Marijuana is currently being studied to determine whether its consumption can be effective at treating chronic pain, cancers, epilepsy, and Crohn’s disease. But just this year, researcher’s started testing the effectiveness of marijuana for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Many would probably consider this to be counter-intuitive, considering Alzheimer’s predominantly effects memory, and marijuana has been widely known to negatively effect a person’s short-term memory. But the results so far have been very promising.
In late June of this year, Popular Science published the findings of a study by the Salk Institute related to the effects of marijuana smoking and consumption on Alzheimer’s patients. This particular laboratory study was the first of its kind to test tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) against the plaque buildup of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the characterizing pathological markers of Alzheimer’s is the buildup of amyloid plaques, a toxic aggregation of peptides in the neural tissue.
What’s especially fascinating about this study is that, instead of using actual Alzheimer’s patients as test subjects, the scientists involved grew their own neurons in the lab, altered them so that they would develop plaque, and then applied THC and other marijuana compounds in order to study its effect.
The result they observed was that THC was beneficial to the breakdown of the protein buildup, as well as a reduction in inflammation in the cells. Neuron inflammation is detrimental to your memory because it makes it harder for your neurons to communicate with one another correctly.
THC isn’t the only compound cannabis has to offer for Alzheimer’s treatment. A study back in 2004 attempted to study the effect of the non-psychoactive cannabidiol – better known as CBD – at preventing cell death. The study found CBD was successful at reducing neurotoxicity caused by amyloid buildup, a phenomenon that was re-tested in 2009, a study that involved a combination of THC and CBD. Researchers of this study 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…”