Cannabis Fights Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Cannabinoids may well be helpful in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain known as Alzheimer ’s disease and other dementia.

With properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, it is reasonable that cannabinoids might be useful in preventing and treating insidious AD.

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegr...

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegrate with Alzheimer’s disease

As with other degenerative diseases associated with aging, AD is of special importance to baby boomers and aging populations throughout the world.The number of people so afflicted may triple over the next half century. All the degenerative diseases are cruel, but AD can inflict soul-robbing pathology into families and relationships. With AD comes a slow breakdown of memories and then personality.

Plaques and Tangles

Central to this damage seems to be the formation of fibrous, knotted senile plaques in the brain. Inside these plaques, inflammation festers. Chronic inflammation is dangerous anywhere; it is especially destructive when microglial cells, the brain’s protectors, themselves become sources of inflammation right in the brain.

Two protein substances clog the brains of those afflicted with AD. Remarkably, cannabinoids appear to provide protection against both these threats to our brains and minds.

  1. Amyloid plaques – composed of strands of protein, beta-amyloid peptides. These so-called senile plaques are a clear marker for Alzheimer ’s disease.
  2. Neurofibrillary tangles – composed of protein microtubules, tau.

THC Blocking Plaques

Fresh research reported in late 2006 clarifies some of the mechanisms that make THC such a powerful anti-Alzheimer’s disease agent. San Diego’s Scripps Research Institute, specifically its Worm Institute of Research and Medicine is the source of new findings about the ability of THC to block the formation of plaques in the brain. In test tube trials, THC shows a remarkable ability to stop the formation of these personality-robbing plaques. THC, the San Diego researchers found, inhibited the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques.

Side-by-side comparisons with two pharmaceutical drugs currently on the market (and inexorably advertised during television news) are startling. THC, the primary cannabinoid from the source plant cannabis. was over four times more effective than one of the drugs, and roughly 14 times more effective than the other.

At the molecular level, THC bound to the acetylcholinesterase molecule, preventing the enzyme’s key role in creation of amyloid aggregation. Institute director and study coauthor Kim Janda was quite effusive at a 2006 release:

Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead researcher Janda went on to say,

While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer’s drugs] currently available to patients.

 

Look for Part 2 soon at Your Brain on Bliss

 

CBD Better With Other Entourage Cannabinoids

Cannabidiol (CBD) ©-designer491 Fotolia

Cannabidiol (CBD) ©-designer491 Fotolia

CBD, the medically remarkable cannabinoid from marijuana works much better with other cannabinoids in ‘entourage.’ My last post covered some of the political wrangling, with some states passing CBD-only laws and thinking they are done with medical marijuana. This entourage effect proves them wrong, and show that whole plant extracts with multiple cannabinoids, especially THC, work far better than CBD-only medications.

A major problem with CBD-only medication is a bell-shaped dose-response. The authors of the new Israeli study point out that CBD, short for cannabidiol, provided powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relief when delivered orally or intraperitoneally, but the effect seemed highly dose-dependent. Too high or too low a dose of purified CBD provided less effect against inflammation and pain, making establishing dosing very difficult.

This problem was solved by using “plant extracts derived from the Cannabis sativa L., clone 202, which is highly enriched in CBD,” in other words, high CBD marijuana. The effects were spectacular:

In stark contrast to purified CBD, the clone 202 extract, when given either intraperitoneally or orally, provided a clear correlation between the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive responses and the dose, with increasing responses upon increasing doses, which makes this plant medicine ideal for clinical uses.

Such powerful, predictable, and reproducible pain and inflammation relief enable clinicians to set dosages, a key need in using cannabis medicine.

Have you tried CBD or CBD with entourage cannabinoids for any condition? What were your results?

Related articles

Cannabis Entourage Medically Superior to CBD Alone

Medical CannabisCBD is a remarkably medically potent component of marijuana. One of over 60 cannabinoids, CBD, short for ‘cannabidiol,‘ has dozens of medical uses, including anti-seizure, anti-inflammation, anti-anxiety, antioxidant, anti-tumor and as treatment for pain. But new research confirms what has long been thought: CBD in addition to other entourage cannabinoids like THC is far superior medically to pure CBD.

