Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major constituent of the plant cannabis, can interact with endocannabinoid receptors abundant on neurons, thereby affecting multiple neuronal processes. In particular, a group of scientists recently investigated the ability of THC-rich extracts from cannabis to stimulate brain glucose uptake and utilization as well as to regulate glucose-synthesizing enzymes, antioxidative enzymes, and enzymes involved in the metabolism of acetylcholine and purine nucleotide neurotransmitters in rat brains.
In their experiments, THC-rich cannabis extracts were incubated at 37°C with freshly harvested rat brains in the presence of glucose for 2h. The control condition consisted of rat brains incubated with glucose only. Their data indicated that compared to control, THC-rich extracts not only improved glucose consumption but also suppressed oxidative stress. Additionally, these extracts modulated the activities of enzymes involved in the metabolism of acetylcholine and purine nucleotide neurotransmitters in rat brains. Equally important was the finding that THC is permeable across the blood-brain-barrier (and thus can move from bloodstream into the brain) and is practically non-toxic and non-irritant.
Decreased brain glucose consumption, oxidative stress, and disturbed enzyme functions are some interrelated mechanisms behind neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Hence, based on their findings, the scientists suggested THC might be a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of these diseases.