Is There Harmful Levels of Aluminum in Cannabis Plants?
While researching the effects of aluminum toxicity from vaccines and environmental exposures for an upcoming book publication (You’re next. Lies, Corruption and the Dirty Business of Vaccines. October, 2016), I came across some rather unsettling information. The information is so disturbing that it stands to redefine medical cannabis use, and its implications in treating diseases. So far, this may be the single greatest health risk that I have seen regarding cannabis use.
Recent discoveries by intrepid scientists like Dr Exley (see below), reveals that modern cannabis is rich in aluminum. Yet aluminum (Al) is a neurotoxic metal. Smoking cannabis MAY increase your exposure and accumulation of aluminum in your body. Compelling evidence is mounting that aluminum is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmunity, and many other diseases.
Before we go any further I also want to make it clear that as of today, we do not know clinically what this means in the real world. It is a new observation and a medical issue that has not been investigated.
The most important questions are how much aluminum can one ingest (inhale or eat) with the use of cannabis?
Can this additional body burden of Al cause disease among cannabis smokers? Do all varietals contain Al?
Is there an effective way to decrease the amount of Al that is ingested during cannabis use, or is there a way to prevent Al uptake into the cannabis plant?
Lastly, is there any way we can remove aluminum that has accumulated in our bodies?
Several of these questions I hope to answer in this article. But since this information is so new we may not have many answers for a long time. First off, I’ll bet most people won’t flinch when they hear the word aluminum.
We have been told for years that Al is harmless. Therefore, I’ll bet most of our reading audience are not aware of the health risks from aluminum exposure. After all, this common metal is everywhere. Are you aware of the last time you were exposed to aluminum containing products? Consider the baked potato you had wrapped in foil last night, your deodorant, or the cookies you just ate (rich in aluminum containing baking powder). Yes, it’s in everything from baked goods, tofu and baby formulas, to buffered aspirin. Even the tea plant is an aluminum accumulator as are a few other plants recently discovered.
But let’s go over some basic facts first regarding Al and its role in human biochemistry. Let’s ask the UK’s Dr. Chris Exley, professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry, and he is an Honorary Professor at UHI Millennium Institute. He is a Biologist (University of Stirling) with a PhD in the ecotoxicology of aluminium (University of Stirling), and a world authority on aluminum toxicity. He currently is a professor at Keele University, Staffordshire, where he performs his research.
I’ve chatted with Dr. Exley on several occasions regarding aluminum’s unusual characteristics. He has recently discovered some sobering information concerning cannabis and aluminum. From one of his publications he lists some hidden sources of aluminum that we should be aware of.
It is perhaps less well known that tobacco and cannabis are significant sources of biologically available Al [aluminum] (Exley et al., 2006). For example, when you smoke a cigarette you excrete Al in your urine. Al is a major contaminant of food (Saiyed & Yokel, 2005). It is also a known contaminant of parenteral [IV] solutions. Recreational drugs including heroin and cocaine can also be significant routes of exposure to Al (Exley et al., 2007). It was recently demonstrated that sunscreens and sunblocks may contain significant amounts of Al such that one might apply up to 5 g of Al onto the skin surface during an average day on the beach. Little is known about the biological availability of Al in such products but it has to be asked if they could contribute towards the high rate of melanoma found in populations using large amounts of sunscreens/sunblocks regularly (Nicholson & Exley, 2007)? Worryingly we are still exposing the most vulnerable members of society, pre- and post-term infants, to very high levels of Al in infant formulas (Burrell & Exley, 2010).
Notice also that heroin and cocaine both contain aluminum. Even some sunscreens — rich in aluminum — pose a much greater risk for Al uptake. One of the biggest problems is that Al tends to accumulate in the body, especially the brain. For example, the Al contained in a vaccine, from intramuscular injection, may stay in the body indefinitely. This may also be true for exposures from smoking and eating cannabis. Dr. Exley continues in a recent publication by saying:
Aluminum (Al) is the major trace metal constituent of tobacco. Jamaican cottage industry tobacco includes an exceptional 0.8-2.6 mg Al/g tobacco. Exceptional because the tobacco plant, unlike, for example, the tea plant, is not considered an aluminum accumulator (0.1% Al by weight in leaves)…We looked at the same for cannabis, as its content of aluminum also is reported to be high (2.4-3.7 mg Al/g marijuana).
