The world has been looking for a miracle treatment which promotes perpetual youth for hundreds of years. While we’re yet to find such a solution, there are a few substances around that do a decent enough job. Marijuana is one such plant which is noted for its potential to relieve daily stresses which accumulate and cause ageing. In this article, we will look at how cannabis is an effective stress reliever, and the benefits that brings.
Why do we age?
None of us – humans or animals – can live forever. We all age at various rates according to our DNA. It’s a natural occurrence and our body has to consistently produce new cells to make up for the ones that eventually lose their functionality.
After a while, cells go through a process where they replicate and divide in order to generate new cells to replace the old. The genetic information in the old cell is transferred to the new cell when it divides, and is stored as deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
Replicating the old cells in the new cells isn’t as easy as it sounds. The body must create two trillion DNA copies in the course of one day. The mistakes made in this replication process build up over months and years, leaving the body with a growing number of dysfunctional cells, which causes ageing.
DNA is harmed in others ways which contribute to the ageing process. UV rays from the sun can damage skin cell DNA, possibly leading to sun spots, wrinkles and – in rare cases – skin cancer if unchecked.
The body has a few protective measures to cancel out this gradual harm. Cells are programmed to self-destruct once they are too dysfunctional. However, as we age, the body’s ability to heal through the replacement method diminishes.
Moreover, as more DNA cells become damaged, the cells that need to be replicated and divided to generate new cells are already failing to begin with. Therefore, the harmful information from dysfunctional cells is passed on irreversibly with age.
In a nutshell, cells are damaged by failing to replicate properly, and as we get older, the body becomes unable to remove these broken cells or generate fresh, functional DNA.
Marijuana as an anti-oxidant
But not all hope is lost – many believe marijuana to be the answer. Our DNA is affected by our lifestyles, diet, the environments we exist in and the stress (both social and general) that our body is put under. All of these can contribute to cell mutations, which are minor on their own, but accumulate and multiply to cause significant damage over time.
Simply put, exposure to high levels of stress makes it more likely that the body will suffer from malformed DNA, speeding up the ageing process and increasing the threat of age-related diseases.
But what specific qualities does marijuana have to help? Cannabis is loaded with effective antioxidants that look after your DNA by controlling stress. The anti-oxidizing properties of the cannabinoids in marijuana are more beneficial than those infused in vitamins C and E.
Let’s examine how this works in harmful environmental situations. Whenever we’re in polluted areas, we breathe in dangerous molecules called “free radicals”. These break or cause mutations in our DNA cells by sapping away the electrons that they use.
Electrons play a critical part in promoting strong, healthy chemical bonds. Instability in these bonds prevents DNA from keeping its structure and causes degeneration.
Antioxidants prevent free radicals from taking your electrons, thereby halting damage to the cell and to your DNA. This means that your DNA accumulates less damage over time. With less damage, you age better and lower your risk of age-related disease.
However, antioxidants stop free radicals in their tracks, and as a result dramatically slow or stop the harm they cause. This accumulates over time, limiting the overall breakdown our DNA. Taking steps to reduce the impact of DNA-damaging in our control helps to slow down the ageing process and leave us looking younger.
How CBD and THC regulates cell death
Ageing is also brought on by the body’s gradual inability to remove damaged DNA cells as we grow older. But marijuana has compounds which act in the same way that naturally-produced chemicals designed for this removal process do – these are called cannabinoids. Our body makes endocannabinoids, which function in the endocannabinoid system – think of them as the body’s natural cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an intricate network composed of cannabinoid receptors and molecules that regulate several mental and physical variables in the body. The ECS controls pain perception, metabolism speed, immune function, mood and it even regulates cell death.
Italian researchers discovered apoptosis in 2003. Essentially, this process involves endocannabinoids telling the body when dysfunctional cells need to be killed off.
Damaged cells experience a structural breakdown which can be harmful. However, the ECS’ apoptosis allows these cells to be cleaned out, keeping the body in better condition.
