CBD Hemp Oil & Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease and neurological disability that affects the brain and/or spinal cord that potentially causes a wide range of symptoms that includes spasticity, visual problems, balance and sensations. According to the UK’s MS Society, more than 100,000 British people have MS. Despite symptoms often appearing in their late teens, individuals are more likely to be diagnosed only once they are in their 20’s and 30’s (NHS).
The Symptoms of MS
Since the central nervous system (CNS) is connected to everything else in the body, MS can affect many different parts of the body in a many different ways. That is why MS is different for everybody and the specific set of symptoms manifesting for one person is different to someone else. It is also this aspect of the disease that often either causes patients to be misdiagnosed, or to receive a delayed diagnosis after years of experience the symptoms of MS.
However, there are some overlapping symptoms that appear in the majority of MS patients that include:
- Difficulty in walking
- Maintaining balance and coordination
- Muscle stiffness and spasms
- Numbness or tingling in various parts of the body
- Issues with cognitive functioning, thinking, learning and planning
- Problems with vision, including blurred vision
- Issues with bladder control
Depending on the type of MS, symptoms may come and go in phases or get progressively worse over time, and manifest permanently.
What Happens in the bodies of people with MS?
As mentioned, MS is an autoimmune disease and neurological disability affecting various parts of the brain and CNS. Although scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes it or how to cure it, they do know that what happens in the bodies of MS sufferers is that their immune systems start to attack their own nerve cells (neurons).
Neurons serve on major function: directing communication between various parts of the body. It does this by sending substances called neurotransmitters from one neuron to another, that then causes an electrical impulse to travel from the brain, through the CNS, to the rest of the body.
When the brain decides to do, feel, or think something, this message travels from the “sending” neuron (presynaptic neuron), across the gap that exists between the two neurons (synapse), and then attaches itself to its corresponding receptor on the “receiving” neuron (postsynaptic neuron). The postsynaptic neutron then rapid flushes (+)sodium ions from the inside of a neuron to the outside causing a “wave” of electrical impulses as sodium leaves the neuron, activating gates further down the neuron that keep the momentum of the electrical signal and allowing the message to be passed along.
Each nerve cell (neuron) is sheathed in a fatty substance called myelin. Myelin’s main functions are to protect the nerve fibres, and to help the transmission of neural impulses from the brain, through the CNS, to rest of the body1, 2. Think of myelin as being akin to the plastic tube that surrounds an electrical wire, insulating and directing the chemical and electrical impulses, enhancing signal speed and conduction.
In MS patients, the immune system attacks this myelin sheath, stripping off the nerve fibres leaving the nerve cell unprotected, with messages unable to travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and different parts of the body 3. Think of MS symptoms such as muscle spasms, tremors, poor muscle control and lack of coordination as being “short-circuits” and “circuit breaks” in the CNS, similar to the what occurs when the insulation is removed from electrical wiring and electrical circuits are damaged 1, 2, 3.
Endocannabinoids, Phytocannabinoids & MS
All of us have something known as an endocannabinoid system (ECS) consisting of receptors, neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids, and enzymes that break these down once they served their purpose (read more about it here ).
However, endocannabinoids are a special type of neurotransmitter that are able to not only affect “receiver” neurons, but also “sender” neurons. When a postsynaptic neuron gets triggered, endocannabinoid production is activated, from where they travel “backwards” up the axon towards the presynaptic neuron, functioning like a dimmer-switch that suppresses neurotransmitter release and neural activity. Essentially, this means that the way in which neural impulses are sent, neurotransmitters are released, and how these are processed by the CNS is primarily mediated by the ECS.
And it is here, in the ECS, that scientists have glimpsed a possible factor in the cause of MS. Researchers found that the ECS does not function the way it should in MS patients in that there is an overproduction of an endocannabinoid called Anandamide (AEA) in particular. AEA is responsible for regulating immune system function 4, 5, and when too much is produced, it causes many of the neurological symptoms and inflammation associated with MS. However, by introducing phytocannabinoids such as CBD back into the ECS, they can ameliorate many of the symptoms associated with MS 6, 7, 8.
CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
Let’s look at how CBD can help patients manage some of the symptoms associated with MS:
When the immune system activates, a protein called cytokine is released causing inflammation, ultimately leading to neural degeneration, exasperating their already existing condition. In addition to helping immune system regulation, CBD is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be extremely helpful in treating the majority of symptoms associated with MS 9, 10.
Muscle Tone & Spasticity
Several studies have found that cannabinoids such as CBD are effective in controlling muscle tone and can help improve the severity and frequency with which symptoms such as spasticity, tremors and even things like bladder function is improved 11, 12.
Anxiety & Depression
22% of MS sufferers struggle with anxiety and 30.5% with depression 15. A direct link has been found between brain inflammation and mood, suggesting that it’s not only dealing with the condition itself that causes anxiety and depression, but it is also the condition itself. CBD as mentioned, is not only anti-inflammatory, tackling the root cause of the problem, but also directly influences the limbic system, relieving anxiety and depression by interacting directly with the “emotional brain” 16.
Moving out of the realm of anecdotal evidence, an increasing number of scientist are investigating the potential of cannabinoids as a treatment for MS. Showing it to be effective in alleviating the painful and often debilitating symptoms that goes along with this lifelong diagnosis, some studies even suggest that cannabinoids such as CBD can even protect against, and reverse nerve damage that has already occurred.
If you found this article interesting we have lots more health-related blog posts for you. Click on the link to read how hemp oil could treat ADHD