Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease this September “strongly suggest that THC [the main active ingredient in marijuana] could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s today. One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, costing America about $203 billion in 2013.
Chuanhai Cao and other researchers at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University wanted to investigate the “potential therapeutic qualities of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with respect to slowing or halting the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.”
So they treated Alzheimer’s research cells (N2a-variant amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) cells) with THC and examined them for amyloid-β at the 6, 24, and 48-hour time markers. Amyloid-β is a type of protein that is linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms. The researchers found THC “to be effective at lowering Aβ levels … in a dose-dependent manner.”
The main active ingredient in pot “directly interacts” with amyloid-β, “thereby inhibiting aggression”. THC was also effective at lowering other key Alzheimer’s Disease markers. Furthermore “no toxicity” was observed from the THC. The researchers also found THC “enhances” the function of the cell’s energy factories — the mitochondria.
“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” stated study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy.
“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”
Other research in the same journal that month indicates THC boosts the body’s natural anti-Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism — the endocannabinoid system.
Alzheimer’s Disease is thought to result from a lifetime of brain inflammation. Cannabis is one of the most safe anti-inflammatories in medicine. Some neuroscientists believe a bout of pot smoking in early adulthood may prevent Alzheimer’s onset later in life. Cannabis slows brain aging, Time reported in 2012.
Smoking, vaping, or eating the pot molecules THC and CBD directly effects nerve cell function, reducing chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular dysfunction — all the while promoting stability of the human body’s internal environment (homeostasis) and healthy brain cells (neurotrophic support), studies show.
“What we found was that not only did the single puff a day reverse the memory impairment but also restarted neurogenesis,” Ohio State University, Gary Wenk told the Seattle Post Intelligencer this year.
Other studies have shown THC inhibits other key pathological markers of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The U.S. government has patented marijuana molecule CBD as a neuroprotectant, evan as it maintains that cannabis is a schedule 1 drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse. The federal drug war is blocking deeper research into cannabis’ impacts on brain disease, Wenk states.