It is estimated that every 92% of seniors have at least one and 77% of seniors have at least two chronic illnesses. As we age, the ability to balance the body becomes more difficult, especially when taking pharmaceutical drugs. However, cannabinoids derived from hemp can come to the rescue. Hemp flowers contain CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids that can help the process of creating new neurons in the brain. The process of creating new neurons is called neurogenesis, and this process contributes to improved memory and learning ability.
With age, neural stem cells and their precursors show reduced neuron production, which is thought to contribute to age-related cognitive impairment and reduced brain plasticity. In the early 1990s, it was discovered that our body produces endocannabinoids, which activate our endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are similar in structure to the cannabinoids found in hemp, and these can enhance the process of neurogenesis.
CBD in neurodegradative diseases
Cannabidiol, CBD is one of the cannabinoids found in hemp that has many medicinal properties and no psychoactive effects. Taking CBD strengthens the endocannabinoid system, and the body's response to the presence of cannabinoids in the body is to increase the number of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CBD has neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and reduces oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase, lipid peroxidation, free radicals and mitochondrial dysfunction. Examples of neurodegenerative diseases that may result from dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system include Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and dementia.
CBD and neurogenesis - hope for people with dementia and Alzheimer's
For example, a person with dementia, Alzheimer's disease or an athlete with traumatic brain injury can use CBD to improve focus, reduce anxiety and pain or normalize sleep, and most importantly, to protect and improve brain function. CBD maintains calcium homeostasis and inhibits glutamate, which causes neuron degradation, so it de facto protects the brain.
Preclinical animal studies published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology show that CBD use leads to neuronal growth in the hippocampus of mice. The anti-anxiety effects of CBD on mice with chronic stress are due to hippocampal neurogenesis (the formation of new brain cells) and the involvement of the endocannabinoid system. The Scripps Research Institute stated that: "Cannabis may also slow the progression of dementia.
THC improves older brains
The psychoactive component of cannabis - THC - should not be feared, as it too can help protect older brains.
"Patients' delusions, agitation, aggression, irritability, apathy, lethargy and anxiety decreased when they were given THC in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of dementia," - reads a 2016 study conducted in Israel.
Research from the University of Bonn and Hebrew University published in Nature Medicine shows that THC inhibits the enzyme responsible for the aggregation of amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. THC improves cognitive function in the brains of older animals, but impairs it in the brains of young animals.
The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry in 2013 found that THC is useful in treating Parkinson's disease. THC prevents damage caused by free radicals.
A new study from the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas reveals that THC concentration directly correlates with changes in how the brain uses oxygen. Regular marijuana users have more blood flow in the brain and use more oxygen from the bloodstream than non-cannabis users. Blood flow in the crust, an area of the brain associated with the reward system, learning and habits, was also greater in cannabis users. Because cannabis can dilate blood vessels (this mechanism is used to treat glaucoma), it may also be beneficial for stroke and heart attack patients, but this is still under investigation.
Hemp in the service of mankind
Cannabis is a safe therapy for patients with neurodegenerative diseases, and for those who want to strengthen their endocannabinoid system (ECS), stay healthy, and counteract brain aging. Given the favorable safety profile of cannabis, with increased research, it could lead to novel therapies to prevent neurodegenerative diseases or disease management using the endocannabinoid system.