The medical benefits of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD, or cannabidiol, are many. From all forms of epilepsy and seizure disorders to cancer, Crohn’s, and lupus, this highly effective chemical compound is being leveraged by an increasingly large number of patients and medical professionals to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.
While smoking is the most common route of consumption for millions of lifestyle users and patients in the United States, vaporizing (vaping) is also becoming very popular. However, many patients aren’t aware of the significant medicinal efficacy delivered by topical therapies, including those involving creams, balms, and salves. Even patients who are familiar with topical products or approaches may consider them limited to treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema or muscle cramps, such as those suffered by dystonia patients.
Recent research supports the use of CBD topicals in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), specifically to improve or even regain motor skills, including the ability to walk. Researchers stressed that such therapeutic approaches do not necessarily stand alone in the treatment of MS, but rather are powerful adjunct treatments that work best “in association with current conventional therapy.”
In October 2015, a study conducted by Italian researchers was released that employed mice that had been stricken with autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE. This disease is extremely similar to MS and is the most commonly used experimental model employed for MS research. Laypeople sometimes dispute the use of primates or rodents for experiments, such as this, regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in humans. However, the fact is that these animals — and all mammals — have an endocannabinoid system that features specialized microscopic receptors that bind with cannabinoids like CBD.
The researchers investigated whether administration of a topical cream containing one percent CBD, given at the time of “symptomatic disease onset” affected the progression of the EAE in the mice. The study also asked the question: Could a CBD topical also recover paralysis of the legs, qualifying it for the treatment of multiple sclerosis?
Researchers found that use of the one percent CBD cream improved motor skills, including the reversal of back leg paralysis, a reduction in spinal cord damage, and a decrease in inflammation.
“All these data suggest an interesting new profile of CBD that could lead to its introduction in the clinical management of MS and its associated symptoms…..”
What Is Being Learned
Studies such as this help physicians, caretakers, and patients to better understand the role of different forms of cannabis medicine, such as flowers, concentrates, and topicals. Although the efficacy of cannabinoids like CBD for conditions such as MS requires much more research, including human trials, the latest study results are very favorable. One of the biggest challenges of many MS patients is mobility, specifically the ability to walk. Often, MS patients have days where they can be upright, unassisted, with a smile on their face and others in which they are relegated to a wheelchair and the depression of limited mobility. A reversal of leg paralysis equals the gift of walking and, thus, life for millions of MS and other patients.
The results of this study are overwhelmingly positive in terms of the efficacy of cannabis for autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis, involving severe inflammation. However, it is important to note that researchers are stressing how CBD topicals are only part of the therapeutic solution for sufferers of diseases like fibromyalgia, MS, and arthritis.
Until the U.S. Congress reclassifies cannabis from Schedule I and allows robust research, questions will remain for all patients, caretakers, and medical cannabis advocates. The latest research, however, gives these groups an additional clue regarding the powerful improvements that can be experienced when using either whole plant cannabis or simply an isolated molecule like CBD.