Marijuana and apoptosis
However, apoptosis isn’t altogether good – too much can be damaging as the body will start killing off cells it doesn’t need to, potentially making you ill. But if there isn’t enough apoptosis going on, you won’t feel great either. Like most things, finding a balance is the best recipe for success.
A 2012 study revealed that cannabinoids in marijuana may have potential in regulating apoptosis. Researchers found that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound, stops unrestrained apoptosis in brain cells. From a medical perspective, preventing the destruction of neurons could be helpful in treating multiple sclerosis (MS). MS causes inflamed brain cells to destroy themselves, a problem which exponentially worsens over time as too many cells are unnecessarily killed off.
The best methods of consuming marijuana
So you’ve decided to start taking cannabis for anti-ageing, stress relief or any therapeutic process. We know that the herb protects and nurtures cells while removing the bad ones; and that it stops the body from conducting aggressive apoptosis. However, you may be wondering if all of these benefits are worth it, given that marijuana is typically consumed by smoking.
We recommend that you avoid smoking marijuana too, as there are several brilliant and less risky alternatives. Unlike with tobacco smoke, there isn’t anywhere near the evidence to suggest cannabis smoke is as dangerous, but smoke does contain free radicals – these would cancel out at least some of the healing qualities of the cannabinoids. If you would rather smoke, that’s great and you’ll still be served well, but consider these other medicating options to maximize marijuana.
According to dermatologist Dr Bobby Buka in a Huffington Post interview, exposure to smoke can quicken the ageing process, most noticeably in the skin. The free radicals that result from the burning plant matter add up, causing wrinkly and ill-looking skin over time.
To avoid these aesthetical mishaps, try vaping CBD e-liquid, eating marijuana-infused edibles, applying cannabis creams or sublingually taking weed tinctures. Buka even says that rips from a bong would be less harmful than smoking a joint or blunt.
High stress levels can lead to poor brain health
Some age-related diseases are brought on by consistent stress. The great news is that marijuana can provide plenty of health benefits as we grow older, particularly in the ageing department. In this section, we will explain how cannabis helps promote good brain health.
Scientists believe neurodegenerative, age-related diseases are partly caused by neurotoxins. Research has also found that marijuana stops the accumulation of neurotoxins in the brain, protecting it from brain damage.
Some studies have shown that cannabis prevents Alzheimer-causing brain plaques from building up in the brain. However, the research conducted on marijuana’s potential to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, both neurodegenerative diseases, was done on out-of-body cells. Without actual testing on humans, it’s impossible to fully ascertain whether cannabis is effective at tackling such conditions. But that doesn’t mean patients shouldn’t try it.
New evidence suggests marijuana could also help recovering ischemic stroke patients. Strokes most commonly occur in the over-65 bracket and affect nearly one million people every year. Long-term strain on blood vessels and tissues is one of the key causes of strokes.
Brain cells are unable to function during an ischemic stroke, as the brain is deprived of energy-providing blood. The temporary absence of blood in the brain results in the mass death of brain cells.
A review compiled from existing scientific literature published in 2014 determined that, in animals, marijuana was effective in reducing brain loss. This was an interesting but hardly ground-breaking revolution – experts have been aware of the plant’s brain-protecting properties since the late 1990s.
A 1998 review looked at the anti-oxidizing qualities of CBD and THC, concluding that both compounds could treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, and limit the damage from ischemic strokes.
As we said at the start, there’s no magical potion for ageing – but with marijuana, we can make the process more manageable. It’s vital that the body gets as many antioxidants as possible to counteract self-inflicted DNA damage, and cannabis is infused with several relevant compounds.
Our body loses the ability to remove damaged cells as we age, and therefore appreciates the help from cannabis compounds. And if the body kills off too many cells, marijuana sounds the alarm too. These traits and the general balancing qualities of the herb allow us to grow old gracefully.