Neurological symptoms

The neuroprotective effect of CBD

Cannabis researcher and pharmacist Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, discoverer of the endocannabinoid system of the nervous system, has already listed facts from an in vitro study which show the neuroprotective effects of CBD in the case of cerebral ischemia, type 1 diabetes, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. In addition, his colleague Dr. Teresa Iuvone has stressed the therapeutic potential of CBD in the case of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, with the advantage of no psychotropic side effects.

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Cannabinoids for recovery following a stroke

The neuroprotective effect of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids has already been explored. It has thus been shown in several studies that THC, CBD and various other cannabinoids exercise a neuroprotective action during and following an ischaemic stroke (IS) or cerebral infarction. Cannabinoid therapies appear to be capable of significantly reducing inflammation and oxidative stress resulting from an ischaemic stroke. CBD, in particular, has undergone extensive research in view of its neuroprotective capacity in the case of ischaemic strokes. It has become clear that CBD increases the blood circulation in the brain following an ischaemic stroke and reduces the extent of the infarction as a result. In contrast to THC, which demonstrates a tendency towards lower efficacy with multiple dosage, CBD even remains effective if it is administered several times during a fourteen-day period. It is for this reason that a greater therapeutic potential has been attested to it in this area of research than to THC. Furthermore, CBD is able to demonstrably reduce inflammation caused by the release of interleukin-1, nitrogen oxide and tumour necrosis factor-a following an ischaemic stroke.

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Epilepsy among children

GW Pharmaceuticals has just demonstrated the positive results of medications on the basis of CBD extracts in clinical studies with children. Cannabidiol (CBD) had a positive impact on certain forms of epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Cannabidiol was able to reduce seizures in children with epileptic disorders, lessening the damage caused by this illness and improving the quality of life. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating whether approval as a medication can be considered. In the event of a positive examination by the Food and Drug Administration, CBD would be approved as a medicine in the USA and removed from the American Narcotic Substances Act.

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Dravet syndrome

Dravet syndrome is a relatively rare infantile epilepsy. In 2016, in a 3-phase study by the British manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals, it was possible to demonstrate that cannabidiol reduces the seizure rate among children with Dravet syndrome. At the start of the study, the 120 participants were treated with an average of 3 different anti-epileptic drugs after having been previously treated unsuccessfully with four other active ingredients. The children had an average age of 10 years, with 30 per cent aged below six. At the start of the study the participants suffered an average of 13 seizures per month. During the 14-week treatment with Epidiolex (dose: 20mg/kg/die) the frequency dropped by 39 per cent.

The preparation has been classified by the US medical authorities as an eligible “orphan drug” and, thanks to a “fast track designation”, the manufacturer can hope for a rapid decision by the FDA. An orphan drug designation is in existence at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for perinatal asphyxia, a further targeted indication. GW Pharmaceuticals is currently conducting two further phase 3 studies on Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and one on tuberose sclerosis.

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In 2011, a large study was published by Novotna et al. on the treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, which led to approval in Germany of the extract for this indication. Of 572 patients who were primarily included in the study, 272 patients (47.6%) responded to the therapy (= reduction in spasticity by > 20 %) during a four-week, single-blind treatment and subsequently participated in a twelve-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled second study phase (enriched-design). Compared to the placebo, the cannabis extract brought significant improvement in the areas of spasticity, spasm frequency and quality of sleep.

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Multiple sclerosis

The first Austrian study on the use of cannabis for multiple sclerosis was conducted at the neurological department of the Medical University of Innsbruck. Clinically untreatable multiple sclerosis patients, who for years had received medications to counteract spasms and on whom these preparations no longer had any impact, or the side effects had become rampant, were treated in a double-blind study with a synthetic cannabinoid. All patients, despite being clinically untreatable, benefitted from the new cannabis preparation. The study participants reported a significant reduction in spasms, stated that they were able to sleep through the night again – something that they had been unable to do for many years – and, in their own words, were also mentally and emotionally “brighter”.

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