ALS is complicated condition that can quickly degrade quality of life – learn how cannabinoids like CBD could help slow the progression of this disease. Some evidence suggests CBD can slow the progression of ALS through its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective benefits.
ALS & CBD Oil: Promising Research on Cannabinoids & Buying Tips
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neurodegenerative disease with no known cause and as of right now, no known cure.
It is a condition in which the nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain and motor cortex degenerate, leaving connections between the body and its muscles damaged, ultimately resulting in muscular atrophy. But, there is some good news: using CBD oil for ALS symptoms may provide sufferers with much-needed relief.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
It seems that ALS strikes randomly, but it primarily affects men between the ages of 40-70. Only 5-10% of cases are deemed to be familial, or hereditary, with the remaining 90-95% of all cases being classified as “sporadic” . Sporadic means the disease occurs without warning or any identifiable cause. It is a cruel, difficult, disease that researchers are working hard to understand, and significant resources are being put toward finding a cure.
At this point in time, the average lifespan for someone suffering from ALS is 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, the treatment which is currently available works only to slow down the cell deterioration, not stop it. Riluzole is the medication prescribed to slow deterioration, with other medications are typically prescribed in tandem to combat constipation, pain, sleep problems, depression, cramps, and muscle spasms. It is little wonder that people are looking to CBD oil for possible help.
While the research is still very early, cannabinoids may hold promise as a means for slowing the progression of ALS symptoms. However, at this point the research only consists of animal studies, making it yet to be proven as an effective treatment in humans.
If you’re considering trying CBD to help with your ALS, first speak with your doctor —there could be drug interactions or potential health risks you aren’t aware of. You can also reference this chart for a general idea of how taking CBD oil alone, or in conjunction with current ALS medications, could affect you.
|Riluzole (slows progression of ALS)||Weakness; drowsiness; nausea; decreased lung function; diarrhea; dizziness; muscle stiffness.||Cannabinoids like CBD may be able to slow progression of ALS without causing any of these same side effects based on animal studies.||Talk to your doctor before using CBD oil with Riluzole as there is an increased risk of liver damage when used together.|
|Edaravone (slows loss of daily function)||Bruising; hives; shortness of breath; gait disturbance; swelling.||CBD oil may be able to reduce pain and inflammation and muscle loss enough to maintain daily function without causing the same side effects.||There are no known interactions between CBD oil and Edaravone.|
|Baclofen or Diazepam (for muscle spasticity)||Sedation; dizziness; weakness; headache; insomnia; nausea; constipation; increased urination.||CBD oil may help reduce muscle spasticity without causing any of these same side effects.||Using CBD oil with Baclofen or diazepam may increase central nervous system and respiratory-depressant effects. Do not use together without being monitored by a doctor.|
|Gabapentin (for pain)||Dizziness; unsteadiness; drowsiness; memory loss; lack of coordination; tremors; viral infections; difficulty speaking.||CBD oil can relieve pain without causing any of these same side effects.||Using CBD oil with Gabapentin may increase central nervous system and respiratory-depressant effects. Do not use together without being monitored by a doctor.|
|Trihexyphenidyl (to help patients swallow saliva)||Blurred vision; dry mouth; drowsiness; dizziness; anxiety; upset stomach.||CBD oil may be able to reduce muscle stiffness without causing any of the same side effects.||Using CBD oil with Trihexyphenidyl may increase the potential of cognitive and psychomotor impairment; drowsiness; dizziness.|
While CBD oil is not a cure for ALS, it may offer some relief from the disease’s many symptoms.
There are numerous benefits in the use of CBD for ALS sufferers, the most predominant benefits include the slowing of the progression of the disease, pain relief, and the reduction of spasticity.
Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil for ALS
While research and studies are ongoing, it appears that cannabinoids , and CBD specifically, could play a role in treating ALS. CBD might provide symptom relief, but from the presented animal studies, one cannot yet conclude that CBD could treat ALS in humans. Read on for more information…
A study by the Institute of Neurology at University College London examined the effects of cannabinoids on SOD1 mice, which are test mice that have been modified to exhibit some ALS symptoms. The mice were displaying symptoms at the time of testing and were treated with a synthetic cannabinoid. This cannabinoid was shown to “significantly delay disease progression” and produced “significant neuroprotective effects in this model of ALS.”
