A drug called Sativex® (CBD & THC) has been approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Learn how CBD oil can be used to support MS. Looking for the best CBD oil for multiple sclerosis? Discover all you need to know about practicality, effectiveness, and available research.
CBD for MS (Multiple Sclerosis): What The Research Says
MS is a disorder involving the loss of insulation around the nerve fibers.
Learn how CBD can support symptoms & may be able to slow the progression of the disease.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder affecting two and a half million people around the world.
Cannabis extracts have recently been investigated for their potential role in treating the disease and its symptoms — and the results are promising.
In this article, you’ll learn how CBD and THC are used as a treatment for MS and its symptoms, and the limitations of this all-natural approach.
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY
Carlos G. Aguirre, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist
Updated on November 14, 2021
Table of Contents
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Can CBD Oil Help With MS? What Are The Benefits?
A pharmaceutical preparation of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) — Sativex® — was approved by the FDA in 2018 as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Sativex® (a pharmaceutical combination of CBD and THC) was shown to improve muscle spasms [7, 8, 9], bladder dysfunction , and nerve pain  — all of which are common symptoms of MS.
CBD has also been shown to inhibit the ability for immune cells to attack the myelin sheathing on our nerve cells — which is the primary cause for MS.
It’s important to remember that there is still no cure for MS — CBD and other medications may help slow the progression of the disease and manage individual symptoms.
Benefits of Using CBD for MS
- Reduces neuroinflammation
- Reduces muscle spasms
- Prevents T-cell infiltration & slow disease progression
- Alleviates nerve pain
- Resists the development of autoimmunity
- Supports bladder control
1. Inhibits Brain Inflammation
MS, like many other medical conditions, is characterized by underlying inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation itself is extremely complex, often involving dozens of inflammatory messengers each interacting differently with each other.
Researchers have highlighted key inflammatory messengers involved with MS — this is used to drive the development of new treatment options.
In the case of MS, the primary inflammatory markers involved include TNFα, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6, IL-12, and IFN-γ. CBD has been shown to reduce the activity of all of these inflammatory markers and activate other inflammatory processes in the microglial cells that are found abundantly in the human brain [4, 5, 6].
The overall effect is a reduction in neuroinflammation driving the destruction of the myelin — the primary cause for disease progression.
2. Reduces Muscle Spasticity
A 2012 meta-analysis analyzed a series of clinical trials from 1980 to 2012 to review the effects of CBD and THC on muscle spasticity associated with MS .
They found that, overall, CBD and THC extracts were well tolerated and offered improvement in symptoms even in patients who were unable to find relief with conventional anticonvulsant medications.
3. May Prevent T-Cell Infiltration & Slow Disease Progression
MS begins with low-grade inflammation in the brain. Specialized cells known as T-cells pass through the blood-brain barrier and congregate around the nerve fibers.
These T-cells are one of the main components of our immune system. Think of them as our immune soldiers, deployed to fight infection.
In the case of MS, these T-cells decide to attack the myelin sheath around the nerve fibers — destroying and scaring them in the process.
One of the primary aims of treatment is stopping these T-cells from going rogue and attacking the body, and preventing them from being passing the blood-brain barrier.
CBD has been shown to slow the movement of T-cells across the blood-brain barrier and limit the inflammatory reaction involved with the disease [4, 5, 6].
4. Alleviates Nerve Pain
Sativex® was involved in a series of clinical studies to determine its effects on the various symptoms of MS, including nerve pain . This study found that those taking Sativex® had significantly reduced pain scores in the final week of treatment.
In other studies, CBD was demonstrated to be beneficial for various types of pain, including neuropathic pain , cancer pain , and arthritic pain .
Guide to Using CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
CBD is a useful supplement for alleviating symptoms of MS and may even be able to slow the progression of the disease.
Most of the research involving CBD for MS used a combination of CBD and THC at a 1:1 ratio. It appears these two cannabinoids work synergistically together to provide relief from symptoms.
