In 2014, a ground-breaking pre-clinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease proved that small amounts of THC can help reduce (and in some cases, even reverse) the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Since then, other studies have added further evidence for the combined neuroprotective power of both CBD and THC in treating this deadly disease.
UCSD Researchers Study the Mechanisms of Dementia – And How Cannabinoids Can Help
Alzheimer’s, as a form of dementia, is a progressively debilitating neurological condition. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. One in three seniors will pass away with some form of dementia and there are currently about 5 million individuals who are suffering from the disease.
Yet according to the American Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not be considered a “normal aspect” of the aging process.
A complete rundown of all the modern-day factors that contribute to a deterioration in brain health as we age would have to take into account the many ways in which we are exposed to environmental toxins in our air, water and food. That discussion, of course, is beyond the scope of this article.
Thank goodness, however, that a growing number of researchers are helping us understand this disease better, and how natural therapies can help. What is really becoming apparent is that targeted cannabinoid therapy is rising to the top as one of the most powerful protocols for both treating and preventing Alzheimer’s.
One of the most exciting movements over the last five years has been a shift in perspective as to how (and where) Alzheimer’s starts in the first place, and how cannabinoid therapy fits into this picture. Very recent evidence points to Alzheimer’s as a condition that effects the nervous system overall, not just the brain.
And this is where strengthening the endocannabinoid system plays a very important role. THC in particular can help to boost deficiencies in nervous system function. For example, a 2014 University of South Florida study as well as others have found that THC can lessen the production of beta-amyloid protein, which can create an accumulation of plaque in the brain.
“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” states Antonio Currais, PhD, lead author of a 2016 study on THC and Alzheimer’s conducted through the University of California, San Diego. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta [protein], it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”
A prior study conducted at UCSD’s Scripps Institute also found that THC was able to “block the aggression of plague completely”—and apparently more effectively than most known pharmaceutical drugs. This study also focused on THC’s effect on plaque-building proteins, but also how it fit in to the overall “cholinergic system,” a network of nerve cells and neurotransmitters often effected by Alzheimer’s disease progression.
“We found that THC was a very effective inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase [an enzyme that helps to create neurotransmitters],” said Dr. Kim Janda in reference to the Scripps research. Janda is Professor of Chemistry at Scripps and director of the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine. “In addition to propidium, we also found that THC was considerably more effective than two of the approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease treatment, donepezil (Aricept ®) and tacrine (Cognex ®), which reduced amyloid aggregation by only 22 percent and 7 percent, respectively, at twice the concentration used in our studies. Our results are conclusive enough to warrant further investigation.”
CBD Also Inhibits Alzheimer’s Progression
In addition to THC, a comprehensive analysis just published in the February 2017 edition of the medical journal Frontiers in Pharmacology summarized CBD’s effect on Alzheimer’s as well. The Australian meta-analysis states that CBD can affect the progression of Alzheimer’s by reducing “reactive gliosis,” which happens when the nervous system becomes damaged. CBD can also reduce neuro-inflammatory responses and promote neurogenesis, i.e. the development of nervous system tissue.
Perhaps the most important finding brought to light by the 2017 report was the fact that past studies have proven again and again that CBD can prevent and even reverse “the development of cognitive deficits” that have already occurred.
Side Effects of Common Alzheimer’s Drugs vs. Natural Healing with Cannabis
The mounting scientific evidence as to the ways in which THC and CBD work together with the endocannabinoid system and the nervous system to repair damage, encourage neurotransmitter growth and lessen the production of plague in the brain is very encouraging for those who are considering alternatives to pharmaceutic drug therapy.
The particular course of treatment for Alzheimer’s is a personal one that often loved ones must make for an aging family member. However, it is important to know all the facts before setting forth on a course of action. Drugs like Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda are also Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors and will help with symptoms such as memory loss and confusion to a certain extent. But they also come with harsh side effects that may affect the body as a whole.
For example, many of these drugs share a common foundation with nerve agents and insecticides. Side effects of these drugs may include digestive complications, bruising, dizziness and increased confusion.
The Australian report states that “current AD treatments do not stop or reverse the disease progression.” In light of this, the researchers call for “new, more effective therapeutics.”
According to an increasing number of studies, cannabinoid therapy now appears to do what common pharmaceutical drugs cannot when it comes to dementia- recover, repair and heal the parts of the brain and nervous system that have been severely effected by the progression of this deadly and heart-breaking disease. And, when used at low-doses and under the guidance of a caring professional, cannabinoid therapy appears to be absent of the damaging side effects that inevitably come with hard pharmaceutical therapies.
Make Sure You Have a Safe and CLEAN Cannabis Source
A recent UPG article talked about a California report which found that roughly 90% of all cannabis grown in Northern California has some pesticide residue, in particular Myclobutanil, which turns to Hydrogen Cyanide when exposed to heat.
The side effects for low-level, consistent exposure to Hydrogen Cyanide include shortness of breath/trouble breathing, complications with the liver and kidney and hormonal changes in the thyroid. High levels of exposure, even one time, can lead to death. Exposure to Mychobutanil (a common environmental pesticide) over time could also result in changes in the spleen, skin, liver and brain, according to recent studies.
Especially if you are using medical cannabis for any type of brain-related condition, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, PTSD or epilepsy, it is important that you trust the source of your cannabis weed, oil, vape or cream and make sure that it is grown as organically as possible without the use of harmful chemical sprays to fight fungus and bacteria. While it appears that tougher safety regulations are around the corner in California, there are currently other states, such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado, that have toughened their regulations in recent years.
After all, what good is it to ingest marijuana for its brain-healing effects when it is riddled with pesticides that may make the problem worse?