Cannabinoids Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

It may be that small clumps of beta-amyloid protein begin causing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by destroying the synapses between brain cells well before they form the plaques that have been associated with this memory-eroding and personality-robbing disorder. New research out of Stanford University reported in Science Digest (Scientists Reveal How Beta-Amyloid May Cause Alzheimer’s) found that these small bits of beta-amyloid protein clump together and, as bunches, bind with receptors on neurons.  This displaces connections with other neurons, destroying the synapses between that, in very real ways, make us who we are. Too many synapses destroyed  and soon you can’t remember Uncle Bob. Or your spouse.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Although in a way this is bad news–damage is taking place even before the plaque formation long thought to be the problem–the good news is that the finding may point to ways to help prevent the cruel disease with earlier intervention. Even better news is that a whole new class of preventive and therapeutic agents, cannabinoids, have been found to be very useful in curbing the ravages of Alzheimer”s disease. Cannabinoids are compounds that modulate specific receptors on brain cells, immune cells and other cells in the body. Three types of cannabinoids  exist: They can be produced by our bodies, by the plant cannabis, and synthetically in the laboratory. Last year Spanish researchers documented in the Journal of Neuroinflammation how cannabinoids are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents with therapeutic potential,

Their research, entitled Prolonged oral cannabinoid administration prevents neuroinflammation, lowers β-amyloid levels and improves cognitive performance in Tg APP 2576 mice. The Spaniards found that oral dosing with cannabinoids “ameliorates cognitive performance, decreases neuroinflammation and Aβ levels, likely by increasing its transport to the periphery.”  The cannabinoid treatment boosted memory and cognition, reduced brain inflammation and helped carry away the beta-amyloid tangles. What’s not to like! Yet again have cannabinoids been found to have powerful and beneficial medical effects, providing neuroprotection against one of the more cruel diseases to strike modern humans.

The Spanish research investigated synthetic cannabinoids, but earlier research found powerful AD preventive effects from THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Astoundingly, researchers found when “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.”  The enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) promotes beta-amyloid clumping; THC prevents this clumping by binding with receptors on AChE molecules. Some pharmaceutical drugs use the same tactic, but THC was far more effective! On another AD front, researchers in 2013 declared that deficiency in density of CB1 receptors, the receptors activated by THC to produce psychoactivity along with a host of preventive, curative and palliative effects, resulted in worsened AD symptoms.

Fear of losing their memory and personalities to cruel diseases like Alzheimer’s is the number one anxiety of those over 50 years of age. This group should be aware that cannabinoids, even THC, can provide protection for brain cells help stave off dementia-producing inflammation and beta-amyloid clumping.

Copyright © Don Fitch

Your Brain on CBD: Neurogenesis and Brain Growth!

Neurogenesis in hippocampus

© Sebastian Kaulitzki – Fotolia.com

We rightfully mourn the loss of brain cells, neurons, as we age. As they die we lose memories and capabilities – even our personalities. We are only as robust as our brains, composed mainly of neurons. Formerly, it was thought the as adults we already have all the brain cells we will ever have, and the path was only downward as we lose neurons to stress, alcohol and aging. Happily, this bleak picture was changed when neuroscientists discovered that, under certain conditions, even adult brains can grow new neurons, neurogenesis. New neurons refresh and rejuvenate, and lift mood.

The principal area where neurogenesis can take place is in the hippocampus, a dual area deep within the brain. Although small, hippocampal health appears important to memory and brain organization. It can be damaged. Excess alcohol and many drugs can cause it to lose neurons and shrink, resulting in fading memories and depression.

On the other hand, several conditions seem to spur brain growth. Physical exercise is one: rigorous physical activity spurs the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, most probably providing a rejuvenating effect and boosting memory. Physical activity is crucial in keeping old brains young. Your hippocampal health is one of dozens of great reasons to exercise every day of your life.

Certain anti-depressant drugs are also associated with neurogenesis.  Indeed, it is now thought that the depression relieving effects of SRIs- serotonin reuptake inhibitors – might have more to do with neurogenesis than increasing serotonin levels. Some now believe that the depression lifting effects of these drugs are due to new, young brain cells refreshing the hippocampus.

