Alzheimer’s and CBD: Is There a Connection?

Dragana Komnenov PhD April 26, 2019 0 comments

CBD may act as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant. That means Alzheimer’s and CBD could be enemies.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia affecting over 33 million people worldwide. Alarmingly, this number may reach 115 million by year 2050. In the beginning stages, AD typically manifests as a mild loss of short term memory, spatial disorientation and communication difficulties. It later progresses to severe disruptions in cognitive ability, impairments in speech as well as facial recognition. AD patients are also susceptible to illness encompassing other organ systems. This makes the latest Alzheimer;’s and CBD research all the more hopeful.

CBD is a Potential Anti-Inflammatory for Neurological Tissue

As a neuroprotective agent, CBD is a prime candidate for new treatment strategies. In studies conducted over the past decade, it demonstrated strong potential to prevent degeneration of the brain centers crucial for cognition and integration (hippocampus and cortex). It also has potential anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Importantly, CBD also regulates cell migration of microglia, which are resident immune cells of the brain. Furthermore, CBD reduced production of toxic neurofibrillary tangles and plaques, thus improving neuronal cell viability. Alzheimer’s involves all of the above complex pathological changes in the brain. CBD could be the perfect therapeutic agent because it has the potential to affect many of these aspects.

Studies in Rodent Models of Alzheimer’s and CBD

Several studies show the effects of medicine on mice with artificial Alzheimer’s. Fibrillar Ab peptides are the hallmark of AD in humans, so doctors injected them into the mouse to accomplish this.

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Researchers injected the human Ab directly into the hippocampus of rodent eubjects, followed by daily intraperitoneal injections of CBD (2.5 or 10mg/kg) for 7 days. This treatment reduces neuroinflammation and consequently neuronal damage.

These effects have been hypothesized to occur due to CBD’s ability to act as an inverse agonist of CB2 receptors. This means that it binds to receptor sites of other molecules (like THC) and prevents these from binding. Studies conducted in a rat model of AD revealed that the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects may also be conferred through its interactions with PPARg receptors. When scientists inject rats with Ab, then give them CBD at 10mg/kg, alongside a PPARg antagonist, for 15 days, the neuroinflammatory program of gene expression initiates.

Conversely, in rats given only CBD and not the antagonism of PPARg receptors, the inflammatory gene expression pathways downregulate, and prevent gliosis (inflammation). Most importantly, this study found that the protection of CBD results in the rodent maintaining neuron structures in a level similar to that of non-AD control rats.

Collectively, these results imply that, even after the onset of AD and in the presence of Ab plaques, administration of CBD could reverse that. Brain centers for learning, memory, and cognition may see complete protection with timely CBD administration.

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Other Models of AD for Future CBD Therapeutic Research

A research group from Puerto Rico demonstrated their newest data at the Experimental Biology Conference in April 2019. The objective was to test the therapeutic potential of CBD oil in alleviating the symptoms of AD. Worms, or C. elegans, act as the animal model for many experiments. This allows researchers a first look at how a molecule operates in a simple animal body.

The scientists found that exposure to CBD oil for 24 hours reduces the loco-motor deficits that AD worms display. Furthermore, CBD-treated worms demonstrated improvement in short-term associative memory compared to the untreated counterparts, albeit without statistical significance. Since this was just a pilot study, the scientists are working on increasing the sample size. A larger sample would give better indication whether such improvements in memory are indeed occurring.


The collected data provides “proof of principle.” This means there is justification for exploring CBD therapy for this disease; and we might soon have even more information on Alzheimer’s and CBD.

We need to look into two things. First, proper dosing, and second, how this can translate to humans. It is necessary to see demonstration of similar protective effects in animals representing age at which AD strikes humans. Finally, the potential for increasing efficacy if THC and CBD were administered together needs to be explored.