Some people with narcolepsy prefer to explore natural alternatives to standard treatments to help manage their condition. One such substance is cannabidiol (CBD), a molecule derived from the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. The use of CBD has increased in popularity in recent years, and it may help improve certain symptoms and overall quality of life for those living with narcolepsy. As one MyNarcolepsyTeam member reported, “I am taking CBD, and I believe it is helping the most.”
Cannabidiol is part of a larger family of molecules called cannabinoids that can act on the central nervous system’s endocannabinoid system. There are different varieties of cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant — among them, the phytocannabinoid CBD as well as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis has been widely used as medicine to treat a variety of conditions including chronic pain and epilepsy. The use of cannabis is often associated with intoxication or “feeling high” — symptoms that are caused by THC. Unlike THC, however, CBD is not psychoactive and does not cause a “high” feeling. For this reason, CBD is an attractive option for those who are interested in the potential medicinal properties of medical cannabis — such as relief from pain, anxiety, and insomnia — without marijuana’s psychoactive properties.
Researchers are exploring CBD’s potential to treat many different conditions, including narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized in part by excessive daytime sleepiness. This condition may cause people to fall asleep during inappropriate times, potentially leading to dangerous situations.
Some research suggests that CBD can help manage narcolepsy by promoting wakefulness. Experiments performed in rats showed that CBD may have an impact on the sleep-wake cycle by affecting the neurons in the brain, providing early evidence that CBD may be effective against narcolepsy.
At the same time, CBD may also help combat nighttime insomnia and other sleep disturbances that are common in people with narcolepsy, helping to promote better sleep.
Feelings of anxiety are also common in people with narcolepsy. Some research findings suggest that CBD may offer calming effects that can help decrease anxiety and other mood-related issues. MyNarcolepsyTeam members have found CBD to help manage their moods as well. “I have been using CBD (3000 mg solution) for ... about 4 to 6 months,” said one member. “My mood swings (narcolepsy side effect) have decreased substantially.”
CBD can be purchased in different forms. CBD products are commonly taken by mouth or used on the skin for topical application.
CBD is most commonly found as an oil extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD oil may be taken directly by mouth, or it can be added to food before it’s ingested. The oil may contain small amounts of THC or no THC at all.
CBD may be infused into food products such as gummy candies, which allow the compound to be easily ingested.
There are also many CBD-infused lotions and other body care products on the market that allow for CBD application directly on the skin.
In 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD-containing drug, to treat seizures caused by epilepsy. There are several other CBD products sold as supplements, but none has been approved by the FDA.
Although many people have had success with CBD, the safety and efficacy of CBD are still not well understood. The use of CBD may come with side effects such as dry mouth, fatigue, and reduced appetite.
There is conflicting evidence regarding the exact effect CBD has on sleep and sleep disorders, potentially due to differences in the dosage of CBD and how it’s administered. Additional research and data obtained through clinical trials are necessary to determine if CBD can be an effective treatment for narcolepsy.
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