Essential tremor is a neurological disease that causes involuntary shaking, most often in the hands, head, and voice, though it can impact just about any part of the body. About 4% of adults 40 years of age and older have essential tremor, though it can also affect children. The tremors experienced as a result of this disease typically start off gradually, and are exacerbated with movement or when stressed or fatigued. This condition may be caused by a genetic mutation, as about half of those with this disease have a first-degree relative who also has the condition.
Several medications are available to help reduce the severity of shaking and trembling, including beta blockers like propranolol, anti-seizure drugs like primidone, and even Botox® injections. Some patients may also respond well to benzodiazepines like clonazepam. However, these medications tend to cause drowsiness or fatigue.
Essential tremor can make it nearly impossible to conduct the simplest tasks, such as brushing your teeth, bringing food to your mouth with a fork, or even tying shoelaces. But cannabidiol (CBD) may play a role in helping calm the shaking associated with this disease and therefore help improve the quality of life of patients.
Studies on CBD have found that the cannabinoid can help with anxiety and tremors associated with nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease. CBD’s potential to alleviate anxiety and minimize muscle spasms and pain may come in handy for patients with essential tremor. [2, 3]
As of January 2020, cannabis is approved to be used for medical purposes for a wide range of ailments in 33 states, and, recently, scientists have started looking at cannabinoids and the possibility of their effectiveness in treating essential tremor.
Researchers from the University of California San Diego and the Center for Medicinal Cannabis are currently conducting studies to test the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating essential tremor. If found to be safe and effective for this purpose, CBD and other cannabinoids could offer patients an alternative to alleviate with their tremors while also providing researchers with new information on the disease. Learn more about this trial testing a CBD/ tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oral formulation, which is currently recruiting.
There is currently no solid proof that CBD can treat essential tremor but direct research is underway. In the meantime, the potential of CBD to calm anxiety and reduce muscle spasms–both of which seem to contribute to the worsening of tremors–suggests that the cannabinoid may be used a potential supplement to minimize the symptoms associated with this disorder.
As always, make sure to talk to your neurologist before starting on any new treatments, including cannabinoids.
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- Zesiewicz TA, et al. Overview of essential tremor. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2010;6:401-408.
- Blessing EM, et al. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.
- Malfitano AM, et al. Cannabinoids in the management of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008;4(5):847-853.