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Can Marijuana Help Combat Brain Aging?
TruthOnPot.com – While there are many health products that make claim to having antioxidant and anti-aging properties, none come close to the benefits of cannabis.
As studies have shown, cannabinoids – the active chemicals in marijuana – possess a unique ability to counteract the brain’s aging process as well as a variety of diseases that may arise during later stages of life.
What is Aging?
Aging is influenced by the balance between the generation and clearance of toxic molecules that tend to build up as one gets older.
Brain cells (also known as neurons) are especially sensitive to this, since they are fully developed once an individual reaches adulthood and do not divide past this point. Neurological diseases are an inevitable result of an imbalance of toxic molecules within your brain.
Marijuana: A Powerful Antioxidant
We’ve all heard of an essential aspect of our diet known as antioxidants, but not many truly understand why they are necessary for good health. As it turns out, the term “anti-oxidant” itself provides a pretty thorough explanation of its biological role.
Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the damaging effects of a biological phenomenon known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the build-up of natural by-products called free radical molecules, which can only be cleared by a healthy intake of antioxidants.
Brain cells are particularly sensitive to oxidative stress. In fact, studies have linked the build-up of free radicals to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Cannabinoids found in marijuana – specifically THC and CBD – have been shown to possess potent antioxidant properties. Interestingly, the antioxidant action of marijuana is believed to occur independently of cannabinoid receptors, meaning that you don’t need to get high in order to reap the antioxidant benefits of cannabinoids.
Oxidative stress is believed to contribute to a variety of inflammatory and degenerative diseases, both in the brain and elsewhere in the human body. Likewise, pre-clinical trials have highlighted the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in diseases such as collagen-induced arthritis, infarction, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, myocardial ischemia and atherosclerosis.
Another notable anti-aging aspect of cannabis is its role in inflammation. Along with oxidative stress, inflammation is another biological phenomenon that contributes to the progression of many age-related disorders.
Cannabinoid receptors have been identified on immune cells and, when activated, these receptors work to suppress inflammatory responses.
Immune cells of the brain (also known as glial cells) are involved with inflammation of the brain, which has also been linked to the progression of various neurodegenerative diseases including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Activity of the cannabinoid system has been shown to decrease inflammation, both in the brain as well as other parts of the body.
Role in Neurogenesis
Contrary to historical findings, recent studies have identified a growth of new brain cells that occurs throughout adulthood – a process known as neurogenesis.
Indeed, while it was once thought that the brain stopped developing after a certain point, scientists now believe that the hippocampus – a specific part of the brain – is capable of producing over 5,000 new brain cells each day.
Scientists also believe that marijuana can promote neurogenesis, while the regular use of alcohol, nicotine and opiates are known to suppress neurogenesis.
This is an important consideration for older individuals, as the process of neurogenesis has been found to slow as you age.