Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, is one of the most serious concerns many people have about aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's, and that this number will nearly triple over the next few decades, up to 14 million people by 2050. People who are in the Baby Boomer generation are at the greatest risk for Alzheimer's right now, as it tends to develop most often after age 65; however, this disease can develop in people even earlier. This projected growth means that it is important to understand Alzheimer's disease, including the role cannabidiol (CBD) might play in as part of daily supplementation for people at risk for, or diagnosed with, this disease.
Despite the massive amounts of studies that have been done since Alzheimer's was first discovered in 1907, there are still a surprising amount of unanswered questions about this disorder, but there is plenty we do know.
Alzheimer's is not just a “normal” part of aging according to the CDC. Alzheimer's involves a disease process that includes plaques that form near brain cells causing cell death in distinct brain regions over time. As more brain cells die from the effects of Alzheimer's, it can lead to more severe and more numerous symptoms. Some of these symptoms, according to the Alzheimer's Association, include difficulty forming new memories and recalling them, problem-solving difficulties, confusion, difficulties speaking or writing, and mood effects. The exact cause of Alzheimer's is not known, but oxidative stress seems to be one factor at work, along with genetics, environmental elements, and possibly immune system-related inflammation, as well.
Alzheimer's can be managed, but not cured, by medication. Researchers are, however, looking into other, more natural, ways that this disease can be prevented and effectively managed. As with other neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease, CBD is being actively researched for its potential in these areas. Iuvone et al., in 2009, had suggested that the anti-inflammatory actions CBD has shown in lab studies would make it a possible candidate for addressing several degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's.
So far, other studies seem to have borne out the predictions of Lovone et al. Esposito et al. (2007) reported that CBD was able to decrease the inflammatory response in mice brain cells that would normally be induced by the protein beta-amyloid. This finding is significant because Alzheimer's plaques, which are lethal to neurons, are formed by aberrant copies of beta-amyloid. The same research group, in 2011, found in further studies that CBD not only suppressed beta-amyloid inflammation in mice models, but actually assisted in the regrowth of cells in the hippocampus damaged by Alzheimer's-like activity. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is involved in memory formation and retrieval, so the idea that CBD might help repair this area has significant implications for future Alzheimer's research.
In 2014, Cheng et al. showed that CBD's actions in mouse models had positive functional effects for the mice. In their study, CBD not only prevented brain damage normally caused by beta-amyloid, but mice who were receiving CBD liquid each day actually showed better performance in recognizing objects and other mice compared to the mice that did not receive any CBD. This is an exciting result, to be sure, although these findings would need to be replicated in human studies to draw exact conclusions on CBD and Alzheimer's.
If you, a friend, or a loved one has Alzheimer's, medical treatment is a necessary part of the therapeutic process. Supplementation should not be ruled out either, however. Some possibilities for supplements include CBD capsules and a variety of CBD edibles, which can easily be organized for daily use. You might find that it delivers the effects you are looking for!
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