Can CBD Oil help for Multiple Sclerosis?
What is Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a nervous system disease in which the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers. This causes a breakdown in communication between the brain and the rest of the body, and eventually permanent deterioration of the nerves themselves.
MS affects nearly 1 million people in America and can be quite mild for some individuals. However, others diagnosed with this disease lose the ability to stand, speak, write, or walk, eventually losing complete control over their bodies or freedom of movement. MS is not fatal, though, so many people live a long life despite the disease’s challenges.
Prior to an MS diagnosis, an individual may initially be diagnosed with Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS), a neurological episode where the nerves shed their myelin sheath for at least 24 hours. However, not all cases of CIS lead to MS.
There are a few known variances of MS, including:
Relapsing-Remitting MS (RMSS): This disease pattern has periods of relapse where symptoms are fully expressed and periods of remission, where symptoms are mostly or fully dormant. During a relapse, the disease can become active (where new symptoms develop) or worsen. This type makes up 85% of initial MS diagnoses.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): This type of MS also follows a relapse-remit pattern, but is characterized by a prominent weakening or worsening over time.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): In more severe cases, symptoms worsen from the moment they start and the body declines at a quicker rate. Though its appearance is rare, this type of disease pattern does not have any relapse or remission at the onset.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Similarly, as the disease progresses, individual MS symptoms may vary from person to a person, however, generally, these include:
- Numbness or tingling, often in the trunk or extremities and tend to occur unilaterally, or on one side of the body at a time
- Electric shock-type sensations in the neck that occur with a certain movement, especially when bending the neck forward
- Tingling or unexplained pain in different parts of the body
- Muscle weakness and stiffness
- Vision impairments like a partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, prolonged double vision, and/or blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- A loss of coordination
- Trouble walking or an unsteady gait
- Extreme fatigue
- Problems with bladder and/or bowel function and control
- Sexual dysfunction
Sometimes secondary issues and complications can develop, including muscle spasms that are often painful, paralysis that typically occur in the legs, cognitive changes such as forgetfulness and mood swings, as well as depression.
Multiple Sclerosis Medications & Treatment
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, certain treatments can help speed up recovery from MS attacks and modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
Medical options to calm neurological episodes and slow the progression of the disease, include:
- Corticosteroids that help reduce inflammation of the nerves that exacerbate symptoms
- Beta interferons that are injected into the body to decrease relapses in the relapse-remit pattern.
- Glatiramer acetate another injectable medication that prevents the body’s autoimmune response and prevents attacks on the myelin
- Ocrelizumab, the first FDA-approved infusion treatment for relapse-remitting and primary-progressive forms of MS by helping boost antibodies and prevent an autoimmune response.
- Anti-relapse oral medications like fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate, teriflunomide, and siponimod that consists of a series of medications are available to reduce the amount of relapses over the course of someone’s disease.
Other treatments are available to help target specific symptoms of the disease, including anti-fatigue medicines to combat the muscle fatigue that comes with MS and muscle relaxers to relieve stiffness and muscle spasms that can interfere with recovery and day-to-day life.
However, these medications do have severe side effects. For instance, Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) increases the risk of some types of cancer, particularly breast cancer while several of the oral medications can cause liver damage as well as other serious infections, high blood pressure, and a lowered white blood cell count. Other common side effects of oral treatments include diarrhea, nausea, hair loss, headaches, and blurred vision.
For many individuals with MS, it is recommended to incorporate a physical therapy routine into their treatment protocol as this can help increase mobility, strengthen weak areas of the body, and come up with alternative ways to perform everyday tasks. Some patients also find that occupational therapy can help them make the workplace or at home with lifestyle changes that can make life easier, more comfortable, and help them stay independent.
For patients with severe MS that have difficulty with facial muscle control can benefit from a speech and language specialist that can assist with improving control of the mouth and throat. They can find ways to help improve speech, swallowing, or other issues such as facial tremors. Similarly, other rehabilitation therapists might specialize in helping with specific issues such as bladder and bowel issues, while psychological therapies can help with depression and anxiety.
CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
Research & Scientific Evidence for using CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
There is a relatively substantial body of evidence regarding cannabinoid-based therapies for treating various aspects of MS. For instance, Sativex (containing both cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) has been found to manage the symptoms of MS effectively, including neuropathic pain, spasticity, muscle spasms, and sleep disturbances. Studies investigating CBD only are fewer, however, the evidence shows that it has several benefits as a therapeutic agent for patients suffering from MS.
In a 2013 study published in Neurobiology of Disease, researchers investigated the effects of CBD in the initial stages of the inflammatory response in the Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus-induced (TMEV-IDD) experimental model of MS. In addition, they explored the impact of CBD treatment on the symptomatology and the neuroinflammation that characterizes the chronic phase of the disease as well as the contribution of adenosine A2A receptors to these effects.
Control or TMEV-IDD mice were given with 5 mg/kg of CBD intraperitoneally once a day for seven days for induction analysis and an additional 10 days for chronic analysis. They measured spontaneous motor activity and did immunohistochemistry, microscopic, inflammatory, and several cell culture analyses on tissue samples to evaluate the effects and efficacy of CBD.
The researchers demonstrated that CBD has beneficial immune system actions and effects, while also diminishes the activation of microglial cells involved in neural inflammation in the early stages of the disease. In addition, long-term positive effects of CBD include an improvement in motor deficits associated with the disease.
In another animal study from 2017 published in Fitoterapia, the research group examined whether CBD can counteract the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an experimental model of MS, in mice.
Mice were randomly separated into three groups; a naive group without EAE; an EAE only group; and the experimental group with EAE that was given CBD. 10mg/kg of CBD was injected daily after disease onset for 14 days. Thereafter, the mice were euthanized and spinal cord tissues were sampled to perform immunohistochemical evaluations and western blot analysis.
The data showed that CBD has the potential to counteract the development of EAE by down-regulating neural cell growth cycles together with reducing pro-inflammatory mediators implicated in symptom development. They also found that CBD promotes neuronal survival by inhibiting neuronal cell death, making CBD a therapeutically effective treatment.
In a review study from 2018 published in Frontiers in Neurology: Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology, researchers reviewed the literature to evaluate the efficacy of CBD for improving mobility in people with MS.
They found that the data shows that given its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, neuroprotective, and antidepressant properties, CBD can reduce spasticity, pain, inflammation, fatigue, and depression in MS patients. In addition, they also found that it has the potential to reduce the usage of prescription drugs, in particular the pharmaceutical opioids (for pain management), benzodiazepines (for reducing spasticity), and antidepressants (for countering symptoms and disease progression).
In addition to the scientific evidence indicating that CBD shows potential for both the treatment of MS as well as alleviating its symptoms, anecdotal evidence also shows that CBD may improve MS symptoms in some patients. However, as mentioned from the scientific data we have, it would seem that many people find greater symptom relief and reduction in disease progression when using CBD with THC. In addition, anecdotal evidence also indicates that MS patients are choosing to use cannabis for treating and managing their disease, of which Montel Williams is probably the most well known.
CBD as a complementary treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
CBD can play a role as an adjunct therapy for MS patients by negating the side effects of their medications as well as addressing many of the collateral issues that they suffer from. For instance, CBD can help alleviate gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and nausea from medication side effects while reducing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.
Several year’s worths of research and data has proven CBD’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, neuroprotective and antidepressant properties, all of which can be beneficial actions for treating various aspects and symptoms of MS. In addition, CBD plays an important role as a complementary therapy for some MS patients by alleviating things like medication side effects or psychological issues such as anxiety and depression. However, always consult a medical practitioner before using CBD as your physician can monitor dosage, symptom severity, and other clinical parameters. In addition, CBD is contraindicated with use with certain medications, so they can ensure that your CBD treatment is both safe and effective.