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CBD Oil for MS: Is It Effective?

Posted on March 18, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Amy Isler, RN

Cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular ingredient in many health and wellness products to help reduce pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Although the compound comes from hemp plants, it does not cause the “high” associated with cannabis. That sensation comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Some people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience relief from their symptoms using CBD. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms vary from person to person, but motor and cognitive problems are among the most common.

“I tried CBD oil. It works great. It helps with everything, you guys,” a MyMSTeam member shared with the community. “I just wanted to shed a little light.”

Before trying CBD oil to help relieve your MS symptoms, it’s important to understand the potential benefits and risks. Also, you should speak with your doctor before trying new treatments, including CBD oil.

CBD Oil’s Effect on MS Symptoms

An estimated 66 percent of people with MS have used CBD oil to relieve their symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Spasticity (muscle tightness)
  • Inflammation
  • Depression

There’s limited clinical trial data about CBD oil’s therapeutic effects on people diagnosed with MS. However, experts believe that CBD may reduce symptoms in people with MS, increasing their mobility and decreasing their need for opioids, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants — which can cause unpleasant side effects.

Researchers still don’t know exactly how CBD oil works to improve MS symptoms. However, they believe the compound binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This, researchers believe, helps block the inflammation that causes neuronal damage in MS. CBD has several pharmacological and neuroprotective effects, including, importantly, anti-inflammatory properties.

Numerous countries outside the U.S. have approved a cannabis-based medication called nabiximols (Sativex), an oromucosal spray. It’s the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed for reducing MS-related spasticity. Sativex has also been studied for effects on other MS symptoms including bladder symptoms, chronic pain, tremor, and sleep disturbance.

Side Effects and Risks of CBD Oil

People who used CBD oil usually don’t experience any serious side effects. However, there are a few potential risks and side effects to be aware of, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Interactions with other medications, including blood thinners

Using CBD oil products can also be risky because the purity, dose, and consistency of the CBD can be unreliable. Research has found that more than a quarter of CBD oil products bought online contained less CBD than advertised, and several of them contained THC. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some companies are marketing CBD products in a way that violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

If you do plan to use a CBD product to help relieve MS symptoms, consult your doctor first. CBD may interact with your prescription medications in unpredictable ways.

“My neuro doctor agreed with the studies. He said taking CBD oil is harmless, and a great thing to add to my regimen,” a MyMSTeam member shared.

Types of CBD Products

There are three forms of CBD oil:

  • CBD isolate, which includes CBD but no other hemp extracts
  • Full-spectrum CBD, which includes other hemp ingredients, including THC
  • Broad-spectrum CBD, which contains other hemp ingredients but no traces of THC

CBD products can be consumed in several different forms besides oil, each with its own strength and duration:

  • Some oils and tinctures are edible droplets that can be placed under the tongue or added into food and drinks.
  • Edibles are available as food or drinks. Gummies are the most popular form of edibles and come in different strengths and flavors.
  • Vaporizers offer quick CBD delivery through inhalation, although vaping has many risks, including severe lung damage.
  • Topical creams, oils, and lotions can be applied to parts of the body in need of relief. Some may produce immediate effects and others could take several hours.

“I have CBD in cream form that I bought online, and it works great on pain areas,” a MyMSTeam member explained.

Purchasing CBD Oil

Experts expect the CBD market to grow to $2.15 billion this year, up from $292 million in 2016. As more CBD oil products become available, it can be difficult to know where to purchase high-quality merchandise. Consumer Reports has outlined specific considerations for buying CBD products online, at dispensaries, or at a retail store:

  • Decide what form you want to purchase.
  • Look for how much THC it contains.
  • Find out where the hemp was grown, as some states are better regulators than others.
  • Ask to see the product’s certificate of analysis or test results.
  • Look for products that list the CBD amount.
  • Know what other terms on the label may mean.
  • Avoid products that make sweeping health claims. Only prescription drugs can claim to be a treatment.

Is CBD Legal?

The legality of CBD products remains a gray area: Many states have taken legislative action to legalize all forms of cannabis products, while it remains illegal in other states.

The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized the cultivation and transportation of hemp products as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent of THC. However, individual states still have the final say over whether the products can be grown and sold within state lines. Check here to see if CBD is legal in your state.

You’re Not Alone

MyMSTeam is the social network for people living with MS and their loved ones. More than 188,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

Have you used CBD oil for symptom relief? What were your results? Share your experience in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam. Your story may help others figure out if CBD is right for them.

Resources

  1. CBD and Multiple Sclerosis: What You Need to Know — Multiple Sclerosis News Today
  2. Cannabidiol To Improve Mobility in People With Multiple Sclerosis — Frontiers in Neurology
  3. The Endocannabinoid System as a Target for the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disease — British Journal of Pharmacology
  4. Neuroprotective Effect of Cannabidiol, a Non-Psychoactive Component From Cannabis Sativa, on B-Amyloid-Induced Toxicity in PC12 Cells — Journal of Neurochemistry
  5. Sativex (Nabiximols) — Multiple Sclerosis Trust
  6. What Are the Benefits of CBD — and Is It Safe To Use? — Mayo Clinic
  7. Navigating CBD: Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate — Hemp
  8. What Does Vaping Do to Your Lungs? — John Hopkins Medicine
  9. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  10. How To Shop for CBD — Consumer Reports
  11. Is CBD Legal in My State? — CBD Oil Review
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Amy Isler, RN is a registered nurse with over six years of experience as a credentialed school nurse. Learn more about her here.

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