Tobacco and cannabis are hitherto unrecognized potent contributors to the body burden of aluminum. Aluminum that is inhaled either from active or passive smoking is biologically available and is likely to be absorbed systemically.
Aluminum entering the lung and the olfactory system as either particulates or gaseous complexes may contribute toward smoking-related disease including asthma and neurological dysfunction.
As you can see from above cannabis can be a significant source for Al. If we assume that the average joint contains one gram of cannabis, the average one joint-per-day smoker may be absorbing as much as 3,700 micrograms of aluminum per joint into his or her pulmonary circuit.
For comparison the average vaccine contains 250 micrograms per dose. Studies already acknowledge that the much smaller amounts of Al in a vaccine can induce disease. I have dozens of citations to that effect. It therefore would not be an exaggeration to suspect that marijuana may in fact pose a similar risk.
WHOLE BODY POISON
But exactly why should you be concerned if you are a cannabis connoisseur? You should be cautious because Al is a whole body poison. Scientists have known about aluminum’s toxic properties for about one hundred years. And evidence is mounting that Al may indeed be a significant risk factor for neurodegeneration. Dr. Exley explains the five toxic attributes of Aluminum. From his publication, aluminum is a:
Pro-oxidant. Despite Al being described as ‘redox (as in oxidation and reduction, shorthand for a branch of inorganic chemistry) inactive,’ Al is a potent pro-oxidant through the formation of an aluminum superoxide radical AlO2²+
Excitotoxin. Evidence of excitotoxic damage is common in animal models and has been implicated in human neurodegenerative disease.
Inflammagen. Human exposure to Al has been heavily linked to inflammatory cascades in a wide range of diseases.
Immunogen. The immunopotency of Al has been known for 100 years and still forms the basis for using Al as an adjuvant in vaccines. Yet, the mechanism of action is still uncertain. Compelling evidence is mounting on the toxicity of Al adjuvants in potentially susceptible patients.
Mutagen. Aluminium has been recognized as a mutagen for many years. Yet, research on mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and teratogenicity in humans is extremely scarce.
In other words, Al is not a material that you want more exposure to. In fact, it’s toxicity has been compared to mercury since the two affect some of the same biochemical pathways, cells and regions of the brain and body. Plus, the two synergize (potentiate) with each other to increase risks for numerous diseases. These include but are not limited to developmental disabilities, reduced IQ, autism, and neurodegeneration. Therefore, we all need to keep our exposure to Al as low as possible.
RECENT COMMUNICATION SHEDS LIGHT BUT IT’S NOT GOOD
Much of this information is extremely recent. In fact, so recent that I had to speak with Dr Exley yesterday to help clarify what this all means by asking him some pointed questions. Here’s the email response from Dr. Exley:
(Dr. R) Is there any evidence that chronic heavy cannabis use promotes neurodegeneration or pulmonary disease from the Al in cannabis?
(Dr. E) There has not been any research to test if it is the Al in cannabis which is responsible for cannabis-related neurodegenerative effects. However, Al is a known neurotoxin and so increasing your exposure to Al through cannabis smoking cannot be a good thing.
(Dr. R) Can you please tell me if ALL cannabis species are rich in Al?
(Dr. E) I do not know the answer to this. We measured the Al content of cannabis as supplied to us by the police. We also measured the Al content of THC and this was equally high. There is a strong probability that Al in cannabis comes both from the soil, i.e. where it is grown and also that the ‘processing’ of cannabis for recreational use may also result in its contamination by Al.
(Dr. R) Are hydroponics better or worse?
(DR. E) One could imagine that if it was ensured that there was no Al in hydroponic media then the Al content of the plant should be very low cutting out one source of Al in cannabis.
(Dr. R) How is it possible to obtain Al free cannabis?
(Dr. E) See above, you would then need to ensure that the processing of the cannabis did not introduce any contamination by Al.
(Dr. R) Should we be concerned?
(Dr. E) Yes, because no one is checking the Al content of cannabis before it is smoked or used for medical conditions. For example, Al is implicated in the aetiology of MS and yet some advocate the use of cannabis in the treatment of MS.
(Dr. R) To me, this appears to be one of the biggest health threats so far encountered using cannabis.
(Dr. E) Yes, I think that this may be true. Long term cannabis use may predispose to chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Well, that’s straight from a world authority on Al toxicity and, as you can plainly see, it’s not good news. But do other experts agree that Al is a dangerous metal? I have additional information from Dr Christopher Shaw in the US.