In many countries, products containing THC are illegal. However, MS is one of the few conditions that medical cannabis is generally prescribed for — but this can vary according to your country.
Tips for Getting the Most from CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
- Make sure to check the quality of CBD products before buying — poor-quality products often contain contaminants that can make the condition worse. Look for certificates of analysis and companies that use organic hemp.
- Avoid relying on CBD gummies for your daily dose of CBD — gummies are high in sugar, which has been linked with MS. Oils, tinctures, or capsules are better options.
- Combine CBD supplementation with other diet and lifestyle modifications conducive to alleviating MS symptoms.
- Always speak with your doctor before taking CBD or other cannabis products — especially if taking other medications.
Even if you can’t find products containing both THC and CBD, or don’t want the psychoactive effects from the THC, you can still use most CBD products. CBD will provide relief from several key symptoms of MS.
What Type of CBD Products Are Best For MS?
The best option is to source a CBD product made with a full-spectrum extract.
These products include an array of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals from the cannabis plant. Each of these compounds work together to produce the overall effects of CBD oil.
With MS, it’s especially important to find oils that have third-party testing to prove they’re contaminant-free. Contaminants like arsenic, mercury, or cadmium can worsen the condition by causing further damage to the neurons.
There are a few products people with MS are using to support symptoms:
- CBD Oils — this is the most common form of CBD supplement for MS
- CBD Capsules — offer the same benefits of CBD oil without the need to do any measuring
- CBD Gummies — similar to CBD capsules, but rarely available in full-spectrum forms
- CBD Concentrates — shatters, waxes, and dabs deliver heavy doses of CBD in a small volume
- CBD Vape Pens — these offer the fastest onset of effects, but have the shortest duration
What’s The Dose of CBD For Multiple Sclerosis?
The dose of CBD can vary from one person to another, so it’s important you take some time to see what works best for you.
With that said, most MS patients, and MS research, used a heavier dose than usual (around 2 mg per kg or more).
Use our CBD oil dosage calculator to help find the optimal dose based on your weight and desired strength of effects.
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What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
MS is an autoimmune condition affecting the myelin insulation around nerve cells.
Without myelin, the nerves can’t transmit messages to the rest of the body or the brain.
The cause of MS is hard to determine in most cases but usually involves underlying autoimmune conditions. Autoimmunity happens when the body’s immune system begins attacking and destroying myelin on the nerve cells in the brain.
There is no cure for MS — most of the treatment options are aimed at slowing progression and easing symptoms.
MS can have different levels of severity from one person to the next — symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe. However, the lifespan of those affected is generally the same as those without the disease. Some reports suggest a six-year difference between people with MS and those without.
What Are The Symptoms of MS?
What Causes MS?
Roughly 1 in 700 people in the United States will be diagnosed with MS at some point in their lives. These figures are similar in other developed regions of the world. Twin studies on the condition have shown that although there are genetic components to the disease, it goes much deeper than that. With identical twins, if one has MS, the other only has a 30% chance of developing the condition — this is much lower than with other genetic disorders.
It’s hard to determine the individual causes of MS — it’s more than likely the condition is a combination of many different factors.
There are some factors that medical researchers have determined to be related to those affected. We call these risk factors for the condition. The more risk factors are present, the higher the chances of developing MS.
Risk Factors for MS
- Age(most common between the ages of 20 and 50)
- Gender(women are more than twice as likely to develop MS than men)
- Ethnicity(European descent has the highest rate of MS)
- Genetics(HLA-DR2 gene mutations may develop MS)
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Viral infection (EBV, cytomegalovirus, varicella zoster)
- Other autoimmune conditions or atopy
- Exposure to heavy metals
Four Different Types of MS
1. Clinically Isolated Syndrome
This is the first episode of MS symptoms. Usually, the first sign of the disease is a sudden onset of symptoms that last more than 24 hours. When this happens only once, it’s referred to as clinically isolated. When these symptoms return, we can begin classifying them as a specific form of MS listed below.
