Medical cannabis is used widely and for many different conditions. One condition which has attracted a lot of interest is Parkinson’s Disease. Over a third  of Parkinson’s patients also suffer depression and anxiety. Sometimes the depression and anxiety starts before Parkinson’s is diagnosed, and sometimes after. This is one obvious area of interest for cannabis users, let's see how medical cannabis can help Parkinson's patients.
It’s a disease where the central nervous system suffers a long-term progressive deterioration. This affects movement, making walking slow and difficult, as well as causing shaking in the limbs and rigidity/stiff painful muscles. Some patients suffer difficulty sleeping and may have emotional problems.
The reason why Parkinson’s develops isn’t fully understood. Current scientific thinking believes Parkinson's is a combination of genetic bad luck and environmental factors/triggers “The cause of Parkinson's disease remains unknown, but the risk of developing Parkinson's disease is no longer viewed as primarily due to environmental factors. Instead, Parkinson's disease seems to result from a complicated interplay of genetic and environmental factors affecting numerous fundamental cellular processes” 
There is no current cure for Parkinson’s, it usually occurs in the elderly, with around 1% of over-60’s affected. The ratio of male: female patients is around 3:2. Between 5-10% of Parkinson’s patients are under 50 (‘Young Onset Parkinson’s’)
The death of brain cells in part of the midbrain results in a lack of dopamine, this is a chemical used to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. The reason for the death of the brain cells isn’t fully understood but is thought to relate to the accumulation of protein aggregates called Lewy Bodies inside the brain cells. In 2015 there were around 6 million people with Parkinson’s disease and around 117,000 deaths.  After Parkinson’s diagnosis the life expectancy is around 7-14 years.
Many people find cannabis is useful for helping with the effects of depression and anxiety. Smoking, vaping or eating cannabis produces a euphoric high followed by a very pleasant few hours of enjoyable relaxation. For any patient coping with a progressive and difficult illness, an occasional mental lift can be a great boost. Some Parkinson’s Disease patients find a THC rich cannabis variety (or THC rich cannabis oil) gives the best effects and can improve sleep quality. However, some people respond better to a variety with a high CBD content in the buds. CBD oil is increasingly available on the high street from health shops, CBD oil doesn't have sufficient quantities of THC to get the user high.
It’s worth pointing out that we all have slightly different endo cannabinoid systems, so people may respond differently THC-rich and CBD-rich varieties. Many medical cannabis users try several different varieties to find the type which best suits them. For some people it’s a THC rich variety, for others, a CBD-rich variety does the job. One of the reason so many medical cannabis users grow their own cannabis is to produce their own optimized buds which deliver the best results for their own condition. By cultivating a mother plant a medical grower can produce an endless supply of cuttings (clones) to produce a consistent supply of identical cannabis, with the correct cannabinoid profile for them.
One advantage of CBD oil is that it provides a concentrated dose of CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD oil will not get you high, so you can use it during the day. No-one can say how much benefit CBD may or may not have for a specific patient. Medical cannabis users often describe quite different reactions depending on their condition. But many Parkinson’s patients have tried CBD oil, it is easy to buy online and increasingly on the High Street from Health Stores. In many places you can buy CBD rich buds, they can be bought in places like Italy, Switzerland, Austria and even the UK. These buds don’t contain enough THC to get you high, they come from hemp or from special ultra-low THC cannabis varieties. The buds can be smoked, vaporized or eaten. Dutch Passion sells their own high-quality CBD oil here.
Some Parkinson’s patients will prefer indica dominant seed varieties which are noted for producing a fast acting effect with a strong body stone. Others may prefer the uplifting and energising qualities of a Sativa variety. Indica and Sativa cannabis varieties are also available in CBD rich formats. When a patient is suffering physical discomfort and mental/emotional anxiety, and wants to try cannabis, it’s always a good idea to compare several different cannabis varieties to see the various effects. You may find that one specific type is perfect for your needs. By growing your own medical cannabis you can aim for optimised results instead of gambling on the locally available street cannabis.
