We've known about the therapeutic powers of cannabis for centuries. One of the oldest records of medicinal cannabis usage dates back to 2737 B.C. in ancient China, and we've been gradually refining our understanding of the medical benefits ever since. The pot prohibition of the 1930's, which has proven to be one of the most long-lived pieces of legislation in the nation, effectively halted scientific progress in the cannabis field. Even today, the DEA is actively holding back U.S. research by dragging its feet on license approval. Despite opposition, some intrepid researchers are managing to expand our knowledge of marijuana's therapeutic effects. Recently, a study determined that a certain compound in cannabis can help with degenerative disease.
What is THCa?
The new study centers around THCa. Its full scientific name is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and it's abundant in the nugs we know and love. THCa can constitute up to 20 percent of bud's cannabinoid content, making it one of the most bountiful cannabinoids found in marijuana. Unlike THC, THCa does not get you high... until you heat it. Applying heat to THCa bumps off one of its carboxyl groups, and voila: you've got THC.
THCa is thought by some to have an even wider application for bodily health than THC and CBD. The THCa compound helps modulate certain receptors in the brain and has no observable negative effects. THCa is known to decrease inflammation, physical pain, and neuropathic pain (which is caused by problems in the nervous system). Now, researchers have locked down evidence that the THCa in cannabis can help with degenerative disease.
What is a Degenerative Disease?
Degenerative diseases are named the way they are because they're chronic, and result in a constant condition that causes cells to deteriorate. Here are three commonly discussed degenerative diseases and their effects.
- Parkinson's: Parkinson's disease affects neurons in a part of the brain called "substantia nigra." The disease causes these neurons to produce less dopamine, causing symptoms like tremors, slow movement, loss of balance, and stiffness.
- Huntington's: Huntington's disease causes nerve cells in the brain to deteriorate and break down over time. Symptoms include personality changes with mood swings, memory loss, impaired judgment, involuntary movements, slurred speech, significant weight loss, and trouble swallowing.
- Alzheimer's: Alzheimer's disease destroys connections between brain cells, in addition to fostering cellular degeneration and death. Along the breakdown process, memory and other critical brain functions deteriorate, leaving victims with symptoms such as confusion and diminished recollection.
The truly terrifying part of these diseases is that none of them have a cure. At best, symptoms can be managed and perhaps slowed. The problem is that treatments for degenerative diseases often have awful side effects and, in some cases, don't work at all.
That's where THCa comes in.
The study in question was completed by researchers at the Maimónides Institute of Biomedical Research of Cordoba in Spain. The team collaborated with three companies known for leading the charge on medical marijuana research: VivaVell Biotechnology, Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals, and Phytoplant Research.
The key takeaway is that THCa is a "potent PPAR? agonist with neuroprotective activity". PPAR stands for "peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor", and compounds that act on PPARs have anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, and anti-addictive properties.
The neuroprotective effects of THCa stem from its ability to reduce inflammation and slow cell death in the brain. The study used animal models replicating Huntington's disease. The THCa given to the rodents led to less inflammatory activity, and reductions in motor deficits. While the team only considered Huntington's disease, the researchers noted that THCa's "potent neuroprotective activity" may be worth considering in treatment of other neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.
How Do I Get These Effects?
Cannabis helps combat degenerative disease, and the brain-defending powers of THCa can benefit anyone. The cells in the brain deteriorate naturally with the passage of time, and it's possible that regular consumption of THCa could help slow the natural process of deterioration even if you don't have a degenerative disease. There's just one critical thing to remember:
THCa is most abundantly found in fresh, uncured cannabis.
The best way to get your daily dose of this cannabis compound is to juice it! The fresh plant has a much higher concentration of raw cannabinoid acids than the cured stuff. Dr. William L. Courtney is an advocate for whole plant cannabis juice and its ability to reduce free radical damage, as well as its ability to improve cell function.
According to Courtney, you can get up to 500 or 600 milligrams of THCa from a serving fresh of cannabis juice. He recommends juicing 15 cannabis leaves and two large buds each day. Like most nutritious plants, won't taste great on its own. Dr. Courtney suggests mixing one-part cannabis juice to 10-parts carrot juice — but we say throwing a little mango or pineapple into the mix would probably improve things too. Either way, the taste is worth it given the knowledge that fresh cannabis helps fight degenerative diseases, and can keep your brain healthier longer.