Protecting the Brain
Each year, more than 10 million people globally are diagnosed with dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of this condition. There is no known cure for dementia, but many medications can treat the symptoms or even slow the progression of this disease. New research is emerging that shows there is evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may be one of the viable treatment options in managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
One way cannabis may help is through its neuroprotective properties and ability to reduce inflammation in the brain. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are associated with chronic inflammation in the brain, which can lead to the death of brain cells and cognitive decline. The cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. So how does it work? Medical marijuana can act on the body in a multitude of ways:
- Anti-inflammatory Effects: Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are the components which possess anti-inflammatory effects. Chronic inflammation in the brain can lead to damage to neurons, and may be a contributing factor to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. By reducing inflammation, cannabis may help protect the nervous system.
- Antioxidant Effects: Cannabis contains antioxidants that can help protect neurons from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to detoxify them. ROS can cause damage to neurons, and have been implicated in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- Neurogenic Effects: Some research suggests that cannabis can promote the growth of new neurons, a process called neurogenesis. This may be particularly important for conditions like depression and anxiety, which are associated with a decrease in neurogenesis.
- Anti-excitotoxic Effects: Cannabis has been shown to have anti-excitotoxic effects, meaning it can help protect neurons from damage caused by overexcitation. Excitotoxicity is a process that occurs when neurons are exposed to high levels of certain neurotransmitters, which can cause damage or death of the neurons. This is thought to be a contributing factor in conditions like stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Cannabis and Memory
Another way that cannabis may be helpful for Alzheimer’s or dementia is through its effects on memory. THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, has been shown to impair short-term memory in healthy individuals. However, in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this effect may actually be beneficial. Studies have shown that THC may help improve memory in people with these conditions, possibly by enhancing the activity of brain cells that are still functioning properly. Complementary to that, research also suggests that CBD dominant products may help reduce other condition symptoms such as agitation, irritability, aggression, or anxiety.There is limited research on which cannabis strains are best for dementia, as it is still an area of ongoing study. However, some strains may be more beneficial than others based on their chemical profile and reported effects.
CBD Dominant: CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that has been shown to have potential neuroprotective properties, or slowing the progression of the disease.. These are best for patients who want to avoid the high associated with THC dominant products. Some strains that are high in CBD and low in THC, such as:
- Charlotte’s Web
THC Dominant: THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that is responsible for its characteristic “high” and has been shown to have some potential benefits for managing symptoms of dementia. Strains that may be useful for symptom management such as confusion, anxiety, agitation, and sleep disturbances include:
- Blue Dream
- OG Kush
- Northern Lights
CBD & THC Together: A blend of CBD and THC can often provide the most benefits. As with many of the conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment, CBD and THC together are the most effective in reducing the symptoms of dementia. Products that may be a useful alternative treatment option include: Popular combination strains include:
- Cherry Wine
Overall, the neuroprotective and memory properties of cannabis may be beneficial for a range of neurological conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, and chronic pain. It’s worth noting that research on the use of cannabis for Alzheimer’s or dementia is still relatively limited, and more studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks. Additionally, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional when considering any new treatment for these conditions.