A new study, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to suggest that a novel cannabis plant might actually be a better bet for medicinal use than its non-medical counterpart.
“We’ve been trying to develop new, therapeutic cannabis products for decades,” says study co-author Paul Guevara, Ph.
D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
“But we never found any that really worked for humans.”
The team examined a variety of plants, including the marijuana plant, and then compared the effects of different cannabinoid compounds on different types of brain cells.
The researchers found that cannabis and its derivatives are effective in preventing and treating some types of degenerative brain disorders, including multiple sclerosis, multiple sclerosis in remission, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis with neurodegenerative disease.
“When you try to understand why there are so many diseases associated with the disease of Alzheimer’s, you have to look at the neurodegenative pathway,” Gueva says.
“And it is not just the way the brain cells are damaged.
It’s also the way that they are metabolized, and the way they are integrated into the body.”
The scientists suggest that cannabis could help treat the degenerative effects of multiple sclerosis by altering how it interacts with the brain.
“I don’t think the cannabis will be able to treat all of these diseases,” Guesa says.
But it could potentially improve the patient’s quality of life and reduce the need for drugs.
“It’s like a medicine for people who are at the mercy of a disease, who need something to control their symptoms,” Gueda says, “but they don’t want to take a drug.”
Guevaras team is now looking to develop novel treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis.
But for now, he says, his team has a lot of work ahead of it.
The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).