How Cannabinoids May Slow Brain Aging

Marijuana isn't exactly known as a cognitive enhancer but a new review suggests that the active ingredients in marijuana hold promise for preventing— or even reversing— brain aging and possibly Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Cavan Images / Getty Images

Stoners aren’t known for their memory prowess but a new review suggests that drugs similar to marijuana’s active ingredients may hold promise for preventing— or even reversing— brain aging and possibly Alzheimer‘s and other degenerative brain diseases.

Since the mid 2000’s researchers have been building an appreciation for the power of marijuana-like substances that make up the brain’s cannabinoid systems. In animal experiments, for example, synthetic compounds similar to THC—marijuana’s main psychoactive component—have shown promise in preserving brain functions. A 2008 study even demonstrated that a THC-like substance reduced brain inflammation and improved memory in older rats.

MORE: Ballot Initiative of the Day; Will Recreational Marijuana Get the Green Light in Three States?

The latest review, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggests that activating the brain’s cannabinoid system may trigger a sort of anti-oxidant cleanse, removing damaged cells and improving the efficiency of the mitochrondria, the energy source that powers cells, ultimately leading to a more robustly functioning brain.

Previous studies have linked cannabinoids to increased amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a substance that protects brain cells and promotes the growth of new ones. Since new cell growth slows or stops during aging, increasing BDNF could potentially slow the decline in cognitive functions.

MORE: Study: Legal Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Encourage Kids to Smoke More Pot

Activation of cannabinoid receptors can also reduce brain inflammation in several different ways, which may in turn suppress some of the disease processes responsible for degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Andras Bilkei-Gorzo of the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany and an author of the study, is encouraged by the expanding knowledge of the brain’s cannabinoid system and its potential for leading to new understanding of aging in the brain. “[C]annabinoid system activity is neuroprotective,” he wrote, and increasing it “could be a promising strategy for slowing down the progression of brain aging and for alleviating the symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders.”

Still, Gary Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University, who conducted some of the research Bilkei-Gorzo included in the review, is aware of the delicate nature of cannabinoid research, given the controversial nature of medical marijuana issues. “The literature is a mess and he’s done a nice job organizing it,” he says. “He was positive about developing cannabinoid drugs without going overboard.”

VIDEO: Weed Be Gone: Will Amsterdam Ban Pot for Tourists?

Other studies covered in the review showed that mice bred to lack the cannabinoid receptors have better memories early in life but have more rapid cognitive decline as they age, including inflammation in the hippocampus, a key region for memory. “This finding suggests that, at some point during aging, cannabinoid activity helps maintain normal cognitive functions in mice,” says Daniele Piomelli, professor of neurobiology, anatomy and biological chemistry at the University of California – Irvine, who was not associated with the study.

Piomelli cautions that the review doesn’t support the idea of using marijuana to improve brain aging among the elderly, not least because of its psychoactive effects. “This is definitely an important area of investigation but we are still far from a consensus,” he says.

MORE: The Link Between Marijuana and Schizophrenia

Moreover, some of the research covered in the review had conflicting results. Although three clinical trials studied cannabinoids for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease, these studies “did not provide a clear answer whether cannabinoids modify the progression or the outcome of the disease,” wrote Bilkei-Gorzo. He found similar results for Huntington’s Disease, which, like Parkinson’s, is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder. And for the most common form of dementia, “Despite the promising preclinical results, the detailed clinical evaluation of cannabinoids in [Alzheimer’s] patients is missing,” he said in the paper.

The social and political challenges to conducting such research, however, mean that it may be a while before we see such scientific gaps filled. Scientists have yet to conduct, for example, a solid study in which they follow marijuana smokers to see if they are more or less likely to develop Alzheimer’s— or to compare the cognitive decline of marijuana smokers to those who do not smoke. Doing so is too controversial to attract funding.

MORE: Medical Marijuana

“In my experience, working in this area is like touching the third rail,” says Wenk, “I get hate and love mails that are bizarre and phone messages from people too high to talk. Some of my colleagues have left the area after seeing their names in the National Enquirer… I do not blame a war on marijuana but rather the public’s prejudice and extreme bias. I’ve now discontinued my research on this system.”

He and others in the field are not completely pessimistic, however. He says, “I’ve been trying to find a drug that will reduce brain inflammation and restore cognitive function in rats for over 25 years; cannabinoids are the first and only class of drugs that have ever been effective. I think that the perception about this drug is changing and in the future people will be less fearful.”

Given that Alzheimer’s already affects one in eight people over 65— and nearly half of those over 85—and there have been few successes at treating or preventing it so far, that would certainly be a welcome change.

(MORE: Outlawing ‘Legal Highs:’ Can Emergency Bans Hinder Drug Development?)


CBD, cannabidiol, is in both marijuana and hemp (also cannabis).  
Hemp is legal to possess in ALL 50 states.  

Legal states are noticing that half of all sales are for edibles and extracts! The premier company in the legal state of Colorado is Dixie Botanicals and DIxie Elixers, two companies owned by MJNA.  
MJNA is the alpha source of CBD from legal hemp through their other company RSHO (Phytosphere)!  
MJNA, a stock traded on the stock market is about to rocket up!  
As well for those that want CBD they can order it from ANY state legally from MJNA (phytosphere) or from Dixie Botanicals! 

Invest in the "Green Rush"! MJNA is the ALPHA company to invest in!  
Investing in MJNA is investing in America!  
Help the sick and take cannabis away from the overseas cartels by investing in MJNA!


Most diseases are directly caused by a lack of stimulation in the endocannabinoid receptors. Smoking cannabis chemically changes it to become very psychoactive, so you can only tolerate so much before it causes dysphoria or makes you fall asleep. When the plant is in its young, raw, unheated phase, it takes over 60 times the amount before any psychoactive effects kick in. This means that the raw leaves and flowers can be eaten or juiced in huge amounts to pack a super dose of cannabinoids to the receptors without any high. Most cancers, brain, bone, organ, and age related diseases can be prevented and cured if enough cannabinoids are consumed. 

Read more:


With the release of more accurate studies, and the dismissal of old wives tales and urban myths, it's now becoming well known that forgetfulness is only associated with -initial- cannabis use, and even that is only short-term (the things that slip your mind just those first few days begin solidifying in your mind again properly, and the phenomenon itself subsides with appropriate and regular cannabis use, as the cannabinoids in cannabis begin to supplement and benefit your natural endocannabinoid system... it is just like virtually every medication and even many daily vitamins and supplements; there are initial side-effects as your body adjusts to the increase, or introduction, of a new chemical or chemicals... cannabis fortunately has fewer side effects than most medications, and it happens to be -less toxic- than many of the foods on grocery store shelves that are aimed at everyone from vulnerable children, to the elderly).

Anyone with potential medical ailments should google:

  1) Granny Storm Crow's Medical List -

An enormous collection of literally thousands of positive medical studies on cannabis! She is a wonderful woman, and a sharply intelligent activist and teacher, who has spent many years of her time promoting the beneficial medicinal aspects of cannabis. 

2) BadKittySmiles CannaPharm for Medical Grade Oil & Edible Recipes -

Tutorials for incredibly impressive and powerful medicalgrade oils with advanced bioavailability, that are easy enough foranyone to make, even if you only have few supplies, w/ recipes for medicated beef jerky, canna cheese cake, glowing hard candies, turkey dinners, meat pies, hash extracts and tinctures, and more! Revolutionary advice for extracting into oil, and for the decarboxylation/activation of cannabinoids. Besides effectively treating insomnia, anxiety, MS, Parkinson's, and other serious ailments, members of several forums and communities have posted journals leading to the COMPLETE remission of their own, and their loved ones cancers, using these techniques... look out for the Book!!!  


3) Rick Simpson - For the original cancer curing Phoenix Tears hemp oil!!!!  

"Medical benefits aside, most of the products we buy and the food on our local grocery store shelves, are MUCH more toxic than cannabis, and in much lower quantities... if we wanted to start eliminating things that 'tasted' or 'felt good', by using a 'rate of harm' system, then starting at the top we'd need to eliminate much of our cosmetics and make-up, our synthetic clothing, a good chunk of our technology, and about 90% of the food in the grocery stores, long before we'd reach cannabis on that list. "

"To be deprived of a non-lethal plant, that is less harmful than a can of soda pop, which (quite unlike the legal soda) has been proven time and time again to cure terminal and previously incurable illnesses, and to be deprived due entirely to prejudice and money for so long, while so many of our parents, our peers and our grandparents have suffered needlessly... that is criminal in and of itself.  The prohibition of cannabis, has been a huge and deadly atrocity for medical patients and entire cultures and regions of people, an atrocity that has only benefited criminals and politicians, and that has hurt those who needed help the most. "


Marijuana is a very healthy food if taken as an edible, not smoked. It is a gentle and safe way to handle pain. There is a great $2.99 e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints.


it is strange, when you see a alzheimers patient whose continually laughing and eating and has a blood shot eyes because of the side effect of mary jane. LOL,on the other hand, marijuana is hallucinogen, it may trigger the symptoms of psychosis in patient with huntingtons disease.


All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read:  Shoulda Robbed a BankHere is one of its reviews: 

5.0 out of 5 stars... If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it, June 30, 2012

Amazon Verified Purchase

This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition)

I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to.I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!!The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing.All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that.If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank.And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life.The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book.


I was in Federal Prison with Brother Love and several of his followers from the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in the 1980's. We had all been convicted of marijuana offenses...separate cases.

The head of Brother Love's defense team was former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark. Their defense was based on religious freedom.

While in prison together, I read hundreds of pages of the transcript from his trial. Many are available on the web today.

The panel of 'expert witnesses,' presented by his defense team, included the foremost authorities in medicine of that era. The overwhelming amount of evidence documenting the medicinal benefits of marijuana was staggering.

And, that was in the early 1980's. Now, fully 30 years later, the same lame arguments are still being paraded.

How pathetic.

I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for that marijuana offense. While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months.

After 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the parole board. Their response: “You must understand, yours was a very serious offense.”How do you respond to that mentality?

I laughed about the parole panel's comment for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book:Shoulda Robbed a Bank

No, it is not a treatise on disproportionate sentences, but a look at what the use of marijuana is really about.

People pursuing happiness in their own way. Harming no one...nor their property.

That’s my contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are.I would be honored by your review.


Were you stoned when you wrote "mitochrondria".It's actually "mitochondria".I was stoned and I picked that out.


this is all well and good but why create synthetic cannabinoids?  oh, i know big pharma can patent that and then make billions on a fake something.

just use the real thing.  make oil from the plant, which cures cancers.  you don't need some freaking big pharma industry making synthetics that don't work the same way as the real thing so they can make a profit off a supposed non-medicinal drug.

the fact is IT IS MEDICINE and you don't need a synthetic form of it.  ridiculous.


@andy.41 Hemp is one of the oldest known plants. It was used for centuries as a medicine. I have been smoking it for 20 years. More people die from alcohol than ALL of the illicit drugs combined.  I work full time. I pay my taxes. What gives somebody the right to dictate to another what they can and cannot consume? Anti drug laws DO NOT WORK. Please get yourself an education about cannabis before you post such rubbish.


@BenjaminPanico @Medical_Community  That is absolute horse s**t and you know it.  Anyone who refers to it as "Mary Jane" obviously has no understanding of the clinical aspects.  You and your fat, ugly kids should just f**k off and die.  Loser...



Cannabis is not a hallucinogenic substance, and the 'giggling stoner' is a television stereotype. 

Here are a few quotes pieced together (I added segues between statements) from a very experienced member of the medical community, who works closely with different doctors and psychologists from around the globe, many of which only became pro-cannabis after spending years working with the government to slander cannabis and promote prohibition! After being involved in the studies first-hand, more scientists flip over to a pro-cannabis position, than those who stay behind for the money and the short-lived recognition.

"  As far as the giggling stoner effect goes, the initial effects of cannabis are MUCH better and are much more mild, than the toxic and literally lethal chemical meds that doctors legally prefer to prescribe for things like pain, and anxiety, and psychosis. 

 Those are synthetic drugs that can permanently damage, and even kill people with a single dose if their bodies respond poorly (something that has -never- happened with cannabis), they are drugs which regularly make people feel suicidally depressed, anxious, and literally crazy, for up to months at a time as the chemicals slowly settle in the patient's system (that is, if they ever do).

  On the other hand, during the first week or two of proper cannabis use, the 'funny feelings' are already dissipating (the mild feelings of paranoia or anxiety that some users feel have all but entirely been associated only with the -legality- and social stigma of cannabis use), and very soon all you are left with is the reduction, or entire elimination of your symptoms, while the cannabinoids encourage healthy new cell growth in the brain and any other injured areas of the body (that's right; it's been proven that cannabis causes brain cell GROWTH and reproduction, it doesn't kill brain cells or other healthy cells! In fact, the only cells we have been able to isolate and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cannabis can damage, are those that have turned cancerous and mutagenic. It destroys cancerous cells, and promotes and helps the body to reprogram and create new, healthy cells, in their place!). 

 This is because it mimics and promotes the function of our bodies natural endocannabinoid system, the system which regulates our nervous system, appetite, mood, and many other bodily functions. Just as we have several sources in nature for forms of vitamin D; we can synthesize it from the sun, and absorb it from the food we eat; and just as BOTH may not be essential, but have been proven to be highly beneficial to our longevity, health, and our ability to function (in other words, we can survive with too little, or without one or the other, -but we can not THRIVE- without one or the other), just as we can 'do without' when it comes to certain sources for vitamins, our bodies can 'survive, but may not 'thrive' without cannabis, and without the supplementation it provides to our own endocannabinoid systems. 

 The way that the cannabinoids in cannabis function in our bodies, follows along with the same original guidelines, that we still use today, to consider a chemical (such as vitamin C, D or B) nutritionally vital or valuable to our well being!"

"  The 'psychosis' theory was based on ONE survey, of less than 200 people in NZ, which found that nearly 3% of those who admitted to cannabis use, exhibited symptoms of psychosis at one point or another during their lives... 

 Best of all, just -over 3%- happens to be the EXACT same percentage, that the human population -in general- will exhibit symptoms of psychosis. 

Fantastic 'link to psychosis' they found there, eh'? Especially considering how, according to their study, it subtly decreases the odds compared to the general population and all... ;)

 Isn't it fun, how frequently they'll take the only one or two (not real scientific studies, but) surveys, that can only vaguely show a potential link to something negative, so seriously... even when they often need to twist the findings, in order to do so. While at the same time, they toss out THOUSANDS of much more concrete and repetitive studies, surveys and links, to all the positive attributes of cannabis. Many of our most positive scientific studies on cannabis have been government funded, but were tossed out when the results weren't what their financial backers expected (ie. -wanted-) to hear,  :)

 Contrary to popular belief, it is one of the most tame substances on the planet, and it  is less hallucinogenic than many items regularly sold in your local grocery store. Yes, you have plenty of hallucinogenic substances in your grocery store, not in the chemical cleanser aisle, but in the herbs, fruits and veggies sections! Your grocery store also carries even more toxic and lethal edible food products, than it does hallucinogens. Anyone who is concerned for their health, would be better off not just vaping (which entirely negates the ONE and only potential negative health attribute to cannabis use; mild lung irritation), but they would be better off literally smoking a joint, than they would consuming most of the food that the government graciously allows us to have access to. "

Look up BadKittySmiles on google, she has been doing this for years and is THE medical edible guru... you will be able to cut back and go through your meds SLOWER if anything, when you eat them, because cannabis provides stronger and longer effects when it is eaten.... -much stronger- than if you smoke the same amount of herb, because you're not combusting or destroying as much, and you can absorb so much more!!! You can cut down on your rate of use, and provide your body with MORE of the medicine it needs, at the same time.

 BadKitty has provided dozens of medical cannabis recipes, including: Beef & Chicken Jerky, Truffles, Peanut Butter Fudge, Cocoa, Tea, Cheesecakes, Steaks, Lasagna and stuffed shells, Pizzas, Italian Sandwiches, Meat Pies, Chocolates, Chocolate Liquor filled Cordials, Glowing Hard Candy, Capsules (for patients who can't eat much).... so much to make!

   If you're buying your meds, and you find yourself running low more often than not, then eating it in oil form is the most efficient way to go. :)



Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours."

I took one capsule.

I was down for over 20 hours. When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects.

I threw the pills out.


@JustinMulloy @BenjaminPanico @Medical_Community Yes, there is.  Contrary to what that f**ktard BenjaminPanico is spouting, the active components in Cannabis appear to have sweeping benefits for many types of cellular abnormalities, and are not limited to simply isolated regions of the body.  Very promising, all around.  


@FlyingTooLow that is wonderful!  it truly is a miracle plant.  so many plants and herbs on this earth ARE our medicine.  it is the heathens of the drug industry (the true drug cartel) that have synthesized and created crap and sold it for billions to an unsuspecting public.  a naive public.  so happy for you!


@FlyingTooLow i agree with you!  the insanity of this world is too much to bear sometimes.  i will always fight for sanity and what is right even in the face of stupidity.


@Kathyn @FlyingTooLow 

This may interest you:

I copied the below comment from another website. I think the American veteran who wrote this sums it up very well:

"I am a disabled Army Veteran and smoke marijuana strictly for medical purposes. I never smoked before I broke my back in the military and it hasen't been a gateway to anything. I started smoking because of my cauda equina syndrome.I had a herniated disk in my lower back that compressed the nerves at the lower end of my spine (cauda equina nerves). The doctors couldn't prevent permanent damage, so I am left with permanent pain that is so severe that it leads to vomiting on a consistant basis without my medacine (marijuana). The doctors prescribed me morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycotton, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, etc... All of the above named meda...cines made me useless, I hardly knew what was happening around me. On top of that, they didnt help with the pain or the vomiting from the pain. I felt like bugs were crawling under my skin.After complaining about this for a while, friends and family handed me cannabis. I was reluctant at first, due to the stigma that goes along with it. After I gave it a try, I realized that it was far and away a better solution than any of the above named DRUGS. I had none of the issues with cannabis that I had with all those other PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS. I can function and carry on with my life. Marijuana has made me a better person and a far more functional parent and husband."

I think anyone who would deny this veteran comfort should be beaten with an ax handle and ran out of the country.

Just my humble opinion.

Many thanks for your reply, Kathyn...Stay safe and happy..