Cannabidiol does not produce the ‘high’ associated with THC, another medically useful cannabinoid. This lack of psychotropic effect from CBD is highly esteemed by researchers (and politicians), if not necessarily by the patient.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta brought to awareness for many Americans his conversion to supporting medical cannabis and research and reporting on CBD treatment of intractable seizures in children.  The effectiveness of CBD to quiet seizures heretofore unstoppable by a flood of truly toxic drugs has led to the spectacle of, in America, of medical refugees having to leave their harsh home states and head to legal Colorado.

In the USA many state legislators, although often abhorrent to marijuana, have been unable to resist the logic of supplying this safe but effective anti-seizure medication to children in their states. Sometimes shamed by families testifying with their seizure-inflicted chidren many states have passed CBD-only (or low THC) availability laws. (Bizarrely, by doing so, states are violating federal law, as CBD remains a  Schedule I substance, deemed harmful and without medical value, and most worthy of harsh control. But that remains topic for another day.)

The danger here is that state legislators may then feel that they have done their part in supplying medical marijuana by giving CBD the OK, will resist widening choices even in light of evidence that “entourage” cannabis medications are superior.

The Israeli research, with important implications for dosing medical cannabis is linked below. It will soon be detailed in another post:

Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol

 

 

Cannabis Oil: A Medical Marvel For Your Skin?

Back massageAs medical and personal use of marijuana become increasingly legal, many new ways to intake cannabis are now available. In addition to inhaling smoke, people can benefit from the medical cannabinoids in cannabis by vaporizing, ingesting, and absorption via the skin.

Plant cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD,  are fat soluble and readily absorbed by the skin. These medicinal molecules may well be most perfectly administered, for many conditions, via topical products applied directly to the skin’s surface, such as cannabis-infused massage oil. To clarify, this is not “hemp oil” from the seeds of low cannabinoid hemp, but made from the flowers (buds) themselves, and filled with cannabinoids.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

The importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to the healthy functioning of the skin is only now becoming clear, as the profound ways the ECS effects all our systems are continually discovered. This system,with natural receptors (CB1 and CB2) found in brain, immune and most types of cells, including those in the skin, and natural endocannabinoids our bodies produce, are perhaps the greatest discoveries in human physiology of the last 50 years.

During these same time, researchers discovered the ability for plant based cannabinoids from cannabis, including THC and  CBD, to activate the ECS.  These cannabinoids offer great potential for preventing, treating, and curing common skin diseases. Massages using cannabis infused oil may be an optimal way to address skin maladies. Cannabinoids may be very useful in treating skin cancer.

The endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) has been found to play a key role in the health of the skin, prompting these Italian researchers to study cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and  cannabidivarin (CBDV) to study effects on skin cells. The Italian study skipped THC because of its psychoactivity, but THC has been shown to be powerfully therapeutic. THC is actually closer to AEA in function than is CBD, so it would have been interesting if it were included in the study.

Many skin conditions are inflammatory in nature and the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids on skin cells have been demonstrated. Both THC and CBD show anti-inflammatory effects.

Cannabinoids also act on the genetic level to help calm skin diseases. The field of Epigenetics studies how “molecular mechanisms in the environment control gene activity independently of DNA sequence.” Activities such as exercise and factors such as nutrition and stress can change how genes are expressed. Endocannabinoids made by your own cells and phytocannabiniods from cannabis sativa also can change genetic expression in medically useful ways, addressing diseases from psoriasis to cancer.

The report concluded: “These findings show that the phytocannabinoids cannabidiol and cannabigerol are transcriptional repressors that can control cell proliferation and differentiation. This indicates that they (especially cannabidiol) have the potential to be lead compounds for the development of novel therapeutics for skin diseases.”

THC infused oils may offer many benefits missing from potions without this main cannabinoid. One of these benefits might be the “psychoactivity” seemingly dreaded by cannabinoid researchers. Patients may well enjoy the blissful experience, and even consider it part of the cure.

Watch for Part 2 of this series for more on the science, on the new found epigenetic capabilities of cannabinoids, how marijuana’s amazing molecules adjust gene expression to protect skin.

