The human brain, like any other organ within the body, is susceptible to the ravages of disease, injury and time. Although it is encased in bone and protected with a blood-brain barrier, your brain health is ultimately reliant on your lifestyle, your genetics and your cardiovascular health.
Vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, are honest predictors of your brain health. But in addition to your vascular health, your brain’s neuronal health is of extreme importance as well. Your brain is constantly rewiring itself, replacing damaged neurons, removing synaptic toxins, fighting off cellular inflammation and mitigating the damaging effects of oxidation on its delicate tissues.
Firing Neurons Animation | 4 min
Many disease states that effect your brain are believed to stem, in part, from cytotoxins that generate inflammation, oxidation and eventually result in neuronal death. Poor brain health is also tied to many of the leading causes of death in the U.S. 10
So it’s time to start paying attention to your brain health and learn more about what supports a healthy brain. Let’s take a peak at some of the science behind why marijuana (cannabis) is proving to be, good for you and your brain.
Cannabinoids – Good for You and Your Brain
The cannabis plant maintains a complex phytochemistry (plant chemistry), with well over 100 known bio-active phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. With such a complex mix of phytochemistry, the opportunities for discovery are seemingly endless.
Neuroprotective Agents | 30 second video
Researchers are investigating the therapeutic potential of several of the phytocannabinoids commonly found in medical marijuana. Phytocannabinoids such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), THCV/THV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin), CBD (cannabidiol), CBDV (cannabidivarin), and CBG (cannabigerol) have all demonstrated therapeutic value as powerful neuroprotective agents [Hayakawa, K Pharmaceuticals (Basel)].8 Cannabinoids are potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds, and have the potential to prevent illness, heal brain tissue and to save lives [Fernandez-Ruiz J, et. al. 2013].1-3
THC, in combination with CBD, has been found effective in treating and easing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a progressive and immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Commonly diagnosed during young adulthood, MS effects more than 2 million worldwide. Along with anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-oxidant effects, CBD and THC together, can be highly effective in reducing the pain and muscle spasticity associated with MS.
Sativex, a drug based on a fixed 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD in a oromucosal spray, is so far the one and only cannabinoid approved internationally (Canada, UK, Europe and more) as an adjunctive treatment for MS induced spasticity. Sativex is still awaiting FDA approval in the U.S.
THC and Cancer
THC, along with other cannabinoids, are currently being investigated for their anti-cancer properties. In a clinical paper published late last year, Ladin and associates [Ladin, D. Frontiers in Pharmacology]13 performed a preclinical and clinical assessment of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents. In this study, Ladin evaluated several in vivo animal studies, and concluded that THC and other phytocannabinoids were repeatedly observed to decrease cancer tumor proliferation and growth.
Scientists at the National Institute of Health | 5 min video
Using melanoma tumor grafts (xengrafts), Armstrong and others [Armstrong et al,. 2015]14 also demonstrated the anti-cancer / anti-neoplastic capabilities of THC. In the Armstrong study, THC was observed to decrease melanoma tumor proliferation and growth in lab mice.
Although large-scale human trials are still lacking, cannabinoids such as THC have been repeatedly shown to be safe and effective anti-cancer agents.13
THCV may help mitigate the tremors, the lack of motor control and even brain lesions associate the Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). I’ll go into more detail on cannabinoids and research into AD, a little later in this article.
Beyond AD, THCV may also play a role in treating type 2 diabetes by protecting insulin producing cells. Early clinical research indicates THCV may reduce fasting plasma glucose levels, increase fasting insulin levels, as well as improve pancreatic Beta-cell function, and support balanced blood serum levels of adiponectin and L-6.
This is important news, because even with well managed type 2 diabetes (patients with well controlled glucose levels), adults with diabetes are 2-4 times as likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. 68% of those over the age of 65, die from heart disease and an additional 16% die from stroke [statistics courtesy of the American Heart Association.
GW Pharmaceuticals is currently researching a CBDV based drug currently referred to as GWP42006. The drug as shown promise in treating some forms of epilepsy and potentially, autism spectrum disorders. The research is still scant, but very promising.12 Stay tuned to this space.
While studying the neuroprotective qualities of cannabinoids in mice with Huntington’s Disease (HD), scientists discovered that CBG alone and in combination with other cannabinoids, exhibits significant neuroprotective qualities.
CBG may even contribute to a (small, and yet significant) reduction in the aggregation of the “Mutant Huntingtin Protein” – a protein believed to be key to understanding how and why AD ravages the human nervous system. This mutant protein appears to be responsible for altering intracellular homeostasis, impairing gene transcription and disrupting key intracellular trafficking [Valdeolivas, S. Neurotherapeutics].11
CBD is the one cannabinoid that is leading the charge in demonstrating the obvious and dramatic medical efficacy of marijuana.
