Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases are thought to be caused by nerve cell death, caused by the the accumulation of a amyloid proteins.
The build-up of the proteins triggers a toxic inflammatory response that eventually leads to brain cell death.
There are no drugs that significantly inhibit this process.
Enter cannabis, which is now legal for medicinal purposes in 33 states.
A 2016 study found cannabinoids, such as THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol), stimulate the removal of the beta amyloid protein, block the inflammatory response caused by the protein, and therefore protect against nerve cell death.
The finding supports previous studies that found cannabinoids to be effective against neurodegenerative disease.
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” says one of researchers, David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California.
Schubert and his colleagues tested the effects of THC on human neurons grown in a lab.
THC is not only responsible for the majority of marijuana’s psychological effects – including the high – it’s also an effective treatment for the symptoms of everything from HIV and chemotherapy to chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, and stroke.
The compound works by attaching to cannabinoid receptors found all over the body.
In the brain, these receptors are most concentrated in neurons associated with pleasure, memory, thinking, coordination and time perception.