Huntington’s Disease and Cannabinoids.
It may not have the publicity of Multiple Sclerosis or even Motor Neuron Disease, but Huntington’s disease is a truly a grim condition. Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic condition that causes seizures and a progressive loss of neurological function. Conventional medicine does not have a cure or even treatments that significantly suppress its symptoms. But like many people, Erin and her mother Cindy were willing to try anything – even CBD oil – and to the surprise of many, it worked.
Juvenile Huntington’s disease
Juvenile Huntington’s disease is the most severe form of HD, with a more rapid progression and ten-year life expectancy. The later symptoms appear, the slower it progresses. If a child’s parent has HD, they have a 50% chance of developing it themselves. Progressively worsening cognitive, motor, behavioral and psychiatric symptoms destroy the remaining life of HD patients. The apparent intractability of this disease makes Erin’s transformation all the more amazing. And what type of oil did Erin take? One rich in cannabidiol (CBD), the primary cannabinoid in hemp.
The Endocannabinoid System and Huntington’s
But how does it work and is there any scientific evidence to back it up? Well, the endocannabinoid system is actually tied to the progression of HD, as cannabinoid receptors have been found to disappear in some neurons during the early stages2. Other experimental evidence has found antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of CBD, which may be helpful in preventing the destruction of neurons in Huntington’s disease. In a recent pilot trial designed to test for safety, CBD was found to be safe, tolerated and not associated with worsening of the disease. Unfortunately, there was no significant clinical improvement.
This again raises the question of how CBD or hemp oil worked for Erin, as the nature of Huntington’s disease (and her years of activity in fighting the illness) rules out her being able to “fake it”. However, the authors did write that perhaps higher doses of the cannabinoid combination, or a longer period of treatment, may be effective in reversing progression. Additionally, studies on mice found that CBD can prevent the degeneration of the same type of brain tissue affected by HD3.
Other cannabinoids, such as cannabigerol (CBG), maybe the answer
Mouse models of HD have shown that CBG may activate the PPAR-gamma receptors in the affected neural tissue, thereby relieving the inflammation and symptoms. PPAR-gamma receptors can also regulate neural progenitor cell growth and differentiation, which means they may aid in tissue repair.
The clinical trial which showed no benefit from using cannabinoids did not use CBG, only CBD. When CBG works with the other anti-inflammatory and protective cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp, it may work even better, although clinical trials are needed to confirm this. In conclusion, more research is needed to determine how well hemp extracts can work in Huntington’s disease, but Erin’s story is nonetheless inspiring and amazing