Health & Wellness

CBD Oil and Multiple Sclerosis: 3 Key Ways It May Help

By Aimee McNew
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disorder that currently affects nearly 1 million Americans and more than 2 million people worldwide. Multiple sclerosis, or MS, as it’s often referred to, is typically diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50. It affects more women than men.

The disease progression takes three forms: relapsing-remitting MS, primary progressive MS, and secondary progressive MS. Relapsing-remitting MS is associated with periods of symptoms and progression, followed by a relief in symptoms and seeming remission of the disorder. The disease progresses like this in a step-forward, step-back format until it eventually devolves into secondary progressive MS. Primary progressive MS occurs after symptoms set in and is not associated with periods of remission, but follows a steadily worsening progression of the disease.

According to the National MS Society, about 85 percent of MS cases begin as relapsing-remitting, with 15 percent as primary progressive. Ninety percent of all relapsing-remitting cases will transition into secondary progressive within 25 years of diagnosis.

MS is a life-altering neurological disease that results in symptoms that can eventually make it hard to function, such as difficulty walking, fatigue, numbness and tingling, muscle spasticity, problems with fine motor skills, and vision disturbances.

Cannabis and CBD oil have been studied widely regarding multiple sclerosis, with some promising findings.

The Differences Between Cannabis, THC, and Cannabidiol (CBD Oil) for Multiple Sclerosis

The endocannabinoid system is a network of organs and receptors throughout the body, including the brain, tissues, and other organs. Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body and are responsible for many physiological responses, like muscle movement, nervous system function, immunity, and more.

The endocannabinoid system has two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily in the central nervous system, with CB2 receptors in peripheral tissues. Cannabis and THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, act on CB1 receptors directly, which is why they have a strong effect on central nervous function, including psychoactive response from the brain.

CBD oil, however, doesn’t bind with CB1 or CB2 receptors, but can modulate how both function. This is how CBD oil can have a therapeutic effect on neurological disorders like seizures and epilepsy, because it modulates—or provides balance—to receptors that are over or under stimulated. The same is thought to be true for multiple sclerosis and the neurological component that involves loss of motor control, increased pain, and neurotransmitter-related symptoms of depression.

The endocannabinoid system is highly responsive to stress stimulants, which is why CB1 and CB2 receptors may behave differently in conditions associated with excessive stress, such as multiple sclerosis.

3 Key Ways That CBD Oil May Be Therapeutic for MS

Symptoms of MS can make life difficult, especially when it comes to pain and fatigue. Depression is noted in as many as half of all MS cases, too.

CBD oil can be therapeutic for three key aspects of multiple sclerosis: pain, cellular health, and depression. Overall, CBD oil may have a therapeutic effect for MS patients and may help to provide a better quality of life.

Pain Relief

Many of the studies done on CBD oil for multiple sclerosis related pain relief use a combined version of CBD oil and THC, the psychoactive component, so it’s hard to separate out whether CBD oil on its own is effective for MS-related pain. However, studies that do focus on CBD oil only show that it has pain moderating abilities.

Cannabidiol supplementation is effective for reducing pain-related symptoms of MS, including fatigue, muscle spasticity, and limited mobility.

Cellular Health

CBD oil on its own can help to prevent or slow the neuronal cell death that takes place due to the degenerative nature of multiple sclerosis. CBD also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, downgrading the damaging levels of inflammation that occur with MS and other forms of autoimmunity, and reducing the number of inflammatory cytokines that are produced.


Patients who have multiple sclerosis are likely to deal with depression. This is largely due to the nature of the pain and physically-limiting symptoms, but major depressive disorder can also co-occur with multiple sclerosis, too. Individuals with MS are twice as likely as those in the general population to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and as many as 50 percent of those with MS will show symptoms of depression or mood disorders. The worse a person’s pain is, the more likely they’ll deal with depressive symptoms.

Certain treatment options, like CBD oil, treat aspects of both multiple sclerosis and depression together, thanks to its ability to act on the endocannabinoid system. CBD oil on its own has strong antidepressant effects. Addressing depression in MS isn’t about mood improvement alone, but is a key factor in working to improve impaired mobility.

How to Use CBD Oil for MS

There are many ways to incorporate CBD oil into a wellness routine for multiple sclerosis.

CBD oil itself can be used in four primary ways:

  • CBD oil taken sublingually (under the tongue) takes effect within 5-20 minutes.
  • CBD oil used topically in balms, oils, or lotions should be used at the source of pain and typically take effect within 30-60 minutes.
  • CBD oil taken in capsules takes effect within 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • CBD oil taken in edibles, or added to foods, takes effect within 30 minutes to 2 hours.

The dose required for symptom relief can vary from person to person, which is why it’s important to work with a practitioner who understands cannabidiol and its uses. Doses can range from 2-3 milligrams to upwards of 200 milligrams, depending on the product and the person’s condition. Some might take a single higher dose, while others may take smaller doses throughout the day.

When trying CBD oil for MS, it’s important to find not only the right dose, but the most effective method of delivery.

Bottom Line

While CBD oil shows immense promise for addressing several key aspects of multiple sclerosis symptomatology, more research needs done using cannabidiol alone. While cannabis and THC also show promise, many find the psychoactive effects undesirable and would benefit from a greater understanding of how CBD oil can work.

We are currently in the age of CBD, with research expected to expand not only for therapeutic uses relating to multiple sclerosis and autoimmunity but also for numerous other chronic disorders and health challenges.

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