Cannabis oil is a concentrated extract from the cannabis plant. It can be very high in THC, 60-70% or more which makes cannabis oil very potent. Cannabis oil tends to be made and used by more experienced cannabis growers who prefer the extra medication offered by the concentrated oil. The oil is often mixed with a fatty material such as coconut oil, this makes the THC more easily absorbed. However, cannabis oil can take an hour or two to take effect when eaten/drunk. One advantage of using a vaporizer is that the effect of the cannabis is almost instantaneous, and for some medical cannabis users that is vital. A vaporiser is also a safe way to consume cannabis, smoking a joint creates a lot of smoke and many medical users feel a vaporizer is a healthier alternative.
One recent study  suggests that THC actually reduces the levels of the dangerous brain cell proteins known as beta amyloids. The study was made by Prof. Zvi Loewy and is attracting a lot of interest from the Parkinson’s community. But why is cannabis of such specific interest for Parkinson’s Disease? According to the research team, the cannabinoid compounds in cannabis bind to dopamine receptors to reduce the effects of lower dopamine in the brain.
"Essentially, the compounds replace the normal compounds that are adversely affected by Parkinson's," explained Prof. Loewy. Perhaps that explains why cannabis is of such interest to medical researchers. Maybe cannabis can actually slow down the progress of Parkinson’s Disease? Future research has some very exciting possibilities to investigate.
There are two main areas of interest in cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease patients.
A study by Dr. Benzi Kluger ‘The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids for Movement Disorders’  suggests that cannabis may have ‘neuroprotective’ properties. This means that the use of cannabis could protect the body against future illness from Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s Disease. This work has been done on animals, but needs future repeat work for humans in clinical approved conditions. The most interesting quote from the work is here: “Preclinical research in animal models of several movement disorders have shown variable evidence for symptomatic benefits but more consistently suggest potential neuroprotective effects in several animal models of Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD).” Again we should emphasize, this work has only been done on animals so far.
Many people suffering from progressive and degenerative diseases find that cannabis offers a soothing and relaxing effect that helps patients get through the day thanks to the very pleasant high which can help dissolve anxiety/worry and lift depression. But there are other benefits of cannabis, such as the ability to reduce tremor (shaking) in some people. The following video is an excellent demonstration showing a Parkinson’s Disease patient (Ian Frizzell) who uses cannabis to control his Parkinson’s Disease shaking.
The video clearly shows how cannabis helps the Parkinson’s Disease symptoms by reducing the tremors/shaking in the patient's arm muscles. The patient also says that speaking is easier after using cannabis. Many medical cannabis patients use a vaporizer, cannabis buds are ground into a powder and warmed inside the vaporizer. The patient simply inhales the vapor which contains the cannabinoids, which are absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream. If preferred the patient can also use cannabis oil, which can be mixed with food or drink and consumed. Many medical cannabis users feel that a cannabis vaporizer is a much healthier alternative to smoking a joint.
The YouTube video (above) is the strong patient testimony of how cannabis can help with managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But clinical studies also support the improvement in the movement for Parkinson’s patients using cannabis. This study  by Scientists from the Royal Manchester Infirmary (UK) suggests that cannabis use stimulates the brain's cannabis receptors and may alleviate dyskinesia.
Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurological condition after Alzheimer's. Inflammation can damage the neurons (nerve cells) which produce dopamine. Perhaps the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are further studied in clinical trials. Although there have been several studies, the illegality of cannabis has prevented much of the research until recently. This article from Medical News Today  summarises the current research, and points out that more medical research is needed. Many involved in the treatment and care of Parkinson’s Disease patients will be both fascinated and hopeful that the current interest in cannabis as a preventative medicine can be confirmed by future medical research.
