The stereotypical weed smoker is depicted as a slow dimwit with the inability to harbor productive thoughts for more than a few seconds. They are motivated by their hedonistic tendencies and want to get “high” as much as possible.
In 2022, we know this is not true considering that almost half of all U.S. adults have tried cannabis at one point in time. While this harmful stereotype was used to deter people from smoking under the assumption that cannabis negatively impacts the brain, science is shedding new light on this topic.
Like this 2021 PBS piece on whether cannabis reversed brain aging. The studies are currently being conducted on mice, meaning that there is not a whole lot of human-evidence to suggest that cannabis helps slow down brain aging, but in mice, the results have been consistent.
One theory is that as we age, we significantly begin to produce fewer endocannabinoids. This affects our endocannabinoid system that is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. The endocannabinoid system helps modulate mood, pain, appetite, immune response and much more.
Therefore, theoretically, since many of our endocannabinoids are similar to the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, we could see how it could replenish the loss of endocannabinoid production caused by aging.
What did the mice tell us?
The current evidence on this idea comes from the study of mice done by several researchers. There are several studies done in Israel, Germany and in the US. One of the researchers featured in the PBS story is Nicole Ashport, who explained how they tested the cognitive decline for mice within an established experiment:
“When we take young mice and we put them in a learning and memory maze, they will very quickly learn to find the escape. Our aged mice will also learn how to escape the maze but they just don’t learn as efficiently. So it might take a young mouse 16 attempts in the maze to master it. But it might take an old mouse 25. And so we can see that the old mice can still learn. They just don’t learn as quickly.”
This allows researchers to observe how older mice take longer to process the information and commit it to memory. Theoretically because of inflammation associated with aging, however it could also be a lack of endocannabinoids reaching certain parts of the brain associated with memory.
However, when administering low doses of THC to the mice, Ashport observed something interesting:
“When we treated old animals with a synthetic version of THC at low doses, we would see a stimulation effect. They would move faster, they would move more. They had increases in their ability to be able to solve the mazes more efficiently. That is consistent with what had been reported by the other groups showing really low doses could lead to a beneficial effect.”
We are also seeing this anecdotally within humans. Many older patients have reported that they “feel alive” and “have more energy” after taking cannabis. Could this also be simply because of a lack of endocannabinoids that led to heightened inflammation, which is a cause or symptom of many different conditions.
“One of the biggest hallmarks of aging that we see that can contribute to frailty and other impairments in advanced age is increases in inflammation,” said Ashport. “Cannabis and many cannabinoids can reduce inflammation within the brain and throughout the rest of the body. And so it’s likely that when we’re administering cannabinoids that are acting as anti-inflammatory signals, that they are inherently improving the aging system by simply taking away the stressors of inflammation.”
Good endocannabinoid health
Perhaps, we’re entering into a stage of societal life when “consuming cannabis” will become as essential as consuming vitamin supplements. The fact of the matter is that our endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in our health and well being.
The endocannabinoid system is said to be fully matured roughly by the time you’re 25-years old. Up until this point, your body creates a significant amount of endocannabinoids. Once it’s fully mature, the endocannabinoid production drops significantly.
While you can get cannabinoids from many different foods and activities – the best source for cannabinoids in nature is cannabis. The whole plant provides a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenoids that interact with your internal organism at a very efficient rate.
If many of our old-age problems arise due to a lack of cannabinoids or an endocannabinoid deficiency, then consuming cannabis as a supplement makes sense.
Some people, however, are not interested in feeling “high” as they still have some prejudices about euphoria in medicine. However, with cannabis, you don’t necessarily have to get high. In fact, juicing raw cannabis should be more than enough to replenish your endocannabinoid system without running the risk of getting high.
This is because when cannabis is raw, the phytocannabinoids are in their “acid” state, which makes them non-psychoactive. Seeing that non-psychoactive cannabis would also work in replenishing your endocannabinoid system, it should stand to reason that a “smoothie of cannabis” a day can keep the old age at bay!
We’ve been told repeatedly that cannabis is bad for your brain! Except now, we are finding that it can be your last line of defense against mental decline as you age. Of course, this information is still in its infancy, and as we continue to progress and move forward with global legalization, we’ll discover more accurately how cannabis interacts with our minds and bodies.
In the meanwhile, the early evidence suggests that cannabis could be a very effective medicine for any condition involving mental decline as we age. This includes dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurocognitive diseases.
I know for certain that I’ll be consuming cannabis well into my old age. I might not be smoking it always, but I’ll most certainly be using the raw plant in my smoothies every now and then, just to replenish the loss of endocannabinoids that occur naturally as we age.