Another study by the California Pacific Medical Center of San Francisco tested the effects of cannabinoids on excitotoxic and oxidative cell damage, both of which are thought to contribute to the neurodegenerative effects of ALS. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was shown to be an effective treatment in mice if administered either before or after the onset of signs of ALS. If cannabinoids were administered at the onset of tremors, it was found that motor impairment was delayed and survival was prolonged. While this study did not include CBD, it is another example of the way in which these phytocannabinoids from cannabis and hemp plants can offer possible health benefits.
For fully conclusive results, more testing is needed but these results are exciting and promising for extending the quality of life for ALS sufferers.
CBD Oil for Pain
CBD works directly and indirectly with the endocannabinoid system to reduce the way in which pain is experienced in the body. Cannabinoid receptors can be found both within the brain (CB1 receptors) and throughout the body (CB2 receptors). The CB2 receptors are those which are responsible for regulating inflammation and pain. It’s believed that cannabidiol (CBD) works indirectly on CB2 receptors to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
CBD works on non-cannabinoid receptors as well.
Glycine receptors in the central nervous system have a major role in how the body perceives pain. Studies have shown that CBD can increase the effects of these receptors, causing a significant reduction in neuropathic pain.
One study by the University of California looked at the impact of vaporized cannabis on the treatment of neuropathic pain caused by spinal cord injury and disease. The findings showed that cannabis scored similarly to two commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in terms of analgesic properties. This is significant because CBD and other cannabinoids do not carry the same side effects or risk for addiction as many prescription painkillers.
Finally, a review of CBD studies conducted between 1980 and 2007 found that CBD oil was effective at treating pain with very few side effects. This places CBD oil as a viable alternative to typical pain medications.
CBD Oil for Spasticity
While clinical trials are severely lacking when it comes to CBD and ALS, there is evidence to suggest that positive results can be expected in the treatment of spasticity.
The University of Washington School of Medicine conducted a survey on cannabis use in ALS patients. Of the 131 respondents, 13 said they used cannabis during the previous 12 months. While these numbers are small, the results indicated that cannabinoids may be effective in reducing the symptoms of “appetite loss, depression, pain, spasticity, and drooling.”
The University of Washington Medical Center supports these findings and because cannabis has shown potential for ALS symptoms by providing “muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction,” they have called for more study and research immediately. The researchers even go so far as to say, “Based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.”
There may be a lack of research at the moment in relation to spasticity caused by ALS but there are plenty of published studies dealing with other spastic conditions. Numerous published studies point to the benefits of cannabinoids in treating the symptoms of conditions like Parkinson’s Disease and multiple sclerosis . In a 2014 study , for example, Parkinson’s sufferers who had been administered CBD saw a reduction in tremors and spasticity.
How to Use CBD Oil for ALS
The decision to use CBD oil for ALS symptoms is a personal one, and will look different for each person.
Some ALS patients will choose to add CBD oil to their daily routine as a way to keep symptoms under control in a consistent, holistic way, while others will prefer to use CBD oil when their symptoms appear or become problematic.
As an ALS patient, if you find that traditional ALS treatments are not working the way you’d like or you are suffering from the many possible side effects of pharmaceutical medications, CBD oil may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Before you decide how to take CBD oil for ALS, it is essential that you talk to your doctor first. There are risks associated with using CBD oil in conjunction with common ALS medications, and while CBD oil has very few side effects , and their appearance is rare, there is a possibility of fatigue, dry mouth, diarrhea, and liver damage. Talking to your doctor can help determine if CBD oil is the safest and most effective option.
Different CBD Oil Products
There are a few different ways to administer CBD oil. The CBD product that is most effective for you will depend on your preferences and severity of symptoms.
CBD oil inhalants: CBD vape oils and CBD flower are among the most popular ways to take CBD oil. These delivery methods are familiar and show their effects quickly. The CBD bypasses the digestive system and is absorbed into the bloodstream directly through the lungs. These methods are great for sudden pain or spasticity. But, the effects do not last long, meaning it may be necessary to take another dose an hour or so later. It should be kept in mind that vaping and smoking are not always accessible options and it can be difficult to get the dosage right. Typically, the dosage is calculated on a “per inhale” basis, but an inhale can vary widely from person to person.
