Cannabis is a controversial topic in the medical industry. Some doctors are entirely onboard as they understand the benefits of medical marijuana. Others express negative thoughts on the subject. There are a handful of FDA-approved Big Pharma drugs such as Sativex and Epidiolex.
However, medical marijuana remains federally illegal. What an increasing number of patients find is that ‘conventional’ treatments aren’t always effective. This fact leads them to try alternatives such as cannabis. The herb is linked with positive effects in dealing with symptoms of specific diseases. A lack of clinical evidence means medical professionals tend to sit on the fence regarding the efficacy of MMJ, however.
Research is ongoing, but it will take many years to provide enough evidence to change minds. Alzheimer’s is one condition where patients and their loved ones are prepared to use cannabis. Given the threat to the quality of life caused by the disease, those in this unfortunate situation believe it is okay to roll the dice.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans now live with the condition. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Amongst seniors; it ranks third behind heart disease and cancer.
What’s important to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it is not a normal part of aging. However, it worsens over time, and as of now, it has no cure.
It is estimated that 14 million Americans will have the condition by 2050. While it is not strictly an ‘aging disease,’ it is more likely to affect you as you get older. As life expectancy increases, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is virtually certain to increase.
Causes of Alzheimer’s
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still a mystery. However, researchers believe it is related to one of the following:
- Family history
- Previous severe head injuries
- Lifestyle factors and conditions associated with vascular disease
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition. It continues to get worse as you age. During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you may experience:
- Memory problems
- Recognition problems
- Difficulty with speech
- Issues completing familiar tasks
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- Increasing problems with organizing and planning
As Alzheimer’s disease develops, other symptoms include:
- Personality or behavioral changes
- Poor judgment
- Increased risk of wandering and getting lost
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Trouble controlling bladder and bowel movements
Is Cannabis an Effective Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease?
The most abundant psychoactive compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is a potential option. It could help Alzheimer’s patients due to its ability to remove clumps of amyloid-beta protein from the brain. Amyloid-beta is a toxic component that builds up like a plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Another component of the disease is the inflammation that occurs as the brain reacts to the formation of amyloid-beta. One of marijuana’s possible benefits is providing relief from inflammation.
When you use marijuana, its cannabinoids make their way to the bloodstream. There, they attach to the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) cannabinoid receptors, CB1, and CB2. In the brain, these receptors are concentrated in neurons associated with memory, thinking, and coordination.
Research suggests that when THC binds to the CB receptors, it may affect aging brains. Its apparent ability to help the body remove amyloid-beta accumulation is massive news for Alzheimer’s patients.
What Does the Research Say?
A study by Cao et al. was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2014. It looked at the potential therapeutic effects of THC on the disease. The researchers concluded that THC is a possible therapeutic treatment option for AD via various functions and pathways.
One of the key findings of the study was that THC directly interacts with amyloid-beta peptides. As a result, the cannabinoid inhibited aggression. Low doses of THC potentially enhance mitochondria function.
A study by Salk Institute students found that cannabinoids removed plaque-forming Alzheimer’s proteins from brain cells. The research appeared in a June 2016 edition of Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. The team researched nerve cells altered to produce large amounts of amyloid-beta. The goal was to mimic aspects of Alzheimer’s.
They found that high levels of plaque were associated with higher rates of neuron death and cellular inflammation. When they exposed the cells to THC, the result was lower amyloid-beta levels. The compound also seemed to eliminate the inflammatory response caused by the protein. As a result, the nerve cells were able to survive.
The lead author, Antonio Currais, said that inflammation in the brain is a significant component of the damage caused by AD. He said the research found that the response came from the nerve cells, not the brain’s immune-like cells, as people previously thought. There is also a suggestion that the increased production of endocannabinoids could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Best Marijuana Strains for Treating Alzheimer’s
1 – Purple Kush (Indica Marijuana Strain)
Purple Kush is an almost pure, indica marijuana strain. It is known for having purple leaves and dense buds. This marijuana strain is potent, delivering a THC level of up to 22%. Its low CBD content of less than 0.1% does nothing to curb the strong intoxicating effects. It is a cross of a Purple Afghani and Hindu Kush.
Purple Kush is a useful a night-time medicine as it induces a long-lasting calming effect that promotes body relaxation. Its medicinal benefits could possibly treat a variety of conditions, including insomnia and depression. Purple Kush may also help to relieve frustrations and mood swings related to Alzheimer’s.
2 – OG Kush (Hybrid Marijuana Strain)
This strain is a powerhouse and could help relieve symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. It is a strongly indica dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Old World Paki Kush (possibly Hindu Kush) and Chemdawg. Depending on where you get this strain, OG Kush can contain up to 26% THC and around 0-0.3% CBD.
Patients more commonly use OG Kush to treat migraines, ADD/ADHD, and stress, but it is occasionally recommended to Alzheimer’s patients. However, it depends on the level of progression of the condition and the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. If using it for the first time, be cautious! OG Kush strikes you and fast. You will feel an initial mental buzz, but eventually, the body high takes over and could result in couch lock.
3 – Sour Diesel (Sativa Dominant Marijuana Strain)
Sour Diesel is one of those marijuana strains that you’ll find on every list. Also known as Sour D., this is a sativa dominant strain that delivers a fast, energizing, relieving impact. It is used for stress, pain, and depression due to its uplifting effects. It may also have a positive impact on mood swings that are typical of Alzheimer’s.
Sour Diesel is a cross of Super Skunk and Chemdawg 91. With a THC of up to 22% against just 0.2% CBD, it is not a strain for novices. While it is popular amongst MMJ users, the cerebral experience of Sour D draws in recreational users en-masse. The high associated with this strain could last for up to five hours!
4 – Green Crack (Sativa Dominant Marijuana Hybrid)
Green Crack is the ultimate happy strain. Filled with THC goodness of up to 21%, this strain makes you feel better the minute you start to consume it. Green Crack is a sativa dominant hybrid that’s a cross of Sweet Leaf and Skunk #1.
Its citrus flavor, and ability to give you a boost of light energy will make you bounce off the walls. This marijuana strain is great for a bad morning or rough day. Please note that this strain stimulates appetite, so get ready to eat plenty. MMJ users like it because it helps them relax without making them feel sluggish and tired.
5 – Acapulco Gold (Sativa Dominant Hybrid Marijuana Strain)
This is one of the world’s best-known cannabis strains. Acapulco Gold is recommended by most dispensaries as a treatment for several medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s. The cannabis strain comes from the areas in and around Acapulco, Mexico, hence the name. It is a sativa-dominant strain with a THC content of up to 24%.
Its orange hairs resemble a gold nugget with green and brown resin collecting on the buds. Acapulco Gold is known for being one of the best medical cannabis strains. Due to its unique growing conditions, it is becoming more difficult to find.
Moving Forward with Medical Marijuana for Alzheimer’s Disease
While medical marijuana is potentially useful for specific Alzheimer’s symptoms, research is still in the early stages. It is essential to watch out for generic sativa/indica mixes, as not all strains will be of help. Some marijuana strains can even worsen the condition.
The cannabis strain you use to combat Alzheimer’s must have the proper THC/CBD ratio. An improper rate can aggravate involved brain receptors and may cause harm.
Please consult with a marijuana doctor before using medical cannabis for any condition. We are not medical experts, and therefore, you should not take the content of this article as medical advice.