If you’re curious about cannabis and cancer, we always recommend you consult your oncologist before exploring this plant-based supplement.
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Cannabis and cancer are two things that have gone together for hundreds, if not thousands of years (albeit, not always using the name ‘cancer’). Cannabis based medications, such as dronabinol (synthetic THC) and nabilone have been used to relieve cancer and chemotherapy symptoms since the 1980s. But what about CBD oil and cancer?
Although CBD oil features the CBD molecule and other cannabis derived compounds that exist naturally in the cannabis plant, this product is relatively new in comparison to cannabis itself, which has been used medicinally, recreationally and industrially for around 10,000 years. However, it’s only been since the 1990s (when the endocannabinoid system was discovered) that scientific research really ramped up to understand exactly how cannabis interacts with the body and causes the effects it’s become so well known for. Since then, there have been several hundred studies investigating cannabinoids (like CBD) and the endocannabinoid system in relation to cancer, albeit usually in-vitro or animal studies, rather than human trials.
There’s a long way to go before we understand exactly how cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, impact cancer and cancer symptoms – particularly as there are over 140 cannabinoids to examine, not to mention hundreds of terpenes and flavonoids besides. But we do know a few things:
CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid in CBD oil and the hemp plant. It’s also second only to THC in the cannabis plant.
According to cancer.net, ‘some people with cancer have reported benefits in taking CBD, such as helping with nausea, vomiting, depression, and other side effects’.
One review published as part of the collection ‘Drug Resistance and Novel Therapies in Cancers’ states that there’s also ‘extensive preclinical research indicating CBD as an efficacious anti-cancer agent both alone and in conjunction with other cannabinoids, chemotherapies, and radiation therapy.’
This being said, we still have a very long way to go before we understand exactly how CBD and other cannabinoids affect cancer, and cancer patients. As with all cannabinoid therapy, dosage and interactions play a crucial role. This requires a lot more investigation.
Dr Laureano de la Vega, a Cancer Research UK Fellow at the University of Dundee, is one cannabinoid researcher who has been exploring whether or not CBD can ‘limit cancer’s ability to spread’ using lung and triple negative breast cancer cells grown in the lab. A key reason he began investigating this, is because of his discovery when looking at using CBD for skin conditions, that CBD targets a protein called BACH1 in skin cells. BACH1 has now emerged as a therapeutic target for lung and breast cancer, which suggests some potential well worth researching.
Many people choose to give their dog CBD oil for reasons such as arthritis and cancer, however research is still in early stages. Giving THC is generally not recommended for animals as the psychotropic effects may very well be disorientating. CBD, on the other hand, does not produce a euphoric or ‘high effect’.
As the studies we have looking at using CBD for cancer are generally animal studies or in-vitro, the same findings may very well apply to dogs – or not! Hopefully one day soon we’ll have some definitive answers.
The aforementioned information regarding CBD oil for dogs with cancer is the same for cats. Anecdotally, there have been some instances where CBD has helped cats with cancer, but research is very limited. Want to read about one of these stories? Head here to learn about Charlie.
THC certainly holds a lot of promise for the treatment of cancer, with studies already demonstrating that, like CBD and other cannabinoids, it can slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes.
However, research so far, would suggest that it’s not about ‘which is better’, but which range of cannabinoids are best for which cancers. It’s undoubtedly a very complex issue and the interaction of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids with each other is as important as the interaction with specific cancer types.
There are an awful lot of anecdotes about using cannabis and CBD oil for cancer. Rick Simpson oil (an illegal, ultra-concentrated crude cannabis extract with high levels of THC) is one that gets mentioned frequently.
If you’d like to find out more about personal CBD cancer stories and cannabis cancer stories, take a look at Michelle Kendalls short film ‘Schedule 1’ here.
Cannabinoids like CBD are generally very dose specific, which means they produce effects at exact doses – and more doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘stronger’ effect. However, precise CBD dosage for cancer has not been ascertained yet.
Overall, the official line about using CBD oil for cancer and cannabis for cancer, is that there’s promise but much more research needed. Hopefully now that we’ve started, the science will catch up fast and develop cannabinoid based cancer treatments in the future.