2. Relapse-Remitting MS
This form of MS is characterized by bursts of intense symptoms followed by periods of remission. The condition gets gradually worse over time — often, over many years.
Roughly 85% of people with MS experience this form of the disease.
3. Primary-Progressive MS
This form of MS involves a steady progression of symptoms without remissions. It affects about 15% of MS cases on average.
Primary progressive MS involves a steady attack on myelin, producing a predictable worsening of symptoms over time.
Plateaus may occur from time to time, during which symptoms appear to remain the same for long periods. However, it’s unclear why some cases plateau for a while before continuing their progression. Good MS management will promote plateaus more often, but this isn’t always possible.
4. Secondary-Progressive MS
This is a hybrid of relapse-remitting and primary progressive MS. Symptoms generally start with initial episodes of relapse or remission before transitioning into something with a more steady progression of symptoms.
How Is MS Treated?
The most debilitating symptoms of MS are fatigue, muscle spasms/weakness, and nerve pain. Therefore, the primary treatment aim, aside from slowing the progression of the disease, is to address these symptoms as necessary.
Opiate and corticosteroid analgesics are often used to treat severe cases of pain. Otherwise, other analgesics such as acetaminophen are preferred because they produce fewer side effects and less potential for addiction.
Cannabis extracts — including CBD and THC — are also popular treatments for the pain associated with MS.
Emotional changes are common with the condition, so antidepressants and mood stabilizers are often prescribed.
There’s a chance CBD can interact with certain medications, so always check with your doctor before using it.
Common Medications for Multiple Sclerosis:
- Antidepressants — to treat depression as a symptom of the condition.
- Anti-inflammatories — TNF-a, NF-kB, eicosanoid synthesis modulators, and glucocorticoids.
- Aubagio (Teriflunomide) — used for relapse-remitting MS.
- Cannabis extract (CBD) — helps relieve symptoms of MS and may slow the progression of the disease.
- Copaxone (Glatiramer) — stops the immune system from attacking myelin.
- Corticosteroids — used for acute flare-ups of symptoms.
- Interferon beta 1a or 1b — slow the progression of the condition but may cause liver damage.
- Mitoxantrone (Novantrone) — suppresses the immune system to stop attacks but can damage the heart.
- Tysabri (Natalizumab) — last-resort medication as it can lead to infection in the brain.
- Vitamin D — often given because vitamin D deficiency is considered a risk factor.
Final Verdict: Can CBD Help With Multiple Sclerosis?
MS is a slow-progressing neurodegenerative disorder affecting the myelin sheath on the neuron cells. As the myelin breaks down, the neurons lose their ability to transmit electrical signals to other areas of the brain and body.
CBD and THC have both been extensively tested to establish their role in alleviating symptoms of this condition. It appears that an even ratio of the two compounds is going to offer the most benefit, but products containing a high CBD content still have positive effects.
We recommend using a full-spectrum product at the higher end of the dosage scale for this condition. It’s also critically important that your doctor monitors your CBD use to avoid negative interactions with other medications and to ensure the best possible outcome.
The Best CBD Oils for MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
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Multiple sclerosis is a complex disorder, and researchers cannot pinpoint an exact cause. However, the effects of cannabis and CBD could be valuable to patients seeking relief from various symptoms.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine acknowledges cannabidiol (CBD) as having the potential to relieve “spasticity in adult patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).” However, due to the condition’s varying nature and random flare-ups, MS is still a frustrating disease to treat. Indeed, multiple sclerosis affects no two people in the same way.
Although dozens of prescription medications are available, conventional drugs vary in efficacy. This is largely why the topic of CBD oil for multiple sclerosis is advancing into the limelight.
