Studies: Cannabinoids Protect the Brain and Heart From Injury

Recent preclinical studies published over the past several weeks provide further evidence that cannabinoids are both neuroprotective and cardioprotective.

A May 30th blog post on the website sums up new findings from Israel regarding the ability of low doses of THC to prevent brain damage in animals.

Prof. Yosef Sarne in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Tel Aviv University says that [cannabis] … has neuroprotective qualities. He has found that extremely low doses of THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), seizures, or toxic drugs.

Previous studies focused on injecting high doses of THC within a very short time frame – approximately 30 minutes – before or after injury. Sarne’s papers in Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research say that even extremely low doses of THC – around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that in a conventional marijuana cigarette – administered over a wide window of 1 to 7 days before or 1 to 3 days after injury can jump-start biochemical processes which protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function over time.

… In the lab, the researchers injected mice with a single low dose of THC either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. A control group of mice sustained brain injury but did not receive the THC treatment. When the mice were examined 3 to 7 weeks after initial injury, recipients of the THC treatment performed better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory. Additionally, biochemical studies showed heightened amounts of neuroprotective chemicals in the treatment group compared to the control group.

… This treatment, especially in light of the long time frame for administration and the low dosage, could be applicable to many cases of brain injury and be safer over time, Sarne says.

NORML has previously reported on separate preclinical data documenting that cannabinoids can promote neurogenesis (the active production of new neurons) in laboratory animals as well observational data indicating that marijuana may provide neuroprotection against alcohol-induced impairment in adolescent subjects.

In addition, recently published preclinical studies also indicate that cannabinoids may offer benefits to the heart. Animal data published in the June issue of the scientific journal Biochemical Pharmacology reports that THC administration “is a safe and effective treatment that reduces myocardial ischemic (heart attack) damage.” Authors concluded: “[O]ur study provides novel evidence for the beneficial use of extremely low doses of THC, doses that do not elicit any psychoactive side effects, in order to protect the heart from ischemic insults. THC can be used as a pre-conditioning drug in cases in which ischemic insult to the heart is anticipated, such as during cardiac surgery or percutaneous coronary intervention. If post-conditioning with THC will be found effective, it could also be used following myocardial infarction.”

The results of a separate preclinical trial, published in May in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, report that the administration of the non-psychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) is protective against cardiotoxicity in rats. “[C]annabidiol ameliorated doxorubicin-induced cardiac injury,” the study concluded. “These results indicate that cannabidiol represents a potential protective agent.”

In February of this year, investigators at the Bar-Ilan University in Israel also reported that the administration of delta-9-THC protects heart muscle cells from injury during hypoxia (a deficiency in the levels of oxygen in the blood). THC “delaying the onset of irreversible cell injury … on hypoxia-exposed cardiac cells in culture,” authors found. They concluded, “This research demonstrates that THC has beneficial effects on cardiac cells and supports the consideration of marijuana for specific medical uses.”

27 thoughts

  1. O boy this will cause some talk around the Table. Be nice if we can see this on 60 minutes

  2. No doubt.

    The God that made us, and made cannabis
    gave us cannabinoid receptors for a reason.

    I and I agree, “… it is good.”


  3. Too bad it’s cannabis. If any other substance was found to have these benefits it would be mainstream front page news.

  4. So now that it’s legal in CO and WA can we start doing larger studies on the medical effects of cannabis with humans?

  5. Schedule I substances are those that have the following findings:

    • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
    • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

    This new evidence pretty much nullifies these conditions as related to the cannabis plant.

  6. This is truly striking. Well presented NORML, another reason the push for legalization is imminent.

    Watch the feds screw it up by reconducting the same search in a multiplicative manner and screeching “it’s harmful this way, so it’s harmful in all ways”

  7. Almost sounds too good to be true. I’d hate for marijuana to get over-sold as a ‘wonder drug cureall’ and then have a backlash…

    Still, this is great news!

  8. Yes Azreal. And I wonder still, is ever a judge going to grow a pair of balls and rule statutes based on these flawed ideas are as null and void?

    1. Reading through the comments, everyone seems to have missed a few critical details :
      The information is PRECLINICAL
      They are talking about concentations 1,000-10,000 times less than one joint.

  9. Tell Texas this and get it legalized, get this article published in your local papers and worldwide.

  10. This is one of the most ironic (and tragic) things I’ve ever heard of.

    Since alcohol prohibition ended, Marijuana has been demonized as a highly dangerous substance that damages the brain, and now research shows that it actually helps the brain avoid damage!

    Somebody wake obama up. I want Science, truth and liberty, not ignorance, lies and government oppression.

  11. Azrael, the DEA would lose most of its funding if they ever accepted a medicinal use for marijuana, and Obama is a big-government guy. Marijuana Prohibition is a jobs program for cops.

    Here’s a riddle for ya!

    How can we legalize marijuana, if that requires medical research, which is allowed or blocked by the police, whose jobs depend keeping marijuana illegal?

    Answer: Conflict of interest!

  12. Li, I do believe it is all scary tactics. Keep the police afraid of “lossing” the war on drugs, as if they don’t have real work. It is just funny. Law enforcement will be much better off with marijuana legal. For one, it will help stop them from looking like such biased assholes to a large percentage of the population.

  13. Every study that comes out and shows the potential medical benefits of marijuana, just makes the DEA and the feds look that much more ridiculous.

  14. So based on these findings why can’t we the people get the federal government to reclassify marijuana and remove it from schedule 1 status?

  15. We have to see these studies done on humans to really be valid, but nonetheless marijuana should be legalized. The lies continue on Obama’s end. What he has done to marijuana is hurtful. How someone can joke about using it as a child and still want to incarcerate his fellow citizens is beyond belief. Our government is wasting our tax dollars on marijuana laws and needs to stand up and admit that they are wrong in keeping weed illegal. Are they in with the drug gangs and dealers it seems our government doesnt want any competition for the gangs with legal weed.

  16. YOu have no idea what you talk about do you Ray? Since Obama has been in office the restrictions on marijuana have drastically dropped.. in DC it is on the docket for decriminalization (not legalization yet) and DC also has Medical Marijuana…

    Just because you think you hate Obama is an utterly ridiculous reason to find things he didnt do.

  17. It makes people happy 🙂 It also puts an end to cancer, and slows down brain tumor growth and much more… That is why they are keeping it illegal because it helps people. The government sucks.

  18. They should just make it legal, it does people good. No people die from marijuana, they do alcohol though.

  19. I used to be grumpy all the time until I started smoking marijuana… Yes I’m stoned while I type this but I speak nothing but the truth about it. It has actually healed my over active bladder.

  20. 1. All the information quoted is preclinical, which means it has not been tested and reviewed.
    2. The concentrations they are talking about are one thousand to ten thousand times LESS than the amount from a single blunt.
    3. None of these preliminary findings nullify the deleterious effects on adolescent brain development, or human lungs.

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