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CBD for Multiple Sclerosis [How it Works]

CBD Oil and MS – Can it Help Patients?

Multiple sclerosis, better known as MS, is a condition that affects around 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million people globally. It is a disease that hits younger people and is a disabling neurological disease. It is likely that the above data grossly underestimates the number of people living with MS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require physicians to report new cases. Therefore, the last study on multiple sclerosis took place in 1975!

A recent report from the National MS Society suggests that up to one million Americans now have the condition. It is believed that Canada has one of the highest rates of the illness in the world. The data shows that 74% of people living with multiple sclerosis are female. Given the nature of the condition, patients continually seek new ways to treat it. As a result, there is a significant rise in people using CBD oil for MS.

In this article, we look at CBD for MS patients. First, let’s look at the condition in greater detail.

What is MS?

MS disease is a chronic inflammatory neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system (CNS). It impacts the brain’s gray and white matter, along with our optic nerve and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis remains one of the most common causes of non-traumatic disability among adults aged 20-40. In the U.S. alone, direct healthcare costs relating to MS cost over $10 billion annually.

Signs & Symptoms of MS

If you intend to use CBD, it is crucial to read the potential symptoms and signs of MS accurately. In most cases, you experience early signs of MS between the ages of 20 and 40. Typically, you begin to feel better after initial problems. Unfortunately, the symptoms eventually return. It is also the case that no two MS patients will experience the same symptoms. You may suffer from one issue and have no other problems for years.

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is one of the first signs of MS for many individuals. It occurs when the immune system tells the body to attack the protective shield (myelin) over nerve cells in the spine and brain. Symptoms of this episode include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors start to look dull
  • Pain in the eye, particularly when you attempt to move it
  • Numbness and tingling

Primary MS symptoms occur due to the ongoing damage to the myelin. These include:

  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Difficulty keeping your balance
  • A change to your gait
  • Depression and emotional changes
  • Fatigue
  • Eye problems
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sexual dysfunction

There are also numerous secondary and tertiary symptoms caused by primary issues:

  • You become less active because of your difficulties walking
  • You could struggle to do your job
  • Depression results in your withdrawing into a shell
  • You become less sociable

What Causes MS?

The direct causes are unknown. Research suggests that it is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks its tissues. The result is the destruction of myelin, the protector of nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain. Are for who is affected by MS, there are several risk factors:

  • Age: It is most likely to occur between 16 and 55 years of age.
  • Gender: Women are up to three times more likely to get MS than men.
  • Race: Caucasians of Northern European descent are at the highest risk.
  • Infections: Viruses such as Epstein-Barr are linked with a higher risk of MS.
  • Family History: You are more likely to get MS if a sibling or parent has the condition.

Types of MS

Before any official diagnosis, a patient typically experiences a Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS). It lasts for up to 24 hours, with symptoms indicating one or more lesions within the central nervous system. There are four types of MS:

There are four well-known types of MS:

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS: This is the #1 type of multiple sclerosis. It involves attacks and remissions. During the recovery phase, you experience few, if any, symptoms. Relapses are unpredictable and have an unclear cause. During the relapse phase, a new symptom could occur, or else a previous one returns. This cycle of relapse and recovery happens in 85% of people with MS.
  • Primary-Progressive MS: An estimated 15% of people with the condition have this type of MS. In this case, a patient will experience symptoms that become steadily worse over time.
  • Secondary Progressive MS: It begins like the relapsing-remitting MS. After repeated attacks, the recovery phases cease, and MS enters a progressive step. An estimated 40% of people with multiple sclerosis have the secondary progressive form of the condition. It can take up to 15+ years to occur after the first onset of the disease.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS): This is an extremely rare form of the condition. Fewer than 5% of people with MS have PRMS.  It involves a steadily worsening state from the start. There are acute relapses, but no remissions.

Diagnosis & How to Treat MS

Physicians often find it difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis, as there is no specially designed test. Your case gets referred to a neurologist who will try to:

  • Rule out any other diagnosis.
  • Prove the damage happened at different periods.
  • Locate damage to at least two areas of the CNS. This includes the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves.

Tests used to diagnose MS include blood tests, Evoked Potentials, Spinal Taps, and MRI scans. If you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it is likely a considerable shock.

There is no cure, but there are drugs and lifestyle changes used to help manage the condition. The most commonly used medications include Disease-Modifying Drugs. This type of drug generally treats patients with relapsing-remitting MS. It works by curbing the immune system so that it doesn’t attack myelin.

