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Research

Exploring the Use of Cannabis for Alzheimer’s Relief and Brain Health

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

June 6, 2023 12:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Exploring the Use of Cannabis for Alzheimer’s Relief and Brain Health

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and we’re diving into the role of cannabis in brain health.

In today’s fast-paced world, physical hygiene is extremely important. Most of us take showers daily, shampooing and conditioning our hair. We lather our bodies with soaps. We use lotions, creams, and oils to replenish hydration to our skin. We brush our teeth, floss, and use whitening strips.

We are taught all of this at a very young age. But while our society is on top of physical health, one thing that seems to be neglected in these teachings is the importance of good mental hygiene. Mental hygiene is one of the greatest forms of self-care. Having good mental hygiene is what allows us to process things in our lives and deal with them in a constructive manner. Let’s explore how cannabis can help maintain good brain health and manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that attacks a person’s mind. It was initially discovered in 1906 and named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says, “Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks,” adding, “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.”

This vicious disease usually starts to set in as early as around 60 years of age. Rare cases have started around the age of 30. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (AA), “More than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s. An estimated 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in 2023.”

When it comes to the odds of getting Alzheimer’s disease, the AA says, “It’s estimated that 10% of all people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, and as many as 50% of people over 85 have it.” The National Health Service UK (NHS) says Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be caused by “abnormal buildup of proteins in and around brain cells.” There are symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease to be aware of, like issues with memory, solving simple problems, completing daily tasks, or being confused about time, place, and/or location.

It’s normal to have a little brain fog from time to time, but when it becomes disruptive to your daily life, it could be a sign of an underlying condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medical advancements are helping to manage symptoms and even, at times, offer temporary improvement. Contrary to decades of anti-cannabis propaganda, cannabis shows potential to help with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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How Cannabis May Help Alzheimer’s Disease

For decades, cannabis propaganda funded by the federal government has portrayed cannabis as a drug that detracts from one’s ability to function. They have painted a picture of cannabis consumers as lazy stoners with no hopes, expectations, or motivation in life other than to lay around, eat pizza, listen to music, and get high. This is far from the actual case for most people. In general, cannabis consumers are a motivated group of individuals and always have been.

Since bringing about an era of cannabis legalization, countless activists, supporters, and entrepreneurs have ushered in a multi-billion-dollar industry. Thanks to this, medical research on cannabinoid therapies has advanced even further. Our understanding of this widely misunderstood plant has also started to advance.

A small study that took place in Greece in 2022 evaluated 17 people with dementia and discovered 3% CBD drops brought about improved psychological and behavioral symptoms in around 2/3 of the participants. A systematic review in 2019 shows that a combination of THC and CBD resulted in decreased vomiting, irritability, agitation, screaming, and a reduction of pain medication needed in patients suffering from dementia.

Cannabis and Brain Health

Every person on the planet has a unique part of their body that researchers are just beginning to learn about. It’s called our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The NIG says, “The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors, which are widely distributed and mammalian tissues. ECS regulates various cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system functions inside cells.”

The most referenced receptors of the ECS are CB1 and CB2 receptors. The NIH says, “CB1 receptors are present in very high levels in several brain regions and in lower amounts in a more widespread fashion. These receptors mediate many of the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. CB2 receptors have a more restricted distribution being found in a number of immune cells and in a few neurons.”

Research suggests that CB1 receptors are found in abundance in the hippocampus, cerebellum, and basal ganglia regions of the brain. The hippocampus plays a vital role in memory and learning. The basal ganglia area of the brain is said to be used for motor control, behavior, and emotions. The cerebellum is the brain region responsible for complex motor functions, such as balance, standing, walking, and more.

It’s evident that cannabinoid receptors play a major role in healthy brain and body function. It is also evident that cannabis, so far, is the only known plant to contain natural phytocannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, and others. These cannabinoids work with receptors like CB1 and CB2 receptors found throughout our body. Cannabinoids are absorbed by these receptors, which in return help facilitate communication between cells and nerves. This improved communication provides different results for different people. Many people experience relief from conditions such as nausea, headaches, stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.

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