There have been a handful of studies into the effects of medical cannabis to treat Alzheimer’s, dementia and their corresponding symptoms but little factual evidence has ever been used to develop a proper cannabis based treatment. These studies specifically look into how the cannabinoids of cannabis interact with the disease.
The main cannabinoid in question is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) due to its mind altering attributes, and therefore its potential to have an effect on a mind altering disease. However, CBD (Cannabidiol) has also been found to have beneficial results when used alongside THC. CBD has been found to stop the psychoactive effects of THC which should lead to further potential medical benefits and less patients getting high.
It should be pointed out however that most studies are using mice, and synthetic versions of these cannabinoids to treat Alzheimer’s/dementia and no hard evidence has yet been brought forward. Furthermore, the long-term effects of using such a treatment have also not been fully recorded. In some cases, the use of cannabis could lead to further memory loss, but nothing is yet conclusive.
Medical cannabis, as well as most common forms of cannabis in general, interacts with our brains via our endocannabinoid system. This is a very important internal system we have that is responsible for regulating our responses to changes (positive and negative) within our body and brian.
The cannabinoids (THC) from medical cannabis interact with cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system. At the moment the only known receptors are CB1 and CB2 but it is thought that more exist. The reason we know of the CB1 and CB2 receptors is that of how much they have been found to influence our brain, nervous system and organs.
The CB1 receptor is the most important one in regards to Alzheimer’s as it only appears within the brain. Therefore any cannabinoid such as THC which influences it must be fully understood.
It is this binding that is said to be able to reduce the effect of dementia or at least cause our bodies to fight off the disease more effectively.
Cannabidiol (CBD) can bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors and is thought to prevent or dampen down their activity. This is an example of medical cannabis stopping our bodies from fighting too hard for us when it is actually doing more harm than good.
Studies on lab-grown nerve cells have shown that THC seems to be (more study under different circumstances are required to be conclusive) removing the amyloid clumps associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These clumps are responsible for killing brains cells so anything that can remove them will bring us one step closer to both an Alzheimer’s and Dementia treatment.
Further to this mice with Alzheimer’s disease have been witnessed to have improved learning capabilities after being given a combination of both THC and CBD. The study also showed that their amyloid clumps had also diminished which correlated with their improved memory.
This is a clear example from what we mentioned before of THC providing powerful neurological benefits while CBD compliments it by stopping any nasty side effects attributed with THC i.e. getting high and the potential for memory loss etc.
Further research is being carried out in regards to the CB2 receptor which interacts with our immune system. Some researchers suggest that it could prevent harmful overactivation (most likely inflammation) of the immune system in the brain as well.