In 1995 it was reported that cannabinoids, too, can spur neurogenesis. Cannabinoids are molecules from three different sources: 1) Our body produces endocannabinoids that activate our endocannabinoid regulatory systems, pricipally anandamide and 2-AG. 2) Phytocannabinoids come from the plant Cannabis Sativa, AKA marijuana. THC is the best known and produces the psychoactive and some of the medicinal effects of cannabis.  3) Cannabinoids can also be synthesized in the lab.

A Canadian research group reported that Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. This research used a synthetic cannabinoid to activate the same CB1 receptors activated by the plant cannabinoid THC. They attributed the anxiety-relieving and depression-lifting effects of long-term treatment were “likely via promotion of hippocampal neurogenesis.”

Another new study has shown that the cannabinoid CBD from cannabis also promotes neurogenesis. Researchers from the Complutense University in Madrid, along with Brazilian researchers found that CBD relieved stress in mice and it did so by increasing neurogenesis in the hippocampus. They concluded, the “anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system.”

CBD, Cannabidiol is an exceedingly interesting molecule, brimming with beneficial health effects. It is one of over 60 cannabinoids produced by the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Unlike the better known THC, CBD is not psychoactive, although it may modulate the effects of THC. Both cannabinoid molecules interact, in different ways, with our cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The medical potential of CBD has been inadequately studied because of the idiotic illegality of Cannabis Sativa. Even so, the known health effects are impressive: Like THC, CBD is an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. Like THC, CBD is anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain.  CBD appears to have anti-tumor properties.

So on top of all these medical benefits, CBD may well contribute to neurogenesis, brain rejuvenation and growth! What’s not to like? Well, the DEA does not like these medical benefits and does not allow research on them because it likes the draconian Schedule I – no medical benefits – of cannabis to extend the lucrative war on drugs. This bureaucratic turf battle keeps the DEA in the dough but denies Americans the health-giving, even life-saving benefits of medical cannabis, even non-psychoactive CBD-dominant strains.

Americans should demand access to natural plant molecules such as CBD, along with THC, THCV and dozens of other medical cannabinoids. CBD and these other cannabinoids can help prevent many maladies, can treat dozens of diseases and can provide palliative comfort to the rest.  Along with refreshing and growing our very brains with neurogenesis. If Americans gain their medical freedom with a down-grading of cannabis from ridiculous Schedule I tyranny, the planet’s other six billion people would also gain greater access. Study of this remarkable  plant cannabinoid would blossom world-wide as anti-cannabis doctrine crumbles in the face of huge medical and health benefits.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

THCV: A Marijuana Cannabinoid for Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention?

Fotolia

Fotolia

The cannabis sativa plant, marijuana, produces dozens of cannabinoids. The THC cannabinoid that elicits psychoactivity, and numerous medical benefits, is but one of over 60 phyto (plant-based) cannabinoids found in cannabis. Cannabidiol or CBD, is a second, now under intense study for its anti-inflammatory and other health properties. Another of these phytocannabinoids is  tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV. Cannabis strains favoring this cannabinoid might serve as tools for weight loss and preventing diabetes.

Medical research on cannabinoids has flourished in recent years and most research points to health positive effects of medical cannabis for a wide range of conditions. Cannabis has been found to be neuroprotective, anti-painantioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatoryanti-tumor as well as cardioprotective. One area, though, where research is less positive is in the metabolic effects of cannabinoid receptor activation. Activation of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, an effect of THC and human endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, seemed to correlate with some health-negative metabolic conditions. Conversely, blockage of this activation with synthetic cannabinoid antagonists (e.g. rimonabant) correlated with health positive cardio-metabolic changes. As listed by the European RIO study, some positive changes induced by blocking CB1 receptors include positive changes in body weight, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, adiponectin, fasting insulin and insulin resistance.

