Science & Skepticism The War on Drugs

New Study Shows Marijuana Could Help Protect Brain Cells from Alzheimer’s

By Joe Klare

New research out of the Salk Institute labs in California shows that several compounds in marijuana remove amyloid beta proteins from neurons grown in a lab. This is the protein found to accumulate in the brains of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Researchers also found that marijuana compounds – including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – reduce inflammation in the brain’s cells, inflammation being another contributing factor in the advancement of Alzheimer’s.

Related: Scientific Breakthrough May Cure Alzheimer’s

“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” said Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the study, in a press release.

Cannabinoids in marijuana are similar to the endocannabinoids that the brain produces naturally; in fact, cannabis triggers endocannabinoid receptors all over the body, which is one of reasons the plant itself has such a large and varied collection of medical benefits.

“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” said Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”

Anyone who has followed my writing throughout the years probably knows I say this a lot, but it bears repeating over and over again: we have only scraped the surface when it comes to all the things the cannabis plant can do. Decades of government prohibition has stifled progress when it comes to researching marijuana, but things are changing and one day maybe we’ll know all the wonderful ways this plant can help us.

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