CBD Oil And Cancer - Your Questions Answered
A question that lots of people in the alternative medicine space are asking at the moment – Does CBD cure cancer?
Perhaps you or a loved one have received a diagnosis and you are trawling the internet for the most effective cancer cure.
I can’t promise you that unfortunately, but what I can do is present you with the facts around the effects of cannabis or CBD products on curing cancer.
Some of it might not be what you want to hear but it is better to make an informed decision nonetheless.
I have my own reasons for wanting to write this article.
As well as an avid interest in wellness, wellbeing and natural medicines I had a friend who sadly lost his battle with cancer.
From his day of diagnosis, like many other cancer patients he tried all manner of alternative diets and products to help stem the tide but was ultimately unsuccessful.
I remember visiting him frequently at his home while he was on treatment and many times I would find him in an almost catatonic state, laid out on the sofa.
His wife would inform me that he had been taking cannabis oil (resin distilled from the cannabis plant) in a tea to fight the growth of his tumours.
When I asked him about his self treatment using cannabis he said that he had done some research and it was supposed to reduce tumour growth and heal his body.
He also said that the feeling he had after taking it was horrible, that it left him ‘spaced out’, barely with it for days and gave him a dry mouth.
My friend lived in the UK where CBD products were less widely available at this point (circa 2018) and only in a very diluted form.
When I asked him where he got the product he said that it was from a contact that he had in the Hells Angels and that it was a highly concentrated dose.
Although this may seem far fetched, this man was at one time a prominent athlete who had served some time in prison so this was not beyond the realms of possibility.
Needless to say the product wasn’t regulated and didn’t come with a manufacturers guarantee or list of ingredients.
In truth, although it was sold to him as a concentrated CBD oil it could have been cut with anything.
In the end for him it didn’t seem to make a difference, he died almost to the day that the doctors predicted at his first diagnosis.
So does that mean that cannabis products shouldn’t be used as a cancer treatment? Absolutely not.
Does CBD cure cancer miraculously? Also absolutely not.
There were many other factors and it would be unfair of me to single out CBD.
In this article I am going to take a look at the facts surrounding the use of medical marijuana and CBD in cancer treatments.
Far from being a myth busting exercise this will be a fair presentation of what we know so far and what is recognised by medical professionals and backed up by scientific research.
Hopefully by the end you will have a better understanding of what CBD oil is, how it responds to cannabinoid receptors in the body, and an informed answer to the the question; does CBD cure cancer?
If you want to find out more about the origins of cannabis then check out this article.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of the most prevalent types of cannabinoid found in cannabis plants (2nd after THC).
It was first discovered during the 1940s and it has recently become more popular as a natural treatment for a range of conditions.
CBD can be derived from the hemp plant (hemp oil) or from the marijuana plant.
Hemp-derived CBD still contains trace amounts of THC, while marijuana-derived CBD typically contains more.
All legal cannabis products sold for medicinal purposes will contain CBD and will be marketed for pain relief or as a relaxant.
CBD oil is one of the most common products available, the levels of CBD contained within the product will be in accordance with federal law and state laws.
The recreational drug that we call cannabis/weed/marijuana tends to be much higher in the psychoactive cannabinoid THC than it does CBD.
What are the Effects Of Cannabinoids On The Human Body
Does CBD cure cancer? Before we start jumping to conclusions, let’s look at how CBD and other cannabinoids affect the human body.
The human body naturally produces cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, which interact with the receptors to maintain balance.
However, phytocannabinoids, like CBD and THC, also effectively stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors.
THC and CBD have an effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system that plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis (a constant environment within the body).
The ECS plays a crucial role in developing the central nervous system and performing various biological functions, like mood regulation, pain perception, stress management, and immune response.
Cannabinoid receptors have two types:
CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are widely dispersed in the brain and other parts of the body.
CB1 receptors also play an essential role in pain sensation, memory processing, motor regulation, appetite, mood, and sleep.
Therefore CB1 receptors can help treat neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Meanwhile, CB2 receptors are mainly found on cells in the immune system and its associated structures.
When these CB2 receptors are activated, they elicit a response that helps fight inflammation and treat certain medical conditions, like Chron’s disease, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
CBD and THC affect different receptors in the brain.
THC acts upon certain cannabinoid receptors in the brain, CB1 receptors, to produce psychoactive effects and can produce the commonly known “euphoric high” effect.
On the other hand, CBD does not contain any intoxicating properties.
That’s because CBD bonds with CB2 receptors elsewhere in the body, not in the nervous system.
Now let’s get into it, does CBD cure cancer?