Dr. Shaw Is another expert in Aluminum toxicity that also clearly states how toxic aluminum really is. From one of his publications:
“Aluminum is a demonstrated neurotoxin,” he added. “From the molecular level between ions and molecules, to the genome, to the protein and cellular level to the circuit level, there is no level of the nervous system that aluminum does not negatively impact.“
If you look at the figure below (figure 1), you will immediately see how astonishingly toxic Al can be. It negatively affects everything starting from the atomic level right on up to the organismal level of human biochemistry and physiology.
Figure 1 The effects of Al. From Christopher Shaw Aluminum-Induced Entropy in Biological Systems
This toxic substance is capable of disrupting cell signaling independent of scale. Starting at a molecular level on up, along with dozens of other deleterious effects listed below:
- Aluminum (Al3+), suspected as a toxicant for 100 years, injures the CNS and immune systems, individually and synergistically.
- Al3+ disrupts biological water dynamics and macromolecules: DNAs, RNAs, proteoglycans, and proteins.
- Al3+ disrupts H-bond cooperativity interfering with the quantum coherence of living systems.
- Al3+ interferes with biological signaling—biosemiosis—from the very lowest to the highest levels in the nervous system.
- The effects are synergistic with other toxicants, including mercury, lead, fluoride, and glyphosate.
Translated, this figure provides a snapshot of a ‘whole body poison’.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Dr. Exley informs us that he has been developing a way to increase excretion of aluminum in the urine by drinking silicon rich bottled water like Fiji water for example, which contains very high levels of silicon. Silicon can bind to Al and help to remove it from the body via the kidneys. Should you eat Al containing foods, you’ll excrete some of it, but a significant portion will stay in your body in the fatty compartments like your brain. Using silicon-rich water (1.5 liters per day suggested) may help reduce that which otherwise would accumulate in your brain and other areas.
Smoking Al rich cannabis is closer to having it injected into your body. When this occurs much more Al remains in the body where it resides in the alveoli (lung air sacs), brain and spinal column, among other compartments. Should you eat Al rich THC products as opposed to smoking them, more is likely to be excreted but much still remains in the body. So either way you will be accumulating Al every day that you use your recreational or medical cannabis whether you eat it or smoke it.
Epidemiological studies which look at populations that heavily use cannabis do not mention any aluminum related disease blowback such as a higher percentage of study subjects having Alzheimer’s disease for example. These populations do not appear to be at greater risk for neurodegeneration. However, I am not aware of any epidemiological study that has deliberately looked into this problem.
Therefore, we simply may not yet know if inhaling or eating this much additional Al is significantly more dangerous. Having said that, it may not be a big surprise that the risks for neurodegeneration, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis are increased. We may find that some aspects of short-term memory dysfunction for example, are due not to the cannabinoids but to toxic metal accumulation.
Conversely, do the powerful antioxidant and antiinflammatory effects of the cannabinoids provide a potent antagonism of aluminum’s toxicity? Is this perhaps the reason we, so far, have not seen an increase in neurodegenerative effects among chronic cannabis users? Others, of course, argue that we are seeing an increase in neurodegenerative disease among cannabis users.
What I can say with some confidence is that we need to be concerned because the toxicity of Al is firmly established.
People need to get the word out on this apparently new problem. It would be great if some of the wholesale companies in rec-legal states like Colorado start testing their products for this poisonous metal. That also applies to the numerous analytical labs that so far test for terpenoids, cannabinoids, pesticides and the like. They should immediately set up their labs to accommodate testing for aluminum.
Recall from above (Dr. Shaw) that Al binds to glyphosate the active chemical in Roundup, the most ubiquitous pesticide in the world, to create dangerous synergies. It probably binds to other pesticides too, forming toxic chimeras that may be very detrimental to our health. We already know that many growers illegally use numerous pesticides to compete in the industry. We really have two problems: pesticides and aluminum.
Once testing for Al becomes mainstream, we’ll have a better picture. After we establish the extent of the problem, we can start looking at how best to address it.
The medical marijuana orbit needs to equally be aware since, as Dr Exley reminds us, patients with severe autoimmune diseases such as MS, who use medical marijuana, may be causing more harm — in the long run.
In the final analysis, we simply do not yet know just how bad the situation is or is going to be. Please tell people about this and get them to start asking questions, especially in weed-legal states, districts or countries, where resources are in place to address it.
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