In 2012, French scientists reported the presence of cannabinoid receptors on the membranes of mitochondria, the energy-generating organelle within cells. This discovery laid the groundwork for subsequent investigations into the role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating mitochondrial activity, which is critical to how cells function. Defects in mitochondria have been linked a wide range of neurodegenerative, autoimmune and metabolic disorders — Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, cardiovascular and neuromuscular disease, and more.
A growing body of scientific data indicates that cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two key components of the cannabis plant, can affect mitochondria, both directly and indirectly. It turns out that many of the biological pathways that involve mitochondria — including energy homeostasis, neurotransmitter release, and oxidative stress — are modulated by endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids. THC and CBD are both potent antioxidants, according to the U.S. government, which filed a patent on the antioxidant and neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids based on research from 1998.