CBD oil capsules: CBD oil capsules are easy and convenient delivery methods. Most people will be comfortable with capsules as they are another familiar delivery method and will provide a consistent dose. The same can be said for CBD oil edibles, like gummies. Unfortunately, they can also take a while to show effects. These methods have to be digested and processed by the liver so depending on stomach contents and metabolism, they can take up to an hour to work, but effects typically last 4 to 6 hours.
CBD Oil Drops or Tinctures : A CBD oil tincture or drops do not have to be digested in the same way as an edible or capsule. Taken under the tongue, the CBD is absorbed from there, going to work in about 30 minutes. They allow for maximum dosage control, with the ability to adjust up or down down to a single drop. In both capsules and drops, the effects can last between 2 to 4 hours.
CBD oil topicals: CBD oil topicals are an option best used for targeted pain relief. For muscle cramps, pain, and spasticity, CBD oil topicals can be applied directly to the site for targeted relief. While these methods can take a while to show effects, they will last the longest of all methods.
Again, it’s essential to consult your doctor before you begin using CBD oil. CBD is mostly safe but it can interact with some of your current prescriptions , including antidepressants and antibiotics. There is also a small percentage of the population that may be sensitive to cannabinoids so it is best to have a doctor monitor your efforts.
For a more in-depth breakdown of all the different CBD delivery methods, check out our Beginner’s Guide to CBD Oil .
Dosage of CBD Oil for ALS
Unless told otherwise by your doctor, always begin by following the recommended dosage on the information sheet included with your CBD product. There is no universal dose of CBD oil, and how it impacts you will depend on a variety of factors like the type of CBD product and your metabolism.
At CBD Oil Review, we have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion to get you started, if you need further assistance:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily
If you are not getting results from this amount, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25mg every 3 to 4 weeks until you find relief.
To better understand how much CBD oil to take, check out our dosage tips here . You should also consider speaking to a naturopathic doctor for an ALS treatment plan that’s personalized for your needs.
Best CBD Oil for ALS
The best CBD oil products for ALS will be the ones that work for you.
Delivery methods should be considered carefully when it comes to ALS. Given that difficulty swallowing is one of the primary symptoms associated with the disease, a CBD oil capsule may only be an ideal format in the early stages of the illness. As it progresses, vapes or tinctures may be easier to administer.
When it comes to reaping the possible benefits of CBD oil, quality matters. It is important you buy the best products available. Here are some hints to help you narrow your search:
- Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA): Reputable brands are transparent brands. They will test their extractions in an outside lab and post the results in a Certificate of Analysis. This analysis will tell you exactly what is in your product and allow you to verify the CBD and THC content, while also giving you insight to whether the product contains harmful chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals.
- Buy Organic: Whenever possible, buy a product that has been sourced from organically grown hemp. This will ensure that your product is free of residues from herbicides and pesticides.
- Understand The Law: While the 2018 Farm Bill allows for the legal sale of CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp plants with a THC content of 0.3% or below, some states have restrictions around the sale and purchase of CBD oil. Be sure to know the law in your specific state before making any purchase.
While more research is needed to fully understand all the ways CBD oil can be used to treat ALS, the information currently available is promising. If you’d like to use CBD oil to treat ALS symptoms, remember to speak to your doctor. Together the two of you can work out a safe treatment plan.
- Sabrina Giacoppo et al. Can cannabinoids be a potential therapeutic tool in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5270417/
- Lynsey G Bilsland et al. (2006) Increasing cannabinoid levels by pharmacological and genetic manipulation delay disease progression in SOD1 mice – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16571781/
- Chandrasekaran Raman et al. (2004) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: delayed disease progression in mice by treatment with a cannabinoid – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15204022/
- Wei Xiong et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371734/
- Barth Wilsey et al. (2016) An Exploratory Human Laboratory Experiment Evaluating Vaporized Cannabis in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain from Spinal Cord Injury and Disease – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5007175/
- Ethan B Russo (2008) Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/
- Dagmar Amtmann et al. Survey of cannabis use in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15055508/
- Gregory T Carter et al. (2010) Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20439484/
- Marcos Hortes N Chagas et al. (2014) Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25237116/
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CBD for ALS Patients: Effectiveness, Dosage, & How to Use
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and CBD — how it works, how to get started, how to dose effectively, and what the current research says.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting the nerves responsible for muscle control.
