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Can daily doses of CBD help my memory?
There are more than sixty biologically active molecules in marijuana other than the most commonly known component, delta-9 tetrahydrocannibinol, otherwise known as THC. Found throughout the human brain are protein receptors that respond to these marijuana-like chemicals. When smoked or ingested in the human body, these chemicals attach to receptors in the brain and modulate them, as well as interact with other neural systems, creating a variety of effects. One of these chemicals is called cannabidiol or CBD. Due to years of misinformation on marijuana and its classification as a controlled substance, research into the properties of CBD is really just in its infancy. Early studies, however, are showing promising results in areas of memory and cognition.
Unlike THC, researchers claim that CBD does not affect spatial working or the short-term memory of those who smoke or ingest it (Fadda 2004). The cannabinoid receptors in the brain are quintessential in learning and are especially important for working and short-term memory. In fact, researchers have found that high concentrations of CBD could actually reverse working memory deficits caused by the ingestion of THC (Fadda 2004). CBD might also be useful in delaying the progression of neurodegeneration, including reversing some of the cognitive impairments of Alzheimer’s disease (Cheng 2014). Impairments in cognition and recognition were actually reversed in the lab with mice given high doses of CBD. In addition, CBD has been shown to have significant anti-oxidant and neuroprotective effects, with some researchers even suggesting that it might someday help us to understand the mechanics of memory formation. Current research suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may be what are causing a decrease in neurodegeneration (the loss of structure or function of neurons; Cheng 2014). Gary Wenk, a professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State claims that, “cannabinoids are the first and only class of drugs that have ever been effective” in treating the memory associated deficits of Alzheimer’s. Unlike THC and many other prescription drugs, the side effects of CBD in therapeutic applications are generally very mild, and the toxicity levels are relatively low (Niesink 2013).
In most of the testing, researchers start by giving their subjects specific tests on memory, recognition and cognition; then they administer doses of CBD and retake the testing to see whether there were changes in their subject’s memory. Many of the findings suggest that not only can CBD help with memory and cognition, but that it may, in fact, reverse some of the neural damage that has already occurred.
Given the changing perspective that is currently underway in the medical and research fields towards the clinical usage of marijuana and specifically CBD, many researchers are now moving beyond animal studies to human clinical research trials. These trials will hopefully give us a greater scientific perspective of the many benefits of CBD.
Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim. “Effects of D-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidol (CBD) on Human Episodic Memory Function.” Clinical Trials, Mannheim, 2015.
David Cheng, Jac Kee Low, Warren Logge, Brett Garner, Tim Karl. “Chronic cannabidiol treatment improves social and object recognition in double transgenic APP swe/PS1E9 mice.” Psychopharmacology, 2014: 3009-3017.
Fadda P, Robinson L, Fratta W, Pertwee RG, Riedel G. “Differential effects of THC- and CBD-rich cannabis-extracts on working memory in rats.” Neuropahrmacology , 2004: 1170-9.
Paola Fadda, Lianne Robinson, Walter Fratta, Roger G. Pertwee, Gernot Riedel. “Differential effects of THC- or CBD-rich cannabis extracts on working memory in rats.” Neuropharmacology, 2004: 1170-1179.
Raymond Niesink, Margriet Laar. “Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC?” Front Psychiatry , 2013: 130.
Smith, Dana. “Cannabis and memory loss: dude, where’s my CBD?” The Guardian, January 17, 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/jan/17/cannabis-memory-loss-cbd.
Wenk, Dr. Gary L. “Is CBD Better Than THC.” Psychology Today, 2014.