CBD Oil for Cerebral Palsy: Is It an Effective Treatment for CP Conditions?

an illustration of a doctor consulting a patient with cerebral palsy sitting on a wheel chair
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: July 29, 2021

Children with cerebral palsy (CP) suffer from poor physical development manifested in problems with motor function, muscle spasticity, and body posture.

While CP has no identified cure, there’s a range of treatments that can tackle the symptoms associated with the condition. Parents of a child with cerebral palsy will look for anything that could alleviate their kid’s discomfort and allow them to function as well as possible.

Recent studies have highlighted CBD oil as a potential treatment option for children with cerebral palsy, especially when treating its physical symptoms and managing associated conditions.

Let’s take a look at what science says about the health benefits of CBD for cerebral palsy.

CBD Oil and Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that negatively impacts a child’s physical development, including muscle tone, body posture, and movements.

The main trigger of CP is a brain injury or malformation during the neonatal stage.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy include lack of muscle coordination and balance, speech delay, learning difficulties, tremors, involuntary movements, muscle contraction, and spasticity.

These symptoms determine the type of cerebral palsy. For example, axatic cerebral palsy causes muscle coordination and balance; spastic cerebral palsy manifests with spasms; dyskinetic cerebral palsy involves involuntary movements.

The treatments of cerebral palsy range from physiotherapy to botox injections to oral muscle relaxants and surgical procedures.

Muscle relaxants can provide short-term relief, but the benefits are outweighed by potential side effects such as blurred vision, lack of muscle control, or depression. On top of that, people relying on muscle relaxants also have a higher chance of developing dependency and withdrawal symptoms.

CBD has been widely studied in terms of its effects on the brain and nervous system. We know that it can reduce the number and frequency of seizure attacks in epileptic patients and muscle spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

But does it help with cerebral palsy?

Let’s take a look.

Does CBD Oil Help With Cerebral Palsy?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex neurobiological network that maintains homeostasis throughout the human body. Studies have identified cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2 — in virtually every region of the human body. Their highest concentrations are found in the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system.

Researchers have found high cannabinoid receptors in the basal ganglia and cerebellum — the areas that control motor function.

Studies showed that CB1 expression is engaged in spasticity and motor function among patients with neurodegenerative conditions.

A study posted in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders has shown that CB1 receptors in the central nervous system are targets that can trigger antispastic effects. The authors concluded that cannabinoid-based treatments might potentially improve the signaling of these targets.

Furthermore, CB2 expression has been found to block inflammatory proteins called cytokines in the central nervous system. Studies explained that inflamed CNS might be the underlying cause of various symptoms linked to cerebral palsy, such as tremors and spasms.

That being said, more clinical studies are needed to confirm these initial findings —and to help us learn how the activation of ECS can help children with cerebral palsy.

What Does CBD Oil Do to Your Brain?

CBD is the modulator of the ECS. In other words, it circulates in the body to ensure the optimal functioning of this system. The ECS produces its own endocannabinoids whenever homeostasis gets compromised; these molecules work to bring back the desired equilibrium and prevent various conditions from developing.

Endocannabinoids interact with the cannabinoid receptors engaged in controlling motor function, muscle tone, and posture. 

While CBD doesn’t directly mimic the effects of endocannabinoids (like THC does), it indirectly enhances endocannabinoid signaling in the ECS; it also changes the activity of specific enzymes and hormones responsible for the breakdown of endocannabinoids

When you take CBD oil, cannabidiol slows down the metabolism of your natural endocannabinoids while signaling increased production through several receptor-independent mechanisms.

For example, CBD acts on serotonin and GABA receptors, which play an important role in regulating your nerve cells. It can also mitigate pain signals by binding itself to TRPV-1 vanilloid receptors engaged in pain transmission to the brain.

CBD for Cerebral Palsy Muscle Spasms

a doctor taking a CBD oil extract from abottle using a dropper

To date, only one study has investigated the direct effects of CBD on cerebral palsy symptoms.

The Wolfson Medical Center conducted a clinical trial involving the use of CBD and THC (with ratios 20:1 and 6:1) on children with cerebral palsy. The research team found that the CBD treatment significantly reduced spasticity, sleep difficulties, dystonia, and pain among their patients.

Other studies on CBD’s efficacy in treating muscle spasticity seem to support the above findings.

For example, a 2018 study from Neurological Disorders mentioned that a combination of CBD and THC reduced spasticity in human subjects. The authors attributed their results to CBD’s anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and muscle-relaxant properties.

Cerebral palsy has often been studied with multiple sclerosis due to similarities in muscle spasms and stiffness exhibited by patients suffering from these conditions. Researchers agree that both diseases lead to upper neuron motor dysfunction.

