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Patients with a wide variety of medical conditions find relief with cannabis. While the herb is certainly no miracle cure, it can be an extremely useful tool for managing common ailments like pain and inflammation. But, what about a neurological condition like Bell’s Palsy? There are few effective therapies available for the disorder, and the verdict is out on whether cannabis is an effective treatment. However, there may be some reasons to believe that the herb may be helpful. Here’s the scoop on cannabis for Bell’s Palsy.

What is Bell’s Palsy?

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Bell’s Palsy is a condition that causes weakness in one side of the face. The condition can develop suddenly, often as a result of damage to the “facial nerve.” To medical folk, the facial nerve is known as the seventh cranial nerve. Damage to this nerve interrupts the communication from the brain to the face, causing a temporary paralysis.

About 40,000 people develop Bell’s Palsy every year, making it one of the most common types of facial paralysis. In rare cases, this condition can affect nerves on both sides of the face.

Bell’s Palsy can seem an awful lot like stroke, though the conditions are unrelated. Common symptoms that occur with Bell’s Palsy include a drooping of the eye, drooling, feelings of weakness, jaw pain, and the inability to move muscles in the face.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Bell’s Palsy is more common in patients with certain underlying medical conditions, especially viral infections. Some of the underlying conditions associated with Bell’s Palsy include:

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Viral meningitis
  • HIV
  • Chronic middle ear infection
  • Diabetes
  • Tumor
  • High blood pressure
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Trauma

Cannabis for Bell’s Palsy

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Unfortunately, there is little research on the effectiveness of cannabis for Bell’s Palsy. Yet, pharmaceutical researchers are already looking into topical cannabis-based drugs as a potential treatment for the symptoms of this painful and frustrating neurological condition.

Though both clinical and preclinical research is sorely needed, here’s why cannabis should be explored as a symptom management tool in Bell’s Palsy:

1. Neuroprotective antioxidant

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In preclinical models, various cannabis compounds have been found to be neuroprotective antioxidants. An antioxidant is a compound that reduces the damage caused by free radicals, such as pollution and other toxins that can build up inside the body. These free radicals can cause damage to cells and DNA.

As neuroprotective antioxidants, cannabis compounds are thought to be beneficial for reducing daily damage to nerve cells. Damage to nerve cells can cause inflammation, which may worsen the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy.

While no substantial research has been performed on the subject, the U.S. government does have a patent (US 6630507) for the use of cannabinoids as protective agents against a wide array of neurological conditions. These include inflammatory diseases as well as neurological traumas.

2. Anti-inflammatory

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Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy begin when the facial nerve is compressed or inflamed. Cannabis is a potent anti-inflammatory, which is one of the reasons why the herb is being evaluated as a potential tool in neurological conditions.

In fact, research has suggested that cannabis can reduce the inflammation of nerve cells associated with some of the most debilitating degenerative disorders. In 2016, scientists discovered that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive in the cannabis plant, successfully reduced neural inflammation in rodents with an induced model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Reducing inflammation may ease some of the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy. Though, no research on the subject has been completed. However, many patients with similar conditions like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis find symptom relief with medical cannabis.

3. Headaches

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Headaches are a common symptom of Bell’s Palsy. Interestingly, cannabis has been used as a treatment for headaches for centuries. Even into the early twentieth century, physicians used to prefer cannabis as an effective treatment for chronic headaches.

Various types of headaches seem to respond to cannabis, including migraines and tension headaches. While cannabis may not always make the pain go away completely, many medical cannabis patients find that the herb can lessen the sensation. Many medical cannabis patients also find that the euphoric uplift caused from psychoactive cannabis helps them forget about the pain and move on with daily activities.

4. Pain

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Apart from headaches, jaw and facial pain is also common in those with Bell’s Palsy. Research suggests that low doses of THC make for a powerful analgesic. Cannabidiol (CBD), another common cannabis compound, has also proven to be a powerful pain reliever.

Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a psychotropic “high.” Instead, it eases pain and relaxes muscles while producing a calm sensation of uplift and a positive sense of well-being.

High doses of THC may increase pain in some individuals. Mixing both THC and CBD may amplify the pain-fighting properties of the herb. Already, a pharmaceutical drug containing both THC and CBD has been created for treating the pain and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. That drug is Sativex, which was created by GW Pharmaceuticals.

5. Bell’s Palsy-associated conditions

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One major reason to consider medical cannabis for Bell’s Palsy is the fact that preclinical research has already found that the herb is helpful for a variety of associated conditions. These include diabetes, tumors, HIV, and even viral herpes.

Research in HIV patients has found that cannabis consumption is associated with an improvement in T-cells, which recognize and kill off viruses. Early laboratory research on the herpes virus found that treatment with cannabis compounds halted the replication of the virus in cells cultured outside of the body.

CBD and another less common cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), have been found to reduce inflammation associated with diabetes. The compounds also improved insulin sensitivity and fasting glucose levels in early trials in human patients.

Strains for Bell’s Palsy

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Unfortunately, there is little formal research on what types of cannabis may be most beneficial for Bell’s Palsy. This means that canna-curious patients are left to experiment for themselves.

While it is always recommended to work with a cannabis-savvy doctor before integrating the herb into your care routine, here are a few strains that may be helpful for those with Bell’s Palsy:

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Delilah Butterfield

Delilah Butterfield is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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