them but their origins can be similar.
These are just a few of the many differences but these seem to be the most common experts use to show the differences.
What Are The Leading Causes of Dementia & Alzheimer's?
Scientists are not sure what exactly causes dementia or Alzheimer’s and, as such, put it down to a probability of factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment affecting the brain over time.
- Past head trauma
- Down syndrome
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia is increased if someone in your family, particularly a parent or sibling, has had it.
Research shows that risk factors associated with heart disease may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Lifestyle choices such as diet, cholesterol, obesity, exercise, smoking, alcohol etc can all affect the likelihood.
Past head trauma
Anyone who has had an accident involving the head or concussion or who has played a sport in which there is continuous contact with the head, such as American football or soccer, may have an increased chance.
People with down syndrome have a greater likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s as much as 10-20 years earlier than normal due to the presence of certain chromosomes.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia but the existing research into CBD oil may shed some light with only mild to moderate risks.
Are there any risks to taking CBD Oil?
CBD oil has been shown to be a safe and effective medicine (see: Epidiolex) in human studies and was shown to be well tolerated up to 1500 mg per day.
The most common side effects reported in a small number of people in the epilepsy clinical trials included tiredness, diarrhoea, and appetite changes.
One important point of note is that CBD behaves in a similar manner to grapefruit juice and as such, it may alter the enzymes in the liver which could increase or decrease existing pharmaceutical medication.
It is important to only purchase 3rd party certified CBD oil to ensure the contents are as described.
Can CBD Oil Harm Dementia Patients?
The World Health Organisation published a critical review report on CBD in 2018 and determined that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
Nonetheless, patients should consult with their doctor prior to taking it as, like in the case of taking CBD oil for epilepsy patients, they may have to lower their existing medication.
Ways to take CBD For Dementia & Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s and dementia will eventually result in an inability to feed oneself, with this in mind we will look at all the possible options available to consume CBD. Some will be more suitable for the initial onset of the disease and others for when someone else must feed the patient.
Capsules will be the most familiar to older people and are very easy to swallow with some water. Each one will contain an exact amount of CBD meaning dosage is quite simple. All are tasteless with some products available for vegetarians.
Tinctures will be quite familiar to a lot of the older generation who would have received drops under the tongue over the years. Accurate dosing is achieved by using a pipette inside the bottle which will allow you to place drops under the tongue, hold for 1-2 minutes and swallow. Tinctures are available in a range of flavours.
For an enjoyable way of consuming CBD, try a wide range of edibles infused with CBD such as chocolate, gummies and hummus. For those who enjoy baking, you can add drops from your tincture bottle into your cake or cookie batter and enjoy homemade CBD treats.
Transdermal patches are placed on the body, typically the arm or wrist, where CBD will be absorbed via the skin into the bloodstream bypassing the liver and resulting in a higher bioavailability (the amount that gets into your body to work).
Anecdotal evidence suggests CBD may help relieve the aggression and anxiety that is sometimes triggered in people with dementia. Also of interest is CBD’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neurogenesis properties. However, clinical trials are still required in order to determine its effectiveness.
Is there a future with CBD in the treatment of Dementia & Alzheimer's
Cellular inflammation in the brain is associated with high levels of Amyloid which is a major component of plaque deposits in the brain. CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory and may reduce this inflammation.
Inflammation can lead to an oxygen buildup in the brain which can lead to neurological problems. CBD has been shown to have antioxidant effects which may reduce the level of oxygen in the brain.
Researchers at the Salk institute using cells showed how another cannabinoid ‘THC’ reduced the levels of Amyloid beta.
Patients with Parksinsons have reported improved sleep after using CBD.
CBD’s anti-anxiety effects may calm patients in particular as a result of confusion and mood changes.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have shown that “CBD decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines, influences microglial cells to return to a ramified state, preserves cerebral circulation during ischemic events, and reduces vascular changes and neuroinflammation.”
Mounting evidence suggests CBD may restore brain cells in what is known as neurogenesis, this is according to researchers in Trinity College, Dublin.
At present Alzheimer’s and dementia are incurable but there is considerable research suggesting CBD’s potential as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and neurogenesis abilities may potentially lead to some developments for treatments and hopefully, one day, maybe even a cure.
CBD is available in numerous different products but it is important to only purchase from reputable manufacturers who only use organic CBD and can prove the quality of the oil via a 3rd party certificate of analysis.