This article will discuss how MS attacks nerve fibers and disrupts neurological pathways. It also discusses how cannabidiol (CBD) can influence these pathways. While one should not consider CBD oil for multiple sclerosis a cure, it may provide an alternative form of relief.
DID YOU KNOW? Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease that only affects about 1 in 275 American adults.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as an “immune-mediated” condition. The body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (which comprises the brain and spinal cord).
After nerve fiber damage, scar tissue begins to form. This scar tissue can interrupt neurological communication between the brain and other body parts. Neural communication is vital for many functions in humans, including motor skills and behavior.
The severity of symptoms that people living with multiple sclerosis experience depends on the location of nerve fiber damage. It also depends on how many fibers are damaged. In milder cases, MS symptoms can be as moderate as mood swings or muscle spasms. In more severe cases, sufferers may have paralysis and/or a complete inability to control bodily functions.
As for prevalence, multiple sclerosis is a relatively rare disease. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says that approximately 900,000 Americans live with the condition. Research suggests that up to 2.8 million people have the condition worldwide.
While researchers are in the dark about what triggers MS, we know some things about it. For instance, we know that women of northern European descent between the ages of 20 and 55 are most at risk.
MS Risk Factors
Genetics and family history play an important part in the onset of MS. We also know that exposure to environmental agents can increase risk. The good news is that not all sufferers experience overly-debilitating symptoms. Many maintain relatively normal day-to-day lives.
Also, contrary to popular belief, multiple sclerosis is not necessarily a terminal disease. In some instances, the disease is degenerative (meaning it worsens over time) and ends in death. However, the average lifespan of individuals with multiple sclerosis is marginally shorter than the average US adult lifespan.
Conventional (Non-Cannabis) MS Treatment Methods
Multiple sclerosis exists in four different stages, or “disease courses.” Conventional treatments and prescriptions depend on which particular stage a patient is in. In order of increasing severity, the four courses of MS are:
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS).
Given multiple sclerosis’s “come and go” nature, patients can go months or even years without a diagnosis. However, in the event of diagnosis, prescription meds are typically the treatment of choice. Prescription MS medications include interferons like Avonex and Betaseron and immunomodulators like Copaxone.
Interferons work by lowering the number of white blood cells in the body. This limits the sources of attack on CNS nerve fibers. However, since white blood cells make up the immune system and protect against disease, these drugs can be dangerous. They can even produce side effects similar to those of chemotherapy.
MS Drugs – Side Effects
Immunomodulators like Copaxone generally present fewer severe side effects than interferons. However, these drugs are not always effective for patients. Functionally, they act as “sacrificial myelin” during MS flare-ups. This is when synthetically-produced amino acids take the brunt of the immune response rather than the myelin protective coatings of the nerve fibers themselves.
Ultimately, most MS sufferers are generally unconcerned about the kind of treatment they take or where it comes from. The only thing that matters to them is whether or not the medication is effective and to what extent it allows them to live a normal life. Those who seek alternatives like CBD oil generally do so for one of the following reasons:
- Their prescription meds are ineffective
- Their prescribed medical regimen results in severe or regular side effects
- Prescription medications are too expensive
Important Information on CBD & Multiple Sclerosis
One thing we didn’t necessarily clarify is the difference in function between CBD and THC. THC, of course, is the archetypal marijuana component. It’s what’s responsible for getting us high and has been the driving force behind generations of legal condemnation and “lazy stoner” typecasts.
On the other hand, CBD has none of these intoxicating properties. It won’t cause a high any more than an ibuprofen tablet will. Rather, the molecule functions as an “endocannabinoid supplement.”
Our bodies are filled with natural cannabinoid receptors that work with natural endocannabinoids. If there is an absence or deficiency in producing these endocannabinoids, the receptors can’t function properly.
The central nervous system is the body region most densely populated with cannabinoid receptors – the same region where multiple sclerosis attacks nerve fibers.