Congressman Steve Cohen Calls for End of Schedule I for Cannabis

By Don Fitch

Steve Cohen

Congressman Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen, US Congressman from Tennessee, has called out Attorney General Eric Holder to end the ludicrous Schedule I legal status for cannabis. The Tennessee democrat (TN-09) is one of several US congresspersons working against continued marijuana prohibition.
Congressman Cohen is absolutely right when he speaks about the evils of Schedule I status, the most restrictive and punitive, for cannabis and hemp. These negatives include:

• Asset Forfeiture: Schedule I means marijuana “crimes” are among the most serious federal offenses, enabling draconian stealing of personal assets by the government.

• IRS 280E: This rule may cripple most cannabis businesses by disallowing common business deductions because of the illegality (especially Schedule I) of the product.

• Mandatory Minimums: Long prison terms for any “crime” involving cannabis are supported by the pernicious Schedule I tag.

• Medical Marijuana Research: Total control (and nearly total restriction) is granted to the DEA and NIDA, who cling to the “no medical use” definition to disallow medical research.

• Hemp: Imported seeds for the first Kentucky hemp planting were delayed at the border by the DEA last summer, requiring the intervention of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. To survive, the new American hemp industry needs cannabis rescheduling. Continue reading

Hemp And Cannabis in Southern Oregon Skirmish

As Oregon’s legal marijuana market goes official on July 1, 2015, two different aspects of cannabis agriculture are at odds.

Some of the world’s finest wines are produced from grapes grown in southern Oregon. In nearby fields, some of the planet’s choicest cannabis strains benefit from the same climate. The medical marijuana plants appear like small trees, protruding with arm-sized buds worth big money when harvested, dried and trimmed.

Cannabis Bud

Cannabis Flower Without Seeds

The aromatic female cannabis flowers glisten as they await the wind-borne arrival of pollen from male cannabis so they can produce seeds and complete their reproductive cycle. But the pollen never arrives, as growers are quick to uproot any male plants. Pollination would ruin the monetary and medical value of the crop as surely as a late season hail storm. Sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seed”) cannabis can sell for up to two thousand dollars a pound; seeded marijuana has no market value.

Industrial hemp

Industrial hemp crop.

Now a new player is entering the Oregon cannabis agriculture: hemp. Like medically valuable sinsemilla, hemp is also marijuana, cannabis sativa. Unlike sinsemilla, hemp is grown for the seeds; they are the most valuable part of the hemp crop, although the entire plant is useful in dozens of ways. Indeed, hemp seeds themselves and the oil produced from them are arguably the world’s most nutritious food. They are sources of essential oils and proteins that our bodies cannot produce themselves, and they provide perfectly balanced omega 3 fatty acids, excellent nutrition for brain and body. If you were abandoned on a desert island with the choice of one food, hemp seeds might be your single best pick. Continue reading

Your Brain On Exercise: Rewarded With Testosterone and New Neurons

3d rendered illustration - hippocampus

Hippocampus (yellow) deep in the brain

More proof that exercise is good for your brain as well as your body. Recent Japanese research shows that exercise such as jogging floods your brain with testosterone and spurs growth in specific memory areas, the important hippocampus region.

Exercise is little less than a magic elixir for our health. It is not quite magic, though, in that we still have to earn these health rewards by actively exercising our bodies. When we do exercise by moving our bodies under our own power, especially moving them quickly so we breathe hard and start to sweat, astounding benefits take place in our bodies and brains.

A very long list of health benefits of exercise need not be repeated here. Most of the lifestyle related maladies most that strike down people in modern society stem, in good part, from insufficient exercise. Cardiovascular and strength exercises provide preventative, curative and restorative solutions to many of our modern health maladies.  All that and they make you strong and feel great too!

The Japanese research would indicate that as least part of the elation often felt during and after exercise may be explained by the increases in testosterone in the brain. Testosterone is called the “male hormone” and indeed it is associated with the gonads (and elsewhere) and occurs at levels around eight times higher in male than female animals, including humans. But all people produce testosterone. Not unlike the runner’s high, which has been associated with endorphins and endocannabinoids produced during exercise, testosterone provides an energized, pleasant feeling. All these enjoyable effects associated with exercise may provide evolutionary benefit, that is, rewarding physical activity that might help feed the family by encouraging hunting or other survival activity.

