Article originally published by Herb.co
Written by Christopher Teague
One of the most sought after goals of mankind is (and always has been), the extension of life, or immortality. From the Cup of Christ to the Fountain of Youth, we have sought to live longer. Modern day medicine has brought us a greater understanding of how the body works, and with that knowledge, new ways to battle our oldest enemy: Death. But now, we have rediscovered a weapon against aging that, coupled with science, could actually extend our lifespans. That elixir of life is cannabis.
The quest for immortality
With the advances we are seeing today, from disease management to organ replacement, there stands only one true obstacle in the way of significant longevity. Every 7 years, our bodies replace every cell, essentially making us into new people. But as we age, that process slows down, and in no area more distinctly than our brains.
Adult neurogenesis degradation accounts for a significant portion of all age-related deaths. Whether it starts as chronic depression and ennui with the world, or the slow twilight of Alzheimer’s and dementia, eventually the brain simply can’t fix itself as fast as it wears down.
Aging is not universal or even necessary
Despite what most of us believe, aging is not inevitable. Some people mature like fine wine, while others tend to stiffen like old cheese. But this entire process stems from the activation of lines of coding in our DNA. That activation can be modified, or even blocked by a number of factors.
There are other creatures on the planet with far longer lifespans than humans. Rockfish, which live off the coast of Alaska, live for 2, 3, or even 4 centuries. Methuselah, a tree that lives in eastern California, is over 5,000 years old. Scientists have even discovered a tiny creature called a water bear, which is apparently immortal. It can survive extreme heat, cold, and even the vacuum of space.
Why humans age
So what causes us to age? A 2013 study titled Aging, Neurogenesis, and Caloric Restriction in Different Model Organisms says that aging is:
A multifactorial process and changes occur across multiple cognitive domains. Older individuals often report complaints including changes in sensory abilities and attention. However, a significant and common complaint among elders is a decline in learning and memory ability.
The study goes on to establish a set of factors that can mitigate a majority of this cognitive degradation.
The study showed that all other factors accounted for, subjects that participated in regular voluntary exercise, in this case running, had better hippocampus portions of the brain over time compared to sedentary individuals. Exercise stimulates and accelerates neurogenesis while keeping the rest of the body in better functioning condition.
Cannabis has been proven by various studies and athlete testimonials to increase the body’s capacity for exercise. It allows muscles to recuperate faster, and reduces pain, inflammation, and fatigue, letting people work out even in advanced years.
2. Caloric restriction
The second factor in cognitive degradation is excessive calories. In the Western world, filled with jumbo fries and big burgers, we know all about consuming calories. But almost universally, we take in far more than are needed to survive. Caloric restriction, or CR, is not starvation, but rather adjusting the ratio of fuel for our bodies similar to adjusting the fuel-to-air ratio in an engine. Too much fuel, and you flood the engine. Too little, and the motor dies. The idea is to reduce calories by 30%-40% while still taking in all the necessary nutrients to survive.
Caloric restriction, or CR, is not starvation, but rather adjusting the ratio of fuel for our bodies similar to adjusting the fuel-to-air ratio in an engine. Too much fuel, and you flood the engine. Too little, and the motor dies. The idea is to reduce calories by 30-40% while still taking in all the necessary nutrients to survive.
Historically, Okinawans have the highest rates of long-lived adults in the world, and the tiny island also suffers from a very limited diet, due primarily to poverty. Younger generations, exposed to the richer diet fads of the Western world, are experiencing shorter life spans and more health complications than their parents and grandparents raised on simple fare.
Cannabis is the perfect choice for this diet change. Juicing raw cannabis, along with eating hemp seed, gives the body a complete nutritional source, more so than any plant known to man. Incorporating this nutrient rich, low-calorie food can improve health not only in comparison to meats and cheeses, but theOmega-3 fatty acids nourish the brain and entire endocannabinoid system.
By now you probably know that stress leads to heart conditions, reduced enjoyment of life, high blood pressure, and overall poor health. It should come as no surprise that it also takes its toll on the brain.
In addition to being great for mental and emotional stress relief, cannabis also helps with physical duress. The neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids minimize the damage caused by strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic stress.
In the study, scientists found that subjects exposed to radiation had reduced rates of brain cell growth. No big surprise there. But think about the amount of radiation you get exposed to over time. Medical and dental x-rays, microwaves and cell phones, airport security checkpoints, and even sunlight: radiation is everywhere.
Cannabis absorbs radioactive contamination from the soil. Scientists used it to remove significant amounts of contamination from Chernobyl, and other radioactive sites. Used in the body, it shields cells from the damage of radiation.
5. Life enrichment
Old age affects people more when they experience social isolation, and this is backed by science. Neural stimulation, whether from activities, social interaction, or just lots of games, helps keep the mind sharp.
Seniors across the world are turning to cannabis to lift their spirits and help them stay interactive and happy. A happy life is a healthy one.
Stopping the damage
As Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist, states in his 2013 TEDx speech Undoing Aging, defines aging as
The accumulation of damage in the body.
The various aspects of cannabis on human health listed above minimize, prevent, and repair that damage.
Healthy cellular cycle
Aubrey de Grey also notes that one key factor in the disease and breakdown of the body during old age stems from cell death, or the lack thereof,
Everybody knows that cancer is a major casue of death. Cancer is essentially defined as having too many cells because cells keep dividng when they’re not supposed to, but there’s another way of having too many cells which is that cells are not dying when they are supposed to.
It’s the main reason why we have [worse] immune systems when we grow older.
The power of cannabis to kill cancer stems from the ability of its cannabinoids to force cells into apoptosis, or natural death. THC causes cancer cells, which disobey their genetic program, to follow the rules, and die off naturally. The amazing cannabinoid doesn’t affect normal cells in this process because they are already following their code.
In so many ways, cannabis use helps us live longer, fuller lives. But there are realms where it can go even further that are only now being talked about. Unlike more conventional opiate painkillers or surgical anesthetics, cannabinoids do not affect areas of the brain that control respiration or heart function.
Therefore, some are beginning to look at it as a safe alternative for medically induced life suspension. If used in cryotherapy, or even cryosleep, it could not only prevent damage to the brain but help to maintain cellular integrity for long periods of time.
With more feasible cryosleep technology, people could stay in suspended animation until cures to fatal disease are found. More complicated surgeries could be performed without endangering life. Astronauts could survive long periods in space without using up vital resources.
The future is a bright place for cannabis research. The more we look at this amazing plant, the more we realize we are only touching the tip of the iceberg.