Consequently, those affected are left unable to move, talk, and, eventually, breathe.
Stephen Hawking had the condition for most of his life but ultimately passed away at the age of 76.
No cure exists for this condition.
There are medications available that may slow neuronal cell death and improve daily functioning. But the majority of treatment is purely supportive — addressing significant symptoms and providing increased levels of support as those affected lose their ability to walk, talk, and take care of themselves.
Rapidly emerging evidence is suggesting cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may reduce neurological and oxidative damage associated with ALS.
Here, we’ll explore the potential use of CBD in ALS and offer some insight into how you can get the most out of your CBD supplementation.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Updated on January 12, 2022
Table of Contents
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Summary: Using CBD for ALS
CBD may be useful for a range of other neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease , Parkinson’s disease , and multiple sclerosis . Current CBD research related to these conditions is limited, but promising enough to be looked into further.
These conditions are independent of each other but have similar underlying mechanisms.
They all involve some degree of inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain that either causes the breakdown of nerves directly or serves as sustaining factors for the condition.
CBD produces well-known anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, neuroprotective, and antioxidant effects within the body. It’s through these effects that CBD is, therefore, thought to be useful for a spectrum of neurological disorders — including ALS.
However, aside from a clinical report on spasticity , there are unfortunately no clinical trials involving the use of CBD for ALS to confirm these effects conclusively. Therefore, all we have to go off at the moment are case studies, animal studies, in vitro research, and correlation studies.
A review of CBD and ALS was recently published  calling for more research in this area.
The study highlighted a list of hypothetical benefits CBD is believed to offer ALS patients, including:
Tips to Getting the Most Out of Your CBD
- Look for full-spectrum CBD extracts. This is because other cannabinoids in the plant have also shown benefit toward neuroinflammation and side-effects of the condition.
- Always choose high-quality CBD products. This is because any contaminants in poor-quality CBD products can cause new problems or possibly make ALS progress even faster.
- Use the CBD consistently. This is because any benefits from CBD regarding ALS will likely take several weeks to develop. Be patient and persistent with CBD supplementation.
- Use CBD alongside other treatments, not all by itself. This is because ALS is a complex disorder involving many different factors. Therefore, it’s wise to use multiple forms of treatment to get the best results possible.
- Speak with your doctor before using CBD alongside other ALS medications. This is because some medications may interact negatively with CBD or the other cannabinoids in the bottle. Your doctor should continue monitoring your liver enzymes due to the standard ALS treatments.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease because of the famous baseball player who was forced to retire from the sport in 1939 after being diagnosed with the condition.
The disease involves gradual muscle paralysis as the neurons controlling the muscles break down. We each have millions of specialized nerve cells — called motor neurons — tasked with transmitting messages from the brain to the muscles and back again.
Eventually, as these motor neurons are destroyed, those affected are no longer able to walk, talk, eat, or drink. The disease ultimately becomes fatal when the motor neurons controlling the lungs fail.
Symptoms of ALS
- Dropping things
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Decreased muscle tone
- Shortness of breath
- Increased or decreased reflexes
- Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying
- Feeling weak
- Muscle cramping or twitching
- Muscle stiffness or rigidity
- Poor concentration
- Mood changes
There Are Two Different Types of ALS
1. Sporadic ALS
This form of ALS can affect anybody — regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or age. However, it is more common in men, caucasian people, and persons older than 60 years, with peak onset around 58 to 63 years.
2. Familial ALS
Familial ALS is an inherited form of the disease. It accounts for 5% to 10% of cases. Peak age at onset is 47 to 52 years.
Another Manifestation of ALS: Bulbar ALS
Bulbar ALS refers to the starting point for the neurons affected. People with both familial or sporadic ALS can have the bulbar form of ALS. With this type, the motor neurons in the corticobulbar region of the brainstem are affected first. Therefore, the muscles in the face, neck, and head to become paralyzed before other areas of the body. This is as opposed to limb onset ALS or respiratory onset ALS that begin in the limbs or diaphragm, respectively.
