Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may inhibit the progression of Parkinson’s disease and be effective for treating the disorder’s symptoms, according to a literature review published in the journal Parkinson’s Disease.
The second most common neurological disorder in the United States, Parkinson’s disease causes the gradual malfunction and eventual death of dopamine-producing brain neurons, leading to a progressive loss of motor function. There is currently no cure for the disease, and today’s treatment efforts focus primarily on controlling the disorder’s motor-related symptoms – tremors, bradykinesia, and rigid muscles – by enhancing the release of dopamine in the brain.
In the research review, investigators from the Touro College of Pharmacy found clinical evidence suggesting that cannabinoids may have therapeutic application for managing motor-related symptoms. Cannabinoids were found to bind directly with dopamine receptors in the brain, effectively reducing the motor control loss associated with of dropping dopamine levels.
“Essentially, the compounds replace the normal compounds that are adversely affected by Parkinson’s,” said Zvi Loewy, PhD, one of the study’s researchers.
Cannabinoids were also found to be beneficial for some of the non-motor related symptoms that commonly affect those with Parkinson’s disease.
“When we started doing this review, the therapies out there were basically for motor symptoms, but Parkinson’s also has non-motor symptoms that greatly impact the quality of a person’s life,” said Loewy.
According to the research review, evidence shows that cannabinoids reduce pain, which affects nearly 50 percent of all Parkinson’s disease patients. The natural compounds were also shown to improve sleep, helping provide relief to those suffering from disorder-related insomnia. In preclinical trials, cannabinoids also showed to effectively reduce depression.
“The most significant finding is that the chemical complexity of [cannabinoids] provides multiple benefits that affect different symptoms of the disease,” Loewy added.
Loewy and his team of investigators also found that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help preserve the health of dopamine-producing neurons. Cannabinoids bind with cannabinoid receptors to elicit a series of chemical responses that protect neurons, thereby helping to slow the progression of the disorder.
More research examining the efficacy of cannabinoids for neurological disorders is still needed. However, evidence presented in the research review indicates the natural compounds may be beneficial for incorporating into the treatment regimens of Parkinson’s disease patients.
“Cannabinoids may provide a viable alternative or addition to the current treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” the researchers concluded.
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