It may surprise you to learn that a person can have Alzheimer's disease for decades without any noticeable symptoms. During the early stages, the signs are easy to mistake for the occasional memory lapses associated with aging. As the disease progresses, those living with Alzheimer's disease can show a significant cognitive decline and physical disability.
Alzheimer's is a debilitating neurodegenerative condition believed to be triggered by a combination of genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. While the number of diagnosed Alzheimer's cases continues to rise, only a small percentage of those who develop the disease carry the genetic mutation that can cause it.
CBD, one of the many potentially beneficial phytocannabinoids in hemp oil, is shown to have neuroprotective properties. Research suggests that CBD has the potential to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with this potentially devastating disorder and slow the progression of the disease.
Understanding the Progression of Alzheimer's Disease
The phytocannabinoids in hemp oil could be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms or stalling the progression of Alzheimer's. To understand how this works, it may help to become familiar with the nature of the disease. Some of the many factors leading to an Alzheimer's diagnosis include:
- Systemic inflammation triggered by processes of the immune system
- The accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque between brain cells
- The accumulation of tau tangles in the brain (twisted strands of protein)
- The connections that transmit information between brain cells degrade
- The loss of the ability to clear brain blockages leading to disorientation
- Fluid-filled chambers that increase in size as brain damage progresses
- Brain cell death causes the brain to decrease in size
Inflammation Increases your Risk of Developing Alzheimer's Disease
Neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress are characteristic of Alzheimer's. As with other neurodegenerative disorders, including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, researchers believe that the inflammatory response within neural tissues is the body's way of defending itself from the early stages of the disease. Eventually, the inflammation creates a chain of reactions that cause chronic health complications. Just a few of the many potentially debilitating symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease include:
- Loss of memory and fine motor skills
- Difficulty with once familiar tasks
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Stiff muscles and loss of balance or stability
- Poor judgment or decision-making skills
- Problems reading, writing, or working with numbers
- Mood and personality changes
- Difficulty learning new skills
- Impulsive or inappropriate behavior
- Hallucinations or delusional thinking
Usually, a person with Alzheimer's disease lives an average of four to eight years after confirmed diagnosis but could live up to 20 years. During the later stages of the disease, a person living with Alzheimer's can become utterly dependent on others for their care.
Protecting Your Brain by Supplementing Endocannabinoid Function
The hallmark indicators of Alzheimer's disease are the accumulation of tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaque. The twisted strands of tau proteins and microscopic clumps of beta-amyloid plaque are believed to be the result of inflammation throughout the brain, which compromises the connections between cells. As the disease progresses, fluid-filled chambers grow and replace the once-healthy brain matter, which begins to shrink.
Research shows that CBD protects the brain from inflammation, neurodegeneration, and injury to white matter. Investigations into the potential effects of CBD also show that this non-psychoactive plant extract stimulates brain neurogenesis through its ability to impact the processes of the endocannabinoid system.
Understanding the Principle Functions of Your Endocannabinoid System
Neurogenesis is just one of the many critical functions regulated by your endocannabinoid system. This complex network of neurotransmitters and receptors is responsible for the stability and function of nearly every significant process in your body.
The function of your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is so essential to your health and well-being that many researchers believe it is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, the mechanisms of internal equilibrium all living organisms need for survival. Just a few of the many vital processes regulated by endocannabinoid function include:
- Cell regeneration and neuroprotection
- Memory and learning
- Regulation of moods and emotions
- Inflammation and pain perception
- Functionality of the immune system
- Thermal regulation and metabolism
- Sleep and sleep cycle regulation
- Cardiovascular and digestive processes
You might have already noticed that many of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease overlap with processes that your endocannabinoid system regulate. The messengers of your endocannabinoid system interact with their corresponding receptors to initiate a response from your brain, determined by the chemical composition of the message received. If there aren't enough messengers to interact with the endocannabinoid receptors, communication can deteriorate.
Supplementing the Messengers of Your Endocannabinoid System
The messengers of your endocannabinoid system are cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG, commonly referred to as endocannabinoids because they originate internally. Your body makes endocannabinoids as needed, and they quickly get broken down by naturally occurring enzymes.
Under the impact of stress, injury or illness, your body could need more endocannabinoids than it can create. The resulting endocannabinoid deficiencies can have detrimental results. Many researchers today believe that endocannabinoid deficiencies can cause chronic health concerns, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine pain, and several neurodegenerative disorders.
Fortunately, your body also responds to the plant-based cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants hemp and marijuana (exogenous cannabinoids). While marijuana contains high levels of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana's psychoactive effects, hemp oil does not. When you invest in hemp CBD, you get all the potential health and wellness benefits of endocannabinoid support, without the risk of intoxication. Consider the following differences:
- CBD oil extracted from marijuana — Marijuana is a short, shrub-like plant that grows best in a warm, humid climate. Many marijuana growers tend to their crops in a climate-controlled environment. The oils extracted from marijuana plants can contain anywhere from 5 percent to 30 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the phytocannabinoid that causes intoxication. Marijuana, classified as a schedule 1 drug, requires a prescription for use, depending on state laws.
- CBD oil extracted from hemp — Hemp is a tall, hardy, weed-like plant that can grow in diverse climates. The oil derived from hemp contains only .3 percent THC or less. This trace amount of THC is not enough to cause intoxication, even when consumed in excessive quantities. Most of the CBD available to the general public comes from industrial hemp. Those looking for a THC-free option should look for products made with CBD isolate, or a broad-spectrum product.
Investigating the Potential Benefits of CBD for Alzheimer's Disease
While the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can take years to develop, preliminary investigations show that supplementing the processes of your endocannabinoid system with hemp CBD could stall the progression or minimize the effects of the disease. CBD is shown to provide neuroprotection, reduce or eliminate inflammation, and promote cell regeneration. Consider the following examples:
- A study investigating the effects of CBD shows that cells exposed to the cannabinoid before exposure to beta-amyloid plaque had a higher survival rate than untreated cells. This study concluded that CBD showed a combination of benefits including anti-apoptotic (programmed cell death), neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties. CBD was also shown to reduce the production of beta-amyloid plaque, prevent plaque cluster formation, activate plaque removal, and blunt tau protein mitosis.
- Beta-amyloid plaque formation is shown to elevate the reactive oxygenation in adjoining cells. The more oxygen released, the faster Alzheimer's symptoms progress. An article published in Dementia Care Central credits CBD for minimizing the effects of oxygen release in the brain and notes that CBD is shown to promote the development of healthy brain cells.
- CBD is also shown to impact many of the outward symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. In several CBD trials, investigators reported that exogenous cannabinoids improved mood and sleep patterns while decreasing the agitation, impulsiveness, and aggressive behaviors associated with the progression of neurodegeneration.
- A 2015 report in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease recognizes the endocannabinoid system as a “novel therapeutic target” for the potential treatment of Alzheimer's. A report in CNSNeuroscience and Therapeutics appears to agree, pointing out that CBD shows high therapeutic potential for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The many potential health benefits of hemp CBD are due to its ability to mimic the messengers and communicate with the receptors of your endocannabinoid system, reducing your risk of possible health complications associated with endocannabinoid deficiencies.
Studies investigating the use of CBD for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders show that CBD has the potential to reduce neuroinflammation, reduce the formation of plaque and proteins, help regenerate healthy neurons, and address many of the cognitive and behavioral changes associated with Alzheimer's disease.