Though it may seem counter intuitive to use weed as a treatment for memory loss, Alzheimer’s researchers believe that marijuana may outshine drugs currently on the market for this devastating disease.
How? It just so happens that the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can inhibit the buildup of debilitating plaques that eventually cause brain cells and neural pathways to die.
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No, this isn’t plaque that you can wash away with a fluoride rinse or scrape out during your next trip to the doctor. Brain “plaques”, known to the science community as amyloid plaques, are the result of excessive buildup of protein Amyloid Beta in the brain.
These proteins are “sticky”, causing them to clump together in areas around the brain. As plaques continue to build up, they eventually disrupt cell-to-cell communication. Because cells can no longer communicate with each other, parts of the brain begin to break down, triggering Alzheimer’s symptoms like memory loss, difficulty with problem solving, and confusion.
How Can Cannabis Help?
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As early as 2006, researchers have found that THC is significantly more effective at reducing plaque buildup than other leading medications, like Aricept®. This happens because THC blocks a particular enzyme, enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which is responsible for catalyzing amino acids into cell-blocking plaque proteins.
One 2014 study indicated that in extremely low doses, THC not only slows the production of plaque causing proteins, but also strengthens the ability of neural cells to produce their own much-needed energy, thereby keeping them healthy by protecting the resources cells need to maintain themselves.
Toward A Hopeful Future
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“Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor,” tells 2014 study author Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, “THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment [for Alzheimer’s] in the future.”
Major headway has been made in cannabis policy over the past five years, yet scientists still face a mountain of challenges when it comes to accessing cannabis for medical research. The breakthroughs made thus far in cannabis and Alzheimer’s research have shown that the endocannabinoid system may play a big role in the development of such a heart wrenching disease. Though this new research is far from conclusive in its current state, these discoveries seem to have pointed us a step in the right direction.
Want To Learn What Else Cannabinoids Can Do?
The great wide world of cannabinoids is mostly unchartered territory, but researchers around the globe are opening new doors every chance they get. Check out these great articles for additional reading on how cannabinoids can help you:
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