Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS) and often leaves those diagnosed disabled. Unpredictable by nature, scientists believe MS occurs when a yet to be identified environmental factor triggers the immune system to attack the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Specifically, the myelin, which insulate and protect nerve fibers, become damaged as a result of this immune response. This in turn disrupts the flow of information along the CNS, disrupting the brain’s ability to communicate with various parts of the body. MS gets its name from the process of damage and scarification that forms in “multiple” locations along nerve fibers. Symptoms vary between patients due to the unforeseeable incidence and extent of damage to the CNS, though people commonly experience numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, loss or limitation of motor function, vision problems and blindness, spasticity, tremors, and paralysis. MS occurs at varying degrees of severity with most exhibiting relapsing/remitting cases to begin where symptoms come and go in concentrated episodes. Others experience Progressive MS characterized by symptoms that slowly progress in intensity over an extended period of time, making it more difficult to treat.
To date, there is no cure for MS, with most treatment options focused on limiting or slowing the spread of the disease. Most doctors recommend Disease Modifying Drugs that aim to suppress the body’s unwanted immune response. Diagnosing and treating MS early is highly important to halt or slow the spread of the disease. There are many drugs designed to do this, though they can carry severe side effects, some even warranting a “black box” warning from the FDA. With such drugs, doctors must frequently monitor patients to be sure they don’t develop other conditions as a result of treatment. With so little known about the cause of MS, scientists must focus on limiting the disease as much as possible while allowing people to enjoy the best quality of life possible. Since the main mechanism of injury in MS appears to be inflammation, researchers have begun exploring cannabis as a treatment option due to its proven anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.
In a 2018 study, Dr. Ruth Gallily compared Tikun Olam’s CBD-rich Avidekel strain with Copaxone, a commonly employed medication for MS, to see which was more effective at alleviating symptoms of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) in a population of mice. EAE functions similarly to MS in animals and is a useful tool for researchers developing immunosuppressive drugs. Dr. Gallily discovered that an oil extract of Avidekel proved at least as efficient as Copaxone, and in fact generated superior results in the test population during the first two phases of the disease’s development. These results suggest that plant based CBD provides strong immunosuppression in EAE and could thus provide similar benefits in MS patients. Equally encouraging is the fact that the Avidekel strain is low impact, and non-psychoactive, meaning it would likely produce minimal side effects while improving quality of life for patients. Want to learn more about this research? Go here for a detailed explanation of Dr. Gallily’s study.