CBD. Those three magical letters hold a lot of power. In fact, this substance has completely changed the way I practice medicine. And in my view, it’s only a matter of time before it changes the way everyone else practices medicine, too.
With every new study that comes out, we’re learning that cannabidiol (CBD) can just about do it all—whether you’re battling anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or even complications from COVID-19.
And if the incredible results of one recently published study hold up in humans… we may soon be able to add Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to that already impressive list.
A one-two punch against plaque
Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia set out to explore how CBD—one of the main cannabinoids in the marijuana plant—might influence the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque.
They used a mouse model of early onset familial AD for their investigation. (Of course, you may already know that I don’t normally give animal studies much credit. But once you hear about these findings, it won’t take long to see why I felt compelled to share them with you.)
Researchers focused on IL-33—a protein tasked with alerting your body that beta-amyloid is building up in your brain. In the case of AD, specifically, IL-33 would turn down inflammation in an effort to re-balance your immune system—a function that makes it a particularly appealing target for potential treatments.
And guess what? They discovered that CBD seemed to be able to normalize levels of IL-33. But that’s not all… it also influenced TREM2 (triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2) genes. This receptor helps activate microglial cells, which are special immune cells that help clear out debris like damaged neurons in your brain.
Like IL-33, low levels of TREM2 have links with AD. And in this study’s mouse model, both biomarkers were low. But treatment with CBD was able to boost levels of IL-33 by sevenfold—and levels of TREM2 by tenfold.
New hope for human patients
The good news doesn’t stop there. Because CBD didn’t just manage to increase levels of these regulating proteins dramatically. It also reduced levels of IL-6—an inflammatory marker in the brain. And it delivered noticeable improvements to the rodents’ cognition and movements.
For example, stiffness and impaired gait are common features of AD in humans. In mice, this pathology manifests as running in a tight circle over and over. But incredibly, CBD treatment was able to stop this behavior altogether.
Of course, there are some limitations here: Again, this study looked specifically at familial disease—an inherited version of AD that only occurs in ten to 15 percent of patients, and which shows up early, typically in the 30s or 40s.
But the researchers speculate that CBD treatment would be at least as effective in the more common variations of the disease, too.
Then, there’s the question of dosage and timing. In this study, researchers administered CBD in the disease’s advanced stages. And now, the team is looking into CBD’s benefits when taken at the very first signs of cognitive decline.
They’re also exploring different delivery methods. These studies put CBD into the bellies of the mice every other day for two weeks. But future investigations will look into methods like inhaler use, which could deliver CBD more directly to the brain.
In fact, the team is now working with inhalers from the same company that developed them for the recent research on CBD and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—the main lethal complication of COVID-19.
That research showed that CBD was able to calm the “cytokine storm” that leads to the worst infection outcomes, including permanent lung damage and death. And if nothing else, that suggests more amazing results may soon be on the horizon…
Beating Big Pharma at its own game
As you know, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles—both resulting from a buildup of tau protein within brain cells—are one of the main hallmarks of AD.
Beta-amyloid shows up in the brain as many as two decades (or more) before symptoms of dementia even surface. Tangles, meanwhile, usually coincide with cognitive decline—and can keep forming up to a decade after symptoms start.
But so far, none of the available drugs on the market have been shown to act on this aspect of the disease.
As it stands, there are two types of Alzheimer’s drugs currently available. One acts to increase levels of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter that’s lower in patients with AD. The other works on special receptors involved in memory and brain cell communication. And I hate to say it, but neither class is particularly effective.
In other words, we are in desperate need of more treatment options for Alzheimer’s patients. Because this is one disease that even Big Pharma hasn’t been able to capitalize on… even as the numbers continue to rise.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on track to soon decide on the fate of a new drug—the first that purports to attack and clear beta amyloid. So if this latest research on CBD “mysteriously” falls by the wayside before word gets out, I can’t say I’ll be surprised.
But that shouldn’t stop you from taking full advantage of CBD’s staggering range of safe, natural, and incredibly powerful benefits.
Find a CBD product that really works
If you or someone you know is suffering with cognitive decline, be sure to share this research with them—and with your doctor. Then, when you’re ready to try CBD, remember these general rules of thumb…
To ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, only settle for full spectrum hemp products. Then, don’t expect every CBD product to work the same for everyone. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” dosage or form. Every endocannabinoid system is different.
For instance, you may need more CBD for pain, less for stress, and somewhere in the middle for sleep. Whereas the next person may need something completely different. That’s why I often recommend CBD capsules, CBD balm, and/or CBD oil. (And yes, you can use all three forms simultaneously.)
So don’t be afraid to experiment—with dose as well as with combinations of different products and delivery methods. After all, CBD is safe and non-addictive, meaning you can’t overdose on it. But you (and your doctor) may just see results you may never have thought possible!
- Khodadadi H, et al. Cannabidiol Ameliorates Cognitive Function via Regulation of IL-33 and TREM2 Upregulation in a Murine Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-210026