By Aaron Oman
Memories are invaluable to our lives. We carry them with us as they shape our experience and identities. For those aging today, losing memory is an expected part of the process, as of now 1 in 3 seniors will develop some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s (AD). CBD and THC oil might be a treatment for patients looking to access safe, natural, and affordable medicines.
We are finding new ways to access natural products like the cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis cultivars. Research into these amazing natural compounds stands to offer us new medicines that are being typically ignored. CBD in particular is a compound showing a lot of promise due to the fact that it simply can’t get you high and has varied potent medical applications.
CBD as a modern medicine has offered an alternative to the cocktail of prescription drugs conventionally offered to Alzheimer’s disease patients. The rate of Alzheimer’s is expected to increase in the coming years according to the Alzheimer’s Association, while the discovery of new safe and effective treatments are developing at a rather slow pace.
CBD oil might be a powerful substance that could be used to combat symptoms associated with aging as it is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.
The legal standing of Cannabis within governments who feel the need to control it has been the number one roadblock to researching CBD use for treatment of Alzheimer’s using empirical and conclusive evidence.
Despite that roadblock, studies have been conducted to understand what it may offer to Alzheimer’s patients and the results seem very promising for conditions associated with dementia and other associated aging conditions.
Cannabinoid-based therapies are gaining attention by many despite the fact that they are currently regulated by the DEA in the U.S. These regulations curb important research and are increasingly being repealed by popular opinion.
Advancing valuable cannabinoid medical research is critical to changing the societal paradigm surrounding Cannabis legalization and might further illuminate the plethora of valuable natural products it stands to offer in the treatment of debilitating aging conditions.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an innate part of our nervous system. The ECS and its associated natural lipids and ligands have been linked to neurodegenerative disease and dementia. The ECS is also an important part of the human metabolism and it is tied to metabolic processes like mood and appetite.
“…modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few (Bátkai et al. 2006).”
To develop effective cannabinoid therapies targeting loss of brain function we first must understand how the synaptic pathways associated with the ECS function, something we still know relatively little about.
Many new studies are surfacing showing that cannabinoid medicines are an important medicinal tool potentially even for neurological disorders, but they are still considered taboo in many parts of the world including the many countries in North America. This biased perspective must change to further critical clinical trials that should illuminate our understanding of how eCS functionality occurs.
There are still many questions researchers have when it comes to advancing cannabinoid research and their target the endocannabinoid system. How are eCS receptors distributed specifically? Do cannabinoids affect one person differently than another person?
Clinical trials will further our understanding of these important questions and hopefully, they will further lead us to encounter more effective and cutting edge cannabinoid-based therapies.
Alzheimer’s disease has an incredibly debilitating impact on individuals who suffer from it and ethically we should be looking for more effective medicines to treat it cannabinoid therapies are a really important candidate that should not be ignored.
The increase in the human lifespan we are encountering parallel to the associated growth of medicine and technology is clear. Society has an increasing need for medicines and therapies that will aid in the treatment of neurological disorders associated with aging.
Cannabinoids like CBD and THC can pass the blood-brain barrier a network of blood vessels that allow the entry of essential brain nutrients while it also blocks other substances that could be potentially harmful from accessing the brain.
Exploiting the ability of cannabinoids ability to pass the blood-brain barrier might prove a useful property when it comes to developing effective therapies targeting disease like Alzheimer’s and associated symptoms that occur within the brain.
Neurodegenerative disease, is considered one of the main causes of death even in communities or countries who have access to basic medical resources. It is loosely categorized as the loss of brain neurons and is believed to lead to the following decline in cognitive and associated motor functions. Environmental factors to internal gene mutation are some occurrences believed to be associated with neurodegeneration.
The biggest contributing factor, implicated in the pathogenesis, and the associated proliferative nature of neurodegeneration, is inflammation, although the associated mechanisms are currently still poorly understood by doctors and scientists.Further research into understanding the mechanisms within the endocannabinoid system is critical research in developing cannabinoid-based medicines for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
One of the multiple hypotheses as to why Alzheimer’s is caused is by accumulation of a substance called beta-amyloid on brain tissue cells. This acts as a type of plaque on your nervous system tissue and blocks important intercellular signaling if these processes are prohibited from functioning it affects the performance of an aging brain.
To date there are few known effective therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s doctors and pharmaceutical companies are currently still on the hunt for effective and inexpensive therapies.
