Essential tremor, sometimes referred to as ET, is a condition that affects around 7 million Americans and millions globally. ET affects up to 1% of the general population and up to 5% of people aged over 65.
Despite how common ET is, there is no cure, and there are currently very few treatment options available.
Despite how common ET is, there is no cure, and there are currently very few treatment options available. Some have proposed that CBD oil could offer potential relief to those suffering from essential tremor. This article will explore this possibility in-depth.
What Is an Essential Tremor?
Essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder. It is characterized by involuntary and rhythmic shaking, which can occur in any part of the body. It most commonly occurs in the hands when performing simple tasks like drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.
The tremors are similar to Parkinson’s disease symptoms, leading to ET being confused with Parkinson’s. Here are some of the key differences between the two conditions.
The Timing of the Tremors
With ET, the tremors usually occur when the affected person is using their hands. However, with Parkinson’s disease, these tremors or shakes arise when they are inactive. For example, Parkinson’s hand tremors are most prominent when they are by the person’s side or resting on their lap.
Posture and Movement
Some people with ET develop ataxia, which means that they no longer have full control over their bodily movements. As a result, people with ataxia often have an unsteady gait. On the other hand, people with Parkinson’s disease often have a shuffling gait. Other associated symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include slow motion and having a stooped posture.
Parts of the Body Affected
ET mainly affects the hands, head, voice, and legs. With Parkinson’s disease, these tremors usually start in the hands. However, they can also impact the legs and chin.
Symptoms of Essential Tremor
Essential tremor signs and symptoms include:
- Beginning gradually, usually more prominently on one side of the body
- Worsening with movement
- Occurrence in the hands first, affecting one or both hands
- A possible “yes-yes” or “no-no” motion of the head
Upward and downward movements characterize ET in the hands. These tremors can also affect the arms, head, eyelids, and larynx (voice box), which results in a shaky voice.
Essential tremor symptoms can be challenging to detect, as they tend to start discreetly and worsen over time.
Many people have a slight tremor only when performing specific tasks, which is entirely reasonable and nothing of concern. Factors such as caffeine, stress, smoking, and tiredness can bring on a physiologic tremor.
What Causes an Essential Tremor?
One risk factor for ET is age. Essential tremor is much more common in people aged 40 and older. Remember, ET affects up to 5% of people aged over 65.
The other main risk factor is a genetic mutation. The inherited cause of ET is due to it being an autosomal dominant disorder. This means only one parent needs to have the defective gene for their children to inherit it. Research shows that if one parent has the defective gene, children have a 50% chance of developing the condition.
Can CBD Help with Essential Tremor? Current Research
There is plenty of encouraging research into CBD for other conditions with similar symptoms. However, experts are no closer to adding essential tremor to the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
However, there was a recent breakthrough for the industry as researchers at the University of California San Diego are currently investigating the effect of cannabinoids on ET. They are conducting a study that will look at the effectiveness and safety of a cannabis formulation for helping ET.
The researchers estimate that approximately sixteen participants with ET will take part in the study. All participants undergo a complete neurological examination and psychological testing as part of the study.
The participants take an oral cannabis formulation with a CBD to THC ratio of 20:1. Upon completion of a particular dosage of the cannabis formulation for two weeks, participants taper off. After a washout period, they then cross to an alternate study arm.
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The study will take approximately one year to complete. The researchers will use various types of validated tremor rating measures in the study. As well as quantifying tremor severity, the researchers will assess the safety and tolerability of the cannabis formulation.
Dr. Adrian Handforth is the Chief of Neurology at VA Greater LA Healthcare System. He is the lead researcher of an IETF-funded study that explores the effects of CBD on essential tremor. Dr. Handforth and his team seek to determine whether CBD can suppress ET in an animal model.
He says that finding positive results could justify a human clinical trial. Also, Dr. Handforth hopes to understand how CBD stops the tremor. If his team can achieve this, their findings could help develop an ET-specific medication.
Are There Any Research Results?
Yes. A recent study published in May 2021 offered hope for ET patients. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen looked into the effect of medical cannabis on essential tremor. An injection with a synthetic cannabinoid into the spinal cord turned on the astrocytes located there. This process resulted in the release of adenosine, a substance that reduces nerve activity and shaking.
According to researchers, this new approach avoids affecting the neurons in the brain responsible for our cognitive abilities and memory. Therefore, it is possible to provide patients with involuntary shaking an effective treatment that doesn’t lead to certain marijuana side effects. The next step is to perform clinical trials on patients with ET to see if this approach has the same impact on humans.
