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Cannabis For MS May Be Effective As A Topical Cream

Philip Ghezelbash
Cannabis for MS close up of young man in wheelchair

Cannabis for MS is a hot area of research. The latest rodent model shows that CBD cream can help symptoms.

The most common method of consumption for cannabis is smoking or vaping. The open market, however, has driven all sorts of innovative hemp and cannabis-based products into the hands of consumers. One of the most recently tested is topical cannabis for the treatment of MS symptoms. Cannabis for MS may bring relief of spasms and pain.

Multiple Sclerosis is an Autoimmune Condition

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by a dysfunction in the immune system that results in an attack on the protective myelin layers around the axons of nerves. This creates inflammation, scarring, and lesions that interrupt signals from the brain and result in a range of debilitating symptoms. Some of the these include: difficulty walking, fatigue, pain, tremor, spasm, and numbness.

ms hope with orange ribbon

Current MS Treatments 

There is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis, however, there as some treatment options. Disease-modifying therapies (DMT), for example, work to slow the progression of MS. DMTs commonly include the pharmaceutical options glatiramer acetate and beta interferons.

Doctors also use corticosteroids and prednisone to treat some of the symptoms of relapse. These help improve patient quality of life by reducing inflammation and abating symptoms.

Could Cannabis Provide A Treatment Option For MS?

A 2015 study, published in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (2015), investigated whether topical CBD treatment could help treat some of the symptoms of MS.

The study used a 1% CBD cream, and applied it to a MS mouse model with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). After the EAE onset, the scientists divided the mice into experimental groups: those receiving CBD cream treatment and those receiving no treatment (control).

The mice were observed for the typical symptoms of EAE, and weight was monitored for 28-days. At the end of observation, the scientists gave the mice histological evaluations, immunohistochemistry checks, and western blotting analysis on tissues from the spinal cords and spleens.

The results showed that the 1% CBD cream imparted a neuroprotective effect against EAE, reducing the overall disease score from 5.0 to 1.5, in treated mice. Most impressively, the CBD cream allowed the mice to recover from hind limb paralysis. The results also showed that the CBD treatment improved the histological score typical for EAE in spinal cord tissues.

Cannabis for MS: Easing Immune Attacks

The CBD cream also counteracted EAE damage; and it resulted the reduction of the release of CD4 and CD8⍺ T cells. These T cells help regulate immune responses and the ability to reduce these is a positive sign. It means there is the possibility to delay or stop progression of MS by interfering with immune cell attacks on myelin.

Further demonstrating CBD’s effect on the damaging immune response is the fact that CBD application reduces pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, including other markers of inflammation, such as oxidative injury and apoptosis (the death of cells).

Overall the study shows that topical CBD application offers great potential as a treatment for MS. This could be extremely beneficial for MS patients. Further, it is even more beneficial for those uncomfortable with the idea of smoking or ingesting cannabis products. Human trials will be the next stage of investigation.

person rubbing topical cannabis on for ms patient

What Makes CBD a Potential Treatment for Symptoms of MS?

Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis that exerts pharmacological actions by acting on non-cannabinoid receptors and modulating receptor pathways.

CBD is a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory 

CBD demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties that could be contributing to its significant effect on MS-modelled mice.

One mouse study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, found that CBD may reduce inflammation by acting on specific glycine receptors. CBD enhanced the expression of GlyR, a glycine receptor that mediates glycinergic cannabinoid-induced suppression of inflammation.

CBD has also been shown to suppress the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, playing a key role in neurodegeneration, such as:

  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)
  • Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β)
  • Chemokines

Even further, these studies saw CBD demonstrate an ability to stop the proliferation, activation, and migration, of certain immune cells.

CBD May Help Manage Oxidative Stress 

Oxidative stress plays a destructive role in neurodegenerative disorders, such as MS. CBD has shown the ability to reduce oxidative stress by modulating inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and nitrotyrosine expression, as well as decreasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels.

ms patient putting topical cannabis on

CBD May Improve Neuroplasticity 

CBD’s effects on neuroplasticity may also add to its effectiveness against MS-models. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and optimize neural networks. Cannabidiol induces positive change in neuroplasticity in the rodent model. This comes mostly from it reduction of hippocampal neural cell production. This non-intoxicating cannabinoid also reduces the tendency for populations of input-receiving dendrite spines to decline under period chronic stress. Essentially, this results in a healthier environment within the brain.

Is Cannabis What Patients Need For MS?

The results of the Italian study (DARU) are extremely promising and indicate that CBD may be able to protect against the cascade of negative events that follow the onset of EAE. However, remember that the study used autoimmune encephalomyelitis as a model of MS. This may inform and motivate further investigations, including human clinical trials.

Lastly, know that CBD is already established to be a safe and noninvasive potential treatment for the symptoms of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.

Philip Ghezelbash

Philip Ghezelbash is an ex-personal trainer with a science background who currently operates New Zealand's only health specialized writing studio. He is passionate about presenting complex science in an easy to digest manner and is a firm believer that cannabis has substantial potential to be used as a medicine for degenerative disease.

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