Multiple sclerosis is a complex disorder, and researchers cannot pinpoint an exact cause. However, the effects of cannabis and CBD could be valuable to patients seeking relief from various symptoms.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine acknowledges cannabidiol (CBD) as having the potential to relieve “spasticity in adult patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).” However, due to the condition’s varying nature and random flare-ups, MS is still a frustrating disease to treat. Indeed, multiple sclerosis affects no two people in the same way.
Although dozens of prescription medications are available, conventional drugs vary in efficacy. This is largely why the topic of CBD oil for multiple sclerosis is advancing into the limelight.
This article will discuss how MS attacks nerve fibers and disrupts neurological pathways. It also discusses how cannabidiol (CBD) can influence these pathways. While one should not consider CBD oil for multiple sclerosis a cure, it may provide an alternative form of relief.
DID YOU KNOW? Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease that only affects about 1 in 275 American adults.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as an “immune-mediated” condition. The body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (which comprises the brain and spinal cord).
After nerve fiber damage, scar tissue begins to form. This scar tissue can interrupt neurological communication between the brain and other body parts. Neural communication is vital for many functions in humans, including motor skills and behavior.
The severity of symptoms that people living with multiple sclerosis experience depends on the location of nerve fiber damage. It also depends on how many fibers are damaged. In milder cases, MS symptoms can be as moderate as mood swings or muscle spasms. In more severe cases, sufferers may have paralysis and/or a complete inability to control bodily functions.
As for prevalence, multiple sclerosis is a relatively rare disease. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says that approximately 900,000 Americans live with the condition. Research suggests that up to 2.8 million people have the condition worldwide.
While researchers are in the dark about what triggers MS, we know some things about it. For instance, we know that women of northern European descent between the ages of 20 and 55 are most at risk.
MS Risk Factors
Genetics and family history play an important part in the onset of MS. We also know that exposure to environmental agents can increase risk. The good news is that not all sufferers experience overly-debilitating symptoms. Many maintain relatively normal day-to-day lives.
Also, contrary to popular belief, multiple sclerosis is not necessarily a terminal disease. In some instances, the disease is degenerative (meaning it worsens over time) and ends in death. However, the average lifespan of individuals with multiple sclerosis is marginally shorter than the average US adult lifespan.
Conventional (Non-Cannabis) MS Treatment Methods
Multiple sclerosis exists in four different stages, or “disease courses.” Conventional treatments and prescriptions depend on which particular stage a patient is in. In order of increasing severity, the four courses of MS are:
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS).
Given multiple sclerosis’s “come and go” nature, patients can go months or even years without a diagnosis. However, in the event of diagnosis, prescription meds are typically the treatment of choice. Prescription MS medications include interferons like Avonex and Betaseron and immunomodulators like Copaxone.
Interferons work by lowering the number of white blood cells in the body. This limits the sources of attack on CNS nerve fibers. However, since white blood cells make up the immune system and protect against disease, these drugs can be dangerous. They can even produce side effects similar to those of chemotherapy.
MS Drugs – Side Effects
Immunomodulators like Copaxone generally present fewer severe side effects than interferons. However, these drugs are not always effective for patients. Functionally, they act as “sacrificial myelin” during MS flare-ups. This is when synthetically-produced amino acids take the brunt of the immune response rather than the myelin protective coatings of the nerve fibers themselves.
Ultimately, most MS sufferers are generally unconcerned about the kind of treatment they take or where it comes from. The only thing that matters to them is whether or not the medication is effective and to what extent it allows them to live a normal life. Those who seek alternatives like CBD oil generally do so for one of the following reasons:
- Their prescription meds are ineffective
- Their prescribed medical regimen results in severe or regular side effects
- Prescription medications are too expensive
Important Information on CBD & Multiple Sclerosis
One thing we didn’t necessarily clarify is the difference in function between CBD and THC. THC, of course, is the archetypal marijuana component. It’s what’s responsible for getting us high and has been the driving force behind generations of legal condemnation and “lazy stoner” typecasts.
On the other hand, CBD has none of these intoxicating properties. It won’t cause a high any more than an ibuprofen tablet will. Rather, the molecule functions as an “endocannabinoid supplement.”
