Adding to the list of numerous diseases that medical marijuana has already helped to heal – cancer, rare muscular diseases, arthritis, seizures, and more – compounds in the plant have also been shown to positively impact Alzheimer’s disease. This is important because the degenerative disease affects more than 5 million Americans.
One study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmacology in 2006, hits home for me personally because I lost my own mother to Alzheimer’s disease. All while there are millions of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative neurological diseases every year throughout the world, and the number is expected to rise. It’s all so unnecessary.
The study found that a compound within cannabis harnesses two therapeutic properties ideal for addressing both the surface symptom (memory problems) and root cause (brain plaque) of Alzheimer’s disease.
It states very clearly that marijuana compounds which normally account for a ‘high,’ Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), competitively inhibits the enzyme acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) as well as prevents AChE-induced amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) aggregation, the key pathological marker of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study abstract states:
“Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Abeta aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.“
On the first account, THC’s ability to inhibit the AChE enzyme, is not unlike the mechanism of action behind most Alzheimer’s drugs on the market today. Drugs like donepezil (trade name Aricept), for instance, by targeting and inhibiting the brain enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), result in an increase in brain levels of this neurotransmitter, which in turn, results in symptom reduction, i.e. improved memory. Donepezil, however, is riddled with controversy due its well-known association with seizures, which likely reflects its intrinsic neurotoxicity. It is, in fact, a chemical in the same general chemical class as venom, insecticides and chemical war agents, such as nerve gas.
On the second account, THC’s ability to prevent the acetylcholinesterase-associated amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) aggregation, i.e. brain plaque, indicates that it may, as the researchers noted, “directly impact Alzheimer’s disease pathology.” In fact, they found “Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”
What is so encouraging about this research, and which the researchers described as “noteworthy,” is the following: THC is a considerably more effective inhibitor of AChE-induced Aβ deposition than the approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease treatment, donepezil and tacrine, which reduced Aβ aggregation by only 22% and 7%, respectively, at twice the concentration used in our studies. Therefore, AChE inhibitors such as THC and its analogues may provide an improved therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease, augmenting acetylcholine levels by preventing neurotransmitter degradation and reducing Aβ aggregation, thereby simultaneously treating both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
THC, of course, is only one of a wide range of cannabinoids in the plant marijuana. Not only is there already plentiful information on the neuroprotective properties of marijuana compounds, but there is also a sizeable body of clinical and/or biomedical research indicating the medicinal value of this plant in over 150 health conditions.
Thanks for reading!