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Best Cannabis Strains for Parkinson’s Disease? Here Are the Facts…

Interested in using medical marijuana for Parkinson’s? Despite what some media sources may say online, there is no definitive list of the “best cannabis strains for Parkinson’s disease.”

There is, however, plenty of reliable data relating to the potential use of cannabis and CBD to help with Parkinson’s-related symptoms. And indeed, given the variety of effects afforded by the thousands of different cannabis strains out there, Parkinson’s patients may find that one particular type of strain is better suited to their specific lifestyle needs.

This article will discuss what Parkinson’s disease is, how cannabis may help, and what specific strains may be best based on personal and individual needs.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and motor control. Symptoms are gradual and often begin with little more than a slight tremor in one hand (asymmetric resting tremor).

In more advanced stages of the disease, victims may experience cognitive impairment, difficulty walking, masked facial expressions, and trembling of upper and lower extremities.

Parkinson’s Disease: Prevalence and Statistical Data

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, up to 10 million people worldwide live with this condition. It also estimated that 930,000 people in the United States have the disease today. This is more than the combined total of individuals with ALS, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. Worse still, the figure may reach 1.2 million by 2030.

Around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) annually.

The combined direct and indirect costs of the condition are almost $1 billion per week in the U.S. alone. These costs include treatment, lost income, and social security payments. Medication costs an average of $2,500 per annum, while surgery can cost up to $100,000.

Men are 50% more likely to have Parkinson’s than women. However, 4% of people are diagnosed with it before they reach the age of 50. Although PD is not fatal, it can significantly reduce quality of life, even with proper treatment.

Parkinson’s Disease Causes

Scientists have yet to discover a single cause they can concretely attribute to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. However, the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease is the loss of neurons in the brain responsible for making the chemical dopamine. Once dopamine levels fall, the result is abnormal brain activity, which may result in Parkinson’s symptoms.

It does appear that several factors may play a role in the early onset of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Genetics: There are genetic mutations that can cause this condition. They are rare, barring instances where several family members are affected by Parkinson’s. Specific gene variations also increase the risk, but each genetic marker carries a small risk by itself.
  • Toxins: Excessive exposure to environmental toxins could increase the risk of developing the condition. Examples include exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
  • Gender: As mentioned above, men are 1.5 times more likely to get Parkinson’s than women.
  • Age: 96% of PD patients are aged 50+.
  • Lewy Bodies: Clumps of substances found in brain cells may be microscopic markers of PD. While researchers haven’t established a concrete link, they believe there is a real correlation between Lewy bodies and PD. Another critical substance is alpha-synuclein. This compound is in all Lewy bodies and appears in a form that cells cannot break down.

Diagnosis

There is no specific test that can diagnose PD. Therefore, a neurologist will make a diagnosis based on a review of symptoms, medical history, and physical & neurological conditions.

Conventional Medical Treatments for PD

Parkinson’s disease is not curable, but medications are on the market designed to help control and manage symptoms. While these drugs can lead to initial improvement, their effect wears off over time. Examples of possible medication options include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa: Doctors feel this is the most effective PD medication. Levodopa is a natural chemical that goes into the brain and converts to dopamine. It is combined with carbidopa because the latter protects levodopa from being converted into dopamine outside the brain.
  • Dopamine Agonists: This treatment mimics dopamine effects in the brain.
  • MAO B Inhibitors: This set of drugs prevents dopamine breakdown by inhibiting the brain enzyme MOA B, which metabolizes dopamine.

There are also surgical options to help treat Parkinson’s, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). Like all surgeries, DBS carries risks, such as brain hemorrhage. Few medications provide more than medium-term relief from symptoms. As a consequence, researchers have investigated the potential for cannabis to help PD patients in recent years.

Medical Cannabis and Parkinson’s Disease – The Studies

The ongoing scheduling of marijuana means there hasn’t been enough research into the potential impact of cannabis on Parkinson’s disease. However, several intriguing studies have been published which showcase the potential for cannabinoids to help with PD-related symptoms.

