CBD is all the buzz these days, with branding, media, and consumer reviews raving about its benefits for everything from inflammation to PMS. But what hasn't garnered much attention, however, is whether CBD can be used to treat dementia.
As baby boomers journey into unprecedented life expectancies, more people may need to consider news ways to treat or prevent diseases that appear more frequently in older age. Defined as a decline in mental ability, such as a loss in memory or brain function, dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, with Alzheimer's disease (the most common form of dementia) contributing to 60 to 70 percent of cases.
According to Len May, co-founder of Endocanna Health, a service that analyzes how an individual's DNA will react to different types of cannabis, CBD may have neuroprotective effects on the brain which could reduce the degenerative functions that cause dementia. "These facts show promise in the treatment of dementia along with CBC [a different cannabinoid], which has shown promise in neurogenesis [or cell regeneration]," he told Civilized.
One cannot claim that CBD is a cure, per se, for dementia in humans. There is, however, reason to believe that if inflammation can be controlled or eliminated, it could prevent the spread of this degenerative disease — since dementia, is thought to be linked to inflammation earlier in life. "Years ago, epidemiologic evidence (measuring the incidence of disease) linked anti-inflammatory drug use to reduced AD risk, although most (but not all) of the subsequent therapeutic trials failed to identify current anti-inflammatory medicines as a treatment or preventive medication for AD," wrote Dr. James Ellison at the Swank Memory Care Center in Delaware.
May explained that CBD has been shown to have neuroprotective qualities , which could be associated with a wellness protocol to address the possible expression of any genetic predisposition to dementia. "Endocanna Health doesn’t report on medical conditions, but symptomatic conditions associated with those conditions," May said. So after taking a genetic test, such as something like EndoCanna Health provides, and you learn that you are predisposed to dementia and consider a daily CBD protocol.
Caregivers who have actually given CBD to dementia patients attest to the supplement's efficacy. "Dementia can cause aggression, anger and total loss of control,” Eloise Theisen, the founder of Green Health Consultants, a business dedicated to patient counseling about the proper use of cannabinoids and the reduction of pharmaceuticals, told Civilized. "The introduction of cannabis [in the form of CBD] can bring back a sense of calm and peace for these patients."
Maxine Sheppard, a writer from London, describes her family’s decision to administer CBD to her father who suffered from Parkinson’s, a form of dementia similar to Alzheimer's disease in that it affects the brain and memory loss. ”My father was incontinent, suffered from hallucinations and delusions caused by Lewy Body Dementia, and had mobility issues," she said. "CBD allowed us to care for him in our home and for him to live independently for an additional six months."
Sheppard's family experience is consistent with “a small trial of 10 patients with Alzheimer’s (AD), [in which] a four-week treatment with cannabis oil reduced some of the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's (AD)." The trial showed that cannabis generally could enhance the quality of life for AD patients by improving sleep, reducing agitation, and increasing food intake in AD patients.
The research of Professor David Naor out of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Israel affirms May’s assertion that cannabinoids, and CBD in particular, show promise with inflammatory disease. In his clinical trials, a synthetic protein snippet was identified to have reversed the damaging effects of inflammatory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models, and to have restored the learning capacity of Alzheimer’s mice.
This certainly offers hope for an aging population. But there's a dearth of clinical trials to confirm the same is true for humans. And getting that data may take much longer — in the meantime, however, we have anecdotal evidence to suggest CBD's positive results for dementia patients and for other patients suffering from inflammatory and neurological disease.