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How To Use Marijuana To Treat Huntington’s Disease
Can marijuana help to mitigate the symptoms of Huntington’s disease? There is an abundance of clinical and anecdotal evidence to suggest that cannabis helps Huntington’s with at least some of the symptoms. Although can it also help slow the progression of this debilitating and fatal condition?
Overview of Huntington’s Disease
We don’t give much thought to the way out brain functions until it begins to malfunction. The striatum, is an area of the human that is responsible for inhibiting involuntary thoughts or actions. Malfunction of the striatum severely hampers the brain’s ability to produce orderly behavior. In Huntington’s disease patients, it can result in severe involuntary movement and cognitive impairment which gets worse as the disease progresses. Patients with server Huntington’s disease suffer uncontrollable flailing of their limbs as well as progressing loss of mental skills. The disease progresses at different rates for each patient taking anywhere from 10 years up to 30 years eventually resulting in the patient’s death. About 30,000 Americans show symptoms of the disease.
A gene defect is thought to be responsible for the risk of developing Huntington’s disease. Today more than 200,000 are dealing with a 50% risk of having inherited this gene.
How Marijuana Treats Huntington’s Disease
Marijuana contains a family of compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds interact with a powerful regulatory system in the human body known as the endocannabinoid system which consists of naturally produced cannabinoids called endocannabinoids and receptors on cells which interact with these compounds. Phytocannabinoids, those found in plants, also interact with this system. The ECS is responsible for regulating and modulating a wide range of functions in the human body, one of which is nerve function.
Cannabinoids receptors in the brain known as CB1 receptors play an important role in inhibiting unwanted nerve signaling. Many Huntington’s patients have been shown to have reduced levels of CB1 receptors in the striatum.
In order to study the condition more easily, a group of researchers in Madrid created transgenic mice with DNA that included the human version of the HD gene and reduced levels of CB1 receptors. Researchers then used a series of test to assess motor coordination in the mice. Symptoms of Huntington’s appeared four weeks earlier in Mice with reduced CB1 receptors compared to mice with the HD gene and normal levels of CB1 receptors. Furthermore, the cannabinoid receptor deficit was associated with increased loss of neurons in the striatum causing the condition to progress much more quickly.
The researchers then administered tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main cannabinoid compound in marijuana, to the Huntingtin mice. The mice who received the THC showed improved motor function and reduced neuron loss in the striatum and slower progression of symptoms.
Treating Huntington’s Disease with Marijuana
Huntington’s disease is traditionally treated with a battery of prescription medications including anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-seizure drugs, and pain medications, many of which produce unwanted side effects such as nausea, insomnia or gastrointestinal problems, and psychiatric issues. They also have the potential to result in addiction and overdose.
Cannabis Helps Huntington’s as the cannabinoids found in marijuana have been shown to be effective at not only reducing the anxiety, depression, and pain that can come with this extremely frustrating and fatal condition, but they also play a role in protecting nerves from damage and modulating brain activity.
Although marijuana which contains significant levels of THC is known to cause a high feeling, it does not have many of the other negative side effects mentioned above. THC helps to reduce nausea, restlessness, and insomnia, and also helps to control involuntary motor activity. Another cannabinoid compound found in many strains of medical marijuana is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD has also been shown to provide neuroprotective effects and help mitigate a variety of symptoms of Huntington’s disease without the high caused by THC. Marijuana also counteracts some of the side effects of prescription medications.
Best Strains of Marijuana For Huntington’s Disease
Strains which are high in both TCH and CBD such as Indica dominant strains might maximize relief of symptoms and increase neuroprotective activity, and help relieve tension, anxiety, insomnia, and pain. If fatigue and depression are issues, sativa-dominant strains which are lower in CBD are recommended.
Below are five strains of marijuana which are recommended for treating Huntington’s disease:
Harlequin is a strain of sativa which highly recommended for neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s Disease. This strain offers mild euphoric effects and helps to ward off the depression and anxiety that often accompany Huntington’s Disease.
Cannatonic is a hybrid high-CBD, low-THC strain which is known to provide relaxation and is beneficial for neurodegenerative conditions that affect muscle coordination.
Cheese strain provides happy and relaxing effects and is excellent for treating depression, insomnia, and pain
Blue Dream is an extremely popular sativa-dominant hybrid which provides full-body relaxation and euphoric effects. It is effective in treating pain, nausea, and depression.
Lemon Kush is known to help to not only alleviate depression and pain but also to have neuroprotective and regulatory effects on the brain. It also helps relieve nausea caused by prescription medications.
For more information on medical marijuana strains and their effects on the symptoms of Huntington’s disease, there are numerous online forums where Huntington’s patients discuss the topic and provide recommendations.
Finally, it’s important that you discuss the use of medical marijuana with your doctor because it can play a role in potentially reducing the use of prescription medications, but if not properly administered might also result in unwanted effects such as anxiety, memory problems, and intoxication.
How To Get Medical Marijuana for Huntington’s Disease
If you are a resident of a legal state interested in trying medical marijuana to treat Huntington’s Disease or other medical conditions, you will first need to consult with a certified doctor in order to get a medical marijuana card. To get started, simply fill out the MMJ patient registration form, press submit and a physician or clinic representative will contact you as available.