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5 Ways Cannabis Could Be Helping Alzheimer’s Patients

September 21, 2015

If you’ve been keeping a pulse on medical marijuana studies in recent years, you’re probably already keen to the fact that cannabis compounds are demonstrating some promise in the lab.

We’re looking back at some of the research shedding light on a new avenue of medicine, one that explores the fascinating role our endocannabinoid system plays in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Looking forward, just imagine what we will accomplish once those legal barriers surrounding cannabis research are lifted on a federal level.

1. THC Slows Buildup of Neural Plaques

One of the characterizing pathological markers of Alzheimer’s is the buildup of amyloid plaques, a toxic aggregation of peptides in the neural tissue. This 2008 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics found that THC slowed this amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) overgrowth, a discovery that was again observed in a 2014 study that appeared in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The earlier authors even found a low dose of THC to be “a considerably more effective inhibitor of AChE-induced Aβ deposition than the approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease treatment, donepezil and tacrine, which reduced Aβ aggregation by only 22% and 7%, respectively, at twice the concentration used in our studies.”

2. Cannabis Fights Inflammation

Another contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s is inflammation around these amyloid plaques. A 2006 report published in Neuroscience analyzed the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in Alzheimer’s, as activation of CB1 receptor sites had an anti-inflammatory effect. Other research cited in a 2012 review reiterated its importance; one study found that mice bred without CB1 receptors experienced faster cognitive degeneration. The connection between the ECS and neurodegenerative diseases has yet to be developed in human trials, but the premise of this preliminary research alone is encouraging.

3. CBD Could Prevent Cell Death

THC isn’t the only compound cannabis has to offer for Alzheimer’s research; the non-intoxicating cannabidiol – better known as CBD – has also hinted at its benefits in preventing cell death. In 2004, researchers noted CBD’s neuroprotective, anti-oxidative, and anti-apoptotic properties, thus reducing neurotoxicity caused by amyloid buildup. These phenomena were again reviewed in a 2009 report that explored promising avenues in cannabinoid therapy, including that which involves a combination of THC and CBD. Noting the synergistic potential of cannabis constituents like CBD and THC, the researchers concluded with cautious optimism:

“The great therapeutic value of CBD, either given alone or in association with THC, derives from the consideration that it represents a rare, if not unique, compound that is capable of affording neuroprotection by the combination of different types of properties (e.g., anti-glutamatergic effects, anti-inflammatory action, and antioxidant effects) that almost cover all spectra of neurotoxic mechanisms that operate in neurodegenerative disorders (excitotoxicity, inflammatory events, oxidative injury, etc.).”

4. Cannabinoids Stimulate Cell Growth

So in addition to cannabis’ antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective attributes, it would appear that cannabinoids may also play a role in the growth of neural tissue in the hippocampus – the area of the brain associated with memory. This mechanism known as “neurogenesis” was explored and discussed in a 2011 study, as well as in a 2007 report that observed cannabinoids “supporting the brain’s intrinsic repair mechanisms.”

5. Staving Off Other Alzheimer’s Symptoms

One of the more compelling arguments for medical marijuana is its ability to alleviate other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, allowing patients to live happier and more functional lives. From appetite stimulation and weight control to motor functioning and agitation reduction, the improved quality of life that cannabis may offer these patients should be enough to warrant a rescheduling of these versatile cannabinoids.

Looking back at decades of research supporting cannabis’ therapeutic benefits in not only Alzheimer’s, but in cancer, pain, epilepsy, stress disorders, sleep disorders, MS, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, anorexia, diabetes, spasticity, it’s utterly incomprehensible to see cannabis still ranked as a Schedule 1 substance among the likes of heroin.
Cheers to all of the scientists out there making this research happen despite political obstacles and pitfalls.

Find out which cannabis strains may help with Alzheimer’s symptoms (click through for the full list):

Cannabis strains that may help with Alzheimer's

  • Wickliffe

    Either Trump or Clinton will need the popular support of legalizing medical marijuana for Alzheimer’s.
    They are going to use this crowd-pleaser when things get bad.
    When people are massing in the streets against you, you would really prefer that they pass a few joints.

    • Valeriejoan Van Zyl

      Like that!

  • hazel

    A guy my age is suffering rapid mental dysfunction and might be helped by this article. I have forwarded it to his wife. Neither has ever smoked but it just may slow down his deterioration if he can get approval They live in Florida and I don’t know what their laws are. My uncle smoked medical mj to relieve his cancer pain. Thankfully even two days before his death when he was a living skeleton he seemed to pass peacefully through hospice care and the right drugs. Every avenue needs to be researched to aid in the prevention of AZ. The number of afflicted is rising.

  • FinnishMasseuse

    Have used cbd oil for Alzheimer’s for 5+ years. No reason to not try a tincture, function is restored within 15 minutes. Indica vaped or smoked can end rages in minutes (preventing hospitalizations to psyche wards and antipsychotic meds which leave ALZ people in worse condition. You ask for one of the anti seizure tinctures and try 5 drops or whatever and see what happens, increase drops or frequency and sublingual ingestion works different than swallowing it in a capsule. Tired caregivers can give oil in late afternoon and have the patient sleep at night. Everyone of us deserves a chance to see if it helps or not. Changed my life.

    • RMC

      Can you tell me what you use. I have a loved one in Colorado that I would like try helping with a tincture but it’s hard to find recommendations for Alzheimers. She is taking Charlotte’s Web CBD now but I would like to try something a little stronger. Any recommendations that you have would be appreciated.

      • FinnishMasseuse

        stronger? you want to add THC or you want more potent? The cbd oil marketed like hemp oil did nothing for me. Mine is from different dispensaries and all work pretty good. I do like a higher ratio cbd:thc now as physical decline continues with intense anxiety and THC helps me with that. Also use sublingual B12 complex for shakes/trembling. Maybe she needs higher or more frequent doses. My first use was Rick Simpson oil made for cancer patients, tasted awful but worked. I thought tinctures would not be as good/powerful but they seem to be really good for cognitive function. I take 3 times a day. If low THC you can give a lot more to see if you get more improvement. Too much THC can be rough, like when I ate my first edible all at once. Gads. Spinning room and paralyzed, slept 10 hours. Already feel weird, want to feel normal. Good luck! Oh, I do smoke old fashioned way, Purple Kush ends rages in a minute. Can’t find it anymore, everything is fancy and combined. Bummer.