Clinical Trials For Cannabis In The Treatment Of Cancer
Remember when I said that my friend believed that taking cannabis would reduce tumour size?
Well this was something that he picked up from some clinical research into clinical studies conducted using cannabinoids on animal models e.g. lab rats (and mice…and shrews).
The research below has been extracted and adapted from research conducted by Cancer.gov.
One of the animal studies on mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids (THC) may inhibit the growth of certain types of tumors.
In the 2-year study, groups of mice and rats were tube-fed various doses of THC.
A dose-related decrease in the incidence of hepatic adenoma tumors and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was observed in the mice.
Decreased incidences of benign tumors (polyps and adenomas) in other organs (mammary gland, uterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas) were also noted in the rats.
In another study, delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC, and cannabinol were found to inhibit the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells inside and outside the body.
In addition, other tumors have been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid-induced growth inhibition.
Preliminary research shows that certain cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects in different ways.
Including induction of cancer cell death, inhibition of cancer cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.
Two reviews summarize the action of cannabinoids as antitumor agents.
Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their non transformed counterparts (healthy cells) and may even protect them from cell death.
The effects of THC and a synthetic agonist of the CB2 receptor were investigated in HCC.
Both agents reduced the viability of HCC cells inside the body and demonstrated antitumor effects.
The investigations documented that the anti-HCC effects are mediated by way of the CB2 receptor.
Similar to findings in glioma cells, the cannabinoids were shown to trigger cell death through stimulation of an endoplasmic reticulum stress pathway that activates autophagy and promotes apoptosis.
Other investigations have confirmed that CB1 and CB2 receptors may be potential targets in non-small cell lung carcinoma and breast cancer.
An in vitro (inside the body) study of the effect of CBD on programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines found that CBD induced programmed cell death, independent of the CB1 & CB2 receptors.
CBD inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines, inducing apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner while having little effect on nontumorigenic mammary cells.
Other studies have also shown the antitumor effect of cannabinoids (i.e., CBD and THC) in preclinical models of breast cancer.
CBD has also been demonstrated to exert a chemopreventive effect in a mouse model of colon cancer.
In this experimental system, azoxymethane increased premalignant and malignant lesions in the mouse colon.
Animals treated with azoxymethane and CBD concurrently were protected from developing premalignant and malignant lesions.
In in vitro experiments involving colorectal cancer cell lines, the investigators found that CBD protected DNA from oxidative damage, increased endocannabinoid levels, and reduced cell proliferation.
In a subsequent study, the investigators found that the antiproliferative effect of CBD was counteracted by selective CB1 but not CB2 receptor antagonists, suggesting an involvement of CB1 receptors.
In an in vivo model using severe combined immunodeficient mice (those with a very poor or non-existent immune system), subcutaneous tumors were generated by inoculating the animals with cells from human non-small cell lung carcinoma cell lines.
Tumor growth was inhibited by 60% in THC-treated mice compared with vehicle-treated control mice.
Tumor specimens revealed that THC had antiangiogenic and antiproliferative effects.
However, research with immunocompetent murine tumor models has demonstrated immunosuppression and enhanced tumor growth in mice treated with THC.
Does CBD cure cancer? The above research seems to suggest that it helps at the very least. But is that the whole story?
Cannabinoids As An Anti-Inflammatory Treatment
Does CBD cure cancer just through anti-tumour effects?
Well it appears that CBD has another trick up it’s sleeve.
Both plant-derived and endogenous cannabinoids have been studied for anti-inflammatory effects.
A mouse study demonstrated that endogenous cannabinoid system signalling is likely to provide intrinsic protection against colonic inflammation (inflammation of the colon).
As a result, a hypothesis that phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids may be useful in the risk reduction and treatment of colorectal cancer has been developed.
CBD As A Complementary Treatment
Does CBD cure cancer? Well even if it doesn’t on it’s own. It can be used to complement more traditional treatments.
CBD may also enhance uptake of cytotoxic drugs (cancer killing drugs) into malignant (cancer) cells.
Activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid type 2 (TRPV2) has been shown to inhibit proliferation of human glioblastoma multiforme cells and overcome resistance to the chemotherapy agent carmustine.
One study showed that coadministration of THC and CBD over single-agent usage had greater antiproliferative activity in an in vitro study with multiple human glioblastoma multiforme cell lines.
In an in vitro model, CBD increased TRPV2 activation and increased uptake of cytotoxic drugs.
This lead to apoptosis of glioma cells without affecting normal human astrocytes.