Finally, a study posted by Frontiers in Neurology has concluded that CBD treatments improved mobility and reduced spasticity among patients with multiple sclerosis. Interestingly, CBD also significantly reduced the use of prescription medicines.

CBD vs. Cerebral Palsy-Associated Conditions

Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by other conditions that could benefit from the use of CBD.

Studies mention that up to 56% of children with CP experience sleep deprivation caused by the child’s pain and problems with mobility.

Due to lower physical activity levels, adults with CP are also likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disorders.

Recently, researchers have shown that children with CP have a higher risk of developing epilepsy. This may be caused by spastic tetraplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that may cause seizures.

One study has found that CBD reduces depression in human subjects. On top of that, research indicates that CBD is a potential therapeutic agent for patients with hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

A study published in The Permanente Journal also demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in easing anxiety and improving sleep quality among humans. The authors reported that 79.2% of adults participating in this study had reduced anxiety, while 66.7% had better sleep scores.

CBD Dosage for Cerebral Palsy

More studies are needed to establish the right CBD dosage guidelines for cerebral palsy. However, physicians recommend that first-time CBD users start with a low amount for any health condition and gradually increase their dose until they experienced the desired effects without any adverse reactions.

For the general Dosage Guidelines, head over to our in-depth post.

A study published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology gathered thousands of clinical CBD dosing data on various diseases.

The authors summarized that the effective dose might range from 1 to 50 milligrams per kilogram daily.

In a study from Pharmacology and Pharmacology, CBD was found to produce a bell-shaped dose-response when administered in pure form (without other cannabinoids and terpenes). The research team observed that sometimes, a small dose might be enough to produce significant results, while higher doses may turn out counter-productive.

A study from Frontiers of Pharmacology confirmed the above findings. The authors observed that a 300 mg dose of CBD was enough to reduce anxiety scores, while a 600 mg produced less pronounced effects.

CBD oil is generally safe and well-tolerated — even in doses as high as 1,500 mg daily. That being said, you may experience a few mild reactions when you overdo it, including dry mouth, dizziness, irritation, appetite fluctuation, and diarrhea.

Consult your doctor before buying CBD oil for cerebral palsy for professional guidance and tips on using CBD to avoid negative interactions with other medications and supplements.

How to Take CBD Oil for Cerebral Palsy

The best and the most straightforward way to take CBD oil for cerebral palsy is through sublingual use (under the tongue).

You can use a few drops of CBD oil or tinctures beneath the tongue and hold it there for up to 60 seconds. This way, CBD will absorb through a set of tiny capillaries in your mouth, reducing the amount of time it needs to kick in — and improving its bioavailability.

Then you swallow the rest.

CBD is also available in oral forms, such as gummies or softgel capsules and pills. Both products deliver CBD to your system through the gastrointestinal tract. Since the CBD needs to be metabolized by the liver first, oral products have delayed onset and lower bioavailability. On the other hand, the effects last longer because CBD is released gradually into the bloodstream.

You can also try CBD vapes, which offer the fastest and most effective way to experience the benefits of CBD. Vaporized CBD absorbs into your system through the lung tissue, so the effects are almost instantaneous. That being said, vaping isn’t appropriate for children, so if you’re looking for a CBD product to help with CP symptoms in your child, we recommend going with oils or gummies.

CBD vs. Other Natural Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

There are several alternative remedies for cerebral palsy that you can use instead of or combined with CBD.

Echinacea is one such remedy. Some of its medicinal claims include improved cardiovascular health, neural connections, and reduced spasticity. However, echinacea’s therapeutic value remains in the anecdotal sphere until clinical studies investigate it.

B12 vitamins and supplements containing omega-3 have been recognized to improve cognition in people with neurological disorders. A 2017 study mentioned B12 and omega-3 supplements as a means of early intervention to prevent neurodegenerative disorders.

CT scans conducted after supplementation demonstrated that children with hypertonia (muscle stiffness), brain atrophy, and delayed milestones, and speech showed improved neuroimaging results.

Another natural remedy for cerebral palsy is ginger. It has been studied for its potential to enhance cognitive functioning. One study found that ginger root extracts effectively enhanced attention and cognitive processing among human participants.

While CBD may not improve children’s learning capabilities, it has been acknowledged for its positive effects on the nervous system. According to a British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology study, CBD can reduce hypoxia-ischemia (brain damage) and improve brain function in animal subjects.

Last but not least, CBD acts as a muscle relaxant that might be useful in easing hypertonia.

How to Choose CBD Oil for Cerebral Palsy

Medicinal CBD oil extracts in bottles with a dropper and hemp leaves on a mat

Full-spectrum CBD oil is the recommended choice for individuals with cerebral palsy.

