CBD and Tourette’s Syndrome: Does It Help?

Illustration of a guy with a Tic Disorder
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: October 31, 2023

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental condition that triggers involuntary verbal or physical ticks. There are no known causes and treatments for this condition, but hopefully, you can use a combination of behavioral therapy and natural remedies to treat some of its symptoms effectively.

Scientists have been investigating the positive effects of cannabis on Tourette’s syndrome since the 80s. Today, medical cannabis, as well as hemp-derived CBD oil, offer a natural and safe alternative to conventional treatments, such as anticonvulsants and antipsychotic medications.

In this article, we shed light on CBD’s role in the management of Tourette’s, highlighting its pros and cons and the best ways to use it.

Does CBD Oil Help Tourette’s Syndrome?

As mentioned, Tourette’s syndrome is characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements such as tics and vocalizations. It is often accompanied by swearing. The tics include facial grimacing, eye blinking, and shoulder jerking.

Tourette’s syndrome usually occurs before a person turns 21.

CBD has been highlighted by studies for its antipsychotic effects, which may be helpful in mental illnesses, including Tourette’s syndrome.

CBD is a non-intoxicating compound derived from cannabis plants; it is responsible for the vast range of the plant’s therapeutic properties.

A study posted in the journal Brain Sciences investigated the efficacy of nabiximols, a drug containing a blend of THC and CBD, on a patient with Tourette’s Syndrome. The 22-year-old male subject took a daily dose of the formulation for two weeks.

The research team discovered that the treatment provided considerable improvements in both tics and premonitory urges of the patient.

They also added that CBD could have positively influenced the therapeutic value of THC while mitigating its psychotropic effects.

Similar results were observed in a 2016 study, where a patient with Tourette’s syndrome showed marked improvement in movement and vocal tics after receiving Sativex, the trade name for nabiximols.

The patient took a daily dose of 10.8 mg of THC and 10.8 mg of CBD for several weeks. When the researchers analyzed the subjective and objective measures in the patient, they noticed significant improvements in the frequency and severity of motor and vocal impairment.

This limited data provides valuable insight into the endocannabinoid system as a potential therapeutic target for Tourette’s syndrome.

How CBD Works to Alleviate the Symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is essential for understanding the benefits of CBD for Tourette’s syndrome. This system is a complex network that works to promote and maintain homeostasis throughout the body. There is piling evidence that the endocannabinoid system is engaged in the symptomatology and pathophysiology of many physiological and mental diseases.

The cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) are the primary receptors used by the ECS and are involved in movement and neurological functioning.

Phytocannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, can modulate these receptors and provide neuroprotective properties. CBD can also influence other receptors outside of the ECS. For example, part of its neuroprotective properties is linked to its interaction with adenosine receptors because CBD can increase adenosine levels in the brain.

Benefits of CBD for Tourette’s Syndrome

  • Early studies show that taking a combination of CBD and THC improved motor and vocal tics in patients with Tourette’s Syndrome.
  • CBD is available without a prescription in the United States. In states where medical and recreational use of marijuana is allowed, you can also buy medical-grade CBD from marijuana (with higher levels of THC).
  • CBD is a non-intoxicating substance, so you won’t feel high after taking it. CBD can actually counteract the psychotropic effects of THC.
  • According to the WHO, CBD is well-tolerated in humans. Even doses as high as 1,500 mg administered daily for several weeks did not result in dangerous side effects. People also don’t seem to develop substance dependence after CBD use.

What Are the Limitations?

  • There have been no large-scale clinical studies on patients with Tourette’s syndrome using CBD for symptom control. The lack of in-depth human studies makes it difficult to say conclusively that CBD can effectively treat this condition.
  • The lack of regulation in the industry makes it possible for companies to sell mislabeled and contaminated products that are dangerous to the user. That’s why we always underline the importance of buying CBD oil from reputable manufacturers who provide batch-specific certificates of analysis for their products.
  • CBD can interact with a lot of pharmaceutical substances. If you take any medication for Tourette’s syndrome, consult your doctor before adding CBD oil to your repertoire.

Full-Spectrum CBD vs. Isolate: Which Is Better for Tourette’s?

There are three main types of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

Earlier, we mentioned that a combination of CBD and THC produced the best results for the patients examined in the above studies. For that reason, we recommend choosing full-spectrum CBD.

Full-spectrum CBD oil is made from the whole plant. It contains CBD and other supportive cannabinoids, terpenes, and traces of THC. These compounds work synergistically to amplify their potential health benefits while mitigating the side effects of the major compounds. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.