More than just feeling good, though, this new research shows that the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) produced causes actual new brain cell growth in the area we need it most, the hippocampus, deep down in our brains. This vital area is associated with memory and benefits greatly from new neurons coming on-line. A hippocampus refreshed by these new neurons can help retain memory, promote new learning, protect from depression, and generally help the brain operate more efficiently. DHT, earned through exercise, is necessary for this rejuvenating neurogenesis.

Do yourself and your brain a favor. Walk a lot, at least 10,000 steps a day. Try to raise your heart rate and break into a sweat for at least a few minutes each day.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Aug 7;109(32):13100-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1210023109. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Mild exercise increases dihydrotestosterone in hippocampus providing evidence for androgenic mediation of neurogenesis.

Football Concussions and the Brain-Saving Effects of Cannabis

© intheskies - Fotolia.com

© intheskies – Fotolia.com

The prevalence of brain injuries associated with football are becoming increasingly clear. More than anyone suspected, banging heads together in football causes mild (and not so mild) traumatic brain injuries( mTBI). New findings and the plights of many former players may fundamentally change the game of American football, from the NFL all the way down through college and high school to Pop Warner. The latter kid’s league is suffers declining participation as parents fear damage to their children’s brains.

During the same time period that the the severity of brain-damaging injuries suffered by football players was becoming clear, research in Israel and Spain began to show that the human brain is protected from TBI by the cannabinoids in cannabis.

It may well turn out to be that the best on-field treatment of a suspected concussion will be taking “hits” of vaporized cannabinoids, right from medical cannabis. Even now, portable vaporizers can be ready to provide a controlled dosage of cannabinoids within a few seconds.

At the same time, new helmets with  accelerometers for measuring impact force and gyrometers for measuring twist will help in the immediate assessment of possible concussion after a violent tackle or block. Perhaps LED lights will read out G force readings right on the helmet’s surface, allowing fellow players, coach, and trainer to spot potential dangers.

Imagine this scenario in the not-too-far future: At a home game in Seattle or Denver or other state with medical marijuana exemption to tyrannical federal marijuana laws, the home team quarterback sets his squad on a crucial third down. Unfortunately for him, he was swallowed in a pass rush; worse yet when he was floored by a 300 pound left tackle, his helmet smashed into that of another tackler at a high rate of force. He lay stunned, not quite sure why to get up. Coach and team physician approach at a jog alarmed to see the red glow from the helmet LED declaring a probably concussion. As the physician reads the G force readings from the collision, she clicks on the portable vaporizer. She asks the player a few questions, at which he performs badly. He can state his name but is unsure of the date, even the year. This, along with the red light concussion warning and the dangerously high deceleration ‘G’ rating, convinces her to act immediately, bringing the vaporizer to the injured player’s lips and telling him, “breathe in this medicine.”

As the brain-traumatized player inhales cannabinoids into his lungs, they quickly make it to his heart and fountain up to his brain. Within seconds the cannabinoids THC, CBD and others cross the blood-brain-barrier in his brain and begin their neuroprotective functions. In the injured brain, neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate, are overproduced in a frenzy that damages neurons. Inflammatory processes produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), dangling electrons that wound cell walls and DNA. In this unlikely scenario, total time from traumatic brain injury, to diagnosis, to treatment molecules reaching the site of injury was perhaps one minute. This may also be a future protocol in case of stroke, another source of traumatic brain injury.

In the brain these cannabinoids dampen down the frenzied, brain-damaging transmitters. Cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, reduce production of the transmitter glutamate. Cannabinoids also serve as antioxidants to sop up the dangerous ROS oxidants. They calm the brain and reduce inflammation.

In moves it looks like the NFL might actually do, the league should end any restriction for players using cannabis. Not only is it good for their battered brains but also offers the safest medication for several types of pain, including neuropathic pain. There is actually more justification for making cannabis use by NFL players mandatory than there good reasons for its prohibition. Strict enforcement of rules penalizing wounding play actions such as ‘helmeting’ will also help.

Mr. President, tear down this law!

Tear down this law, Mr. President, in your State-of-the-Union address. President Barack Obama has a vast opportunity to do the right thing in his upcoming speech. With a decisive voice and one bold stroke of the executive pen, the president could deschedule cannabis from the tyrannical Controlled Substance Act. He could step beyond rescheduling marijuana, to actually descheduling this medical marvel. He could free forever this beneficent plant and the American people (along with billions of others planet-wide) from the parasitic clutches of the DEA and other drug war bureaucrats. He could right a thousand wrongs.