THC may be helpful in preventing pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s via inhibiting amyloid buildup but according to the Roskamp Institute a group who researches brain disease, lowing amyloid does not have an effect on patients who already have established Alzheimer’s cases. Furthermore, not everyone is comfortable taking psychotropic cannabinoids like Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Inflammatory issues like hypertension are associated with the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s as well as Alzheimer’s, early prevention might be one of the most useful therapies to consider for aging conditions. CBD fits the role of a medicine used for anti-aging due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD is also clearly gaining more attention for medicinal use due to the fact that it has a complete lack of any recorded psychoactive effects (U.S. Library of Medicine 2017).
A lot of preclinical research is being conducted globally surrounding cannabinoids, many people are reporting therapeutic uses and following research often surfaces supporting claims and testimonials.
There may be many direct benefits of CBD for the brain including anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties these benefits have shown helpful for treating early onset Alzheimer’s.
An Australian study of the effects of CBD on mice showed CBD to be a neural antioxidant. Mice with a genetic disposition for Alzheimer’s were administered a few micrograms of CBD for several months. The treatment prevented a decline in their social recognition of the mice and enhanced their memory.
Researchers findings were hopeful for Alzheimer’s using CBD based therapies that affect memory loss and it showed the “…first evidence that CBD may have potential as a preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease with a particular relevance for symptoms of social withdrawal and facial recognition (Cheng et al 2014).”
CBD acts as a potent antioxidant on the brain and the properties of CBD make it an excellent candidate for research in neurologically debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s. In fact, the U.S. government patent filed a patent in 1999 that is specifically focused on the antioxidant properties of cannabinoids and it even actually contains some pretty interesting conclusions.
“The Cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia.” (Hampson et al. 2003).
This raises the following question, if cannabinoids are so useful why are they still classified as prohibited substances despite the fact that governments are capitalizing on their uses? It seems a double standard to privatize medical technologies while simultaneously prohibiting the advancement of cannabinoid research with dated legislation.
In cell tissue cultures, cannabinoids have been shown to mitigate processes involved with apoptosis also known as programmed cell death.
Apoptosis plays an essential role in growth and development apoptosis also plays an important role in the removal of faulty cells. Pathological apoptosis may be induced if cellular DNA is damaged beyond repair.
“CBD stimulates endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and inhibits AKT/mTOR signaling, thereby activating autophagy and promoting apoptosis. In addition, CBD enhances the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which further enhances apoptosis…This inhibits cancer cell invasiveness and metastasis” (U.S. Library of Medicine 2017).
Luan et al 2017 conducted a bioassay assessing β-arrestin 2 recruitment, the researchers illustrate an important way that the cannabinoid CBD might interact with nervous system receptors tied to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers state that CBD interactions may be mediated through multiple other associated receptors as well as the ones that were the focus of their study. The reason the following receptors have been referred to as “orphan receptors” is due to a lack of previous knowledge about their metabolic functions and associated endogenous ligands.
This assay also shows how exogenous cannabinoids potentially interact with neuro- associated nervous system cells. These receptors on cells are the GPR3 and GPR6 are G-coupled protein receptors which transmit signals from outside the cell to within. The valuable research additionally showed some great results.
- The activities of various cannabinoids were tested on orphan receptors GPR3/GPR6
- Cannabidiol (CBD) behaves as a new inverse agonist for GPR3 and GPR6
- GPR3 and GPR6 are novel molecular targets for CBD
- The potential therapeutic effects of CBD may be mediated in part through GPR3/GPR6
Through studies like the aforementioned are still technically young they are imperative groundwork for furthering CBD research associated with developing new medicine for multiple neurological disorders. This type of research certainly validates additional funding and if we do invest in cannabinoid-based medicines we are likely to discover exciting new applications.
CBD and other cannabinoids have an array of important and valuable medical properties that are currently incredibly underutilized.
Advancing the pathological application of compounds like CBD helps bring recognition the importance of discovering new medicines in nature and helps us understand how Cannabis has been used medicinally and spiritually for so long.
Much of the history of Cannabis used for medicine is correlated to conditions associated with aging and many cultures have used it to treat associated ailments for millennia.
- Rheumatism -suggesting that it could be helpful with arthritis (Shih-chen, Li 1973).