A lot of drug treatments carry horrific side effects. For example, Novantrone and Lemtrada could cause heart damage and a form of leukemia. There are also drugs to control MS symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and bladder problems.

Understandably, people don’t want to get cancer when treating another medical problem! Therefore, an increase in people who try CBD oil for MS is hardly surprising.

CBD Oil and MS – Could It Help?

There are a growing number of patients exploring the use of CBD for multiple sclerosis. You can purchase CBD derived from hemp in most American states, even though it isn’t federally legal. Proponents of the cannabinoid claim that it is antipsychotic, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective. Any compound with neuroprotective and antioxidant properties is worth considering when trying to treat neurological conditions.

Hemp is no longer a controlled substance in the United States. However, it is only a recent development. Its long-term prohibited status has not helped research into the usefulness of its cannabinoids. Evidence to date suggests that CBD helps bind to the endocannabinoid receptors (mainly CB1 and CB2) in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system, connective tissues, and intestines. CB2 receptors are mainly found in the tonsils, spleen, and immune cells. Data shows that while CBD doesn’t directly activate the CB receptors, it does have an indirect effect. CBD also seems to modulate or adjust to how the receptors respond to stimulation from other cannabinoids.

Many people who try CBD oil for MS do so to help treat symptoms such as pain and spasticity. It is usually necessary to use a higher amount of cannabidiol than one would for most other conditions. Unfortunately, the precise reason(s) why CBD could help MS symptoms are not fully known or understood. Research is ongoing, however. Even so, a growing number of people believe CBD oil is good for MS.

CBD & MS Studies

Researchers are not 100% sure what causes multiple sclerosis. However, they have conducted studies on animals with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), which is the animal model for MS in humans. Studies have revealed that neuroinflammation in animals with EAE occurred after antigen-specific T cells crossed the blood-brain barrier. The result was the death of myelinated neuronal cells with symptoms of paralysis.

A study by Elliott D.M., published in Frontiers in Immunology in August 2018, studied the treatment of EAE with CBD oil. The researchers induced EAE in female mice. They were then treated with CBD or a control vehicle, and the team observed the first symptoms of EAE. They tracked the progression of the disease using clinical scores associated with different expressions of symptoms.

The team used a scale of 0-6. The mice that didn’t receive CBD had a maximum clinical score of 4.1 over the study’s duration. The mice given CBD had a mean score of just 2.2. They experienced only partial paralysis of their hind limbs.

A study by Rudroff and Sosnoff looked at whether CBD could improve mobility in people with MS. Their work was published in Frontiers in Neurology in 2018. The researchers found that cannabidiol helped to reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, depression, and inflammation in MS patients.

Interestingly, the duo discovered that cannabis with a 1:1 or greater CBD to THC ratio was the most effective option. Overall, the researchers opined that CBD was ‘safe’ and a useful way to improve mobility in people living with MS.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Take For MS?

The CBD dosage for multiple sclerosis varies depending on the patient. When taking CBD oil for MS, begin with as little as 2.5mg to see how your body handles it. We have heard of users going as high as 120mg in the end.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil and MS

There is a relative lack of research into CBD oil and MS. The studies published to date do paint a picture of hope. The British MS Society published a report on marijuana and MS in 2017. It used reviews conducted by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Its medical advisors concluded that cannabis products could improve the quality of life for at least 10,000 MS patients.

One of the most noticeable effects was an improvement in spasticity. In many of the states with MMJ programs, multiple sclerosis is one of the qualifying conditions. However, not everyone wants to experience a psychoactive ‘high.’ This is where CBD comes in as a possible option for people living with MS.

It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana. In general, it is well-tolerated. Side effects include diarrhea, reduced appetite, dry mouth, and fatigue. More pertinently, it could interact with other drugs, especially blood thinners. Even so, its reasonable safety profile means it is often used to treat epilepsy in children.

As far as CBD oil for MS goes, research is very much in its infancy. The cannabinoid’s neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties may help with conditions like multiple sclerosis. The FDA approves the use of Sativex for MS. It is a cannabis oil that consists of CBD and THC. Patients report better quality of life and lower spasticity.

One of the problems is that researchers don’t know why CBD helps. They are also unsure as to the method through which it interacts with MS-causing mechanisms. The removal of hemp from the list of controlled substances will hopefully aid research. Until then, those considering the use of CBD for MS should start with a small amount and gradually increase it. 

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