Cannabis: A possible treatment for Alzheimer’s?


Cannabis’s popularity has been seen to rise in the last couple of decades. Its positive impacts are being researched within the medical community, and the recreational use of marijuana has also found its way into political discourse. Further, research supports its use in treating anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and depression.

That said, a team from Curtin University in Australia has discovered a new way to improve the absorption rate of medicinal cannabis when administered orally. This advancement could be useful in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injuries.

Cannabis, or marijuana, originally derives from a flowering plant. Commercially, the plant is grown with minimal amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in cannabis, which affects neurotransmission. Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat diseases and alleviate symptoms. Notwithstanding, the recreational use of cannabis has many effects on the body and the brain. The active chemical of cannabis, THC, acts on cannabinoid receptors that are found on neurons in the brain. The major areas of the brain that are affected are the hippocampus (memory), cerebral cortex (concentration and perception), and the cerebellum (movement). Recreational marijuana does not have the same levels of THC as that of medicinal marijuana, meaning that recreational use would not conjure the same effects as medical grade cannabis.

Side effects of medical marijuana. Source: (2019).

The team at Curtin University was able to create tiny capsules containing cannabinoids which, when taken orally by mice with neurological disorders, were absorbed by the body faster and affecting the brain more swiftly (compared to when ingested in liquid form). Cannabinoids are molecules found in medicinal cannabis; however, this molecule is not normally well absorbed into the body. Researchers were able to create novel microcapsules containing ‘cannabidiol‘ which could be administered and subsequently absorbed. It was found that the novel microcapsule improved the brain delivery of cannabidiol by 40 times in animal models. Additionally, the study showed for the first time that bile acid increased the uptake and retention of cannabidiol within the brain. These findings show that bile acid could be used to enhance the delivery of cannabidiol when taken orally, particularly when treating neurological disorders.

The study conducted by Curtin University offers an important approach in understanding the improved efficiency at which cannabinoid-based drugs are delivered to the brain. This novel medication could lead to improvement in cannabinoid therapies to treat neurological disorders while also reducing cost and increasing safety. Of course, further research pertaining to humans is required before any concrete conclusions can be made. However, the initial findings are promising for the future of cannabinoids treatments for neurological disorders.

To find out more about cannabis and the brain:


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Edited by Malavika.

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