A review of clinical evidence for neurological disorders
Is there anything that cannabidiol (CBD) can’t do? This thought may have crossed your mind this year after thumbing through multiple headlines about this popular little chemical. CBD has been touted as a “magical elixir,” able to treat anything from anxiety to pain and everything in between. Why the newfound fuss for this ancient compound?
Prior to the recently passed Farm Bill that finally legalized hemp nationwide, most states were able to skirt past the compound’s hazy status to create and dispense products widely. As long as CBD products contained less than 0.3% of THC, they remained within the legal limit and could be sold in any state where it was permitted. And boy did those products sail off the shelves.
But, plenty of concerns started to churn through the community. As more and more people began using CBD for a variety of reasons, a greater demand arose for standardizations in testing and accurate product labeling.1 Medical cannabis patients, drawn to CBD for its lack of psychoactive effects, became more interested in how they could use these products for a variety of conditions. This curiosity peaked when the FDA approved the first cannabis-derived CBD medication to treat severe forms of epilepsy this year.
When it comes to cannabis science and medicine, the only way to really know whether a compound has therapeutic benefits is to perform experiments and trials. Once those are completed, and if the product shines through, the results are published and made available to the public.
The effects of CBD on neurological disorders (conditions that affect the brain and nervous system) have been well documented in many scientific and medical journals. To save you some time, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published a systematic review of this literature a few years ago regarding the efficacy of cannabis for several conditions based on clinical trial data.2
The AAN study reviewed three types of neurological conditions and rated each condition based on the level of evidence available:2
- Multiple Sclerosis. There is strong evidence indicating that oral cannabis extracts, including both CBD and THC, are effective for treating spasticity (increased muscle tone) and pain; however,there is moderate evidence that a CBD-THC oral spray is effective for bladder dysfunction and tremor.
- Movement Disorders. Due to a lack of large studies, there is moderate evidence indicating that oral cannabis extracts are effective for Parkinson’s disease; however, there is not enough evidence to indicate that cannabinoids are effective for Huntington disease, Tourette syndrome, or cervical dystonia.
- Based on the studies reviewed, there was not enough evidence to indicate that cannabinoids effectively reduce seizures.
This review was published a few years ago and we now know that CBD can certainly be used to effectively treat certain types of seizures – but this still requires further study,especially since many studies use combined CBD/THC. There’s still so much more to learn about the effects of CBD alone.
It’s important to remember that not all evidence should be treated the same way – results from a clinical trial or guidance from an academic society should always be weighted more heavily than a non-science-backed source (always check your references).
CBD truly is an incredible cannabinoid with widespread beneficial effects – but thorough research takes time and, piece by piece, is helping us put together the larger picture on cannabis as medicine. Stay tuned and stay smart.
- Bonn-Miller, M.O., Loflin, M.J.E., Thomas, B.F., et al. “Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online”, JAMA,2017, Volume 318, pg. 1708-1709.
- Koppel, B.S., Brust, J.C.M., Fife, T., et al. “Systematic review: Efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders”, Neurology, 2014, Volume 82, pg.1556-1563.