How CBD Helps With Dementia
A 2017 study noted that CBD possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help with dementia. Researchers also noted how CBD acts as a neuroprotectant to improve various brain functions(1).
There are many types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia(2).
CBD’s potential to manage dementia is realized through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system responsible for essential biological functions(3). The ECS consists of two central cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are responsible for cognitive functions, including movement, thinking, memories, and mood. Meanwhile, CB2 receptors affect pain and inflammation.
A study was conducted on ten dementia patients with severe behavior problems. Patients were given a combination of two phytocannabinoids, CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)(4).
CBD and THC both come from the cannabis plant. However, CBD is non-psychoactive, while THC generates a high among users.
Based on the researchers’ findings, higher doses of CBD and THC improved the patients’ behavior problems. Patients also reported improvements in dementia symptoms, like muscle rigidity.
In one study on Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia, it was found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties reduced critical elements in reactive gliosis(5).
In gliosis, glial cells undergo a reactive change in response to damage in the central nervous system (CNS). Glial cells are the most abundant cells in the CNS, which surround, support, and provide insulation between neurons(6).
CBD has been shown to reduce the negative impact of inflammation, oxygen buildup, and brain cell decline(7).
Another study outlined CBD’s potential to prevent the production of large membrane proteins called amyloid-beta proteins(8). These proteins are essential for neural growth and repair.
However, later in life, a corrupted form of amyloid-beta proteins can destroy synapses and eventually result in nerve cell death. This cell death leads to the loss of thought and memory in Alzheimer’s disease(9).
According to the researchers, CBD may help suppress gene production related to Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Dementia
Several studies have suggested that CBD might have therapeutic benefits to the nervous system and its brain cells.
CBD vs. Neuroinflammation
According to a 2018 review of animal and human research data, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce neuroinflammation(10). The study also demonstrated that CBD may decrease inflammatory cytokine production.
Cytokines are signaling molecules that help in cell-to-cell communication in immune responses. These molecules are also responsible for the cells’ movement towards infection, trauma, and inflammation sites in the body(11).
CBD vs. Oxidative Stress
A study on mice revealed that CBD possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects on oxidative stress. CBD also helps modulate glial cells and prevents the death of nerve cells(12).
Oxidative stress is an imbalance that occurs when oxidants (reactive molecules that may cause inflammation) outnumber antioxidants (substances that protect cells from damage)(13).
Oxidative stress is a major cause of different neurodegenerative diseases, specifically vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. This imbalance is also linked to Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
CBD and Brain Stimulation
According to a 2017 study found in the Frontiers in Pharmacology journal, CBD promotes hippocampal neurogenesis or the production of new neurons in the hippocampus(14).
Hippocampus is part of the brain that gets damaged by dementia. Hippocampal neurogenesis significantly decreases in patients with Alzheimer’s disease(15).
A study on the treatment of Alzheimer’s suggested that the long-term use of CBD may help prevent the development of social recognition memory impairments in rodent subjects(16).
The study also highlighted CBD’s antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties. According to the researchers, CBD’s neuroprotective properties are related to its ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Another study was conducted on patients with Parkinson’s to demonstrate CBD’s efficacy in treating psychosis associated with the disease(17).
The test subjects were given a flexible CBD dose for four weeks, starting with an oral dose of 150mg CBD per day.
CBD may be useful in treating psychosis in patients with Parkinson’s disease. During the clinical trial, the test subjects did not experience any adverse side effects.
CBD vs. Nightmares
A study found that CBD may improve sleep-related conditions associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) in patients with Parkinson’s disease(18).
RBD is associated with low sleep quality and nightmares. Other sleep-related conditions include active behavior when one is dreaming and paralysis of muscles during nightmares.
CBD and Cognitive Functions
A 2018 study has noted that CBD’s long-term medical use may result in improved cognition, particularly in verbal learning, memory, and attentional switching(19).
Meanwhile, results from multiple impairment studies on patients with schizophrenia showed CBD’s potential to improve cognition(20). Preclinical models of cognitive impairment include Alzheimer’s disease, neuro-inflammatory disorders, and neurological disorders.