Because of these effects on the endocannabinoid system, it has long been assumed that cannabis consumption would tend to cause weight gain. These metabolic effects and enhanced eating because of amplified taste, i.e. “munchie effects” would theoretically make marijuana users ravenous and fat. To the surprise of many, several studies have now found that cannabis users are actually less fat than their abstaining counterparts. As reported here, marijuana users tend to be less obese and less diabetic than non-users.  Their waists were smaller. These real life observations seem to contradict the supposed munchie effect and predicted effects of CB1 activation. Such health positive indication by cannabis users may even be amplified with development of THCV-heavy cannabis weight loss products e.g. edibles for appetite suppression.

For some people eating does often follow use of THC-heavy marijuana.  Indeed, important medical uses of cannabis include treatment of the wasting syndrome and lack of appetite from chemotherapy. But by no means does everyone using cannabis each time become ravenous. Depending on the person, the setting and the cannabis, consuming cannabis is often a prelude to cardiovascular exercise, not gluttonous indolence. As much as taste enjoyment is enhanced by cannabis for some, for others (or for the same people at other times.) the sensory enjoyment of exercise is enhanced. With cannabis, activities like running can hurt less and feels better, even ecstatic. Might a higher THCV-content cannabis both dampen appetite and create an energetic cannabis experience encouraging exercise?

For a short time in 2005 and 2006, it looked this CB1 receptor antagonist, the synthetic cannabinoid rimonabant, might be a powerful anti-obesity drug. Problems arose for this promising weight loss and metabolic drug, though, from its blockage of the endocannabinoid system. Ananadamide and THC are blissful, because they activate this system. Blockage of the system, it seems, is anti-blissful, with feelings of anxiety and depression common. Also worrisome was blockage of the positive health effects of medical cannabis, e.g. glaucoma reduction and pain relief. For example, cannabis is an anti-nausea drug offering immense relief to chemotherapy patients. And indeed, nausea was another of the symptoms bothering those taking this synthetic “anti-marijuana.” Depression and nausea are probably not part of an effective weigh loss program.

After approval in Europe and other countries, rimonabant was rejected by the FDA. It has since lost favor in Europe. An obese world lost a potentially useful weight control product. Could there be other options? As it turns out one of the phyto-cannabinoids from the cannabis plants, THCV, may have potential. Although its interactions with THC, other cannabinoids and the cannabinoid receptor system are complex, recent research found that THCV is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist. Seemingly, this would make for “downer cannabis,” blocking the CB1 receptors that THC activate, but that does not seem to be the case. It is possible THCV intensive cannabis might offer the appetite reduction and  and positive cardiometabolic effects of Rimonabant without the negatives of the synthetic drug. This is especially true when the THCV is mixed, with other cannabinoids, as found in cannabis. A cannabis with high THCV and low or moderate THC and CBD might be ideal.

Seminal cannabis researcher and discoverer of THC, Raphael Mechoulam, in British Journal of Pharmacology in 2005, discussed the apparent unique properties and posed several research questions. He notes, as has Scottish researcher Roger G. Pertwee, that THCV content can be very high in hashish from Pakistan. Despite these high levels of the supposed CB1 receptor antagonist THCV, Pakistani hashish has no apparent  “downer” aspect depressing the user. Perhaps this is due to the presence of the other 60 cannabinoids.

THCV’s appetite-reducing and fat loss potential await studies, as do new cannabis cultivars enhancing this cannabinoid. Except, of course, no studies on the medical potential of cannabis are allowed in the USA by the DEA.  Americans, so in need of useful weight loss products, will have to wait until the research is done in places like Israel, Spain and Portugal.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

Cinnamon, spices and cannabis for anti-inflammation.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Both the spice, cinnamon and the medicinal herb, cannabis, provide beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. At least some of these healthy effects are from stimulation of the same receptors in your endocannabinoid receptor system.

Although useful and beneficial when protecting the body against bacterial intruders and other perils, inflammation becomes a medical problem if it becomes chronic. Diseases ending in “itis,” such as arthritis and gingivitis are just two of dozens of such maladies, laden with toxic effects to the tissues affected and destructive to the body in general. Indeed, chronic inflammation has become a key medical villain in the degenerative diseases that bedevil modern society. Such inflammation is now seen as a generator of atherosclerosis and is a potent cardiovascular risk factor.

