Research has shown that cannabis helps slow the progression of Huntington’s disease through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. After studies determined that Huntington’s disease was related to a loss of cannabinoid receptors in the basal ganglia, researchers set out to examine whether increasing endocannabinoid activity could be therapeutically beneficial for treating the disease. Results have been encouraging.
In preclinical trials, the major cannabinoids found in cannabis have been found to be effective at protecting the life of neurons in the brain. Research has shown that through the activation of cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2), the inflammation and toxicity of microglial cells is reduced, which in turn slows the neurodegeneration caused by Huntington’s disease2. Through the activation of cannabinoid 1 receptors (CB1), cannabinoids have shown to effectively alleviate specific motor symptoms like tremors and movement disorders and reduce the process in which neurons are damaged and killed to slow the progression of the disease.
Additionally, studies examining the effect of cannabis-based medications on Huntington’s disease have proven cannabinoids effective at delaying the progression of the disorder.
Researchers suggest that targeting the cannabinoid system with cannabinoids may have a potential therapeutic benefit for treating basal ganglia disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Cannabinoids are effective at providing neuroprotection through three methods: reducing inflammation by activating CB2 receptors, limiting cell death by activating CB1 receptors, and providing an antioxidant effect through a mechanism independent of cannabinoid receptors. Studies also indicate that cannabinoids are effective at reducing muscle spasms and the inability to concentrate through their direct activation of vanilloid TRPV(1) receptors.