When people think about CBD oil and cancer, many people often assume there is a cure linked between the two.
This common misconception has led to a booming industry of CBD products and “miracle” cures. The question is, is there really a link between CBD oil and cancer? What is the exact science behind it?
What is Cancer and How Does it Affect the Body?
Cancer itself is a term given to a collection of diseases that are related. Regardless of which type of cancer it is, cancer is when the body’s own cells begin to divide and spread to the surrounding tissues without stopping. Most symptoms associated with cancer can range from nausea, pain, tiredness and weight loss.
It is estimated that up to 40% of people receive a cancer diagnosis within their lifetime. More so, it is estimated that up to 1,762,450 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed for the year 2019 alone.
What is CBD?
CBD or also referred to as Cannabidiol is a compound found in the cannabis plant. It has grown in popularity as of late due to its numerous medicinal benefits. CBD can come in various forms and often is derived from two primary sources: Hemp and Cannabis. CBD derived from cannabis contains THC, the chemical responsible for the high feeling people who use cannabis often report. CBD derived from hemp is known for its lack of THC and hence has become highly popular in the market, due to its legality.
Marijuana and Cancer
Marijuana has become a staple of cancer treatment in thousands of patients. Marijuana which contains THC, also referred to as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which not only can get people “high,” but also can help to relieve pain, relieve nausea, act as an antioxidant and help to reduce inflammation in the process. This is the reason marijuana has been found to be useful in treating vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy or helping to treat neuropathic pain.
Depending on the strain of marijuana, it can have different effects within the body. What also matters is how marijuana is entered into the body.
If marijuana is entered into the body orally such as in edibles or baked goods, it can take a few hours for the THC to be absorbed. However, once the THC has been processed by the liver, it begins to produce a secondary psychoactive compound, one that is known to affect mood and consciousness. If marijuana inhaled via being smoked, the THC enters the bloodstream directly and hence affects the brain quickly. The secondary psychoactive effect it produces, appears in small amounts, thus affecting the body less significantly.
The Case for CBD Oil and Cancer
So, knowing how marijuana can help treat symptoms linked with cancer, what does this mean for CBD?
First, it is important to note that most CBD oils that are recommended, may or may not contain the compound THC. It is also important to note that any studies recently conducted on the effects of CBD and cancer cells have all been promising, but none of them have found anything conclusive.
The Endocannabinoid System and Cancer
A study conducted in 2018 and published on the US National Library of Medicine, found that a number of preclinical studies have found CBD to have anticancer properties. However, even with decades of study, there isn’t enough consistent data regarding the role of the body’s cannabinoid system when it comes to the development of cancer. In fact, what has been found is that overactivation of the endocannabinoid system can have the opposite effect and play a role in the development of cancer in the first place.
There is good news though.
The study did find conclusive evidence of cannabinoids having anticancer effects within the body. While the data may be inconsistent, it has been found that one of the most common anticancer effects of cannabinoids on a tumor resulted in the inhibition of the proliferation of cancer cells and the induction of cancer cell death. This degradation was found in certain cancer cell lines such as melanoma, hepatic cancer, and glioma.
It was also found that CBD devoid of THC has some anticancer potential. While they may not affect endocannabinoid receptors directly, they can help elevate levels of AEA or anandamides within the body. AEA is also referred to as the bliss molecule, helping to improve a person’s mood naturally.
The Endocannabinoid System and Effects on the Body
There have been plenty of studies conducted in a laboratory setting and preclinical trials to see how CBD, both hemp derived and cannabis-derived effects the body, specifically in people who have been given a cancer diagnosis. Here are what some of those studies have found.
CBD and Immunology
This same study was able to find that cannabinoids, specifically those containing THC, exhibited signs of both cellular and humoral immunity, specifically in regards to modulatory effects. This can help boost the immune system, especially when it has been compromised from chemotherapy.
CBD and Appetite Stimulation
According to Cancer.gov, there have been animal studies conducted in the past to see how CBD oil could affect one’s appetite. These studies have shown CBD derived from both hemp and cannabis could have a stimulatory effect on a person’s appetite. This in turn, helps to increase food intake.
CBD, Anxiety, and Sleep
It is no secret that cancer can have a detrimental impact on one’s psyche. A cancer diagnosis could potentially cause anxiety and sleep problems in individuals. CBD has been found to have anxiolytic properties when studied in rats. It was found that since the endocannabinoid system is believed to regulate mood and ridding one of aversive memories, it was found to help moderate the sleep-waking cycle in rats.
CBD and Analgesic Properties
Cannabinoids as a whole produce analgesic effects through several modes of action such as supraspinal, spinal and peripheral actions. These actions can act on both types of pain pathways, ascending and descending. It was also found in several studies that cannabinoids could help contribute to modulating pain through anti-inflammatory mechanisms as well as help to prevent neuropathy induced by chemotherapy.
CBD and Antiemetic Effects
Preclinical studies have suggested that the emetic circuit within the body is controlled by the endocannabinoid system. With the introduction of CBD into one’s body, it has found that it can help suppress vomiting and nausea. However, keep in mind that these effects appear to come from THC from cannabis-derived CBD rather than hemp derived CBD.
Final Thoughts: Is there a missing link?
After carefully looking at NUMEROUS studies and doing research on CBD oil and cancer, I can conclude that while CBD oil cannot cure cancer, it can go a long way in terms of supportive therapy. CBD oil can be a great way to help alleviate symptoms associated with cancer and chemotherapy, but by no means should it be your only source of relief.
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Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.projectcbd.org/cbd-for/cancer
Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2019.html
Cannabis and Cannabinoids. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq#_7
Johnson, J. (n.d.). CBD for cancer: Possible benefits, side effects, and more. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324745.php
Marijuana and Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html
Sledzinski, P., Zeyland, J., Slomski, R., & Nowak, A. (2018). The current state and future perspectives of cannabinoids in cancer biology [Abstract]. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health,765-775. doi:10.1002/am4.1312