In the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of cannabinoid (CB) receptors and their related neurotransmitters. These receptors link to brain cells that regulate a variety of motor and cognitive functions. Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning their activity may help preserve nerve cells against damage.

A 2019 study published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience looked at the possible effects of cannabis on Parkinson’s disease. Researchers concluded that cannabis “has been shown to attenuate motor and nonmotor signs and symptoms of PD.” They also suggest that some of the “neurologic manifestations of PD might be alleviated with cannabis products … [though] such assertions are yet to be established in reference to patient-specific factors.”

Dropping the pills…

Another study, published in 2018 in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, claimed that “cannabis therapy is safe and efficacious” for elderly patients looking to address symptoms of various diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. The study also pointed out that over 18% of patients who used cannabis were able to cease use or reduce the dosage of opioid-based painkillers. By the end of the six-month trial period, over 70% of those surveyed reported moderate to significant improvement in their condition.

Lastly, a June 2019 publication in Cureus claimed that cannabis “can be used as an alternative or add-on [treatment] option in adults with PD to help improve overall quality of life.” The authors of the study also reported that medical marijuana “improve[s] both motor and non-motor symptoms including bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, sleep, and pain,” and that, out of 85 patients with PD, roughly 46% reported general symptom relief.

Pros & Cons of Strain-Specific Cannabis Use for Parkinson’s Disease

For those interested in using medical cannabis for Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to point out that different marijuana strains can produce very different effects in terms of physiological impact and intoxicating potential.

Here, we point out several different types of cannabis strains and the phytochemical-related effects that individuals can expect to feel when using them.

Marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease: Highlighting the Effects of a Variety of Strain Types

1 – Kush Strains

Generally speaking, these are potent marijuana strains that routinely possess very high levels of THC.

The Kush high is typically gradual, and some users may not even notice it until they are completely relaxed. Kush strains are also known as big appetite boosters. As the high makes its way down the body, many may feel a tingling sensation that eases tight muscles.

All in all, Kush strains are highly sedative strains and are often best used at night. They provide a joyous high that can lighten the mood, relieve stress, and ease tension and spasticity throughout the body.

2 – Citrus Strains

Citrus strains provide a range of sweet, fruity scents and are known for their aromatic terpene profile. Some popular citrus strains include Lemon Tree, Grapefruit, Clementine, and Pineapple Express.

In terms of THC content, citrus strains are rarely recommended for novices. They often boast THC content well over 20%, and many report feeling effects within minutes. These strains produce a euphoric head high, and users may experience a whole-body numbing sensation that helps to soothe the muscles.

3 – High-CBD Strains

Across the U.S., individuals are enjoying increased access to high-CBD cannabis strains, some of which even come from hemp. Hemp strains are high in CBD, but possess THC levels of 0.3% or less; meaning they do not produce a high. Also, since hemp is a legal crop under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, CBD-rich hemp flower can quite easily be found and purchased in most U.S. states, without the need for a medical cannabis card.

As far as potential use among Parkinson’s patients, CBD is known to possess a variety of therapeutic benefits, including muscle relief, spasticity relief, and help with sleeping. (Again, it’s important to point out that neither hemp nor marijuana is a medically-approved treatment option for PD).

Examples of popular high-CBD strains include Harlequin, Harle-Tsu, and Ringo’s Gift.

4 – 1:1 CBD/THC Strains

For patients with access to legal medical or recreational cannabis dispensaries, another great medicinal option is strains that boast a roughly 1:1 CBD-to-THC content.

These strains pose immense medical potential, and like the high-CBD/low-THC strains, produce much milder intoxicating/mind-altering effects. Popular 1:1 CBD strains include Sweet and Sour Widow, Pennywise, and Cannatonic.

