Here are 4 ways cannabis is good for your brain — and may save your life
Dana Larsen, AlterNet
17 February, 2015
Modern research is showing that cannabis extracts protect and benefit the human brain. Here’s four amazing ways scientists are showing that cannabis actually helps to keep your brain safe from disease, dementia and even death!
#4 – Cannabis promotes new brain cell growth
Government scare campaigns often claim that cannabis kills brain cells, but now we are learning the truth. Those discredited studies were done in the ’70s, by strapping a gas mask onto a monkey and pumping in hundreds of joints worth of smoke. The monkeys suffered from lack of oxygen, and that’s why their brain cells died.
Modern research is now proving the opposite. The active ingredients in cannabis spur the growth of new brain cells!
Back in 2005, Dr. Xia Zhang at the University of Saskatchewan showed that cannabinoids cause “neurogenesis” – which means that they help make new brain cells grow!
“Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis,” said Dr. Zhang. “Only marijuana promotes neurogenesis.”
Scientists in Brazil expanded on this research, demonstrating in 2013 that CBD, another chemical in cannabis, also causes new brain cells to sprout up. Researchers in Italy then produced the same result with CBC, another “cannabinoid” found in cannabis resin.
Now there is no doubt that cannabinoids cause new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus. This helps explain previous research showing that cannabinoids effectively treat mood disorders like depression, anxiety and stress – they are all related to a lack of adult neurogenesis.
#3 – Cannabis prevents Alzheimer’s
About 5 millions Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. but there’s hope in sight. Modern research shows that using cannabis helps prevent the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia by cleaning away beta-amyloid “brain plaque.”
A 2014 study into cannabis and Alzheimer’s was lead by Dr. Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.
“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties,” said Cao, explaining that THC “directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function.”
This confirmed earlier studies, such as one from 2008 which found that THC “simultaneously treated both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” This study concluded that, “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is considerably superior.”
These studies used very low levels of THC to find these results — the levels you might find in a moderate cannabis user. So where’s the headlines saying “Smoking Cannabis Prevents Alzheimer’s”?
#2 – Cannabis prevents brain damage after strokes and trauma
Several recent studies have found that cannabinoids protect the brain from permanent damage after trauma or stroke.
Studies done in 2012 and 2013 found that a low dose of THC protected mice’s brains from damage by carbon monoxide and head trauma.
Researchers found that THC “protected brain cells and preserved cognitive function over time” and suggested that it could be used preventively, for ongoing protection.
A 2014 study found that people with low amounts of THC in their system were about 80% less likely to die from serious head injuries than those without.
This last study is actually quite remarkable and should have been headline news. Researchers analyzed blood samples from hundreds of people who had suffered head injuries, and found that people with small amounts of cannabinoids in their bloodstream were 80% less likely to be killed from head trauma.
This means that in a group of occasional pot smokers and a group of abstainers who suffer similar brain injuries, the pot smokers will have only 2 deaths for every 10 suffered by the abstainers!
There are 52,000 deaths every year from traumatic head injury in America. This study showed that if every adult American had a puff of cannabis once a week, 20% of those deaths would be avoided — that’s about 41,600 lives that could be saved, every year. Why isn’t this front page news?
#1 – Cannabis extracts treat brain cancer
One exciting use of cannabinoids is in the treatment of cancer. Repeated laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids kill cancer cells and shrink tumours, while helping to protect normal cells.
Recent research includes a 2012 study showing that CBD stopped metastasis in aggressive forms of cancer, a 2013 study showing that a blend of six cannabinoids killed leukemia cell, and a 2014 study showing that THC and CBD could be combined with traditional chemotherapy to produce “dramatic reductions” in brain tumour size.
Using cannabis extracts for brain cancer is nothing new. A 1998 study found that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells” — an aggressive form of brain cancer. A 2009 study showed that THC acted “to kill cancer cells, while it does not affect normal cells” in the brain.
The medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids are immense, and it’s time everyone is allowed full access to this amazing healing herb.
Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even get to use outdoor-grown hemp to produce vast quantities of pure, cheap cannabinoids for the millions of Americans who need them.