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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and CBD Oil: Benefits, Effectiveness, and Dosage

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition not yet fully understood, but is believed to be an autoimmune disease triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is an indiscriminate disease with no known method of prevention, and there is no definitive answer as to why MS targets certain people over others.

Even receiving a diagnosis of MS can be a challenge in itself. The symptoms of the disease present differently between patients and can peak and trough with no identifiable reason. The nature of the condition means that when it comes to treatment, again, there is no easy solution. For many sufferers of multiple sclerosis whose symptoms are not being effectively treated by pharmaceuticals, relief may be found in CBD oil.

Keep in mind, the information presented on this page is intended to serve only as an informational guide—a starting point of reference—and should never be considered medical advice.

How CBD Oil Can Help With MS

In MS, immune cells target the myelin sheath, an insulating layer that protect the nerves, including the brain and spinal cord. With the symptoms of multiple sclerosis so varied among the patient pool, treatment options can be a case of trial and error. As there is no overarching cure for MS, symptoms are treated separately, often resulting in an assortment of medications prescribed to the patient.

Beta interferon medications (e.g. Avonex, Betaferon, Extavia) are commonly prescribed for the treatment of MS. They protect your nerves by signaling the end of an immune response, triggering a reduction in MS-caused inflammation. While beta interferons are moderately successful in treating multiple sclerosis, they can cause side effects like flu-like symptoms, bruising and redness at the injection site, and even depression. CBD oil does not cause these side effects, and can help reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body. Beta interferon treatment can also be costly, with an annual price tag hovering somewhere between $18,000 and $25,000; even the most high-end CBD oil products would cost you a fraction of the price.

Anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids are used to slow more aggressive forms of MS and lessen nerve damage by suppressing inflammation in the nervous system. However, these prescriptions can cause side effects like peptic ulcers, mood swings, increased blood pressure, eye problems, and weak bones (osteoporosis). CBD oil does not cause any of these negative side effects, and has also been proven to reduce inflammation, specifically within the nervous system.

Spasticity, constant contraction of the muscles, is one of the most common and painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis; it's also one of the symptoms most poorly controlled by conventional treatment. The drugs most commonly prescribed to treat spasticity associated with MS are muscle relaxants like tizanidine (Zanaflex) and baclofen (Lioresal), which are both designed to relieve spasticity and muscle spasms, but often with varied results. 

Medications like Zanaflex can cause side effects like anxiety, numbness, vomiting, and fatigue, and medications like Lioresal can cause drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and depression. An additional side effect of both prescriptions is muscle weakness, which is particularly problematic for MS sufferers as the disease also weakens the muscles in its later stages. CBD oil does not cause any of these side effects, and isn't sedative in the way muscle relaxants are—in fact, cannabidiol may help improve your sleep and daytime wakefulness.

Unsurprisingly, in recent years there has been a rising number of patients looking to CBD oil to provide relief, foregoing pharmaceuticals for a more gentle and natural approach.

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The cannabis sativa plant has been used medicinally for centuries, and modern science is becoming increasingly interested in its use. Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, the two most researched being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids are compounds that work on your own endocannabinoid system to exert different effects on the body.

Because THC has intoxicating properties that contribute to the ‘high' associated with marijuana consumption, many people find it not ideal for everyday use and symptom relief. However, CBD offers many of the same positive health benefits without the negative impact on cognitive function—in other words, CBD oil will not get you high.

Studies have consistently demonstrated the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in managing the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, including MS. While there is still further research needed in order to fine-tune the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for the symptoms of MS, the information currently available suggests that CBD oil provides a promising option for sufferers.

Effectiveness of CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is believed to affect the way in which the body experiences pain by working both directly and indirectly on receptors located throughout your body's endocannabinoid system. CBD works on both CB1 and CB2 receptors; CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and CB2 receptors are found throughout the central nervous system. It is the CB2 receptors which regulate pain and inflammation, and studies have found that nearly all human diseases involve abnormal function of CB2 receptors. CBD indirectly activates CB2 receptors resulting in decreased pain and inflammation throughout the body.

CBD Oil for MS Pain and Inflammation

There have been numerous studies conducted on the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products—like CBD oil—in treating different types of inflammation and pain. Since multiple sclerosis targets the nerves' protective myelin sheath, much of the chronic pain associated with the disease stems from the nervous system. Fortunately, research on CBD and neuropathic pain specifically has yielded some promising results.

A study by the University of Liverpool ran a trial on 64 patients with MS. The group was split into two, with one half receiving a placebo and the other receiving a THC and CBD combination mouth spray. In just four weeks, the test group showed reductions in pain and sleep disturbance when compared to the control (placebo) group.