Broad-spectrum extracts are similar to full-spectrum CBD, except for the lack of THC. The intoxicating cannabinoid is removed after the initial extraction.

Isolate contains pure CBD. Isolate-based CBD oil is odorless and flavorless, and it doesn’t produce the entourage effect, which is why full-spectrum CBD oils are a more desired format among consumers.

CBD Dosage for Tourette’s Syndrome

As of today, the FDA hasn’t approved any CBD products for treating patients with Tourette’s syndrome, so there are no official dosage recommendations available.

However, studies on CBD point to a 300–600 mg dosage range where CBD was able to reduce anxiety in humans. A single dose of 160 mg of CBD can also noticeably improve sleep duration — with similar results to nitrazepam, a medication for anxiety and sleeplessness.

CBD is safe for humans, even in doses reaching 1,500 mg per day. The side effects of taking too much CBD oil are mild and include dry mouth, drowsiness, changes in appetite, and (very rarely) diarrhea.

CBD can also interact with pharmaceutical medications for Tourette’s syndrome, as it affects the same system of enzymes that metabolizes most drugs in the liver. For that reason, we recommend consulting a doctor before buying CBD oil if you take any medications.

How to Take CBD Oil for Tourette’s Syndrome

If you’re looking for a quick and effective way of taking CBD, sublingual use may come in handy. CBD oil is taken under the tongue, where it gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream through tiny blood vessels in your mouth. Usually, it takes up to 30 minutes to notice the calming effects of CBD oil; they can last up to 6 hours.

CBD oil comes with a dropper, making it easy to measure and apply CBD under the tongue.

If you dislike the flavor of natural CBD oil, you can try CBD gummies or capsules. They offer a fixed dose per serving and longer-lasting effects. That being said, oral forms of CBD have a delayed onset compared to sublingual administration; sometimes, the effects may need up to 2 hours to take hold.

Vaping CBD is the fastest and most effective way to deliver CBD to your system. Since CBD absorbs through the lung tissue, the effects are almost instantaneous.

For targeted relaxation, topicals are the most recommended format. CBD in topical form comes as balms, salves, creams, and gels and may be used in massage therapies as well as for relieving stress-induced tension.

Understanding Tourette’s Syndrome

The most common symptoms of people with Tourette’s syndrome are tics. These symptoms often show up when a person is between 5 to 10-years-old.

There are two types of tics: vocal and motor.

Motor tics involve involuntary movements of the body, such as jerking the head or shrugging the shoulders.

Vocal tics are the sounds that a person makes with their vocal apparatus. Some examples of vocal tics include yelling, throat clearing, screaming, and swearing.

Typical preliminary symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome are motor tics that manifest themselves in the neck and head area. These tics usually deteriorate during stressful situations or when a person becomes excited but tend to improve when they stay calm and focused.

Most of the time, Tourette’s syndrome tics decrease once a person hits a certain age and sometimes go away entirely. However, many individuals with this condition maintain tics through their adulthood and, in some cases, become more difficult to manage.

Tourette’s syndrome may lead to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or other significant learning issues.

The use of foul language and swearing (coprolalia) aren’t as common as people believe; they affect only about one out of ten people with Tourette’s syndrome.

Patients with Tourette’s syndrome may also show signs of behavioral problems, such as rage attacks, inappropriate behavior, and aggression.

A tic is always preceded by a strong urge known as a premonitory sensation. They are often relieved once a person has carried out the movement. Examples of premonitory sensations include a dry or sore throat before grunting, an itchy muscle before jerking, or a burning feeling in the eyes before blinking.

Final Thoughts on Using CBD for Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a nervous system disorder marked by involuntary motor and vocal tics. Some examples include head or shoulder jerking, eye blinking, muscle spasms, and facial grimacing.

The antipsychotic and myorelaxant or muscle-relaxant properties of CBD may be beneficial for people with neurological disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome.

Researchers in case studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC was particularly effective at improving both premonitory urges and tics in patients. CBD is believed to modulate the endocannabinoid system through the CB1 receptors, which are engaged in Tourette’s syndrome.

Although the data on CBD and Tourette’s syndrome is scarce, the findings from this article suggest that plant-based cannabinoids may be used as a treatment for this condition.

CBD oil is legal in most states thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, but since the market is unregulated, you need to make sure you purchase your products from a reputable supplier — preferably one that uses organic hemp and tests its products in an independent laboratory.

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.