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A promising new study finds that the medical application of this controversial but increasingly decriminalized plant may extend to helping HIV patients.
A new study published in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses indicates that the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be an effective agent in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The study used male rhesus macaques infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a retrovirus that crossed the species barrier into humans producing HIV-1 and HIV-2, respectively.
While this article will not address in-depth the origin of the SIV-to-HIV crossover event, it should be noted that the prevailing explanation known as the 'bushmeat' hypothesis – crossover presumably caused by human contact with the blood of chimps hunted in Africa – overlooks several important facts: 1) SIVs have been in close contact with humans for at least 32,000 years without the emergence of HIV.[i] 2) The HIV epidemic occurred suddenly in the mid-20th century coterminous with the introduction of vaccines with the original HIV-afflicted African populations. 3) The monkey tissue based vaccine production process has already produced similar cross-over events, with millions around the world being infected with SV-40 contaminated oral polio vaccines. Given these facts, HIV should not be classified as a zoonosis[ii] (an infectious disease transmitted between species), but a direct result of human activity, and likely biomedical intervention, specifically vaccines.[iii]
Regardless of its exact causes, HIV infection and its extreme expression in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is generally treated with pharmaceuticals (patented chemicals) in the antiretroviral drug class, which can have life-threatening side effects, many of which can be confused with or falsely attributed to the disease process itself. The sad reality is that that the conventional standard of care, for the most part, is either unwilling or incapable of looking into natural interventions, and neglects to address the fundamental fact that preventing the progression of HIV to full blown AIDS requires a focus on protecting and supporting the patient's immune system through optimizing their nutrition, supporting their endogenous detoxification mechanisms and minimizing chemical exposures.
At GreenMedInfo.com, our database contains information both on the adverse health effects of anti-HIV drugs[iv] and a number of studied natural adjunctive agents that have been shown to reduce HIV drug toxicity. We also have indexed a robust data set on over 140 natural substances which demonstrate anti-HIV potential,[v] including a recent article on a case study where black seed was able to put an HIV patient into remission, and an overview of 38 of these natural alternatives or HIV here. Finally, our HIV/AIDS research is further organized in a Health Guide: HIV and AIDS Research.
The new study, titled "Modulation of Gut-Specific Mechanisms by Chronic Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Administration in Male Rhesus Macaques Infected with Simian Immunodeficiency Virus: A Systems Biology Analysis," found that the administration of THC to SIV-infected monkeys resulted in a generalized reduction in viral load and tissue inflammation. THC is the major psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, among 85 different different cannabinoids isolated from the plant.[vi]
The study design and results were described succinctly by the website Medical Jane,
"Using monkeys as models, the Louisiana State researchers investigated the potential role of cannabis in treating HIV. They treated a group of infected primates with as much as 0.64 mg/kg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per day for 17 months.
"Tissue from monkeys treated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) expressed fewer signs of HIV."
Considering the gut is one of the most common ways for HIV to spread, the research team sampled stomach tissue from the THC-dosed monkeys, as well as a group of infected primates that did not receive treatment.
According to their results, the virus did significantly less damage in THC group when compared to the control group. Tissue from monkeys treated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) expressed fewer signs of HIV also."
As we have written about previously, access to marijuana for medical reasons should be a fundamental human right, and is essential for our collective health freedom. Not only is marijuana a plant that grows freely on this Earth, but our very physiology seems pre-configured to utilize it:
"Were it not for the fact that the human body is hard-wired to respond to cannabis through the endocannabinoid system (ES), claims for its medicinal value would have much less weight. The ES, in fact, encompasses a wide range of physiological processes, including appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. So fundamental are these processes to what motivates and defines human behavior, it is no wonder that a plant with the power to directly affect these functions would be the subject of such profound controversy, as well as brutal, socioeconomic and politically-mediated criminalization."
There is no lack of research to support the value of this time-tested medicinal plant. The GreenMedInfo.com database contains research on over 100 conditions that cannabinoids may have therapeutic value in, which can be viewed here: Cannabis Research. We also recently reported on a study that found THC may also be superior to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, indicating it likely possesses a broad range of additional therapeutic actions.
[i] Worobey, Michael; Telfer, Paul; Souquière, Sandrine; Hunter, Meredith; Coleman, Clint A.; Metzger, Michael J.; Reed, Patricia; Makuwa, Maria et al. (2010). "Island Biogeography Reveals the Deep History of SIV". Science 329 (5998): 1487. Bibcode:2010Sci...329.1487W. doi:10.1126/science.1193550 . PMID 20847261 .
[ii] Preston A. Marx, Chrstian Apetrei, Ernest Drucker. (2004)
AIDS as a zoonosis? "Confusion over the origin of the virus and the origin of epidemics" J Med Primatology 220-226
[iii] Preston A. Marx, Phillip G. Alcabes, Ernest Drucker "Serial human passage of simian immunodeficiency virus by unsterile injections and the emergence of epidemic human immunodeficiency virus in Africa." Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 29 June 2001 vol. 356 no. 1410 911-920
[vi] El-Alfy, Abir T.; Ivey, Kelly; Robinson, Keisha; Ahmed, Safwat; Radwan, Mohamed; Slade, Desmond; Khan, Ikhlas; Elsohly, Mahmoud; Ross, Samir (2010). "Antidepressant-like effect of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis sativa L". Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 95 (4): 434–42. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2010.03.004 . PMC 2866040. PMID 20332000.