Our bodies are filled with natural cannabinoid receptors that work with natural endocannabinoids. If there is an absence or deficiency in producing these endocannabinoids, the receptors can’t function properly.
The central nervous system is the body region most densely populated with cannabinoid receptors – the same region where multiple sclerosis attacks nerve fibers.
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MS and a Possible Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Could multiple sclerosis potentially be a disease hinged on a basic endocannabinoid deficiency? No one can answer that question without years of research. That said, anecdotal evidence suggests an uncanny relationship between the two components.
More research is needed to understand any potential dynamic between MS and endocannabinoid deficiency.
For the time being, at least, it seems that people living with multiple sclerosis will continue to rely on self-treatment methods. Unless they live in a state with MMJ, they will have to resort to non-conventional approaches to obtain alternative medications like CBD oil.
Cannabis & CBD Oil Benefits for MS – What Does the Research Say?
Believe it or not, dozens of academic and research publications have been released in recent years concerning the use of cannabinoids as a potential MS treatment. Here, we point out five of the most relevant studies to date.
“There is a wide acceptance of cannabis [use] within the MS community: up to 60% of PwMS victims currently use cannabis, and up to 90% would consider using it if it were legal and more scientific evidence was available.”
Sativex is a cannabis-based, FDA-approved medication for the “adjunctive treatment of neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).”
“CBD provides long-lasting protection against the effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis.”
“…nearly every participant in a 1997 survey of 112 regular marijuana users with multiple sclerosis [stated] that the drug lessened both pain and spasticity.”
A review of studies from 1970 to 2013 looked into the potential benefits of complementary and alternative medicine in MS. The researchers suggested that “clinicians might offer oral cannabis extract for spasticity symptoms and pain.”
CBD Treatment for MS: Are There Any Side Effects?
CBD is generally recognized as being safe for consumption. Unlike THC, it is non-intoxicating, and there is little risk of developing an addiction.
Nonetheless, there are some potential side effects to watch out for, including:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
CBD is not FDA-approved, and the marketplace is poorly regulated. Therefore, one of the biggest risks is purchasing a low-grade product containing contaminants. It is important only to buy products with third-party lab reports outlining what’s inside.
Also, CBD can interact with certain medications. Therefore, any MS patients currently using prescription or over-the-counter drugs should consult with a physician before using CBD.
How to Take CBD Oil for MS
There is a wide variety of CBD products available. Here are the most common, along with information on how to consume them:
- CBD Oil: Place a few drops beneath the tongue, and hold them there for 60-90 seconds before swallowing.
- CBD Topicals: Rub the topical onto the affected area.
- CBD Vape Juice: It is possible to buy disposable vaporizers with pre-filled CBD juice cartridges. Alternatively, one can add the liquid to the vape device’s tank. The vaporizer heats the liquid, creating a vapor that the user inhales.
- CBD Edibles: The most common options include gummies and chocolate. Using edibles is as easy as chewing and swallowing!
- CBD Capsules: Swallow these capsules with some water. They are ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the taste or texture of CBD oil.
- CBD Flower: This is smokable dried hemp flower.
Typically, smoking and vaping provide the most rapid effects, but there are health concerns with both. CBD oil is the most popular and takes effect relatively quickly. CBD edibles and capsules are easy to use but can take a while to have a noticeable impact. Finally, CBD topicals are useful for anyone looking to tackle pain in a specific body area.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis
The research above indicates that CBD has potential promise for people living with multiple sclerosis. It is less expensive than pharmaceutical drugs, has fewer side effects, and could help alleviate many MS symptoms. However, detailed clinical trials involving humans are necessary to learn more about CBD for MS, including safety, efficacy, dosage, and more.
Nonetheless, many MS patients are unwilling to wait and want to try CBD as soon as possible. Fortunately, CBD products are tolerated in most states as long as they come from hemp and have a maximum THC content of 0.3%. Below, we have included details of what we believe are among the best CBD brands in the industry.
A note on CBD for Multiple Sclerosis by Dr. Mosab Deen:
“In essence, it is vital to understand that CBD may not only relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, without inflated pharmaceutical prices or their unhealthy side effects but may be the secret cure to preventive neurodegeneration through the endocannabinoid pathway that MS patients suffer from.”
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