CBD vs. Anxiety and Depression
People with dementia may also experience anxiety and depression(21). According to a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Immunology, CBD has the potential ability to alleviate the symptoms of depression(22).
The researchers noted that CBD’s anxiety-reducing and antipsychotic effects may help with symptoms of epilepsy, social phobia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease.
A study also reported that CBD has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects that may help with anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder(23).
CBD Dosage and Delivery Methods for Dementia
Based on a 2017 review, there is no standard CBD dosage chart for any specific medical condition, like dementia(24). The review also noted that humans and animals respond uniquely to different doses of CBD.
The general rule for dosing with CBD is to begin with small amounts, especially if you are taking it for the first time.
It is essential to take note of your body’s reaction to CBD. If there are no adverse effects observed, you may gradually increase the dosage to maximize CBD’s potential health benefits.
It is recommended to start with a small dose of 1mg to 2mg CBD daily for one week. Then, increase the dosage by 2mg to 3mg CBD weekly until you notice significant symptom improvements(25).
The CBD dosage should be based on the patient’s body weight—the heavier the individual, the larger their dose. The standard dose for average adults is approximately a maximum of 5mg.
Before adding CBD to their medication regimen, dementia patients or their family members should consult a doctor.
Methods of Delivery
You can find various forms of CBD products on the market. For people with dementia, it is recommended to administer CBD in gelcap form(26).
Compared to CBD tinctures, gelcaps help in the administration of consistent amounts of CBD. Elderly patients may also feel more familiar with swallowing pills.
Patients may also take CBD orally using other product forms, such as CBD oil, sprays, gummies, or capsules. CBD oil can be mixed with food and beverages if CBD administration to dementia patients is complicated.
You may take tinctures sublingually (under the tongue) using a dropper. Hold for 60 to 90 seconds before swallowing for more efficacy.
The sublingual method takes about 15 to 30 minutes to start taking effect in the system. Results may last up to a few hours(27).
Meanwhile, CBD oil may be used topically during massages to relieve the pain felt by patients. Various CBD topical formulations available to patients include salves, gels, lotions, balms, and creams.
It is recommended to purchase topical products that use CBD micellization, nanotechnology, or encapsulation since CBD has limited absorption when used topically(28).
The technologies and methods mentioned above guarantee that CBD, as an active ingredient, is transmitted through dermal layers and does not only stay on the skin(29).
After applying CBD topical to your skin, you may notice the effects within 30 to 90 minutes(30).
Inhaling CBD through vape oils and pens provide fast-acting effects. However, vape products are not advisable for dementia patients who are usually elderly.
Side effects of vaping include dry mouth and throat, coughing, and shortness of breath(31). Vape use may also cause lung diseases, such as collapsed lung and lipoid pneumonia(32).
CBD and Other Alternative Treatments for Dementia
People have been exploring alternative treatments for dementia, as the commonly used medications often have adverse effects. These effects may be detrimental, especially to elderly dementia patients.
Pharmaceutical medicines for dementia may cause nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, dizziness, itchiness or rashes, sleep problems, agitation or aggression, and hallucinations(33).
Several studies have explored acupuncture treatment as a potential remedy for dementia. Acupuncture is a vital component of traditional Chinese medicine believed to enhance the body’s flow of energy(34).
Unlike massage therapies that focus on stimulating the blood flow and movement in the body, acupuncture targets specific body points using thin needles(35).
According to a study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, acupuncture is more effective when used with Western and herbal medications(36).
The researchers noted that acupuncture has mixed efficacy in treating dementia and cognitive impairments.
Another study demonstrated that acupuncture elicited significant improvement in the sleep quality of elders with dementia(37). Over the treatment period, researchers observed significant gain in resting and sleep time.
The researchers found that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on the cognitive status and daily activities of dementia patients.
Herbal supplements may also be used as an alternative treatment for dementia.
Some of the most commonly studied and used herbs include Ginkgo biloba, Huperzia serrata, Curcuma longa (turmeric), Panax ginseng, Panax notoginseng, Bacopa monnieri (water hyssop), and Camellia sinensis (tea plant)(38).
Numerous clinical trials have shown that ginkgo helps with memory loss and concentration and decreases anxiety in patients with dementia(39).
