CBD has been studied extensively in the laboratory and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation in the nervous system has been linked to neurodegeneration and therefore it has been hypothesized that CBD might even be beneficial as a neuroprotective agent. Although this is interesting and potentially exciting information, there are numerous other chemicals that have been studied in the laboratory with these properties that did not result in clinical benefit when tried in humans. Therefore, clinical trials become essential to support any claims that CBD should be used for medical purposes. Bottom line, don’t get too excited until there is scientific data to back it up.
Pre-clinical evidence that CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
There have been a few studies of CBD for various symptoms of PD which have generally involved a small number of patients. Many have been open-label trials, in which the doctor and patient are both aware that the patient is receiving treatment and there is no control group that received a placebo.
CBD and Parkinson’s Disease
We also don’t know the side effect profile of CBD in people with PD. At baseline, people with PD may have various non-motor symptoms that may make them more prone to side effects from CBD, including fatigue and nausea.
Clinical studies investigating the effects of CBD on movement disorders.
The beneficial effects of Sativex have also been described in the R6/2 mice, a transgenic model of HD. Treatment with a Sativex-like combination, although not reversing animal’s deterioration in rotarod performance, attenuates the elevated clasping behavior, that reflects dystonia (Valdeolivas et al., 2017). Moreover, treatment mitigates R6/2 mice reduced metabolic activity in basal ganglia and some of the alterations in markers of brain integrity (Valdeolivas et al., 2017).
The first study with CBD on PD patients aimed to verify CBD’s effects on the psychotic symptoms. Treatment with CBD for 4 weeks decreased the psychotic symptoms, evaluated by the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Parkinson Psychosis Questionnaire, without worsening the motor function or inducing adverse effects (Zuardi et al., 2009). Later, in a case series with four PD patients, it was verified that CBD is able to reduce the frequency of the events related to REM sleep behavior disorder (Chagas et al., 2014a). In addition, although not ameliorating PD patients’ motor function or their general symptoms score, treatment with CBD for 6 weeks improves PD’s patients quality of life (Chagas et al., 2014b). The authors suggest that this effect might be related to CBD’s anxiolytic, antidepressant and antipsychotic properties (Chagas et al., 2014b).
In an in vitro study, CBD increased the viability of cells treated with the neurotoxin N-methyl-4-phenylpyrimidine (MPP+), and prevented the MPP+-induced increase in caspase-3 activation and decrease in levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) (Santos et al., 2015). CBD treatment was also able to induce cell differentiation even in the presence of MPP+, an effect that depends on trkA receptors (Santos et al., 2015). MPP+ is a product of oxidation of MPTP that inhibits complex I of the respiratory chain in dopaminergic neurons, causing a rapid neuronal death (Schapira et al., 1990; Meredith et al., 2008).
The effects of CBD on dystonic movements were also evaluated in pre-clinical studies. In a hamster model of idiopathic paroxysmal dystonia, the higher dose of CBD showed a trend to delay the progression of dystonia (Richter and Loscher, 2002). In addition, CBD prevents the increase in vacuous chewing movements, i.e., dyskinesia, promoted by repeated administration of reserpine (Peres et al., 2016). CBD’s beneficial effects are also seen in L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia in rodents, but only when CBD is administered with capsazepine, an antagonist of TRPV1 receptors (Dos-Santos-Pereira et al., 2016). These effects seem to depend on CB1 and PPARγ receptors (Dos-Santos-Pereira et al., 2016). In addition, treatment with capsazepine and CBD decreases the expression of inflammatory markers, reinforcing the suggestion that the anti-inflammatory actions of CBD may be beneficial to the treatment of dyskinesia (Dos-Santos-Pereira et al., 2016).
CBD also antagonizes the G-protein-coupled receptor GPR55 (Ryberg et al., 2007). GPR55 has been suggested as a novel cannabinoid receptor (Ryberg et al., 2007), but this classification is controversial (Ross, 2009). Currently, the phospholipid lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI) is considered the GPR55 endogenous ligand (Morales and Reggio, 2017). Although only few studies link the CBD effect to its action on GPR55 (Kaplan et al., 2017), it is noteworthy that GPR55 has been associated with PD in an animal model (Celorrio et al., 2017) and with axon growth in vitro (Cherif et al., 2015).
CBD, cannabidiol; HD, Huntington’s disease; PD, Parkinson’s disease; REM, rapid-eye movement; THC, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol.
Conflict of interest statement
3 Department of Neuroscience and Behavior, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
Consroe et al. (1986) were the first to evaluate the effects of CBD alone in movement disorders. In this open label study, the five patients with dystonic movement disorders displayed 20–50% improvement of dystonic symptoms when treated with CBD for 6 weeks. Of note, two patients with simultaneous PD’s signs showed worsening of their hypokinesia and/or resting tremor when receiving the higher doses of CBD. However, it should be noted that in two more recent studies with PD patients no worsening of motor function was seen (Zuardi et al., 2009; Chagas et al., 2014b). In accordance, Sandyk et al. (1986) reported improvement of dystonic symptoms in two patients—one with idiopathic spasmodic torticollis and one with generalized torsion dystonia—after acute treatment with CBD.