As we all know, weed can have some strange effects on our minds and bodies. New research now suggests an added benefit we could all use—better night vision.
This theory is not totally new but proof has been lacking.
Twenty-five years ago, a pharmacologist at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica noted that a local fisherman who smoked weed and drank rum made from cannabis leaves and stems seemed to have “an uncanny ability to see in the dark.” And back in 2002, a team of researchers from the U.S. and Spain set out to confirm rumors that Moroccan fishermen and people living in rural mountain areas who smoked hash had an extraordinary ability to visibly see objects in the near dark.
Now, a scientific study is providing hard evidence for these claims.
According to the open access journal eLife, cannabis could eventually be applied to the treatment of patients with degenerative eye diseases,such as retinitis pigmentosa, and could improve night vision.
The study, done on tadpoles, proved that cannabis made the retina more sensitive to light, therefore helping people see better in low visibility. Very simple.
Loïs S Miraucourt, of the Montreal Neurological Institute and one of the co-authors of the report, said they zeroed in on transparent African tadpoles rather than nocturnal fishermen. They applied a synthetic cannabinoid to the eye tissue of tadpoles and found, to their surprise, that it seemed to work. Specifically, they found that CBD made particular retinal cells more sensitive to light, improving the speed at which the eye responded to even dim stimulus, reported the Guardian.
“We didn’t believe what we were seeing,” another author in the study told the Montreal Gazette. “…cannabinoids were increasing the excitability of cells in the eye that connects to the brain.”
The researchers expected to find that the cannabis would inhibit the tadpoles’ retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which are responsible for transmitting information about light detection from the eye to the brain.
“But the cannabinoids were increasing the excitability of cells in the eye that connects to the brain,” said Edward Ruthazer, the paper’s senior author.
One cannabinoid receptor fired at higher frequencies, allowing the tadpoles swimming in a petri dish to see better and flee predators in low light conditions, explained Ruthazer, a neurologist at McGill University.
The tadpoles that received the CBD performed excellent in the dark, just like the stoned Jamaican and Moroccan fishermen.