- Senility – so it could be helpful with aging (Shih-chen, Li 1973), (Martinez 1969).
- Demulcent – meaning it may help relieve inflammation and irritation. (Shih-Chen, Li. 1973).
- Diuretic – high blood pressure and hypertension are definitive issues that are traditionally treated with Cannabis sativa.(Shih-Chen, Li. 1973) Anandamide an endocannabinoid increases pulmonary arterial pressure and could be regulated with CBD (Blair et al.).
- Epilepsy – a condition commonly associated with cellular malfunction (India(Santal)).
- Emollient – which means it could be good for the skin (Keys, J.D. 1976).
- Hair-Tonic – (Krochmal 1973), Alopecia (Shih-chen, Li 1973), It is potentially useful in conditions associated with hair loss.
- Central nervous system stimulant – CNS stimulants speed up your metabolism and can improve your mood and even make you feel more alert (Shih-chen, Li 1973), (Steinmetz, E.F. 1957).
Developing effective medicines using natural products is a difficult task but scientists are starting to understand how to utilize a plant that’s been used medicinally for such a long time.
Cannabinoids don’t strictly associate with the Cannabinoid type 1 or Cannabinoid type 2 cellular receptors and researchers are beginning to realize that the associations are not mutually exclusive often cannabinoids may interact with both the Cb1 as well as the Cb2.
Researchers are beginning to understand how CBD, THC and other cannabinoids interact in a dose-dependent manner. This is important to comprehend when evaluating the effectiveness of any Cannabis based therapy using unaltered cannabinoid products like marijuana flowers. Cannabis Flower is most commonly smoked or vaped but can be cooked or processed in many other ways as well.
The analgesic effects of CBD are actually associated with the Cb1 receptors of the ECS, surprisingly many of the other medical associations of CBD occur with the Cb2 receptor, this really illustrates how complex metabolic processes are when it comes to developing effective cannabinoid-based therapies.
Confusion has occurred when it comes to thinking about how neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s occur and grow.
It has been thought that the signaling that causes Alzheimer’s was originating from cellular signaling within the brain and not from without. This particular hypothesis has been criticized and some doctors are taking another look at the possibility that other factors could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease
With Alzheimer’s being one of the leading and growing causes of death in old age it’s becoming more crucial than ever to discover cutting-edge treatments. Some of these treatments might be found in CBD and other cannabinoids. Unfortunately, the treatments offered by large pharmaceutical companies have been insufficient to treat every case and the current legality of Cannabis is hindering research leading to more definitive answers.
Curious about the causes of Alzheimer’s? For a more in-depth look at Alzheimer’s and CBD, read 5 ways Cannabis can help Alzheimer’s Patients
- Blair et al. 2005 Anandamide increases pulmonary arterial pressure via COX-2 metabolites following enzymatic degradation by FAAH into arachidonic acid products. American Journal Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. Dec;289(6): H2491-6.
- Bátkai S, Kunos G, Pacher P. The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological Reviews. September 1, 2006.
- Cheng D, Spiro AS, Jenner AM, Garner B, Karl T. Long-term cannabidiol treatment prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;42(4):1383-96. doi: 10.3233/JAD-140921.
- Hampson et al 2003. Patent US 6630507 B1. Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Keys, J.D. 1976. Chinese Herbs. Charles E. Tuttle Co., Tokyo.
- Krochmal, Arnold and Connie. 1973. A guide to the medicinal plants of the United States. Quadrangle/The N.Y. Times Book Co.
- Alyssa S. Laun, Zhao-Hui Song Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications Volume 490, Issue 1, 12 August 2017, Pages 17–21.
- Martinez, Maximin 1969. Las Plantas Medinales de Mexico.
- U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information. CBD (cannabidiol). PubChem Compound Database; CID=644019, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/644019 (accessed Aug. 26, 2017).
- Shih-Chen, Li. 1973. Chinese medicinal herbs
- Steinmetz, E.F. 1957. codex Vegetabilis Amsterdam.
I’m an undergraduate environmental ecology student at The Evergreen State College. I’m especially passionate about synergistic agriculture, botany, and phytochemistry. I believe that the natural world holds many undiscovered medicines yet to be revealed through science. I’ve been a Cannabis enthusiast for over 10 years and believe the medicinal potential that it holds is vastly underestimated. The content I write is an exploration of bioprospecting natural medicines and is dedicated to validating the natural world.