The human brain, along with that of many mammals, is filled with endocannabinoid receptors that play integral parts in regulating inflammatory responses. In fact, increasing amounts of research have shown that endocannabinoids have neuro-protective properties. While you might be skeptical of lab results generated on rodents, the steady end of Prohibition around the world has provided us with real world data. In a 2014 study, a California hospital provided data that showed conclusively that among 446 traumatic brain injury patients, those that tested positive for the main endocannabinoid found in marijuana Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabidol (THC) had a lower death rate than those that tested negative. Traumatic brain injury patients who tested positive for THC were roughly 80 percent less likely to succumb to their wounds. The neuro-protective properties of endocannabinoids in the human brain helped protect the brain during the crucial healing process after the initial trauma.
In a 2015 article in Neurotherapeutics, two anesthesiology professors argue that the long term brain damage and ongoing neuropsychiatric issues that pervade long after the initial trauma are caused by inflammation. One of the professors, Dr. Faden, explained the prevalence of chronic brain inflammation:
"Brain inflammation is a key issue, and it has been under-emphasized. Recent brain imaging studies, including those in former professional football players, indicate that persistent brain inflammation after a single moderate head injury or repeated milder traumatic brain injury may be very common, and may contribute to cognitive problems. In addition, larger studies indicate that brain inflammation persists for many months or years in many people with traumatic brain injury."
Marijuana can be used to protect the central nervous system after considerable damage, and here is how it is done. Decades of research have shown that the human brain has a minimum of three types of endocannabinoid receptors in the variety of cells that make up the noggin’. CB1 receptors are found on certain types of neurons and studies have shown that endocannabinoid compounds do play a role in the modulation of neurotransmission; simply put, these are the cannabinoid receptors responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. CB2 receptors are found on the central nervous system’s anti-inflammatory cells. When activated, CB2 receptors can lessen the brain’s inflammatory response. The third known type of cannabinoid receptor, the TRPV1 receptor, can be found in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cerebellum - three parts of the brain associated with crucial hormonal, cognitive, and motor functions. All three types of cannabinoid receptors are present in the protective blood-brain barrier. Brain trauma injury patients benefit from the anti-inflammatory reaction that occurs when these endocannabinoid receptors are activated. Besides the anti-inflammatory response, endocannabinoids also
A National Institute of Health study from 1998 first highlighted the neuro-protective properties of Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabidol (THC) and Cannabidol (CBD) in rats and highlighted the antioxidant properties of the two cannabinoids. Brain trauma injury patients benefit from the anti-inflammatory reaction that occurs when the endocannabinoid receptors are activated.
marijuana can also have medicinal benefits for Alzheimer’s patients. There are even studies that have shown that THC can slow the aging process in the cells of some mice. Two more studies from Benito C and Ashton JC and Glass M, respectively, hint that endocannabinoids can stop apoptosis - the programmed cell death that eventually kills each and every cell in our bodies.
Medicinal marijuana can also help patients with opioid addiction recovery. Re-scheduling marijuana and decriminalizing it on an international level would open up the floodgates of scientific research into cannabis. Legalization efforts, currently gaining steam in France and Mexico, will also help speed up the pace of marijuana research and development. Even in the study of hospital data that showed higher survival rates for patients testing positive for THC, strong conclusions cannot be made because a standard drug test for THC is unable to differentiate between occasional and heavy users of marijuana. Much more research is needed before we see marijuana used for all of its medicinal benefits. Pressure to research the brain trauma healing powers of marijuana may even come from an unlikely source, the NFL.