Better with Age

Aging. It’s not easy on the brain or body. There’s new stiffness in your hips; the speed limit signs are a little harder to read; you’re feeling a little slower than you used to; and you’re asleep by 8pm.

You confidently cruised through your twenties making mistakes and learning from them, not worrying about arthritis pain or metabolism issues. You willingly stayed out until the early morning hours, ordered an extra-large pizza when you had the munchies, and woke up the next morning feeling alright.

Now, cancelling that gym membership when you turned the big 3-0 turned out to be a bad idea. Decades of inactivity – I know, you were busy – are catching up with you. They’ve made your joints stiff, bones achy, and metabolism reach an all-time low.

Is there any indication that cannabis can ease the aches, pains, and issues that come with aging? Though studies are limited, those that are being done are indicating positive results – despite being in their preliminary stages.

In Dr. Jason McDougall’s study, it was proved that cannabis molecules can attach to the nerve receptors in joints and control the “triggers” that tell your brain you’re in pain. Another study, by Andras Bilkei-Gorzo, determined that cannabis can act as a part of the body’s defense system against aging.

“The progression of ageing is largely determined by the balance between detrimental, pro-ageing, largely stochastic processes, and the activity of the homeostatic defence system. Experimental evidence suggests that the cannabinoid system is part of the latter,” Bilkei-Gorzo writes.

There are two ways that aging takes a toll on the brain. Cannabis appears in both, when used, on the defense.

“Neuroinflammatory processes contributing to the progression of normal brain ageing and to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases are suppressed by cannabinoids,” says Bilkei-Gorzo. “Cannabinoids as regulators of mitochondrial activity, as antioxidants and as modulators of clearance processes protect neurons on the molecular level.”

The Canadian Arthritis Society has claimed its commitment to studying the effects of the plant, and as legalization comes to pass in Canada, there’s sure to be an uptick in interest when it comes to researching how weed can play a part in our wellness.

In 2015, Katie Marsh published a book that details her own struggle with arthritis; she wasn’t waiting around for the results of a clinical study. She believed she proved, by clinically treating herself with raw cannabis leaves, that cannabis is a viable option for treating arthritis.

Marsh was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2012. She was prescribed the standard treatment for her ailment – prednisone and a small dose antibiotic. Finding that she hated the side effects, and being frustrated that they didn’t even work on most days, Marsh could have obtained her medicinal cannabis card, but was hesitant and wanted something that fit her active, healthy lifestyle; the psychoactive effects of cannabis weren’t appealing to her.

Marsh worked with a leading researcher in the raw cannabis field, found strains that fit her treatment plan, and began making green smoothies with raw cannabis leaves. In less than a year, her arthritis subsided. And her case isn’t the only one. It’s just that treating the ailments of aging using cannabis has always been hush-hush; word that Tommy’s mom smoked weed or that someone’s dad got arrested for having a weed farm in his backyard became common high-school lore.

Now, these folks can obtain cannabis legally for medical, and soon to be recreational, use. And further research might suggest they should. Obesity is higher in “older adults” than any other age range; 40.2 percent of individuals age 40-59 are obese.

According to a study done by University of Miami scientists, for the aforementioned age range, “current marijuana users were 54% less likely than never users to present with metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic Syndrome is the scientific term for having high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Cannabis users were 54 percent less likely to have all, if any, of these issues. For 50-year-olds struggling with weight gain, cannabis offers aid. But, that means the addition of cannabis to a current, or healthier, diet – not a munchie-fueled grazing routine.

Stigma shouldn’t keep adults who lived through prohibition and the War on Drugs from the cannabis consumption for health and self-care reasons, and more research is desperately needed to fully understand and address its consumption for myriad purposes. As legalization of both medicinal and adult-use cannabis spreads across the globe, and these studies are embraced by the medical field, we might one day get to a place where we can all better understand the plant’s benefits and be healthier, together.

Story by Evan Malachosky
Illustration by Elena Boils

The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of cannabis. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer

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