This action comes too late for the 20 million Americans arrested for cannabis over the long decades of the drug war. It comes too late that have gone blind from glaucoma, denied the sight-saving effects of marijuana. I comes too late for the centuries of wasted years spent by marijuana prisoners, jailed for no more reason that those in Stalin’s gulags. But still, bold action would save future Americans from these Inquisition-like punishments plus allow them the pain relief, anti-inflammation and other medical benefits of cannabis.

The benefits to President Obama for such a course of action would be huge. Historically, he would be remembered as a president who righted  huge historical wrongs, these millions of lives disadvantaged by a needless arrest, the ‘incarceration nation’ that jails more than any other and a militarized police enforcing immoral laws.  Politically, President Obama would gain immensely, finally removing a huge problem he suffers with those who voted for him, his hardline, dismissive policy on cannabis and medical cannabis freedom. Surely legalization must come up in an address concerning the state of the union, the union in which one state (and soon another) has legalized personal use and open store sale of marijuana, a union where nearly a score of states offer medical exemption to marijuana laws.

The Scheule I designation of cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical value is one the great lies of the American justice system. The sooner it is rescheduled, or better, descheduled totally, the sooner a great, historical evil begins to crumble. Do the right thing, Mr. President, tear down this law.!

Medical Cannabis Refugees

Americans in dire need of medical cannabis for themselves or their children are being forced to flee to states with humane laws providing access to their medicine. For many people and especially parents, access to medical marijuana is literally a matter of life and death.  marijuana and pillsMost US states still adhere to draconian laws regarding any possession of cannabis and afford medical users no protection. Parents face prosecution, even loss of possession of their children for trying to supply them natural compounds that can save their children’s lives from slow death by seizures, sometimes hundreds a day.

Ironically, the main compound sought by these parents is the CBD or cannabidiol. Unlike psychoactive cannabinoid THC, CBD provides no ‘high,’ the mental state seemingly so feared by nearly all researchers. Nevertheless, CBD is itself classified, as are all cannabinoids from marijuana, as a Schedule I drug, highly dangerous and without medical value. This for a compound with no psychoactivity, nor toxicity that may well turn out to be one of the most significant medicines ever discovered. This is your government on drugs.

Certainly to a growing group of parents and stricken children in states like Colorado, CBD is a momentous medical godsend. As reported by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in his documentary Weed, CBD strains of medical marijuana provide blessed relief from childhood seizures and developmental problems caused by Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), aka Dravet Syndrome. Where mixtures of powerful and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs of every type had failed to stop the seizures, and almost killed their small patients, CBD tinctures provided immediate relief.

Seeing such dramatic improvement for such a heart-breaking condition, parents of children with similar conditions across the country of course became excited about the possibility of providing their infants with relief. But because medical cannabis research has been blocked by the DEA and Schedule I status, these new high-CBD medicines are in short supply, available (and legal) pretty much only in Colorado.

The situation is leading to a medical cannabis refugee movement from states with harsh and cruel laws to states where voter’s have mandated legal exemption for medical use, like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California. The first two states on this list also now allow personal use of cannabis, again voted in by the citizens of Colorado and Washington.

An excellent series in the Salt Lake Tribune documents this process of “Families migrating to Colorado for a medical marijuana miracle.” The article’s author, Kirsten Stewart interviews physician Dr. Margaret Gebbe, who calls the results of CBD in treating these epilepsy disorders as “absolutely remarkable.” Dr. Gebbe is also interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his Weed documentary.

Sanjay Gupta reports on a similar movement on an international scale, with his story on a British citizen traveling to the Netherlands for access to his preferred pain treatment, cannabis sativa. He shows Gupta vial after vial of pharmaceutical narcotics he has been prescribed but were ineffective and with mind numbing side effects. Treatment with cannabis is unavailable in England, making this middle age man, bedeviled by pain cross the channel as another medical cannabis refugee.

American states and world countries that recognize the idiocy of cannabis prohibition and the powerful medical potential of cannabis will prosper while providing hugely needed relief and succor to these refugees.

Copyright © 2013 by Don Fitch