5 – Diesel Strains

Diesel strains include some of the most iconic landrace strains of all time. These are incredibly potent strains which boast immense mind-altering effects. In combination with the intense high that is produced, however, comes tremendous potential for pain and muscle spasm relief.

Diesel strains are not recommended for beginner cannabis users – especially those with Parkinson’s disease that have little to no experience using marijuana.

Some popular and easily accessible diesel strains (i.e., “easily accessible” with a medical cannabis card or access to an adult-use dispensary) include Sour Diesel, Sour Chem, and Jack Skellington.

Final Thoughts on Parkinson’s Disease and Selecting the Best Cannabis Strain for Your Needs

Again, we emphasize that the above list is not a list of the “best marijuana strains for Parkinson’s disease.” Instead, it is simply a list of various strain types designed to help users make an informed decision after speaking with their doctor about the potential for using cannabis for PD symptoms.

Also, we want to make it inherently clear that cannabis does not cure Parkinson’s disease, nor is it an approved medical or clinical treatment option for the condition. However, based on available anecdotal and research data, it’s possible that a variety of cannabis types may help to provide symptom relief and improved quality of life.

Over 10M people are estimated to be living with Parkinson's disease globally. While there are treatments, weed is gaining traction as one of them.

How Medical Cannabis can help Parkinson’s Disease

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 [2] 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.

What is Parkinson’s?

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” [1]

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’)

How do you get Parkinson disease?

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. [3] After Parkinson’s diagnosis the life expectancy is around 7-14 years.

Reasons to use cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease

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.

Which cannabis varieties are the best for Parkinson’s patient?

THC rich vs CBD rich varieties

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.

Can CBD oil or CBD rich cannabis help with Parkinson’s Disease?

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.

Should You Use Sativa or Indica for Parkinson ’s?

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.

Advantages and disadvantages of cannabis oil vs vaping

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.

Can cannabis and cannabis oil actually slow the progress of Parkinson’s Disease?

One recent study [4] 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.

Main reasons to use cannabis for Parkinson’s disease

There are two main areas of interest in cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease patients.

  • The first area of interest is the use of cannabis to relieve symptoms and improve the patient quality of life. Cannabis can ease the understandable worry, depression and anxiety caused by living with a long-term illness. Most recreational cannabis consumers will be familiar with the rapid and enduring mental pleasure from cannabis use.
  • Secondly, cannabis seems to help some Parkinson’s patients with reduced muscle tremor, pain, improved sleep and an improvement in appetite and mood. But many researchers into Parkinson’s Disease are especially interested to know if cannabis use will actually slow down or prevent the build-up of the dangerous beta-amyloid proteins that are directly linked to Parkinson’s Disease. If that can be proven, it will indicate that cannabis does much more than just ease the symptoms and discomfort, it could provide a way to create future medicines that will delay or even prevent Parkinson’s Disease.

Neuroprotective effects of cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease and Huntingdon’s Disease.

A study by Dr. Benzi Kluger ‘The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids for Movement Disorders’ [5] 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.

How to relieve pain with cannabis

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.

Dyskinesia (difficulty moving) with Parkinson’s Disease and cannabis use.

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 [6] by Scientists from the Royal Manchester Infirmary (UK) suggests that cannabis use stimulates the brain’s cannabis receptors and may alleviate dyskinesia.

Could Cannabis prevent or delay the nerve damage of Parkinson’s?

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 [7] 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.

How to grow your own cannabis from feminized or autoflower seeds

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.

Simple ways for Parkinson’s patients to grow cannabis indoors.

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:

1:1 CBD:THC variety

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.

THC rich indica

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 rich sativa

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.

CBD-only variety

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.

In conclusion: the role of Cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease

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.

Should all Parkinson’s Disease patients use cannabis or cannabis oil?

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.

Read on to learn the latest on medical cannabis use with Parkinson’s Disease. Can cannabis be used to treat Parkinson’s?