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The therapeutic potential of the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol for Alzheimer’s disease

Karl, Tim; Garner, Brett; Cheng, David

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000247

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by progressive loss of cognition. Over 35 million individuals currently have AD worldwide. Unfortunately, current therapies are limited to very modest symptomatic relief. The brains of AD patients are characterized by the deposition of amyloid-β and hyperphosphorylated forms of tau protein. AD brains also show neurodegeneration and high levels of oxidative stress and inflammation. The phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) possesses neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and reduces amyloid-β production and tau hyperphosphorylation in vitro. CBD has also been shown to be effective in vivo making the phytocannabinoid an interesting candidate for novel therapeutic interventions in AD, especially as it lacks psychoactive or cognition-impairing properties. CBD treatment would be in line with preventative, multimodal drug strategies targeting a combination of pathological symptoms, which might be ideal for AD therapy. Thus, this review will present a brief introduction to AD biology and current treatment options before outlining comprehensively CBD biology and pharmacology, followed by in-vitro and in-vivo evidence for the therapeutic potential of CBD. We will also discuss the role of the endocannabinioid system in AD before commenting on the potential future of CBD for AD therapy (including safety aspects).

aSchool of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown

bNeuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), Randwick

cIllawarra Health and Medical Research Institute

dSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong

eVictor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia

Correspondence to Tim Karl, PhD, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, NSW 2560, Australia E-mail:

Received April 4, 2016

Accepted June 28, 2016

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