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains CBD alongside other major cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBG, CBN, and traces of THC. It also comes with terpenes, which are aromatic molecules modulating the effects of cannabinoids.

Together, these compounds create a synergy known as the entourage effect.

In a review from Frontiers in Plant Science, the authors found that the entourage effect increased the activity of cannabinoid receptors. They also explained how CBD, combined with other phytochemicals, displayed superior efficacy compared to isolated molecules.

Another study supported the entourage effect through a controlled trial on patients with chronic pain. The research team found that while increasing THC levels failed to reduce pain scores significantly, THC and CBD treatments showed better results.

If you are concerned about the trace amounts of THC in your CBD oil, you may opt for a broad-spectrum extract. It doesn’t contain any THC but still offers the other valuable compounds from hemp.

There are also CBD isolates, which are just that — pure CBD. They don’t have any odor and flavor; they also carry the highest dose of CBD per serving. That being said, CBD isolate is devoid of the entourage effect, which may negatively affect its efficacy in treating cerebral palsy.

Wrapping It Up: Can CBD Oil Help with Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disease. While it has no cure, some treatments can reduce its symptoms, contributing to the improved quality of life.

Studies suggest that CBD can significantly reduce the symptoms of cerebral palsy, such as muscle spasms, pain, sleep difficulties, abrupt movements, and anxiety.

In clinical trials, CBD use was associated with a decreased intake of muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants.

Moreover, research has demonstrated that CBD might be useful in treating many side conditions associated with cerebral palsy, such as arthritis, depression, and hypertension.

You can use CBD oil to control the physical symptoms, but health experts also recommend taking it for improved mental health due to its anxiolytic and sleep-promoting properties.

Just keep in mind that CBD is just one of the many tools to improve your quality of life. Participating in physical therapy, rehabilitation, and speech therapy is always a good idea to include in your regimen.

Reference Links:

  1. Zettl, U. K., Rommer, P., Hipp, P., & Patejdl, R. (2016). Evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of THC-CBD oromucosal spray in symptom management of patients with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders, 9(1), 9–30. 
  2. Leweke, F. M., Piomelli, D., Pahlisch, F., Muhl, D., Gerth, C. W., Hoyer, C., Klosterkötter, J., Hellmich, M., & Koethe, D. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational psychiatry, 2(3), e94. 
  3. Sales, A. J., Crestani, C. C., Guimarães, F. S., & Joca, S. (2018). The antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels. Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry, 86, 255–261. [1]
  4. Pretzsch, C. M., Freyberg, J., Voinescu, B., Lythgoe, D., Horder, J., Mendez, M. A., Wichers, R., Ajram, L., Ivin, G., Heasman, M., Edden, R., Williams, S., Murphy, D., Daly, E., & McAlonan, G. M. (2019). Effects of cannabidiol on brain excitation and inhibition systems; a randomized placebo-controlled single-dose trial during magnetic resonance spectroscopy in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 44(8), 1398–1405. [2]
  5. Muller, C., Morales, P., & Reggio, P. H. (2019). Cannabinoid Ligands Targeting TRP Channels. Frontiers in molecular neuroscience, 11, 487. [3]
  6. Libzon, S., Schleider, L. B., Saban, N., Levit, L., Tamari, Y., Linder, I., Lerman-Sagie, T., & Blumkin, L. (2018). Medical Cannabis for Pediatric Moderate to Severe Complex Motor Disorders. Journal of child neurology, 33(9), 565–571. 
  7. Zettl, U. K., Rommer, P., Hipp, P., & Patejdl, R. (2016). Evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of THC-CBD oromucosal spray in symptom management of patients with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders, 9(1), 9–30.
  8. Rudroff, T., & Sosnoff, J. (2018). Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis. Frontiers in neurology, 9, 183. [4]
  9. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041.
  10. Millar, S. A., Stone, N. L., Bellman, Z. D., Yates, A. S., England, T. J., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2019). A systematic review of cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 85(9), 1888–1900. 
  11. Gallily, Ruth & Yekhtin, Zhannah & Hanus, Lumir. (2015). Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacology & Pharmacy. 06. 75-85. 10.4236/pp.2015.62010. 
  12. Zuardi, A. W., Rodrigues, N. P., Silva, A. L., Bernardo, S. A., Hallak, J., Guimarães, F. S., & Crippa, J. (2017). Inverted U-Shaped Dose-Response Curve of the Anxiolytic Effect of Cannabidiol during Public Speaking in Real Life. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 259.
  13. Khaire, A., Rathod, R., Randhir, K., Kale, A., & Joshi, S. (2016). Combined supplementation of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids across two generations improve cardiometabolic variables in rats. Food & function, 7(9), 3910–3919. 

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *