Marijuana might one day be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, suggests a study published this month in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. Popular Science reports that researchers at the Salk Institute testing the effects of THC on lab-grown neurons found the cannabis compound hampered the plaque buildup that is associated with Alzheimer's. The buildup is caused by a protein known as amyloid beta, which can cause inflammation of the cells in the brain, the researchers explain in a press release. That inflammation hampers communication between neurons.
The study found THC reduced the amount of amyloid beta proteins in the neurons and prevented inflammation. Researchers believe the THC worked by affecting the same receptors in the brain that are engaged by physical activity, which can slow Alzheimer's. Not only does the study show marijuana could theoretically be used to treat Alzheimer's, but it may clarify the connection between amyloid beta proteins and inflammation. However, further testing—including in humans—is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn. (Another study found smoking pot could be bad for your gums ... and that's about it.)