A new study shows that cannabidiol (CBD), a molecule derived from the cannabis sativa plant, prolongs life and has no toxicity. However, the study was conducted on worms. The particular species of worm (Caenorhabditis elegans) shares up to 80% of its DNA with ours truly, humans. The worm species lives for only two weeks, three if it defies the aging process remarkably well.
The study explains why worms were used. This specific species, say the researchers, has gained widespread acceptance in preclinical studies of lifelong toxicity associated with drug exposure. This is due to their transparency at all stages of life, their short lifespan and shared DNA with humans. The C. elegans worm species possesses intact and metabolically active digestive, reproductive, endocrine, sensory, and neuromuscular systems. Furthermore, previous research shows that scientists are able to measure toxicity effects of drugs on these creepy crawlies in levels comparable to rodent models. So, why not sacrifice worms in order to save rats or mice?
Also, researchers would be able to tell if CBD adversely affected the ability of the worms to crawl. “Drug-induced declines in motility inform an organ-level toxicity compared to death, which is indicative of whole-organism toxicity and physiology,” say the researchers. In other words, if CBD were toxic, the worms’ organs would shut down, but they wouldn’t necessarily die. This species of worms is commonly used for neurodegenerative diseases and the aging process. The diabetes management drug, Metformin was also shown to slow down the aging process in C. elegans.
CBD, which is the second-most abundant molecule in marijuana, and which is legal in all 50 states provided that it is extracted from industrial hemp, with maximum THC concentrations of 0.3%, did not prematurely end the life of any worms in the study. (No invertebrates were harmed in the making of this research.)
So how long did CBD extend the lifespan of the worms? By roughly 18%. Not only that but CBD increased the activity of the worms’ inner workings by over 200 percent when the critters were on their final legs. Oh wait, scratch that … worms don’t have legs. Rather, when the worms were at the end of their short lifespan, CBD improved the metabolic activity.
Despite the surge of CBD studies in recent years, particularly since 2018, when the Hemp Farm Bill was passed by Congress, no prior study results in other animal models had tested CBD over the entire lifespan of an animal. And not only did no worms experience toxicity from infancy to the ripe old age of three weeks, the worms given high levels of the non-psychoactive substance experienced 141 percent less heat stress compared to the unlucky worms not given CBD.
One reason why CBD may prolong lifespan is because it indirectly activates the body’s internal cannabinoid receptors. This network of receptors, scattered throughout the body, plays a critical role in regulating homeostasis, which is a state of balance in the organs.