This suggests that co-administration of CBD with cytotoxic agents may increase drug uptake and potentiate cell death in human glioma cells.
Also, CBD together with THC may enhance the antitumor activity of classic chemotherapeutic drugs such as temozolomide in some mouse models of cancer.
A meta-analysis of 34 in vitro and in vivo studies of cannabinoids in glioma reported that all but one study confirmed that cannabinoids selectively kill tumor cells.
Anti-Nausea Effects Of Cannabinoids
Preclinical research suggests that the body’s nausea and vomiting function is partially controlled by endocannabinoids.
The anti sickness or antiemetic action of cannabinoids is believed to be mediated via interaction with the 5-hydroxytryptamine 3 (5-HT3) receptor.
CB1 receptor antagonists have been shown to elicit sickness in the least shrew that is reversed by cannabinoid agonists.
CB1 antagonists have been shown to reverse the effects of THC and other synthetic cannabinoids.
Suppressing vomiting caused by cisplatin in the house musk shrew and lithium chloride in the least shrew.
In the latter model, CBD was also shown to be efficacious.
So does CBD cure cancer or just help? Keep reading to find out.
Clinical Trials For CBD As A Preventative Treatment
Taken from an article written by Jon Johnson for MedicalNewsToday in 2019 which was medically reviewed by Christina Chun. Johnson says that:
‘The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reviewed numerous studies regarding the link between medicinal cannabis and cancer and found that the research has mixed results.
An older study of 64,855 men from the United States found that cannabis use did not increase the risk of tobacco-related cancers.
However, this same study also found that male cannabis users who never smoked tobacco had an increased risk of prostate cancer.
On the other hand, the authors of a 2015 study found a promising relationship between the use of medical cannabis and bladder cancer.
After adjusting for several factors, they found that that cannabis users had a 45-percent lower risk of developing bladder cancer.
While research has shown that cannabis smoke still produces carcinogens, the link between inhaled marijuana and cancer remains inconclusive.
However, ingesting CBD extract does not expose the body to the same carcinogens as smoking marijuana.
More long-term studies in humans are necessary to determine the answer to the question does CBD cure cancer?
FDA-Approved Medications Containing Cannabinoids
While cannabis itself has not been FDA approved to treat any condition, there are a few drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain CBD or THC.
- Epidiolex contains CBD and has been approved to treat seizures associated with two severe types of epilepsy—Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
- Marinol and Syndros are drugs that contain dronabinol, a synthetic THC. These drugs are used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy during cancer treatment.
- Cesamet contains nabilone, a synthetic substance that is similar to THC. This drug is used to treat weight loss and appetite problems associated with chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS.
Side Effects of medicinal cannabis
Studies showed that chronic use of CBD and even high doses of up to 1,500mg/day was well tolerated by humans but despite the improving reputation of cannabis as a recognised medicine, it is not without its down sides.
Both THC and CBD are considered safe but side effects that have been reported according to the Mayo clinic include:
- Changes in mood and appetite
- Nausea and dizziness
- Liver damage when combined with other drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-seizure medications, blood thinners, chemotherapy drugs, muscle relaxers, sedatives, or sleep aids.
- Decreased fertilization capacity
- Inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism
- Reduced activities of p-glycoprotein and other drug transporters
CBD And Cancer - The bottom line
The use of cannabis products for treating cancer is on the rise.
However the solid evidence and scientific backing to support claims of miracle treatments is unproven and requires further research.
Does CBD cure cancer?
Due to the nature of cancer as a multi dimensional disease, affecting different parts of the body in different ways it is unlikely the cannabis products will be a ‘fix all’ answer.
The clinical studies on animals have given hope for specific cancers but more research is needed.
There are certainly potential benefits in the use of cannabis for medical purposes to alleviate some symptoms of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
CBD products are a natural pain reliever especially for those suffering with chronic pain as they combine with the cb1 receptors receptors all over the body.
Medical cannabis products can also help combat loss of appetite and with reducing nausea.
It is impossible to overdose on CBD however combining CBD use with other prescription medications can cause potential damage to liver function.
Increased pressure on the liver to break down multiple substances at the same time can slow down functionality, damage the tissue and in extreme cases cause the organ to shut down.
The safest cannabis products to use if you decide to go down the alternative medicine route are those with high levels of CBD such as cannabis tinctures or CBD oil.
Recreational use of marijuana such as smoking will not maximise the benefits of using cannabis as a preventative or treatment.
Marijuana smoke produces carcinogens similar to tobacco smoke and may cause problems to other parts of the body.
Before using any cannabis or CBD product you should consult your doctor to fully understand any risks.
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