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Aging is a natural part of the cycle of life. One day, we will all feel the effects of age on our bodies and minds.
We can easily imagine the physical aspects of aging, since we often hear about it and see it firsthand. Weak hips, an aching back, and constant fatigue are common complaints of the elderly.
What about mental aging though? That's not something that is easily understood, but we can see its effects among seniors worldwide if we look closely.
Mental decline is natural later in life, but sometimes cognitive ability can quickly take a turn for the worse. Picture not being able to remember your close family members or even how to perform basic tasks.
These extreme cases result from Alzheimer's disease, which is a common neurodegenerative disease. However, there seems to be a growing body of evidence pointing to cannabis as a useful tool in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.
Continue reading to find out what causes Alzheimer's and how cannabis might be a powerful agent in stopping its development and protecting our brain.
What is Alzheimer's?
By definition, Alzheimer's is a disease that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. It typically leads to dementia, which is when someone's mental ability declines enough to severely interfere with their daily lives.
The affliction usually starts in people older than 65, but people younger than that can get the disease too.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Doctors and scientists have broken Alzheimer's down into three stages: early, middle, and late.
In the early stages, one of the first key signs is difficulty remembering newly learned information. For the elderly, that might seem natural, so it typically goes unnoticed.
Once the disease advances to the middle stage, someone may have these symptoms:
- Forgetfulness of personal history or events
- Can't remember their address or phone number
- Wandering and becoming lost
- Behavioral or personality changes
- Easy agitation
Once someone progresses to the late stages of the disease, they might need care every day. They probably won't be able to communicate and might completely lose touch with their surroundings.
Eventually, the brain is unable to control bodily functions, which leads to death. From beginning to end, a person with Alzheimer's lives on average only 4-8 years after a diagnosis.
What Causes It?
“Researchers believe that a build-up of plaques and tangles ultimately leads to neuron death.”
One thing we need to keep in mind is that Alzheimer's is a disease, it's not natural. It's natural that the elderly think a little slower or take longer to remember things.
However, such a rapid decline in mental capability is due to a cascade of changes happening in the brain. Researchers believe that a build-up of *plaques* and tangles ultimately lead to neuron death.
These plaques aren't the kind found on your teeth; they're proteins called amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques are naturally found in the brain, but it becomes a problem when there's an abnormal amount of them.
They begin to clump together between the neurons and start disrupting cellular function. Tangles work similarly to plaques, but with a protein called tau.
The tau protein normally supports the neuron's transport system, helping keep nutrients and other molecules flowing neuron to neuron. However, in Alzheimer's, the tau proteins detach and stick together, causing tangles and blocking the neuron's transport system.
However, researchers still aren't sure what causes the rapid increase of plaques and tangles. Scientists believe it may ultimately be due to inflammation or genetics.
How Does Cannabis Help Alzheimer's?
“CBD may be able to remove plaques that have already formed, potentially reversing the damage done.”
It turns out that there's been a growing pile of evidence that suggests THC and CBD may help prevent Alzheimer's.
One of the first studies found that the endocannabinoid system may help protect brain cells. The researchers found that THC was able to prevent neurons from dying when exposed to plaques.
Not only that, but cannabis may be able to stop the plaques from forming in the first place. Scientists think that inflammation in the brain caused by our own immune system creates the plaques.
CBD has been proven to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent, and research suggests that it can stop our immune system from creating plaques. Furthermore, CBD may be able to remove plaques that have already formed, potentially reversing the damage done.
THC also helps calm Alzheimer's patients down. A common symptom of the disease in later stages is aggression, agitation, confusion, and sometimes violence. Cannabis has been found to help patients become more at ease and relax without becoming easily aggravated.
What Strains are Good for Alzheimer's?
“Smoking anything, even cannabis, is potentially harmful to the lungs. Luckily, edibles exist that can help manage Alzheimer's…”
According to the studies above, both CBD and THC need to be used, so some cannabis strains will be better than others.
There are plenty of strains that fit the criteria, but here are a few that are most likely to be effective:
- Cannatonic: A high CBD strain has a nearly 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, which provides medical relief in a balanced proportion.
- Charlotte's Web: A classic medical strain with a sky-high amount of CBD and less than 1% THC. Useful for tacking inflammation without any psychoactive effects.
We know that not everyone will be able to, or even should, smoke cannabis. Smoking anything is potentially harmful to the lungs.
Luckily, edibles exist that can help manage Alzheimer's, like Baked Bros 5:1 CBD:THC gummies. These delicious gummies deliver all the THC and CBD benefits in a delicious and easy to eat consistent form.
The Future of Cannabis and Alzheimer's Disease
As the evidence piles up, cannabis continues to prove it has serious potential as a medication for treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease. Hopefully, as cannabis becomes more widely accepted globally, we'll see Alzheimer's patients getting the relief they deserve.