Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in cannabis plants. These compounds are known as cannabinoids. Cannabis has several hundred of these compounds, though only a few are well known and widely studied.

CBD doesn’t have the psychoactive benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabis’s more famous cannabinoid. It does, however, have other potentially beneficial effects.

Research suggests CBD may help reduce anxiety, relieve pain, and offer neuroprotective properties.

Potential brain and nervous system benefits have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, especially for people with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The research is fairly new and limited, but some studies have shown promise for those with PD. Let’s look at how CBD might help with symptoms of this progressive neurological disorder.

CBD hasn’t been used in people with Parkinson’s disease long-term, and research into the benefits of this cannabinoid only began a few decades ago.

That means research is limited, and often, the studies that have been done are very small. Scientists and doctors need to conduct larger-scale efforts to confirm any benefits.

However, some studies suggest CBD may have some positive effects, especially when it comes to nonmotor symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Pain

A small study of 22 individuals with Parkinson’s found that using cannabis helped improve pain. However, this study was conducted with medical marijuana, which contains both CBD and THC.

But animal studies have suggested CBD alone has benefits for reducing pain and inflammation, two factors that can affect people with PD regularly.

Tremors

Some of the most common treatments for Parkinson’s disease can cause medicine-related tremors or uncontrolled muscle movements. Treatment with the medicine won’t make it better — and it could make it worse.

As a possible solution, an older, smaller study has suggested that CBD may be able to help ease these muscle movements.

Psychosis

Psychosis is a possible complication of Parkinson’s disease. It can cause hallucinations, delirium, and delusions, and it’s more common in people in the later stages of the disease.

In fact, up to 50 percent of people with PD experience this complication.

While medications are available to treat Parkinson’s psychosis, some people have wondered if CBD might be beneficial.

One small 2009 study in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and psychotic symptoms found that the compound did reduce the severity of symptoms. It also didn’t cause any adverse effects.

Sleep

Sleep disruption and a lack of quality sleep is a serious concern for people with Parkinson’s disease. Vivid dreams or nightmares, as well as movement during sleep, is common.

Studies have found that both cannabis and CBD alone might help with sleep disturbances.

Quality of life

Because of the many potential benefits of CBD for people with Parkinson’s, researchers have suggested using the compound might help improve quality of life. This is a major concern for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.

One study found that people who had Parkinson’s disease and no psychiatric symptoms or conditions experienced an improved quality of life with CBD use. This study, too, was done in a very small group of people, so further research is needed to thoroughly support the findings.

There are no FDA-approved cannabis treatments for Parkinson’s disease. However, the FDA did approve a CBD medication, Epidiolex, to treat two rare types of epilepsy.

Researchers from the University of Colorado are using that drug to investigate its benefits on people with Parkinson’s-related tremor. The study is in its second phase.

However, this too is a small study, conducted in just 10 people. Larger studies will be needed to confirm or refute what this study ultimately finds.

Researchers have found that CBD may be able to help prevent Parkinson’s disease, but currently, research has only been done in animals.

Plus, the research suggests CBD can do nothing to help treat PD once it begins. Based on this, it may only be useful as a preventive measure.

But human studies that analyzed whether CBD could help prevent Parkinson’s didn’t return significant results. More research is needed to understand why the compound might protect animals’ brains but — so far as we can tell — not human brains.

One thing to keep in mind is that by the time an individual begins showing signs of Parkinson’s disease, about 60 percent of the dopamine-receptive neurons in the brain are already destroyed. Most clinical trials only use CBD after a diagnosis is made.

It’s difficult to know who will develop Parkinson’s and who will not. Preventive strategies are few and far between, so knowing who could benefit from CBD prevention measures is difficult.

If you’re a beginner with CBD, you may be curious about the best way to take it if you have Parkinson’s disease.

CBD is available in the following forms:

  • Oils and tinctures. As liquids, these forms of CBD can be swallowed or absorbed sublingually (under the tongue). This might be a good option if you have difficulty swallowing pills or chewing gummies.
  • Lotions and creams. The effects of CBD-infused lotions and creams can take several hours to develop, but may be useful to treat pain or stiffness in hands and joints.
  • Capsules and pills. You may experience a delay in effects if you take CBD in a capsule or pill, but this form may be ideal for people with tremors that prevent them from properly dosing a liquid.
  • Edibles. Gummies are a popular CBD option. You can also find CBD in a number of other edible foods, though dosage may not be as accurate as in other forms. Edibles discretely deliver a dose of CBD.
  • Vape pens. CBD oil can be vaporized and inhaled. The effects begin quickly if you use this route. However, vaping may damage lung tissue or aggravate symptoms like coughing or sore throat.

In most studies, CBD is tolerated well. It rarely causes side effects, and the ones that do happen tend to be mild. They include tiredness, changes in appetite, and diarrhea or nausea.

However, CBD can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Talk to your doctor before taking CBD, especially if you’re on medications that contain a “grapefruit warning.” CBD and grapefruit have a similar effect on certain enzymes related to drug metabolism.

Remember, there’s an established treatment for Parkinson’s disease — but it’s not perfect.

Levodopa is the most effective and most commonly used treatment for PD. This medication helps replenish the level of dopamine in the brain.

Levodopa addresses many of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. That includes tremors or muscle stiffness.

However, this medicine does little to tackle the nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These are the symptoms that can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life. They include anxiety, depression, and sleep quality.

What’s more, prolonged use of levodopa may cause side effects like agitation, anxiety, confusion, and nausea. It may also cause a type of tremor that’s the result of the medication itself, not PD.

CBD appears to be best suited to address those nonmotor issues and potential side effects, rather than motor issues. One study with more than 200 people found that that use of cannabis had a high effectiveness on nonmotor symptoms. However, this study included THC with CBD, not CBD alone.

CBD holds some promise for people with Parkinson’s disease. Not only might the cannabinoid ease symptoms of the degenerative disease itself, it might ease side effects of the most common treatment.

But it’s important to remember that many of these studies are quite small. Larger, more in-depth studies are necessary before CBD gets the go-ahead from many doctors and the FDA. Yet, the results have been promising, so there’s reason to be optimistic for future research.

Some doctors are becoming more open to CBD as a complementary treatment, so talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing and how to get relief using CBD or other methods.

Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.