Anyone who has ever seen a loved one losing themselves to conditions that come with age – such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – know how hard it can be for everyone involved. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone you care about struggle to grasp thoughts, memories and concepts. But what if there were a potential treatment? Right now, at best, we have options that slow down the degeneration of cells and brain function. However, a recent study suggests that THC, the most well-known active cannabinoid in cannabis, could reverse the brain’s aging process in low doses.
The study, published in back in May and conducted by scientists at the University of Bonn with colleagues from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), used mice as their subjects. These mice were all between 12 and 18 months of age and were broken into two groups. The first group was given low doses of THC daily for a total of four weeks, while the second group received a placebo.
“It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” says Professor Andreas Zimmer.
Researchers found that the mice treated with a daily low dose of THC showed signs of reversed brain aging. This included noticeable improvements in memory and other age-related brain problems, like learning and cognitive speed. The researchers also looked at the brain tissue and gene activity, which now resembled that of 2-month-old mice. The mice who received the placebo, however, continued to show the expected signs of aging.
“The promotion of knowledge-led research is indispensable, as it is the breeding ground for all matters relating to application. Although there is a long path from mice to humans, I feel extremely positive about the prospect that THC could be used to treat dementia, for instance.”
Things are changing in the world of medicine as we continue to learn about the endocannabinoid system – which, until fairly recently, was somewhat of a mystery. While research in the U.S. might still be difficult to accomplish due to federal prohibition, there are parts of the world – like Israel – where scientists are able and willing to work on better understanding how cannabis can be used to our benefit. In this case, the endocannabinoid system appears to play a significant role in changes in brain function as we age – and adding low doses of THC on a regular basis could potentially be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia.