A preliminary study seems to imply that the use of cannabinoids (one of the many biochemically active agents in marijuana) can protect the brain from inflammatory degeneration and its complications, such as Alzheimer's disease. The current study relies on an animal model and requires the consumption of cannabinoids during youth - but in that particular situation, the results are a dramatic reduction in the changes in brain tissue that lead to the formation of amyloid plaque, thought to be a chief culprit in Alzheimer's.
Gary Wenk, Ph.D, conducted the research at the University of Ohio:
... as the animals age, Dr. Wenk said, they develop inflammation in parts of the brain analogous to the parts damaged by inflammation in people with Alzheimer's.
Recent research in other fields suggested that cannabinoids -- the active ingredients in marijuana -- can cross the blood-brain barrier, even at low doses, and can reduce inflammation, Dr. Wenk said.
So, in young rats, Dr. Wenk and colleagues created brain inflammation by infusing nanogram quantities of lipopolysaccharide and then treated them with a synthetic cannabinoid called WIN-55212-2.
"We saw an 80% to 90% drop in the inflammation in the brain," he said, "and also the impairment in memory that inflammation produces could be reversed."