Let’s explore why science is all ‘a buzz about CBD’ – the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana flower and hemp products such as CBD Oils, transdermal lotions, CBD marijuana edibles, and much more sold both locally and online in more than half of the United States.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of more than 100 known phytocannabinoids found in marijuana (cannabis). As an isolate, CBD has proven anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-convulsant, anxiolytic (anxiety reducing), and anti-psychotic properties.1-3
CBD as a Neuroprotective Agent
CBD has also been found to possess unique neuroprotective properties; partly through its ability to mitigate nervous tissue inflammation and oxidation, but also through yet-to-be understood human physiological processes.
When scientists first discovered THC, no one had ever heard of cannabinoids or the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The discovery of cannabinoids led to the discovery of how they effect the human body.
When scientists study CBD, they are often made keenly aware of how much we still don’t yet know about how the human body works. Understanding how CBD works could lead to a better understanding of human physiology and health.
CBD is non-psychoactive – meaning it won’t make you ‘high’ or cognitively impaired in any way. It also has few known side-effects, which make it of particular interest as a potential therapeutic agent for a variety of human neurodegenerative disorders.
CBD appears particularly well suited as a therapeutic agent to treat a whole host of neurodegenerative disorders such as – Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Dementia, Epilepsy, HD, MS, Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and various other neuropsychiatric disorders [Devinsky O, et. al. Epilepsia] including schizophrenia, anxiety and even drug addiction.2,3
CBD and Stroke
As a global cerebroprotective agent, CBD exerts powerful pharmacological effects that can reduce the harmful results of ischemic stroke.8
This is big news, since stroke is one of the leading causes of death (#5) in the United States. CBD is not only being studied as a potential therapeutic agent for those having suffered a stroke, but also as a potential preventative agent.
To increase your chances of surviving a heart attack AND a stroke, your doctor might one day prescribe a CBD supplement along with your daily low-dose aspirin.
CBD could in fact fortify your body as a natural and powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent.
Should you smack your head on a cabinet door, or decide to play some touch-football after work with the guys and get brutally sacked – that CBD edible you had at lunch may have just released enough into your system to save a few brain cells from ‘oxidizing themselves out of existence‘ from the impact trauma.
CBD has not yet been conclusively proven to protect you in case of brain injury, but the research envisioning such a benefit is strong, growing and very exciting.
We take statin drugs, despite all of their side-effects, to lower our cholesterol and perceived risk of heart attack. Are we that far off from taking CBD (with zero side-effects) to stave off the risk of stroke or neurodegenerative disease?
CBD and Epilepsy
The same therapeutic properties that make CBD so potentially powerful in treating neurodegenerative disorders such as AD, MS and PD, also make it worth serious consideration as a potential nutraceutical for healthy minds and bodies. Viewing CBD as a nutraceutical – a ‘food substance that has medical benefit,’ is something the FDA does not yet condone or endorse. Luckily we don’t rely on the FDA to drive science, rather it is science that propels (and compels) the FDA.
Epidiolex from GW Pharmaceuticals Seeking FDA Approval | 12 min
Strange, this lack of FDA awareness as to the medical benefits of CBD. For it was just this past week, that the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an FDA-approved, peer-reviewed study on the medical effectiveness of CBD from cannabis, in treating severe forms of intractable childhood epilepsy.
In this ground-breaking, Phase-III FDA study, 120 patients were given either a placebo or a 20 mg dose of CBD. Patients treated with CBD experienced a 50% reduction in the weekly number of seizures. 50% reduction is astonishingly high for a set of illnesses that have heretofore been considered intractable and highly drug-resistant.
Read more about the ground-breaking NEJM medical study in
our exclusive article linked here.
CBD – A Traffic cop for your nervous system?
Key to neuronal homeostasis and survival – is the mitigation of multiple cytotoxic stimuli, principally oxidative stress, inflammation and excitotoxicity. As we have already seen, CBD has a clear pharmacological role to play in reducing the harmful effects of inflammation and oxidative stress.
However, did you know that CBD and other cannabinoids have also been discovered to play a role in reducing excitotoxicity?
Excitotoxicity is a disease state in which your body’s neurons are damaged and even killed by over-stimulation/over-activation, usually by the toxic side-effects of the body’s own neurotransmitters such as glutamate.
CBD has demonstrated the ability to reduce excitotoxicity, in part by acting through neuronal cannabinoid receptors found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.7
CBD acts in part – like a ‘traffic cop’ – inhibiting neuronal hyper-activity, all the while, reducing the damaging oxidative stress and cellular inflammation. CBD reduces the amount of cytotoxins generated, aupports their safe reabsorption, and promotes overall healing of the nervous system.
