Cannabis has been used by HIV/AIDS patients to treat a wide variety of symptoms associated with the virus and the side effects of antiretroviral medications. One study reports that more than 60 percent of patients with the virus identify as “medical cannabis users,” citing that the leaf combats anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Another study shows that patients who use cannabis as a form of therapeutic relief are 3.3 times more likely to follow their antiretroviral regimens, as compared to non-cannabis users.
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Now, research shows that cannabis is not only effective in treating adverse side effects, but it has the power to protect one of the most powerful organs in the body: the brain.
Researchers from the Division of Experimental Medicine at Harvard Medical School say that about 40 percent of HIV infections lead to some sort of brain impairment. HIV-1 associated cognitive impairment and dementia, commonly referred to as HAND, which occurs when HIV enters the nervous system. When this happens attention, memory, communication and other cognitive abilities are severely impaired.
The research team, led by Dr. Hava Avraham, found that cannabinoids can offer protection from a harmful protein called Gp120 protein, which is the product of the HIV virus. Dr. Avraham explains that when this protein crosses the “blood-brain barrier” it has a “very toxic effect on the brain.” Specifically, the protein attacks the neuronal cells that are crucial to the functionality of the brain.
The Harvard team used a cannabinoid called AM2421 that acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptor, CB2. The AM2421 protected the progenitor and neural stem cells from damaging doses of Gp120.
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Aside from AM2421, further research shows that another cannabis chemical called cannabichromene (CBC) can actually aid in neurogenesis (the growth and development of nervous tissue). CBC appeared to increase the viability of developing brain cells.
All of this research proves cannabis is a promising option for not only increasing brain activity, but protecting the brain against a virus that afflicts over one million people per year.