Glycinergic cannabinoids like CBD can increase the function of inhibitory receptors in the central nervous system, which play a major role in how the body perceives pain and are main targets of multiple sclerosis. Studies on these receptors have found that glycinergic cannabinoids are “ideal therapeutic agents in the treatment of inflammatory and neuropathic pain,” making CBD oil a candidate for managing or treating pain resulting from MS.

Finally, a 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 results complemented previous studies' findings and pointed to cannabis as a viable treatment option for chronic pain derived from disease or injury to the nervous system. (It should be noted, this study focused primarily on the effects THC had on test subjects with neuropathic pain.)

With such promising results seen in a number of CBD trials, and with the benefits far outweighing the reported side effects, CBD oil can be a powerful tool in managing pain caused by multiple sclerosis.

CBD Oil for Treating MS Spasticity

Muscle spasticity can cause stiffness, soreness, and unexpected muscle spasms that can make the simplest actions, like walking and sitting down, difficult and painful. There is, however, optimism amongst researchers about the way cannabinoids such as CBD can reduce the effects of spasticity in MS patients.

A study conducted in Switzerland in 2004 tested the effect of a CBD and THC cannabis sativa extract on patients with spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. By the end of the study, the researchers found that patients who were given the cannabis extract saw improvements to their mobility, frequency of muscle spasms, and ability to get to sleep. The study concluded that “a standardized Cannabis sativa plant extract might lower spasm frequency and increase mobility with tolerable side effects in MS patients with persistent spasticity not responding to other drugs.”

A further study by the University of California in 2010 conducted a similar test. The randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial tested the use of cannabinoids on spasticity, but this time the method was through smoked cannabis. A total of 30 people completed the trial and the findings showed a 2.74 point average reduction on the Modified Ashworth scale (used to measure spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients) compared to the placebo.

More research is needed to definitively say whether CBD on its own can be used to effectively treat spasticity caused by MS. However, the results so far are encouraging, and should help bolster future attempts at studying cannabidiol's effectiveness for treating multiple sclerosis symptoms.

How to Take CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis

If the symptoms of your MS are not responding well to your existing treatment or you are experiencing disruptive side effects, you may want to consider trying CBD oil—always consult your doctor beforehand. For the vast majority of people, CBD oil is safe and produces no side effects, but CBD can interact with current medications you may be taking, including antidepressants and antibiotics.

If you find that after talking to your physician you still have questions about drug interactions and dosages, it may be worth contacting a cannabis doctor who specializes in the use of CBD as a medical treatment.

Once you're all clear to try CBD oil for MS, you'll need to decide what type(s) of CBD product you'd like to use. The majority of patients new to CBD oil choose a treatment administration method they may already be familiar with, like capsules, liquid drops, or edibles. These options are nice because they're relatively discreet and can produce positive effects for a few hours. For fast-acting relief, the use of vapes is a quick and straightforward option, though, the results may not be as long lasting. Alternatively, topical treatments can include transdermal patches, ointments, or creams, which are recommended for treating pain in specific areas of the body.

A further option is to combine CBD with THC, often available in a combined capsule. Reaping the benefits of both cannabinoids can actually increase the therapeutic effects of CBD when compared to its use alone. If you're looking for a muscle spasticity treatment, the research above suggests a CBD-THC combination could be best. Remember, because there's THC involved, you will likely feel that famous ‘high,' and should plan accordingly. It’s also worth noting that all the studies we’ve mentioned for pain, inflammation, and spasticity used a combination of THC and CBD. So, how effective CBD is on its own is hard to say at this point.

CBD Oil Dosage for MS

Because no two people are the same, there is not a universally recommended CBD oil dose for the treatment of MS. We recommend you begin by following the recommended dosage in the information sheet included with your CBD oil product.

If you need further guidance, at CBD Oil Review we have analyzed hundreds of CBD products and come up with the following suggestion:

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 3-4 weeks until you find relief.

For more information on dosages and some useful tips for getting it right, check out our guide here.

Discover CBD Products Here

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  1. Myelin - MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002261.htm#:~:text=Myelin%20is%20an%20insulating%20layer,efficiently%20along%20the%20nerve%20cells.
  2. Comparative Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness of Drug Therapies for Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis [Internet]. - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK169773/
  3. Sreemanti Basu et al. (2015) Unraveling the Complexities of Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2) Immune Regulation in Health and Disease - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624216/
  4. David J Rog et al. Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosis - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16186518/
  5. 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/
  6. 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/
  7. C Vaney et al. Efficacy, safety and tolerability of an orally administered cannabis extract in the treatment of spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15327040/
  8. Jody Corey-Bloom et al. Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial - National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3394820/

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