Alzheimer’s Disease and CBD
Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer’s Disease | 4 min
AD is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Recent estimates indicate that the disorder may actually rank third – just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death in the elderly [Alzheimer Fact Sheet]. Men 75 and older have a 1 in 10 risk of developing AD during their lifetime, with a 0.5% prevalence in the U.S. alone.
AD is the predominant cause of dementia, with early symptoms being short-term memory loss, progressive loss of speech, mood swings, disorientation, loss of motivation and the inability to manage one’s self care. AD is characterized by an accumulation of amyloid-B plaques and hyperphosphorylated tau protein tangles (NFTs) [Watt G and Karl T Front Pharmacol].4 CBD and THCV have a demonstrated ability to reduce these so-called NFTs [Esposito G Journal Molecular Medicine]5 and to regulate microglial cell migration in a manner that might actually reduce neuronal death associated with AD [Walter L Journal Neuroscience].6
Although the cause of AD is currently unknown, the majority of risk is attributed to genetic factors, with additional risk factors including hypertension, head trauma and chronic depression.4
The Congress and Future of Cannabinoid Research
The Congress will likely need to step in, and sidestep the DEA and FDA, and de-schedule / reschedule cannabidiol and other marijuana cannabinoids – in order to facilitate scientific research.
Senator’s Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, recently introduced legislation that would do just that. It is called the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.
READ MORE about this ground-breaking legislation in our exclusive look at the bill, published this month in the CBD Medical Journal.
Do you like what you’ve read? Stay informed on the latest medical marijuana news, views and exclusive articles by signing up for the CBD Medical Journal Newsletter.
1[Fernandez-Ruiz J, et. al. Br J Cain Pharmocal] – Fernandez-Ruiz J “Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?” Br J Cain Pharmocal 2013 Feb | http://bit.ly/2sYKgkt
2[Devinsky O, et. al. Epilepsia] – Devinsky O “Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders.” Epilepsia 2014 Jun | http://bit.ly/2sYmN2T
3[Mannucci C, et. al. CNS Neurological DDT] – Mannucci C “Neurological aspects of medical use of cannabidiol.” CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2017 Apr 13 | http://bit.ly/2sYXHRy
4[Watt G and Karl T Frontiers in Pharmacology] – Georgia Watt and Tim Karl “In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease” Frontiers in Pharmacology 2017 Feb | http://bit.ly/2spy5Am
5[Esposito G Journal Molecular Medicine] – Esposito G, et. al. “The marijuana component cannabidiol inhibits beta-amyloid-induced tau protein hyperphosphorylation through Wnt/beta-catenin pathway rescue in PC12 cells.” Journal Molecular Medicine 2006 Mar | http://bit.ly/2spCqDG
6[Walter L Journal Neuroscience] – Walter L , et. al. “Nonpsychotropic cannabinoid receptors regulate microglial cell migration.” Journal of Neuroscience 2003 Feb | http://bit.ly/2spOsfY
7[Fernandez-Ruiz, J Neurotherapeutics] – Fernandez-Ruiz, J, et. al. “Cannabinoids in Neurodegenerative Disorders and Stroke/Brain Trauma: From Preclinical Models to Clinical Applications” Neurotherapeutics 2015 Oct | http://bit.ly/2spIiN7
8[Hayakawa, K Pharmaceuticals (Basel)] – Hayakawa, K, et. al. “Therapeutic Potential of Non-Psychotropic Cannabidiol in Ischemic Stroke” Pharmaceuticals (Basel) 2010 Jul | http://bit.ly/2spYkXq
9[Amada, N PeerJ] – Amada, Naoki, et. al. “Cannabidivarin (CBDV) suppresses pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)-induced increases in epilepsy-related gene expression” PeerJ 2013 Nov | http://bit.ly/2t3nTKE
10[Gardener, H Nature Reviews Neurology] – Gardener, H, et. al. “Brain health and shared risk factors for dementia and stroke” Nature Reviews Neurology 2015 Oct | http://go.nature.com/2sukMi1
11[Valdeolivas, S. Neurotherapeutics] – Valdeolivas, S, et. al. “Neuroprotective properties of cannabigerol in Huntington’s disease: studies in R6/2 mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned mice.” Neurotherapeutics 2015 Jan | http://bit.ly/2sx5hpJ
12[GW Pharma] “Pharmaceuticals Provides Update on Cannabinoid Pipeline” 2014 Mar | http://bit.ly/2sxn8fU
13[Ladin, D. Frontiers in Pharmacology]- Ladin, D, et. al. “Preclinical and Clinical Assessment of Cannabinoids as Anti-Cancer Agents” 2016 Oct | http://bit.ly/2sCncuS
14[Armstrong, J Journal of Investigative Dermatology] – Armstrong, J, et. al. “Exploiting Cannabinoid-Induced Cytotoxic Autophagy to Drive Melanoma Cell Death” 2015 Feb | http://bit.ly/2sBTWo1