Cinnamon has long been recognized for health-enhancing properties, including providing anti-inflammatory effects. The spice’s component coumarin, in cinnamomum aromaticum thins the blood. Increasingly, cinnamon appears to be very useful in addressing insulin resistance and diabetes.

At least some of the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties come from its another component shared with other spices, beta-caryophyllene. Cloves, black pepper, rosemary, hops and other spices all provide this component of essential oils.

The plant cannabis also provides anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD provide anti-inflammatory effects, but at least some of the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis also come from the plant terpene, beta-caryophyllene.

Research published in 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA, an international team of researchers show that beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid. A cannabinoid is a substance that activates (or otherwise modulates) our endocannabinoid receptor system. This newly discovered and ubiquitous system has been shown be be a key regulatory system for many of our body’s functions. Activation of the key components of this system, cannabinoid receptors, has been shown to provide health benefits. These receptors come in at least two types, CB1, found mainly on neurons but also elsewhere and CB2, found mainly on immune cells. Activation of CB1 receptors, primarily by THC, provides cannabis its psychotropic effect.

Activation of CB2 receptors, on the other hand, provokes no psychotropic response but does seem to provide useful modulation of the immune response. CB2 receptors are activated by THC, CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids, and the terpene beta-caryophyllene. CB2 receptor activation triggers an anti-inflammatory, neuron protecting response. The NSA research concludes it abstract with, “These results identify (E)-BCP (beta-caryophyllene) as a functional nonpsychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic antiinflammatory cannabinoid in Cannabis.

As a general anti-inflammatory tactic, consider adding or increasing cinnamon in your diet. Few foods are more nutritious and heart healthy than say, oatmeal flavored with natural cinnamon. Those battling insulin resistance and diabetes might find special benefit. A great move is to replace reduced salt in food with additional beta-caryophyllene bearing spices of several types.

Just be sure to eat your spices, not smoke them.

A shame Michael Jackson did not use cannabis sleep medication instead

The coroner’s report showed that Michael Jackson, in his overpowering desire to sleep, demanded and received narcotics so powerful they were, obviously, life-threatening. Inability to sleep can be profoundly disturbing. Sleep deprivation is a key CIA torture technique. “It causes people to feel absolutely crazy.” Insomnia in the elderly is a major cause of depression and lack of will to live. Jackson’s insomnia appears profound; he received injections of powerful drugs from 2am until 10am.

Insomnia is one of the conditions legally treatable with medical cannabis in some states. Prohibitionist lampoon such applications for medical marijuana as trivial. Actually, the effectiveness of cannabis for treating insomnia points to how the plant provides nearly a universal medication. What percentage of the population sometimes has trouble sleeping? If seeking medication for the problem, why should they be forced into drugs stronger than cannabis, those with real dangers, including addiction and death? Likewise should those suffering pain be forced into medications less safe than cannabis by drug laws formed in ignorance and prejudice?

Strangely, it is a misplaced sense of morality that seems to motivate prohibitionists. Those wishing to restrict the use of medical cannabis on moral grounds should realized that Queen Victoria herself made use of medical cannabis for menstrual cramps. Mitch Earlywine in Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, on page 113 mentions that the Queen’s chief physician, Dr. J. R. Reynolds, “recommended the drug for insomnia.”  Reynolds wrote of the therapeutic effects of the drug in Lancet in 1890. So, despite the restrictions Victorian morality, the Queen and her subjects enjoyed medical freedoms deemed illegal in the USA over a century later.

Apparently the cannabinoid best suited for aided sleep is CBD, cannabidiol. High CBD cannabis medications in the form of edibles and tinctures are available in dispensaries not far from Michael Jackson’s LA home. What a shame the entertainer and his doctor focused on high-risk narcotics instead of the far safer cannabis medications available nearby. As DEA law judge Francis Young noted back in 1988, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”