MS and a Possible Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Could multiple sclerosis potentially be a disease hinged on a basic endocannabinoid deficiency? No one can answer that question without years of research. That said, anecdotal evidence suggests an uncanny relationship between the two components.
More research is needed to understand any potential dynamic between MS and endocannabinoid deficiency.
For the time being, at least, it seems that people living with multiple sclerosis will continue to rely on self-treatment methods. Unless they live in a state with MMJ, they will have to resort to non-conventional approaches to obtain alternative medications like CBD oil.
Cannabis & CBD Oil Benefits for MS – What Does the Research Say?
Believe it or not, dozens of academic and research publications have been released in recent years concerning the use of cannabinoids as a potential MS treatment. Here, we point out five of the most relevant studies to date.
“There is a wide acceptance of cannabis [use] within the MS community: up to 60% of PwMS victims currently use cannabis, and up to 90% would consider using it if it were legal and more scientific evidence was available.”
Sativex is a cannabis-based, FDA-approved medication for the “adjunctive treatment of neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).”
“CBD provides long-lasting protection against the effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis.”
“…nearly every participant in a 1997 survey of 112 regular marijuana users with multiple sclerosis [stated] that the drug lessened both pain and spasticity.”
A review of studies from 1970 to 2013 looked into the potential benefits of complementary and alternative medicine in MS. The researchers suggested that “clinicians might offer oral cannabis extract for spasticity symptoms and pain.”
CBD Treatment for MS: Are There Any Side Effects?
CBD is generally recognized as being safe for consumption. Unlike THC, it is non-intoxicating, and there is little risk of developing an addiction.
Nonetheless, there are some potential side effects to watch out for, including:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
CBD is not FDA-approved, and the marketplace is poorly regulated. Therefore, one of the biggest risks is purchasing a low-grade product containing contaminants. It is important only to buy products with third-party lab reports outlining what’s inside.
Also, CBD can interact with certain medications. Therefore, any MS patients currently using prescription or over-the-counter drugs should consult with a physician before using CBD.
How to Take CBD Oil for MS
There is a wide variety of CBD products available. Here are the most common, along with information on how to consume them:
- CBD Oil: Place a few drops beneath the tongue, and hold them there for 60-90 seconds before swallowing.
- CBD Topicals: Rub the topical onto the affected area.
- CBD Vape Juice: It is possible to buy disposable vaporizers with pre-filled CBD juice cartridges. Alternatively, one can add the liquid to the vape device’s tank. The vaporizer heats the liquid, creating a vapor that the user inhales.
- CBD Edibles: The most common options include gummies and chocolate. Using edibles is as easy as chewing and swallowing!
- CBD Capsules: Swallow these capsules with some water. They are ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the taste or texture of CBD oil.
- CBD Flower: This is smokable dried hemp flower.
Typically, smoking and vaping provide the most rapid effects, but there are health concerns with both. CBD oil is the most popular and takes effect relatively quickly. CBD edibles and capsules are easy to use but can take a while to have a noticeable impact. Finally, CBD topicals are useful for anyone looking to tackle pain in a specific body area.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis
The research above indicates that CBD has potential promise for people living with multiple sclerosis. It is less expensive than pharmaceutical drugs, has fewer side effects, and could help alleviate many MS symptoms. However, detailed clinical trials involving humans are necessary to learn more about CBD for MS, including safety, efficacy, dosage, and more.
Nonetheless, many MS patients are unwilling to wait and want to try CBD as soon as possible. Fortunately, CBD products are tolerated in most states as long as they come from hemp and have a maximum THC content of 0.3%. Below, we have included details of what we believe are among the best CBD brands in the industry.
A note on CBD for Multiple Sclerosis by Dr. Mosab Deen:
“In essence, it is vital to understand that CBD may not only relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, without inflated pharmaceutical prices or their unhealthy side effects but may be the secret cure to preventive neurodegeneration through the endocannabinoid pathway that MS patients suffer from.”