Most people become suspicious when they hear the words ‘alternative medicine’ – however this shouldn’t always be the case. There is recent evidence to suggest that some of these unique medicinal methodologies have a lot more merit than first thought, particularly when applied correctly to specific diseases of the human body. In this manner, Marijuana and its impact on Essential Tremor provide the perfect example.
What is Essential Tremor?
Essential tremor is a specific neurological condition that causes uncontrollable shaking or trembling of the body. This disease most commonly affects the head and the hands; however, it can also impact the arms and legs as well.
In some more severe scenarios, even the voice can be affected, making it tremble and shake during conversation (Cristal, 2018).
Interestingly, the tremors tend to worsen during movement, when the nervous system is under direct stimulation to create movement (this is sometimes known as a kinetic or intention tremor). These same tremors tend to slow or cease when the body is at rest.
Taking this into consideration, it is also important to note that for some people this unique condition can worsen when the body is placed in a particular postural position (this is known as a postural tremor).
It is quite common for the essential tremor to gradually worsen with age. Similarly, older individuals appear to be the most susceptible to developing the disease, however, it does have the potential to afflict individuals of any age – in rare cases, this includes both infants and children.
The cause of essential tremor remains for the most part unknown. With this, there is currently no known cure – although there has been some support for certain medications and specific surgical interventions as a means to reduce symptoms.
More recently, there is evidence to suggest that some of the potent compounds found within marijuana may also have some benefit – which will be discussed in much greater detail below.
What are the Symptoms of Essential Tremor?
Essential tremor can impact different people in different ways. As a result, the symptoms of this unique disease can also differ slightly between individuals. With this it is important to note some more common signs can include:
- Trembling of the hands and head during voluntary muscle contraction.
- Shaking and quivering of the voice during conversation.
- A small and rapid tremor that occurs infrequently.
- A tremor of the limbs that is exacerbated during movement, and eases when movement ceases (and when the body is at rest).
- Tremors that are exacerbated during day hours but cease during sleep.
- The worsening of tremors and muscular trembling with age.
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What are the Most Common Treatments for Essential Tremor?
As we have previously mentioned in brief, there is currently no known cure for essential tremor. However, it is important to note that certain treatments can be implemented to lessen the severity of the disease and help ease its associated symptoms.
Common treatments that have been shown to help include:
- Avoiding the consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
- Limiting life stress and any associated anxiety.
- Deep brain stimulation, and in more severe cases, specific brain surgery.
- Specific exercise-based rehabilitation.
While the above has been shown to exhibit varying degrees of effectiveness, they are in the grand scheme of things, quite minimal. As a result, we have recently seen the investment in alternative medicine as a means of assisting in managing tremors.
One such alternative medicine that has shown promise is marijuana.
Marijuana as Medicine
Marijuana is becoming more and more accepted as a modality of medical treatment across America. Consequently, there has also been exponential growth in the interest surrounding its potential use as a treatment for neurological conditions (NASEM, 2017).
While marijuana is well known for its ability to treat mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, its role in the treatment of brain disease is only just now beginning to be explored.
For those out of the know, marijuana globally refers to the leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). This unique plant is most well-known for containing the chemical known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – or more commonly known as THC.
THC is the compound that provides marijuana with the potent psychoactive properties that underpin its recreational use. However, it is important to note that THC is merely one of over 70 cannabinoid compounds found within the plant – each of which exhibits different biological effects in the human body.
And it is through these other cannabinoids that marijuana is hypothesized to exhibit a positive effect on brain function and disease.
You see, these cannabinoids have been shown to interact with specific receptors within the brain.
While the vast majority of these receptors sit within brain regions that manage cognition, pleasure, time, and sensory perceptions, there are also some that it within both the cerebellum and the basal ganglia – each of which plays a role in the normal motor control and coordination.
With all this in mind, there is one specific cannabinoid known as Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) that has shown some seriously positive signs when it impacts these areas of the brain.
CBD and Essential Tremor
As I have already touched on, CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that comes directly from the cannabis plant.
First discovered around 70 years ago, CBD was simply thought to be another compound that exhibits psychoactive qualities – however, recent research has shown that CBD is not psychoactive in any manner.
It is for this reason that CBD has garnered a lot of interest in the medical world, as it interacts with various receptors in the brain without providing the typical side effects associated with marijuana use.
As a result, it has exhibited potent health effects that may provide the key to finding a natural essential tremor remedy.
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CBD as an Indirect Treatment for Essential Tremor
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that CBD can cause reductions in both stress and anxiety (Blessing, 2015). While this has obvious applications for individuals suffering from mental health disorders, it also has positive implications for those individuals who suffer from essential tremor.
Essential tremor appears to be exacerbated by an increase in life stress and associated feelings of anxiety. It has been hypothesized that their accumulation overloads the nervous system, making tremor management more challenging. Therefore, the management of these lifestyle-related risk factors, therefore, has the potential to lessen the severity of these tremors.
As such, the positive impact that CBD has on these psychological aspects of health is likely to exhibit a positive effect on essential tremor symptoms, offering an indirect method of treatment.
CBD as a Direct Treatment for Essential Tremor
In conjunction with its impact on essential tremor in an indirect manner, it has also shown the ability to positively impact it in a direct manner (Kluger, 2015).
CBD interacts with specific receptors found in both the nervous system and the peripheral tissues that are known to be part of the endocannabinoid system, which is implicated in movement control (Arjmand, 2015).
Through this interaction, CBD appears to assist modulate neurotransmitter release and promote effective nervous system function – both of which can contribute to better motor control, thus lessening the severity of tremors.
In this manner, CBD appears to offer further hope as a natural treatment for essential tremor (Devinsky, 2015).
Take Home Message
Essential tremor is a disease typified by the loss of motor control that worsens with age. While there is currently no known cure for this at times debilitating disease, there is recent research to suggest that the unique bioactive compounds found within marijuana may offer an effective way to manage its associated symptoms.
CBD, a highly bioactive compound found within this unique plant has been. shown to positively effect essential tremor through both indirect and direct mechanisms. While more high-quality research is still needed in the area, the early signs are extremely promising.
If you have any experience using CBD as a natural treatment, then we would love to hear about it – so throw us a comment and we will get back to you ASAP!
Cristal, Ashley D., et al. “Knowledge about essential Tremor: a study of essential Tremor Families.” Frontiers in Neurology 9 (2018): 27.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies Press, 2017.
Blessing, Esther M., et al. “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 825-836.
Kluger, Benzi, et al. “The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for movement disorders.” Movement disorders 30.3 (2015): 313-327.
Arjmand, Shokouh, et al. “Cannabinoids and tremor induced by motor-related disorders: friend or foe?.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 778-787.
Devinsky, Orrin, Benjamin J. Whalley, and Vincenzo Di Marzo. “Cannabinoids in the treatment of neurological disorders.” (2015): 689-691.
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