What Causes ALS?
The exact cause is unknown, but there are a few theories for contributing factors for the disease, including:
- Environmental factors, such as tobacco use and formaldehyde exposure
- Heavy metal exposure
- Genetic predisposition, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD1) mutation
Common Medications for ALS
There is no cure for ALS but there are a few treatments available, such as FDA-approved riluzole and edaravone. Riluzole, a glutamatergic neurotransmission inhibitor, does not provide relief from the symptoms of ALS, but it can extend life expectancy by two to three months.
Edaravone, an antioxidant drug, can slow the decline of daily functions and halt the progression of ALS. CBD interacts with some medications, so always check with your doctor before using it.
Other treatments for ALS include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Anti-depressants (fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram)
- Anxiolytics (alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam)
- Pain relievers (acetaminophen, asprin, ibuprofen)
Guide to Using CBD for ALS
It’s clear that more research is needed to investigate the effects of CBD on ALS in human subjects. However, the research we do have is very promising.
CBD and many of the other cannabinoids, including delta 9 THC and CBG, have been shown to offer significant benefits toward many of the uncomfortable symptoms involved with the condition. Therefore, they have been implicated as a potentially effective adjunct treatment for a series of other, related neurodegenerative disorders.
Both CBD and THC could offer support for the condition. Most of the case studies showing improvements in lifespan and symptoms were using marijuana containing both THC and CBD.
Therefore, we recommend opting for a full-spectrum CBD oil rather than a purified CBD extract with all other cannabinoids and terpenes removed. But depending on where you live, you may or may not have access to CBD products that contain THC in concentrations higher than about 0.3%.
In some places, patients with ALS can apply through a medical marijuana program to receive oils, tinctures, concentrates, or raw cannabis buds that contain high levels of both CBD and THC. The current research to date suggests this is the best option for ALS sufferers.
However, if you’re unable to get any hemp or marijuana products that contain THC, that’s okay. CBD is still likely to be effective for this condition and is generally better for relieving muscle tremors, insomnia, and anxiety than products containing THC.
However, as with any neurodegenerative disorder, it’s wise to speak with your physician before trying CBD or marijuana products for ALS symptoms because, in rare cases, CBD oils may have a negative interaction with other medication you might be taking, and you may also require liver enzyme monitoring . Therefore, it’s better to ask your doctor before assuming it’s 100% safe.
What the Research Says
Unfortunately, there are no clinical studies investigating the effects of CBD for ALS sufferers, despite years of case studies and promising research on related neurological disorders. However, there are a lot of case studies showing positive anecdotal impacts with both legal and illegal cannabis and CBD use .
Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that THC is also beneficial for ALS.
An animal study published in 2004 investigated the role of THC — the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant — on mice with ALS to measure any changes . The results of this study reported that the mice who were given THC had significantly less severity with their symptoms than mice not given the THC treatments.
Other studies have found that THC protects the motor neurons in the spinal cord , which are critically involved with the development of ALS.
THC has also been shown to be “extremely effective” at reducing oxidative damage induced by a known neurotoxic oxidative compound known as tert-butyl hydroperoxide .
What’s the Recommended Dose of CBD?
Because there are no good clinical trials involving CBD for ALS, there are no specific dosages identified nor characteristic results to be expected. However, studies involving CBD and other neurodegenerative disorders often report that high dosages are needed to receive benefits. Therefore, it’s likely to assume that the dose for ALS is also higher than average.
We recommend starting with a low dose and building up gradually by adding 2 mg to 5 mg of CBD each day.
Once symptoms are alleviated, you’ve found the right dose. According to case reports, CBD can relieve symptoms such as insomnia, pain, and muscle tremors almost immediately, while the longevity-enhancing effects of the compound would take much longer and won’t be as noticeable. Further research would be needed to confirm these kinds of effects.
Therefore, for best results, it’s recommended that you aim for the high-strength dose of CBD, and take this dose consistently over the long term.
However, always consult with your doctor before taking CBD for ALS and always take your routine prescriptions as directed, never stop on your own.