For decades the War on Drugs and its advocates pushed a false narrative about cannabis that was meant to scare the public by claiming the mighty green herb actually damages the human brain and lowers IQ. While the last decade or so has a seen a feat of poetic justice of epic proportions take place as medical marijuana sweeps the world curing everything from cancer to epilepsy and becoming a multi-billion dollar business (the fastest growing segment of the U.S. economy in fact), the stigma relating to its effect on the brain has been the hardest to shake and claims about its ill cognitive effects still abound.
So let’s settle this once and for all.
Not only has cannabis use actually been associated with enhanced creative function in everyone from Bob Marley to William Shakespeare (if the greatest literary genius in Western history was a toker how much can it really dumb you down?) but there are plenty of studies now that show that not only are all those IQ lowering studies completely bunk, but that marijuana actually does the opposite: it protects the brain, boosts many of its most important functions and can actually stimulate the growth of new brain cells. Sound too good to be true? Read on.
Cannabis is a Powerful Neuroprotector
Scientists have known since at least 1998 that marijuana has profound brain cell protecting properties when an important study published by the National Academy of Sciences tested THC, CBD and other cannabinoids in rats that had been poisoned by the neurotoxin glutamate. All of the cannabis compounds were found to prevent “oxidative damage” caused by the brain toxin and CBD itself was found to have higher antioxidant function than both vitamins C and A.
The authors of the study concluded that CBD “may be a potentially useful therapeutic agent for the treatment of oxidative neurological disorders.”
Since that landmark study, dozens of other investigations into the neuro-protective properties of cannabis have found an amazing array of nearly miraculous results that continue to unravel the more they are put under the microscope. Just last year for example, a study conducted at UC San Diego found that the cannabinoids in marijuana were able to block the age related plaque build-up of the neurotoxin beta amyloid (Aβ), which leads to cell death and all sorts of the brain impairments that we think are a natural product of getting older.
This means that cannabis is such a profound brain protector that it actually is keeping our noodle younger and healthier, the complete opposite of the Drug War era hyped-up claims.
Cannabis Boosts Memory and Cognitive Performance
With such deep brain protective properties associated with cannabis it should come to no surprise that the marvelous green bud is also able to enhance many of our most important cognitive functions. And that is exactly what science has been discovering in study after study that not only put more nails in the coffin of myth of marijuana’s detrimental mental effects a but open up a plethora of new possibilities for the use of cannabis as a powerful natural brain boosting agent.
An important Israeli study in 2013 for example, sent shockwaves through the medical community and the anti-drug movement when it discovered that marijuana actually can be used to improve both learning and memory function. The researchers exposed a group of rats to high levels of stress for two weeks to induce the kind of cognitive deficits that are commonly found in “stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders” like anxiety and depression, including difficulties with short-term memory recall and solving simple spatial tasks.
Incredibly, having already proven in a previous study that marijuana cannabinoids can prevent the onset of these cognitive problems, they found that they could also completely reverse them after they set in as well.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a brand new first of its kind study that has anti-drug advocates still scratching their heads, researchers at a Harvard University affiliated hospital found that after three months of cannabis treatment, adult patients were actually able to complete a variety of word and color tests with more speed than before, showing that the herb had actually improved their “executive” cognitive functioning.
“After three months of medical marijuana treatment, patients actually performed better, in terms of their ability to perform certain cognitive tasks, specifically those mediated by the frontal cortex,” explained Stacey Gruber PHD, author of the study and head of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program. That is nothing short of amazing.
Cannabis Promotes Brain Cell Growth
In what is possibly the most fantastic of all the hundreds of studies that prove the diverse medicinal powers of cannabis, Chinese researchers found back in 2005 that THC was able to stimulate the production of new neural cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for important cognitive and emotional processing.
Many drugs, including alcohol, cocaine and opiates are known to suppress the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus, meaning that marijuana can possibly reverse the brain damaging effects of drug and alcohol addiction.
The researchers concluded:
“The present study suggests that cannabinoids are the only illicit drug that can promote adult hippocampal neurogenesis following chronic administration.”
But THC is not the only cannabinoid that promotes the growth of new brain cells. A 2013 study that was trying to figure out by what mechanism CBD was able to reverse depression and anxiety discovered that the powerful non-psychoactive cannabinoid was actually stimulating the growth of new cells in the hippocampus as well.
This means that the cannabinoids in cannabis can be used to speed up the emotional and cognitive healing that we as a species need right now by helping us repair and grow important brain structures that support advanced processing.
Your Brain on Pot
A natural plant that not only protects your brain from damage due to toxins and stress but can enhance its cognitive function and even help it to grow new cells is nothing short of a miracle medicine – not a substance that should be villainized. So let’s set the record straight and stop the propaganda about it being harmful to you.
Your brain on pot is a happy, healthy brain that may even be ahead of the pack when it comes to human conscious evolution.
This post was originally published on May 18, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.