Muscular spasticity is a problem not limited to MS patients. It is a common condition, affecting millions of people in the United States, including individuals who have suffered strokes, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and spinal cord injuries. Conventional medical therapy offers little relief for spasticity. Phenobarbital and diazepam (Valium) are commonly prescribed, but they rarely provide complete relief, and many patients develop a tolerance, become addicted, or complain of heavy sedation. These drugs also cause weakness, drowsiness and other side effects that many find intolerable. The therapeutic use of cannabis for treating muscle problems and movement disorders has been known to western medicine for nearly two centuries. In 1839, Dr. William B. O'Shaughnessy noted the plant's muscle relaxant and anti-convulsant properties, writing that doctors had “gained an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value94.” Contemporary animal and human clinical studies reveal that cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids may effectively treat movement disorders affecting older patients, such as tremors and spasticity, because cannabis has anti-spasticity, analgesic, anti-tremor, and anti-ataxia actions117,121,133-139.

As mentioned, the contemporary understanding of the actions of cannabis was advanced by the discovery of an endogenous cannabinoid system in the human body. This system appears to be intricately involved in regulating normal physiology140-142. Central cannabinoid receptors are densely located in the basal ganglia, the area of the brain that controls body movement. Endogenous cannabinoids also appear to play a role in the manipulation of other transmitter systems within the basal ganglia--increasing transmission of certain chemicals, inhibiting the release of others, and affecting how still others are absorbed. Most movement disorders are caused by a dysfunction of the chemical loops in this part of the brain. Research suggests that an endogenous cannabinoid “tone” participates in the control of movements143-146. Endocannabinoids have modulating effects on the nervous system: Sometimes they block neuronal excitability and other times they augment it. As scientists are developing a better understanding of the physiological role of endocannabinoids, it is becoming clear that these chemicals may be involved in the pathology of several neurological diseases. This means researchers are identifying an array of potential therapeutic targets within the human nervous system. They have determined that various cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant modulate the synthesis, uptake, or metabolism of the endocannabinoids that underlie the progression of Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and tremor147.

The neuroprotective qualities of cannabis mean it has enormous potential for protecting the brain and central nervous system from the damage from disease or injury that creates various disorders. Researchers have found that cannabinoids fight the effects of strokes, brain trauma, and spinal cord injury, as well as multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases. More than 100 research articles have been published on how cannabinoids act as neuroprotective agents that slow the progression of a host of neurological disorders in mammals including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. A neurodegenerative or neurological condition affects more than 52% of people over the age of 85148-150.


150. Lago, E. & Fernández-Ruiz, J. Cannabinoids and Neuroprotection in Motor-Related Disorders. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 6, 377–387 (2007).