There is no doubt that cannabis has an impact on your memory. Not only is it easier to forget where you put your keys or where you parked your car after a little herb, but some research shows that the plant may have lasting impacts on memory in chronic consumers. Research has shown associations between a reduction in short-term, verbal memory after cannabis. In particular, heavy consumers are more likely to forget words they just read off of a list than non-consumers. Hoping to hang on to your words? Here are 9 ways to combat cannabis-induced memory loss.
1. Omega 3 fatty acids
Fatty acids are essential for brain health. Brain cells, also called neurons, are coated with a fat-based insulation called myelin. This myelin ensures that nerve cells can efficiently send messages to each other.
Unfortunately, some of this myelin degenerates with aging. Consuming an appropriate balance of fatty acids is essential for brain health. If you’re hoping to combat cannabis-induced memory loss, giving your brain ample fatty nourishment should certainly help.
The brain is made up of 60% fats, including types of fat which can only be obtained through dietary sources. Perhaps one of the most important fats for long-term brain heath is omega 3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which comes primarily from fish and marine food.
Supplementing with fish oil or omega 3s is thought to be a great way to improve your brain overall. In a 2013 study of 176 young adults, researchers tested the effects of six months worth of omega 3 supplementations.
The study was randomized and placebo-controlled. Participants were either given 1.16 grams of DHA or a placebo and performed a few memory tests.
After half a year, the participants were given memory tests again. Those given long-term omega 3 supplementations demonstrated improved memory and faster recall time than untreated controls.
For vegetarians or vegans, an algae supplement will provide the most animal-friendly and bioavailable form of omega 3 fatty acids around. Plant sources of omega 3s do not contain DHA, which is available from marine sources. Krill oil would also work, though it is not precisely vegetarian or vegan.
2. B vitamins
B vitamins are especially important for building myelin. Vegetarian and vegan cannabis consumers should be especially attentive to these vitamins. B vitamins are primarily found in meat products, particularly red meats like beef and bison.
Research suggests that B vitamins may be especially beneficial for the brain when used in tandem with Omega 3 fatty acids. A 2012 study tested the interactions between omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease. 266 patients were included in the study, all under the age of 60.
Previous research from the same team had found that B vitamin supplementation slowed brain atrophy in patients with a high omega 3 status. Their most recent study confirmed this finding.
It showed that B vitamin supplements in patients with low Omega 3 did not seem to help at all. However, the vitamin did slow brain atrophy in patients with a good omega 3 status.
Neurogenesis is essential for memory. In adults, neurogenesis happens most predominantly in areas of the brain that are linked to memory.
One 2014 study found that aerobic exercise, something that gets your heart pumping and your skin sweating, was associated with a larger hippocampus in older women. The hippocampus is where memories are formulated. This particular area is important for consolidating short-term memories into long-term memories.
4. Get plenty of sleep
Memories are converted from short-term memories to long-term memories when you sleep. Different stages in the sleep cycle correlate to different types of memory encoding and transformation. This is one great reason to get enough sleep and to try to get as much high-quality sleep as possible.
Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your memory. Not only is your body unable to go through the full process of converting what you learned into a lasting memory, but when you are sleep deprived, brain cells are unable to function properly, which causes a cascade of side effects.
Sleep deprivation can impact focus and your ability to fully engage in present activities, which hurts your ability to remember the event.
5. Practice mental exercises
As mentioned above, cannabis seems to have an impact on short-term, verbal memory. To combat this, practice! The brain needs exercise just as badly as the body, especially if you’re hoping to stay sharp in old age.
Engaging in repetitive memory games, memorizing poetry, writing, thoughtful conversations, lectures, classes, and other types of complex brain activities will help keep your mind healthy and strong.
6. Have more sex
A 2016 study found that women who had more sex scored better on memory tests compared to less sexually active counterparts. The study was completed at Canada’s McGill University, where researchers found that being well sexed is associated with an increase of new brain cell growth in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain that controls memory, emotions, and the nervous system.
With aging, anything that promotes the growth of new brain cells is a good thing to have more of in your life. This is perhaps especially true when you consume a herb like cannabis, which is known to affect short-term memory over time. Hoping to stay witty and sharp? Perhaps it’s time to get a little frisky.
8. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or possibly white willow bark
Though, this suggestion is more like a hypothesis at this point. In 2013, researchers published pre-clinical evidence that the active component in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), increases the presence of a particular enzyme in the brain.
Enzymes are proteins that connect with things like nutrients and transforms them into something a little different. In this case, THC increased the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Turns out, this enzyme may have a role to play in cannabis-induced memory loss.
Both aspirin and ibuprofen have the opposite effect on COX-2, which is why researchers have theorized that treatment with these drugs may help reduce the effect of THC on memory.
However, these household painkillers do come with some potentially serious side effects, like stomach ulcers, vomiting, and alterations in the human microbiome. Unless directed by a doctor, these drugs are not good to use regularly.
For the record, white willow bark is a natural alternative to aspirin. Aspirin was originally made from willow bark, which contains high levels of the natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, salicin. Aspirin was first made from salicin in the 1800s.
Studies have shown that willow bark is a COX-2 inhibitor, like aspirin and ibuprofen. One 2005 cell line study even found that white willow bark was more effective on COX-2 than aspirin.
The anti-inflammatory effects of the two compounds were the same, though the overall levels of salicin in the bark are lower than in an aspirin. This peculiar finding caused the researchers to assume that other active compounds in the bark contributed to its overall effect.
White willow bark can be consumed in teas, baths, tinctures, and capsules. You can find white willow bark here. There have been no studies on white willow bark for this particular issue.
9. Eat well
Supplementing can get a little tricky. Not only can supplements be a little pricey, but many are not as complete or bioavailable to the body as good ol’ food. Here are a few things to add to your diet for improved brain health:
- Fish, seafood
- Fatty, red meats
- Vegetables and fruits (as wide a variety as possible, especially dark leafy greens and sea vegetables, like seaweed)
- Nuts and seeds (hempseed oil)
- Olives (olive oil)
- Avocado (avocado oil)
All in all, hedging your bets against cannabis-induced memory loss is simple: eat well, live well, and stay active. After that, there is some evidence that cannabis can actually improve memory and brain health in those with certain conditions of aging, as well as certain mental health conditions.