Cannabis: Opinion is divided over the health benefits of the plant

New cannabis-based treatments could improve memory loss in Alzheimer's sufferers, scientists claim.

One of the 400 compounds in the drug can significantly slow memory problems caused by the disease, tests show.

Although there is growing evidence that cannabis can trigger harmful mind-altering effects in users, scientists say the medicinal compound in question, cannabidiol, is not a hallucinogenic ingredient.

They are calling for human trials to be funded after researchers from Israel and Spain successfully conducted tests in mice.

Details were unveiled in London yesterday at a symposium of cannabis experts hosted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

One of the researchers, Professor Raphael Mechoulam from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who found that symptoms of type 1 diabetes can also be helped by cannabidiol, warned against the use of cannabis by Alzheimer's patients because the psychoactive ingredient THC could have damaging effects on memory.

But Dr Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We need robust clinical trials into the potential benefits of non-psychoactive components of cannabis.

"It is important for people to note that these treatments are not the same as recreational cannabis use, which can be potentially harmful."

- Adults whose parents were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's are at increased risk of developing the disease, according to U.S. researchers. Twenty-two per cent developed Alzheimer's, compared to an estimated six to 13 per cent of the general population the study, published in the Archives of Neurology, found.