Alzheimer's disease is tragically common. It affects 5.5 million Americans, including half of all Americans over the age of 84, and there is no known cure.
But there is hope. Research into medical marijuana has shown that the plant can do wonders for those living with Alzheimer's disease. The plant's benefits mostly come down to two compounds: CBD and THC.
This article will explore some of the key facts about CBD and THC and how they relate to Alzheimer's disease. And it will dive into the CBD vs THC debate to explore the specific benefits of each.
Read on to learn 10 fast facts about Alzheimer's disease, CBD, THC, and the CBD vs THC debate.
It isn't clear what causes Alzheimer's disease. Scientists chalk it up to a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
There's no Alzheimer's virus or bacteria; it's simply a progressive form of dementia associated with the death of brain cells and the resultant loss of memory, social skills, and intellectual skills.
However, scientists do know what the disease looks like, and one of its hallmarks is plaque buildup. Specifically, the buildup of proteins called amyloid-betas in the tissue of the brain.
This plaque buildup interferes with nutrient transport and cell communication, leading to the death of brain cells. But the good news is there's evidence indicating that THC reduces plaque build up in the brain.
This doesn't mean that THC can cure or prevent Alzheimer's, but it does mean that it can slow the progression of the disease. This is a huge plus for THC in the CBD vs THC debate.
The other major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease is the appearance of "protein tangles." Protein tangles occur when tau protein fibers in the brain twist together, and these tangles lead to many of the same complications caused by plaque buildup.
There is preliminary evidence showing that CBD (along with a few other minor cannabinoids) inhibits the development of these tangles.
So combined, THC and CBD work to counteract the two main hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. Maybe it's more useful to talk about CDB with THC than CBD vs THC. But unfortunately, not everyone has access to both (more on that later).
Plaque buildup and protein tangles put a lot of stress on brain tissue and stressed out brain tissue swells. This inflammation can cause a chain reaction of swelling and contributes to brain cell death.
In other words, inflammation of the brain tissue is extremely dangerous and one of the biggest problems associated with Alzheimer's disease.
CBD and THC both activate the brain's CB1 receptors, and this activation reduces swelling. In fact, mice bred without CB1 receptors showed much faster cognitive degeneration as compared with a control group.
The effect hasn't been explicitly studied in humans, but all available evidence indicates that the activation of CB1 receptors is very important in preventing the deterioration of brain tissue in Alzheimer's patients.
There is evidence that CBD directly protects brain cells.
For example, CBD has been shown to slow the death of brain cells in patients who are experiencing a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. It has shown similarly protective behavior in patients with high levels of neurotoxicity due to glutamate and hydroperoxide. And it slows the death of brain cells in patients with a decreased flow of oxygen to the brain.
Again, it hasn't been conclusively shown that CBD has the same protective effects on the brains of Alzheimer's patients, but the results are promising.
That's another point for CBD in the CBD vs THC showdown.
The holy grail of Alzheimer's research is brain tissue regeneration, and CBD shows promise.
A study has shown that CBD may be able to not only slow down but reverse the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease. Mice who had been injected with the diseased showed significant improvement as a result of CBD treatment.
The regenerative effects are likely even stronger when CBD is combined with THC and other cannabinoids, but this is still a big advantage for CBD in the CBD vs THC debate.
Though Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain, it affects all aspects of the patient's life, including their relationships with loved ones. One of the most devastating symptoms of the disease is the personality changes that come along with it.
Sweet, loving people can become angry and mean upon being stricken with the disease. And at the very least, patients often experience anxiety and confusion.
There is evidence that both CBD and THC can do wonders in alleviating these devastating symptoms and in making the lives of patients with Alzheimer's disease more pleasant.
Beyond simply calming patients down, these cannabinoids can also help them regulate their circadian rhythms, maintain a healthy weight, and maintain a healthy appetite.
Even if medical marijuana had no effect on the neural degeneration of Alzheimer's patients, the fact that it helps alleviate their suffering is enough to indicate that marijuana is an extremely powerful and important drug in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.
The marijuana plant contains around 100 different compounds known as cannabinoids, and each one has its own set of side-effects, both positive and negative. But, while studying these cannabinoids individually is helpful, they should really be thought of as part of the same whole.
Ingesting or smoking marijuana as a whole provides a range of benefits that couldn't be derived from consuming individual cannabinoids. That's because the cannabinoids exhibit what is called an entourage effect.
Basically, the whole is greater (or at least different) than the sum of its parts. And researchers have observed this effect in studies.
So if you can, consume the whole plant, and find a plant that is specially bred for your needs.
And the entourage effect isn't the only reason to consume the plant as a whole.
One of the advantages of CBD when considering CBD vs THC is that CBD is non-euphoric. I know what you're thinking: isn't euphoria a good thing? Well yes, but the point is that CBD doesn't act as a psychoactive drug in the same way as THC.
This means that patients can take high doses of CBD without the negative psychological effects (paranoia, anxiety, etc) associated with marijuana. Furthermore, CBD actually mitigates the negative psychological effects caused by THC.
THC has positive health effects, but ingesting pure THC is often an unpleasant experience. By combining CBD and THC (as is found in the marijuana plant) patients can enjoy the positive physical effects of THC without the negative psychological effects.
CBD's non-psychoactive nature gives it another advantage: it's legal. To understand why, you have to look at the legality of cannabis as a whole.
The legality of cannabis in the United States is a complex issue full of semantics. But the key is that hemp is federally legal while marijuana is federally illegal, even though they're the exact same plant.
The legal difference is that hemp contains less than .3% THC. THC has been villainized because it's the cannabinoid most associated with the psychological effects of marijuana consumption, but luckily, it isn't the only cannabinoid that offers health benefits.
Because of this strange legal situation, CBD oil can be extracted from legal hemp and sold to consumers in all 50 US states. CBD oil obviously doesn't provide the health benefits associated with the other cannabinoids, but if you live in a state without medical marijuana, it's a great option for now.
If you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Ohio, or Rhode Island then you're in luck; medical marijuana is a legal treatment for Alzheimer's in your state. And if you live in DC you can ask for a doctor's permission to use marijuana as Alzheimer's treatment.
Though CDB, THC, and the other cannabinoids each have their own benefits, it's always better to take them in concert. If you don't like the feeling of being high, find a strain with really high levels of CBD to balance out the psychoactive effects of THC.
The important thing is that you use the whole plant if it's legal in your state. It doesn't have to be CBD vs THC, the magic happens when they work together.
In conclusion, medical marijuana and specifically the cannabinoids CBD and THC hold great promise for the future of Alzheimer's research. Research has already revealed incredible properties of both cannabinoids that may change the way we think of Alzheimer's treatment.
CBD seems to provide the wider range of benefits to Alzheimer's patients, but THC is an indispensable partner in the fight against the disease. This isn't about CBD vs THC, this is about getting Alzheimer's patients the help they need with the drugs they need.
Medical marijuana could be the future of Alzheimer's treatment, and that's exciting.