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Review Finds Evidence of Cannabis Being Effective for Treating Parkinson’s Disease

Scientists have found evidence that cannabis reduces tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease, and helps slow disease progression.

Cannabis has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may inhibit the progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to findings published in the journal Parkinson’s Disease. In the research review, researchers from the Touro College of Pharmacy examined the available literature investigating the effects of cannabinoids on Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurological disorder in the United States.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that involves the malfunction and eventual death of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, resulting in the loss of motor control. There is currently no cure for the disease, and traditional treatment efforts focus on managing the disorder-related motor symptoms, including tremors, bradykinesia, rigid muscles, impaired posture and balance, and loss of automatic movements.

The Touro College investigators, including Zvi Loewy, PhD, found evidence that cannabis’ cannabinoids actually bind directly with dopamine receptors, reducing the effects of dopamine levels dropping and in turn effectively managing the motor-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Essentially, the compounds replace the normal compounds that are adversely affected by Parkinson’s,” said Loewy, in an interview.

Loewy and the other researchers also found evidence that cannabis is beneficial for improving non-motor symptoms often associated with the disease.

“When we started doing this review, the therapies out there were basically for motor symptoms, but Parkinson’s also has non-motor symptoms that greatly impact the quality of a person’s life,” said one of the Touro College investigators, Zvi Loewy, PhD.

Cannabis was shown to improve pain, which affects nearly 50 percent of patients with Parkinson’s, and address insomnia. Findings in preclinical animal studies suggest that cannabis may also reduce depression, another symptom common among those with Parkinson’s.

“The most significant finding is that the chemical complexity of marijuana provides multiple benefits that affect different symptoms of the disease,” said Loewy.

The researchers found that cannabinoids in cannabis also bind with cannabinoid receptors to elicit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects to help preserve the health of neurons and in turn slow the progression of the disease.

“There is an urgent need for safer drugs that can treat both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as well as drugs that slow the progression of the disease,” the review reads.

While more research is needed on the efficacy and safety of cannabis, in summary the research review concluded that evidence suggests that cannabis and its compounds could potentially be beneficial to incorporate into the treatment regimens of those with the neurological disorder.

“Cannabis may provide a viable alternative or addition to the current treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” the Touro College researchers concluded in the review.

You can access the entire study, “Marijuana Compounds: A Nonconventional Approach to Parkinson’s Disease Therapy,” via Hindawi.

Of the 29 U.S. states that have so far legalized medical marijuana, 13 have approved access specifically for patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Learn more about what research has discovered about the effects of cannabis on Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders by visiting our education page.