The National Institute on Aging states in its booklet Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease,
“Alzheimer’s disease is an illness of the brain. It causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die. This affects your ability to remember things and think clearly. Doctors don’t know what causes the disease. They do know that it usually begins after age 60 and nearly half of people age 85 and older may have Alzheimer’s. However, it is not a normal part of aging…” An estimated 26.6 million people worldwide had Alzheimer’s in 2006; this number may quadruple by 2050.
The mechanism involved in causing AD is not known, but there are some theories. The nervous tissue of the brain in people with Alzheimer’s shows an increase in abnormal structures called plaques and tangles. Plaques build up between nerve cells. They contain deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau. Tangles form inside dying cells. The plaques and tangles tend to form in a predictable pattern, beginning in areas important in learning and memory and then spreading to other regions. In addition, levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter required for nerve conduction, are abnormally low in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Standard medical treatments:
There are medicines that can treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, there is no cure. Some medicines keep memory loss and other symptoms from getting worse for a time. These medicines work best if Alzheimer’s disease is found early.
FDA-approved drugs that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for the degradation of acetylcholine. This serves to maintain higher levels of the deficient neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Behavioral and social issues
Counseling for depression or anxiety
Supportive and alternative treatments:
Polyphenols — found in high concentrations in tea, nuts and berries, and red wine may inhibit the buildup of toxic plaques
Omega 3 fatty-acids – act as anti-oxidants for brain tissue
Huperzine A – A moss extract used in traditional Chinese medicine that has properties similar to those of cholinesterase inhibitors. Studies have shown that Huperzine A may be as effective as the approved drugs.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Cannabis
Research has shown that cannabinoids act as neuroprotective agents and anti-oxidants for nerve cells. The effect of cannabinoids on Alzheimer’s Disease has been studied in several laboratories globally in the past few years. Their findings concur that cannabinoids may slow the progression of AD. In addition, marijuana has also been shown to help appetite and weight gain in Alzheimer’s patients with anorexia.
Scientists at Scripps Institute have found that THC inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary pathological marker for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the study said, THC is “a considerably superior inhibitor of [amyloid plaque] aggregation” to several currently approved drugs for treating the disease.” THC inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which acts as a “molecular chaperone” to accelerate the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer patients. The use of cannabis in Alzheimer’s Disease should be used with caution, as it’s psychoactive properties can be disorienting. High CBD stains would be the best choice to avoid this.