Updated on December 11, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Alzheimer’s disease wreaks havoc on your mental functions, making it gradually more difficult to live your life. It takes away dignity from many patients and puts stress on their loved ones. So, a lot of folks with Alzheimer’s try whatever safe treatment they can to counteract this currently incurable disease.
When you have Alzheimer’s, various parts of your brain get damaged, reducing the ability to do their jobs. A compound called beta-amyloid is involved in some of the degenerative processes behind Alzheimer’s disease.
Three abnormalities in brain tissue can occur in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
The brain uses connections involving a protein known as tau to transfer nutrients. When someone has Alzheimer’s, their brain can have tangled tau protein that disrupts the transfer connection. The tangles block nutrient access to certain brain cells, killing them off.
Alzheimer’s also results in the connections between nerve cells dying off. When the connections die, so do the cells on either side of the connection. This causes the brain tissue to shrink.
We’re going to focus on brain plaques. Alzheimer’s causes a protein called amyloid beta to build up in excess. The extra amyloid beta forms plaques that impede the synthesis of neurotransmitters related to learning and memory.
When amyloid beta reduces memory and learning functions, it results in many of the symptoms we associate with Alzheimer’s. There’s also evidence that suggests amyloid beta begins damaging brain cells long before it clumps up into plaques. So, removing extra amyloid beta is crucial to reducing the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research we have so far indicates a cannabinoid called THC could inhibit amyloid beta. THC creates the psychoactive effects we associate with marijuana. Along with CBD, it acts as one of the most prominent compounds in marijuana.
Multiple studies have examined THC’s effect on amyloid beta plaques. Data suggests that THC reduces amyloid beta’s ability to grow and multiply, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms. One study even provided data implying THC could remove plaques more efficiently than current Alzheimer’s medications on the market.
In some cases, extra amyloid beta in the brain affects the immune system, triggering inflammation. Inflammation works as an immune response meant to isolate foreign material from important tissue, but excess inflammation can be uncomfortable and even damaging.
Fortunately, marijuana also behaves as an anti-inflammatory agent. We have cannabinoid receptors that influence brain and immune functions. Cannabinoids from marijuana activate the receptor related to immune response.
These cannabinoids tend to suppress the immune system, which can lower immune reactions like inflammation. The reduction in inflammation slows down the degeneration in your brain, which then slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
As mentioned earlier, the buildup of amyloid beta interferes with the parts of your brain related to learning and memory. When too many plaques form, the cells in those areas can die off.
However, human bodies are resilient and constantly changing. Our brains can regenerate brain cells like we do with skin cells and other cells. Some research explores the power of cannabinoids to help the hippocampus, which controls the brain’s memory function, restore its cells. When you get more hippocampus cells back, some of your memory ability returns, too.
A certified marijuana doctor can advise you on the best treatment plan for Alzheimer’s. Find one in our database today.