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Can CBD Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s & Dementia?

By Michelle Cemental

CBD, or cannabidiol, has been suggested as a treatment to help seniors with dementia manage their symptoms. While there is currently no evidence to show that CBD can stop, reverse, or prevent dementia, there is research that shows that it could help manage symptoms. This could be great news for families and seniors are struggling with the effects of dementia. In this post we will explore what CBD is along with how CBD can be used to help seniors deal with Alzheimer’s or related dementias.   

What Is CBD? 

Let’s start with the basics of CBD. It comes from the hemp plant, which is related to the marijuana plant. The plant is dried and the resin is extracted. This compound contains 2 parts: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).  

  • THC is the recreational form of cannabis, which is associated with generating a “high.” In the US, products with more than 0.2% THC are considered illegal. 
  • CBD is the medicinal form of cannabis that generally helps improve mood and reduce damage caused by inflammation. It does not CBD is legal in various form in 47 US states. It also does not exhibit potential of dependence or health-related problems. 

This distinction is important because CBD does not have the intoxicating feeling associated with THC. Instead, it has been shown to have anti-anxiety properties that can help manage behavior and promote calm. Additionally, CBD is a main ingredient in recent FDA-approved medication, Epidiolex, to treat epilepsy. 

CBD can be administered in different forms, but the most common is as an oil, which can be dropped onto the tongue, contained in gel capsules, or applied to the skin directly. However, it is also available in pill forms or as an inhalant.  

What Are the Benefits of CBD for Seniors with Dementia? 

CBD is commonly used to help with anxiety, insomnia, poor sleep, and even pain relief. Because CBD has shown to help reduce anxiety and agitation, it is believed that it can help reduce these symptoms in seniors with dementia.  

Because of how dementia affects the brain, a senior may become agitated or anxious in everyday situations. Sometimes this agitation can even turn violent. But remember that these behavior changes are caused by the disease and are not your loved one’s fault. CBD may be able to help alleviate these symptoms 

Additionally, Dementia Care Central indicates that CBD may also help: 

  • Reduce inflammation 
  • Reduce oxygen buildup 
  • Stimulate the brain & reduce the decline of memory and other brain functions 

Let’s dive deeper into how CBD could help in each of these areas.  

Inflammation 

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. You might be used to seeing inflammation around a cut or wound. However, neuroinflammation is also associated with various forms of dementia. For example, Alzheimer’s disease causes clumps of proteins to build up in the brain. This can make it harder for the brain to function over time. As a result, the body may respond with inflammation in the area, which could make it even harder for the brain to make connections. However, CBD may help reduce taht inflammation and help with dementia.  

Oxygen Buildup 

Oxygen buildup ties in with inflammation in the brain. As brain tissue expands, oxygen is released. So, the more inflammation, the more oxygen that builds up. As more oxygen is released into the brain, the brain loses functionality. This can result in memory loss or other brain deterioration. Oxygen is also released when the body is stressed, which happens often for seniors with dementia. CBD may help reduce stress and reduce the negative effects of oxygen on the brain.  

Memory & Brain Function 

As dementia progresses, brain tissue actually dies and function is lost for good. This process can take time or it can happen very rapidly. In some trials, CBD showed promising results to help stop or even reverse the loss of brain function and memory loss in dementia patients. Additionally, CBED may help stimulate the brain to help keep connections within the brain and help seniors potentially delay the effects of dementia.  

 

While this information gives us much hope in the fight against dementia, know that only small clinical trials have been conducted to determine the effects of CBD on dementia, making it difficult to come to a scientific conclusion. However, scientists are continuing to conduct research to help further our ability to help those with dementia. 

Are There Any Risks Associated with CBD? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “no public health problems... have been associated with the use of pure CBD.” Additionally, it does not exhibit addictive properties and has not shown to cause any health risks.  

However, this applies to pure CBD. There are some retailers who produce CBD products with other ingredients or strains of CBD that have been tainted with other substances. Some companies also misrepresent their products and place different packaging labels on the products. This could pose a risk for your loved one, so it’s important for you to obtain any CBD products through a company that has been approved by a third-party, meaning the products have been tested independently for quality. 

If you or your loved one is interested in using CBD to manage symptoms, make sure you talk to a doctor first to evaluate the risks and discuss the best options. 

There is still much we do not know when it comes to CBD and its effectiveness in treating the symptoms of dementia. However, we are hopeful that new research and medications will be developed that will end dementia for good!  

To learn more about the resources available to seniors with dementia and their family members, check out our new resource: Dealing with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s. 

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Tags: Alzheimer's & Dementia

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