Research from the academic and medical communities indicates there is plenty of scope for cannabis use as an effective way to tackle some of the difficulties caused by Parkinson’s Disease. Hopefully, medical research will continue, with a strong focus on whether cannabis can delay or postpone the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. If it can, it would be one of the most important uses of cannabis so far discovered. In the meantime, cannabis has many other established properties which could help Parkinson’s patients such as reduction of nausea, lifting of emotions/mood, tremor reduction, sleep assistance, pain reduction and appetite enhancement.
For those lucky enough to be in countries with legal cannabis, it is easy to buy exactly what you want from a dispensary or cannabis social club. But for many medical cannabis users, the best (and cheapest) way to get cannabis is to grow your own. Growing your own cannabis from seed has the very important benefit that you can grow specific varieties with the properties that you need. For example, you can choose whether you want a CBD rich variety or a THC rich variety. You can even grow your own varieties with ultra-low THC levels (below 0.7%) with CBD Charlottes Angel (feminized photoperiod seeds) and CBD Auto Charlotte’s Angel (autoflower seeds). Both these varieties have around 15% CBD and will not get you high.
Growing your own cannabis also allows you to select whether you want to grow indica or sativa varieties. You can also decide whether you want to grow from autoflower seed, feminized photoperiod seeds or outdoor cannabis seeds. Growing your own medical cannabis from seed gives you maximum control over the type and quality of the cannabis you will eventually consume. And growing cannabis is easy, even if you have never grown it before. You can get everything you need online or from your garden center.
Parkinson’s patients may already be experienced cannabis connoisseurs and know exactly which types of cannabis best suit them. That makes life easy, just grow cuttings of your preferred variety or grow from cannabis seed. But if you don't know which varieties suit you then one option is to grow several different types. Here are a few different types of cannabis that future medical growers may want to think about growing and evaluating:
These varieties tend to have a 1:1 ratio of THC: CBD. They don’t get you as high as a THC-rich variety, but they do still have a psychoactive effect along with a very pleasant ‘body stone’. Often a 1:1 variety will have around 5-10% THC and 5-10% CBD in the dried buds. Many medical cannabis growers enjoy having both THC and CBD in their buds, or the extracts made from them. Examples of Dutch Passion varieties are below.
These varieties will often have THC levels of 15%-20%, sometimes higher. A THC rich indica generally delivers a fast acting and deliciously pleasing high. You may feel euphoric, happy and relaxed. Different people can experience different feelings. Some people can feel a raging hunger and need to eat, others will want to lay down and rest, watch TV or simply sleep. For some people, indica varieties have a strong body stone and good physical effects.
THC levels are often 15-20% and sometimes higher. A good sativa can deliver a strong soaring high, with strong cerebral effects. Many people feel more energized after a sativa, ready to take on a challenge.
These varieties will not get you high, THC is usually below 1% and CBD levels are around 15%. Perfect for someone that wants to try the effects of cannabis without the THC. But for some medical cannabis users, THC is required. A good example of feminized seed would be CBD Charlotte’s Angel or its autflower version CBD Auto Charlotte’s Angel.
There is plenty of existing medical research into Parkinson’s, possibly the most important research is regarding the role cannabis may play in preventing the accumulation of damaging beta-amyloid proteins that are directly linked to Parkinson’s.
It is preferred that patients with Parkinson’s Disease speak to their Doctor about cannabis before using it. In countries where medical cannabis is already, legal Doctors may recommend cannabis and offer a prescription for it. In countries where cannabis is illegal, many doctors are very sympathetic about the use of cannabis with Parkinson’s Disease and may be able to offer advice. But cannabis doesn’t suit everyone, some people can react badly to cannabis in high doses. It helps to do research first and to speak to experienced medical professionals where possible.
Some Parkinson’s patients use cannabis to deal with some of the symptoms, such as tremors, as a sleep aid, to reduce pain, depression or anxiety. Where possible we recommend that Parkinson’s patients discuss cannabis use with their doctor and also conduct their own research. Start growing medical cannabis and relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s, you won't get dissapointed.
August 24th 2018