Is cannabis the secret to a youthful, long, and active life?
Everyone is looking for the fountain of youth these days in things like collagen, broccoli sprouts, antioxidants, and ketogenic diets but only some are looking for the secret in cannabis. What is seen as a young person’s drug has proven itself to be exemplary when it comes to pain reduction and inflammation but those aren’t the only factors that make it a strong anti-aging medicine.
I became interested in this during a class called Why Cannabis Is a Secret to Youth, taught by the cannabis-curious New York author, Joe Dolce. Dolce spent three years researching and writing the very topic for his book, “Brave New Weed,” and says that while many perceive smoking pot as an uncanny way to treat one’s body, he believes it’s the key to unlocking health and wellness. Especially, in the years after 40 and 50 when our mind starts to close off to new ideas and our bodies begin a slow process of deterioration.
Sorry Baby Boomers—You had it all wrong
The baby boomers, Dolce comments, “got it all wrong” by using cannabis as a party drug. Sure, it has its merits as a social substance, but when used mindfully, the effects on the whole body can be seen and experienced.
The popularity of marijuana as recreation, its ability to alter the mind and cause the kind of elation or euphoria, was the most attractive thing about marijuana for a long time. The 19th-century poet and writer, Charles Baudelaire, even describes it in his book “Les Paradis Artificiels.” Unfortunately, the beauty of his words doesn’t help much with the tricky stigma that haunts marijuana because even he saw it as an Earthly vice, and an anti-social one at that (satirists, right?).
Dolce flips the stigma over to point out that the psychoactive compounds that make weed so mind-bending could be a crucial component to keeping the aging mind alive, inspired, and engaged. Take, for example, the dulling of the senses or the diminishing sex lives seniors tend to experience. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) helps negate these effects of aging by enhancing things like our sense of taste and touch, our enjoyment of music, our sense of wonder, and our openness to intimacy.
Using cannabis to optimize physical, emotional, and spiritual health is something that Dolce emphasizes as a holistic approach that also embraces therapeutic effects unrelated to its psychoactive properties. The ancient cultures of China, India, North Africa, and Meditteranean countries used it to heal, and even stave off illnesses. The Chinese first described the herb in texts as early as the third millennium BC, for pain relief and cramps. India has a three thousand year history of using it in an ingestible form to relieve anxiety.
How can we use cannabis today to live a more meaningful and youthful life?
Dolce believes that the answer draws on the two latest developments in how we see the plant. The first is in the discovery of the body’s endocannabinoid system; the second is in the unlocking of the hundreds of cannabinoids like our ancestors did it, but using modern medicine to understand why and how it works. He points out that cannabis treats, though does not prevent, 105 illnesses. “It doesn’t fit any paradigm of medicine that we know,” says Dolce, pointing out that it’s a more personalized medicine than any other. The cannabinoids can be separated, dosed independently of each other, or delivered to the body using different methods but, “they are like an old married couple because they work best together.”
Regarding the aging body and mind, Dolce narrows down the three things that he feels marijuana helps with most: pain, inflammation, and insomnia. Most of which is a matter of the right balance of multi-tasking cannabidiol (CBD) and mind-altering THC. “Treat cannabis like a pharmacy rather than a single drug,” he says and recommends starting out with a low dose of one compound and then adding small doses of another until striking an ideal ratio. That perfect ratio is wholly individual to the person and their tolerance for the cannabinoids, primarily THC.
THC and the Alzheimer’s mind
What Dolce didn’t delve into during his talk was the connection between THC and Alzheimer’s, even though it’s a growing concern for aging Americans. Even a decade ago the link between Alzheimer’s treatment and cannabis was being studied, like this one from 2006 that says, “Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Abeta aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.” In 2016, the Salk Institute published some more complete findings that show cannabis not only slowing the production of beta-amyloid proteins but reducing the inflammation caused by the disease as well. Unfortunately, research has stalled on the subject at the Salk Institute, so any conclusions that marijuana can pick the lock on Alzheimer’s is getting slowly further away. Lead author Professor David Schubert says that his researchers’ next steps are being obstructed by federal regulation and red tape.
Watch Joe Dolce’s talk, “Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Unchartered World of Cannabis” here.