THC Just May Be the Best Friend Dementia Brain Could Ever Have
THC can block the formation of amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer’s and removes plaques that are already there.
Movies like The Notebook and Away From Her teach empathy for the heartbreaking consequences of Alzheimer’s disease. Awareness campaigns have done much to extend this empathy and raise money for research efforts. When you consider that 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 suffer from dementia, knowing how to effectively treat or stop the onset of this disease is critical.
A study from the Salk Institute has found that cannabinoids remove the plaques that are a key cause of brain destruction in Alzheimer’s. These amyloid plaques (proteins) build up in the brain, disrupting cell communication and nerve transmission – resulting in memory loss, followed by loss of cognitive functioning, social awareness, and language. The second way that Alzheimer’s takes hold is through the development of tangles, a fiber masses of protein, called tau. Normally, tau ensures that nutrients are efficiently shuttled around the brain. When Alzheimer’s hits, however, the brain’s tau collapse and cannot transport nutrients to the right places. And, when brain cells cannot get the nutrients needed, they inevitably begin to die.
If you’re familiar with the cannabis conversation, then you’ve likely heard that cannabis reduces inflammation. You’ve also learned that cannabinoids support the body’s endocannabinoid system with receptors throughout the central nervous system, immune system, and also affect hormone levels. So, it won’t be surprising to find out that cannabis can also play a role in neurodegenerative diseases.
Alzheimer’s is currently believed to be irreversible.
Cannabis and Beta Amyloid Plaques
Studies have shown that cannabis, and specifically THC, may be able to help treat Alzheimer’s. When THC is introduced into the brain through the bloodstream, it triggers CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors link to vital cognitive functions, such as pleasure reception, coordination, time perception, thinking, and memory. THC then goes on to bind CB1 and CB2 throughout the central nervous and immune systems in the body. This makes cannabis more effective in treating a wide variety of conditions.
When THC interacts with the brain, it appears to block the enzyme that is responsible for the production of beta amyloid. Though the study so far has only been conducted on neurons in the lab, it shows a promising bit of progress in Alzheimer’s and cannabis research.
Furthermore, THC, as you’ll remember, reduces inflammation. Inflammation is both good and bad – minor inflammation can be important for the body to fight off infection from injury or to fight of pathogens that enter the blood stream. But, too much inflammation and your body will quickly descend into chaos. Fortunately, THC is an anti-inflammatory.
THC can inhibit the inflammatory response in the nerve cells. While this was originally assumed to be a response from the immune-like cells of the brain, we now know it is in fact the nerve cells themselves. Other studies have shown how inflammation encourages the production of beta amyloid plaques and tangles, which, as shown above, appears to be the cause of Alzheimer’s.
If THC can step in to reduce inflammation, it can hinder neuronal cell death and encourage the destruction of beta amyloid.
This is very exciting news! If this study proves correct then Alzheimer’s research is well on its way to finding an effective treatment, perhaps even a cure. The key missing piece for researchers is access to high quality cannabis and the ability to conduct research unhindered by government regulations surrounding the scheduling of cannabis. At the time of this writing, in America, cannabis remains a Schedule I substance. meaning it has no medicinal value and carries a high risk for abuse. It’s time for that to change.