Researchers from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University found that a very low dose of the active ingredient in marijuana (THC) may protect brain cells before and after brain injury, and can also protect against the development of cardiac damage. The research was published in the journal Experimental Brain Research.
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In the last decade, numerous studies have been conducted on marijuana’s therapeutic properties. It is well known that medical cannabis is used to alleviate the suffering of people with serious diseases including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder – helping them cope with pain, insomnia, lack of appetite and other symptoms.
Professor Joseph Sarne, who is responsible for the research along with Professor Edith Hochhauser of the Felsenstein Medical Research Center, and the Rabin Medical Center, has found that a minimal dose of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage. This works to varying degrees, and protects against damage that may be caused by lack of oxygen, drug use or other complications.
Triggering the brain’s natural protection
In previous studies, researchers injected high doses of THC into subjects in a very short time: up to four hours before or after brain injury. Professor Sarne’s study however, shows that a small dose of THC, 1000 times smaller than the quantity found in a regular marijuana cigarette, injected into mice prevents the development of brain damage.
According to him, the tiny dose activates the brain’s protective abilities, including increased neural growth that protects nerve cells in the brain, and preserves cognitive abilities over time. “This treatment is safe and effective in many cases of brain injury in humans,” he says.
“Our treatment has several important benefits,” concludes Sarne. “First of all, we are considering a long-term period, which allows treating damage after it has occurred and prevents damage that could occur in the future. Additionally, due to the lower dosage, the method is also safe to use as a preventative treatment over time, and for different chronic conditions.”
Photo by North Cascades National Park