We’re well aware of the fact that plants, humans, and certain animals have an internal endocannabinoid system; but what about parasitic intestinal worms that invade the bodies of other creatures to stay alive? Yes, them too.
Is there a relationship between cannabis and worms? According to researchers from The University of California, Riverside, there is at least one worm, the Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, that uses its endocannabinoid system as a means of survival. When studied in mice, it was determined that this worm would actually dose its host with endocannabinoids to reduce pain and inflammation and possibly prolong the amount of time it was able to feed unnoticed by the host’s immune system. Conversely, the mouse also released it’s own dose of endocannabinoids in the process, acting essentially as a double dose of painkillers and eventually diminished the worm’s ability to feed.
“Endocannabinoids affect the immune system, they down-regulate inflammation, they improve feeding, and they can reduce pain,” says UC Riverside immunologist Meera Nair. “That’s why cannabis is used to treat cancer.” By adding its own endocannabinoids to the mix, the worm may be further relieving pain and inflammation. Both parties are doing what’s best for their survival, and just so happen to be using the same weapon. “I call it a local high,” says Nair.
Cannabis and worms
Cannabis has long been known to have an interesting relationship with worms. The Aka people from the Congo Basin of Africa have been using cannabis for decades to self-medicate against worms. Research shows that the Aka’s who smoke more cannabis had less issues with parasitic worms.
And that’s not the only time this observation has been made. Ben Hanelt, biologist at The University of New Mexico made this connection between cannabis and worms when he lived with and studied people of the Lake Victoria Basin: “There were some individuals that, when we got eggs from them, they absolutely never hatched,” say Hanelt. The one thing they all had in common? They all used cannabis.
It’s a very exciting finding not only for parasitology but for the future of treating parasitic worms in humans. Knowing that the worm has an endocannabinoid system that functions just like ours, means that suppressing it can possibly to the destruction of these parasitic invaders.