While it is exciting news, the results of such research are probably years from being published.
What Treatments Are Available to Those with Essential Tremor?
There is currently no cure for essential tremors. Treatment is limited to medication or deep brain stimulation surgery in extreme cases. Here is what’s available right now.
While there is no medication capable of completely removing the symptoms of essential tremor, some can reduce their severity. In general, doctors prescribe drugs for oral consumption. Some commonly prescribed medications include:
- Primidone (anti-seizure drug)
- Benzodiazepines (e.g. lorazepam)
Another option is to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS). This is a procedure that involves implanting electrical leads in the brain’s thalamus. The thalamus is associated with muscle control and coordination. Many experts believe it is responsible for the tremors experienced by people with ET.
MRI-Guided Focused High-Intensity Ultrasound
One final treatment method revolves around the use of MRI to focus ultrasound. The idea is to destroy the tissue located in the thalamus. One significant downside is that patients stay awake during the procedure, which isn’t a pleasant experience.
Could CBD Oil Help Reduce an Essential Tremor?
Cannabis research is ongoing and focuses on the plant’s potential to address a plethora of medical symptoms. Many states across America now have laws allowing cannabis use in some form.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most heavily researched compounds of the marijuana plant. CBD could potentially be hugely significant in mitigating a host of disease-related symptoms in the future.
Research has shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and is a patented neuroprotectant. It also displays other promising benefits.
The FDA has also acknowledged CBD’s medicinal benefits for certain types of seizures. The epilepsy drug Epidiolex is the first-ever CBD-based drug the administration has approved.
Despite the level of research into CBD, there is still minimal research into cannabis for essential tremor.
Despite the level of research into CBD, there is still minimal research into cannabis for essential tremor. Nonetheless, the lack of treatment options for ET means that a growing number of patients are looking into CBD oil to help.
In theory, cannabidiol targets and regulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors, CB1 and CB2. These are found in the brain and throughout the body and help regulate bodily functions such as muscle movement.
CBD could potentially enable muscle relaxation and ease the symptoms of ET. Studies into CBD for Parkinson’s have proven fruitful, and it is hoped this will be the case with essential tremor research.
As an interesting aside, one experienced doctor claims that THCV helped a patient with a severe ET case. According to the physician, it was the worst case of essential tremor he had seen in almost 40 years. The patient could hardly walk, write her name, or swallow food.
Yet, within 24 hours of using THCV, she could eat, control her tremors, and her speech was almost normal. This is a fascinating tale as it shows the potential power of cannabinoids for patients with ET.
Using CBD for Tremors (Dosage and Use)
Patients that use CBD for tremors tend to consume it sublingually or via a vaporizer. As everyone reacts differently to the cannabinoid, it is best to begin with just a single drop 2-3 times a day. Increase the dosage once you’re comfortable that there are no side effects. As a rule of thumb, up to 25mg of CBD a day is sufficient for someone with a mild to moderate ET case.
Please note that vaping provides a faster effect and has a higher absorption rate than sublingually consumed CBD. Also, individuals with a hand tremor may find it difficult to hold the CBD oil dropper. It could take a while to determine the right amount of cannabidiol for you, so be patient!
Shopping Tips for Best CBD for Essential Tremor
Finding the best CBD for essential tremors isn’t as easy as one might hope. The cannabidiol market is unregulated federally in the United States. As a result, there are lots of low-quality products around. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the best from your CBD experience.
- Stick with tried and trusted brands. Read the reviews published on WayofLeaf to determine if a company is trustworthy.
- Make sure the CBD comes from industrial hemp with a maximum of 0.3% THC.
- As a combination of CBD and THC potentially works best, opt for full-spectrum products.
- Don’t buy from any brand that doesn’t provide third-party lab reports.
- It is best if you only choose CBD oil where CO2 extraction is used.
- When it comes to CBD vape products, avoid ones with thinning agents such as PG and PEG.
- Patients with essential tremor should focus on oral CBD products.
- Make sure the label clearly outlines the ingredients and has a batch number and manufacturing date.
- Steer clear of products that say the CBD comes from the stalk or seeds of the hemp plant. Those parts of the plant have minimal CBD.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Essential Tremor
The clinical trials occurring right now are crucial for sufferers of ET and the cannabis industry as a whole. This will be the first time scientists have looked to the plant to calm essential tremor symptoms effectively.
The results of this research could potentially have a life-changing impact on people with ET. A positive outcome would likely pave the way for further clinical studies using cannabinoids.