CBD is a hot-topic nutraceutical! But can it really help with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease? Where does it fit in a full Functional Medicine approach? Sort fact from fiction with Dr. Litwin and Lara Zakaria, our Nutrition Team Manager, in this short, informational video. Full transcript below…
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Lara: 00:01 Hi everybody. My name is Lara. I’m one of the nutritionist here at other Sandy Hook Clinic and I’m here with Doctor Litwin and we’re going to be talking about cognitive decline today. And most specifically we’re going to be talking about CBD and marijuana. It feels like you can’t go anywhere without hearing about CBD and all its benefits and there’s so much information about it and there’s some folks that are starting to recommend it for cognitive decline as well. So before we even dive into that topic, can you just give us a little bit of a background on what CBD is and what’s the difference between CBD and marijuana?
Dr. Ken Litwin: 00:38 Sure. I know what you Lara. Every place I go they went off for me a CBD drink or something. So it’s very trendy. Sometimes people don’t really know the difference between marijuana and CBD. And let me just clarify that. CBD is something that you find in marijuana, called cannabidiol. It’s an example of a cannabidiol or both. And there are many and some of them are actually made by in our bodies. You know, we don’t need to eat them or take them as medication. It’s part of our endocannabinoid system. So human beings have evolved with these substances in plants, and we’re learning more and more about how these cannabinoids and the ones that are in our bodies already a work to help regulate our system and far as a hormones, neurotransmitters, mood, inflammation, immune system, and they really have far-reaching effects.
Dr. Ken Litwin: 01:59 So they’re very important and we need to know more about them. Marijuana contains two main things: THC, which is the main ingredient that may cause some harmful symptoms like psychosis. And CBD, which is thought to be more balancing by negating some of the effect of the THC and sort of achieving some balance. Where people get CBD from now is from hemp grown outside of the United States. And it’s imported as hemp oil or products containing CBD. And those products do not contain THC. Because they’re not permitted to. And because there isn’t any THC in hemp. That’s the difference. And there are plenty of other plants that have can have cannabinoids besides hemp and marijuana that we can use to our advantage.
Lara: 03:19 So it sounds like the benefit really is the cannabinoids more so than the source of the cannabinoid. And you’re saying that there’s multiple sources where it can come from. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for marijuana. So should that point is there any good research connecting the benefit of the cannabinoids to cognitive decline?
Dr. Ken Litwin: 03:41 Okay. So you know because marijuana is restricted. It’s a class one drug in the United States and in many other countries, there isn’t any research in humans on it. And what you have is evidence on CBD in laboratory experiments and particularly mice. And in the mice experiments they have mice that are genetically engineered to get Alzheimer’s, they basically used CBD in these mice and found that it was associated with a delay in the progression of their development of Alzheimer’s or they didn’t get it at all. And the earlier you use it in the, in the mouse’s disease process, the better it works. And the reason for that is probably because CBD has affects on reducing amyloid formation and helping amyloid removal and in decreasing neuro inflammation by bringing control to the cells in the brain called glial cells. So that’s the evidence we have for CBD or cannabinoids in cognitive decline and dementia. We don’t really have any in humans.
Lara: 05:18 Okay. So that said, with the emphasis on CBD, regardless of the lacking research at this point, how are you translating that into your practice? Are you using CBD with your patients?
Dr. Ken Litwin: 05:34 Okay. So I’ve used CBD as one tool I have for people who have dementia or cognitive decline maybe not so much for prevention of, of cognitive decline, just because I’m focused on getting all their other factors that may be contributing to cognitive health in terms of optimal state like sleep, exercise, nutrition, getting all the other factors like chronic toxin exposure, heavy metals, all those kinds of things. So, you know, once I’ve gotten all those things going, then yeah maybe I’ll consider CBD because it could be helpful. But it’s expensive. So I have a lot of other options that are less expensive that also help with neural inflammation and amyloid formation and the amyloid removal like turmeric or an omega three fatty acids in fish oil or resveratrol. And those are more affordable and have actually more evidence for them in cognitive decline, dementia, then CBD has.
So the only case where I would definitely use CBD or medical marijuana would be in the case of a client who has late-stage Alzheimer’s and they’re having agitation at night, which we call sundowning. And that’s because that condition is associated with nursing home placement when, when a spouse or family can no longer handle their family member, their relative family member getting up at night and all hours of the night doing all kinds of things. And there’s this thing in nursing homes where, um, there’s a disinhibition of sexual interest in late stage Alzheimer’s. You can imagine that causing a ton of problems. So what do we have for that condition? We have nothing that’s FDA approved, so what we do (what is done conventionally) is we use off label antipsychotics which have a risk of death. So if I had a family member who had Alzheimer’s and had sundowning at night, I would definitely use CBD or medical marijuana on that type of patient. And there is evidence that it is actually helpful. There’ve been studies where they use synthetic THC and that has been helpful.
Lara: 08:24 Sounds like there’s still some work to be done in terms of the research, but there’s some definitely good reasons to use either medical marijuana or CBD for that matter in certain cases for cognitive decline. But from what I’m gathering is that you’d rather use it more in late stages and preserve cognitive function using some other techniques and some other phytonutrients and phytochemicals or in earlier and prevention that sound about,
Dr. Ken Litwin: 08:56 Yes, I think until I have more evidence to support the use of CBD or other or medical marijuana or things like that, then I’m going to focus on the other things. But if I have, if I have a patient who wants to try it, I’m okay with that.
Lara: 09:16 I mean, and I’m sure it also depends if there’s some other factors with the patient, you know, it’s supposed to help with pain and anxiety and things like that.
Dr. Ken Litwin: 09:23 That’s true. There’s evidence for marijuana or CBD helping other things. And if those are present, I might be more likely to use it.
Lara: 09:37 Thank you very much, Dr. Litwin. It’s very helpful. If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to comment below and thanks again for tuning in. Thanks.