As we learned in the first article of this series, cannabis can have a major impact on mental health, digestive health, pain, and bone and joint health. But that's not all! Research continues to reveal lots of benefits of weed.
This time around, we’ll look at some of the studies researching how marijuana and medications made from cannabis can affect neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac health, migraine headaches, and fibromyalgia.
One benefit of weed that's receiving the attention of research scientists is the potential of cannabis to treat neurogenerative diseases. These debilitating conditions cause the progressive death or degeneration of nerve cells and can cause dementia and problems with movement known as ataxia. For years, patients with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease have used cannabis to relieve the symptoms caused by their conditions. And now, anecdotal evidence that weed benefits patients with neurogenerative diseases is being backed up with scientific research.
A study in 2006 found that activation of the CB2 receptor in mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), using a compound known as AM1241, showed an increase in motor unit survival and motor neuron survival. Researchers found that when AM1241 was administered at the onset of tremors, it slowed the progression of the disease and delayed the loss of motor function.
One of the key pathological markers of the neurogenerative disorder Alzheimer’s disease amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) aggregation, which is a protein plaque on brain tissue important for memory and cognition. In a 2008 study, researchers found that THC prevented (Aβ) aggregation and inhibited the production of an enzyme that leads to it.
There is strong anecdotal evidence that weed may benefit those with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the motor system, as well. Research published in 2001 showed that cannabinoids can reduce the tremors associated with movement disorders induced by levodopa, a dopamine precursor used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
An inherited and usually fatal neurogenerative disorder known as Huntington’s disease causes a progressive loss of brain cells, triggering deterioration of physical and mental abilities. Research in 2011 showed that a loss of CB2 receptors in the basal ganglia region of the brain is a key pathogenic factor of Huntington’s disease. Since cannabinoids activate the CB2 receptor, the benefits of weed may include a potential treatment for this incurable disease.
Cannabis also shows promise as a potential treatment for brain injuries. A Brazilian study of mice in 2013 showed that CBD could aid neurogenesis, particularly in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus. Another study of work-related injuries published in the International Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2014 found that people with THC in their system had an 80 percent higher chance of surviving a head injury than those who did not. Other research has shown a potential benefit of weed in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.
Cannabis may help with cardiovascular health, as well. An early study found that patients with hypertension saw a decrease in blood pressure after inhaling marijuana. Research in mice in 2013 determined that activation of the CB1 receptor could offer protection from chronic heart failure. And while a study in 2012 found that inhaling cannabis might exacerbate some cardiovascular symptoms, marijuana consumed in other ways reduced the progression of atherosclerosis in mice.
Migraines and Fibromyalgia
The endocannabinoid system may hold the key to treating migraines and other headaches. Research published in the journal Experimental Neurology in 2010 found that activation of the endocannabinoid system “could represent a promising therapeutical tool for reducing both the physiological and inflammatory components of pain that are likely involved in migraine attacks.”
Other research has shown that weed may benefit those with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain that is often accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory, or mood issues. A 2011 study found that fibromyalgia patients who used cannabis showed a reduction in symptoms including stiffness and pain and had an improved health-related quality of life.
With all of the benefits of weed we’ve discussed in the first two installments of this series, would you believe that there are still even more? In Volume 3, we’ll look into research that has studied the benefits of cannabis for other conditions including cancer, epilepsy, asthma, and more.