April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder in which nerve cells located in the midbrain begin to break down or die. This affects movements, often leading to tremor, stiffness, chronic pain, and more. Due to its progressive nature, symptoms start gradually and worsen over time. There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, although medications and assistive devices have been used with some success. It is thought that over one million Americans and 10 million people nationwide live with this disorder.
In Pennsylvania, along with over a dozen states, consider Parkinson’s Disease as a condition in their medical program. The effects of medical marijuana on Parkinson’s Disease have been studied some; in 2014, a study of 22 patients with PD showed significant improvement in sleep, pain, and motor function after being treated with marijuana. From an anatomical perspective, the area of the brain that is most affected in those with PD is the basal ganglia, which naturally has a high density of CB1 cannabinoid receptors. Stimulation of CB1 receptors by cannabis is thought to be a contributing factor in tremor reduction.
In addition, many cannabinoids, like CBG, have neuroprotective potential that can benefit patients with PD. Others, like CBD, have anti-inflammatory properties. Many cannabinoids have powerful antioxidant effects, which can protect neurons from damage due to oxidative stress. For this reason, medical marjuana is thought to aid those with PD in finding symptom relief.