According to reports, a standard preparation of the ginkgo herb may improve neurocognition and enhance the daily activities of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s patients(40).
Other alternative remedies may only treat a few aspects of dementia. Thus, some studies suggest that the use of cannabis-related products, like CBD, may have more advantages(41).
CBD’s neuroprotective and antipsychotic properties have the potential to alleviate the symptoms associated with dementia.
Using CBD for Dementia: Risks and Side Effects
CBD is generally well-tolerated and safe to use(42). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), CBD is classified as “non-addictive(43).”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not recorded any case of CBD dependence in humans(44). Thus, it was concluded that CBD is not a substance that has the potential for abuse.
However, risks and side effects may still occur. Possible adverse reactions to CBD may include(45):
- dry mouth
- mood changes, like irritability
- loss of appetite
- gastrointestinal problems
- liver damage
CBD may also interact with other medications and supplements and raise their levels in the bloodstream.
The typically prescribed treatments for dementia are cholinesterase inhibitors. These inhibitors have been shown to have a modest effect on symptoms of dementia, like cognition(46).
Donepezil and galantamine are some of the most commonly used cholinesterase inhibitors. Both treatments are metabolized by a group of enzymes called cytochrome P450(47).
Caution is advised when taking CBD with dementia medications to avoid drug interactions.
Since CBD may inhibit liver enzymes, the compound has the potential to reduce the efficacy of certain dementia medications(48).
Another safety concern is CBD’s lack of regulation from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many CBD products are being primarily marketed with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims and sold as supplements(49).
The FDA currently does not regulate the purity and safety of dietary supplements. Some CBD companies continue to sell products online without thorough testing(50).
The only FDA-approved drug derived from purified CBD is Epidiolex. This product is used to treat seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome(51).
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Dementia
Before buying any CBD product, it is important to know the three types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
All the parts of a Cannabis sativa plant are used in a full-spectrum CBD oil. There are also trace amounts of THC, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and essential oils.
Some studies suggest that full-spectrum CBD oil is the most effective type of CBD oil because all the ingredients of the cannabis plant synergize for maximum therapeutic benefits(52). This synergistic effect is known as the entourage effect.
However, note that THC may be detected in drug tests. THC also causes psychoactive effects.
If you want to avoid the risk of getting high, broad-spectrum CBD is more recommended. Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains the same components as full-spectrum CBD except for THC.
People looking to use pure CBD or avoiding its other components due to allergies may use CBD isolates. This type of pure CBD oil is made from isolated cannabidiol.
There is a significant difference between CBD oil and hempseed oil. CBD is derived from a hemp plant’s stalks, flowers, and leaves.
Meanwhile, hempseed oil is primarily obtained from raw hemp seeds. There may be trace amounts of CBD in hempseed oil or none at all.
The other things you should consider in choosing the best CBD oil product include the following:
- Identify the CBD product’s source of hemp. The most common hemp sources include Colorado, Oregon, and Kentucky.
- Choose high-quality CBD products that are derived from non-GMO, organic hemp.
- Find out which method is used in extracting CBD oil. According to a report, CO2 extraction is recognized as a safe process and recommended by the US FDA in pharmaceutical manufacturing(53).
- CBD companies should give consumers access to third-party lab reports and analyses. Accredited third-party labs issue certifications on a CBD product’s components and quality.
- If you have a loved one with dementia, encourage them to consult with a medical professional first before letting them use any CBD product.
- Before purchasing from a retailer or dispensary, ensure that CBD’s sale or use is legal in your state.
- Make sure to research the CBD brand and check reviews from other customers when purchasing online.
Legality of CBD
When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, hemp-derived CBD containing less than 0.3% THC became legal(54). This bill also allowed the growth, production, and manufacturing of hemp on the federal level.
Although CBD is easily accessible in many parts of the United States, state laws may have varying degrees of restriction.
Some states have laws permitting cannabis oil with a high concentration of THC(55). Under a state’s medical marijuana program, patients with qualifying conditions may have legal access to medical cannabis(56).
Medical marijuana patients may require an official diagnosis and prescription from a licensed physician.