Can CBD help with cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy?

Studies have shown that CBD oil can help relieve nausea and pain in cancer patients. How does it work, and how is it used? Can CBD really help with cancer?



There are currently two cannabis-based medicines approved for cancer patients in the United States – Dronabinol (Marinol®) and Nabilone (Cesamet®). A third drug – Sativex (Nabiximil®) – is approved throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

These drugs are based on cannabinoids naturally produced by cannabis – such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

Can CBD be beneficial for patients with cancer?

This article will look at scientific papers, which examine how CBD is used in patients with cancer and what current research suggests regarding the mechanism of its effects.

Cannabis for cancer

What benefits can CBD offer to patients with cancer?

CBD and other cannabinoids found in cannabis have been the subject of extensive research regarding cancer treatment and palliative care.

Although much further examination is still needed to confirm the effects of CBD, the current findings are very promising.

The main benefits of taking CBD when fighting cancer include:

1. CBD regulates key immune cells which task is to detect and eliminate cancer cells from the body

2. CBD can reduce pain associated with cancer

3. CBD supports the length and quality of sleep

4. CBD together with other cannabinoids may support appetite

5. CBD can slow the growth of tumor

6. CBD reduces nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy

7. CBD can reduce anxiety and depression associated with cancer

1. CBD regulates vital immune cells, which task is to detect and eliminate cancer cells from the body

Most people have had cancer cells in their bodies at some point.

Usually, the immune system can identify them in time and destroy them. Specialized immune cells are tasked to perform this crucial job to detect and eliminate abnormal cells, such as cancer cells. The most important of these immune cells are T-cells (T-lymphocytes) and NK cells (natural killers).

Sometimes the immune system is tricked by cancer into a belief that there is no threat, allowing it to grow uncontrollably in the body.

Scientists believe that CBD can provide anti-cancer effects due to its interaction with endocannabinoid CB2 receptors. Their presence has been proven in T-lymphocytesB-lymphocytes, and NK cells (natural killers). They are most abundant in B-cells and NK cells.

This interaction is very complex, and scientists are still trying to understand how CBD and other cannabinoids affect the immune system’s ability to detect and eliminate cancer cells in the body. However, as highlighted in a Polish paper published in 2017, the current understanding is that CBD promotes a shift in immune activation from the dominance of TH2 (commonly found in patients with cancer) to dominant TH1 (believed it resists cancer growth).

If you are unsure what the TH1 and TH2 immune responses are, do not worry because this is an extremely complicated topic. Doctors, who have dedicated their entire careers to studying the immune system’s function, still have many unanswered questions about this particular interaction.

The immune system has two main features – TH1 and TH2 – each optimized for a different job:

– TH1 is better at attacking and eliminating invading pathogens, but it also works as a maintenance factor in autoimmune diseases.

– TH2 is more involved in maintaining inflammatory reactions and allergies.

Unfortunately, disorientation can occur within this system when cancer is present in the body, leading to TH1/TH2 improving or worsening the cancerous condition. Sometimes the system needs to be pushed in the right direction to ensure that the correct tool is used for work.

2. CBD can reduce pain associated with cancer

One of the main side effects of cancer is pain, which can be debilitating.

Pain is often caused by the tumor pressing on the nerves, bones, or organs in the body. Chemotherapy medicines also may cause pain accompanied by tingling and numbness, frequently occurring in fingers and toes. Due to these reasons, the treatment of pain in cancer patients is one of the main goals.

CBD is an excellent option for cancer patients coping with pain because it works through more than just one mechanism to achieve alleviation.

CBD is believed to affect the activation of vanilloid pain receptors, which play a crucial role in blocking pain transmission to the spinal cord and brain.

In a recent study, an extract containing both CBD and THC has been proved to relieve pain in patients with advanced cancer where opiates were ineffective.

3. CBD supports sleep

Chronic pain associated with cancer and other side effects such as anxiety and depression, can make it difficult for patients to fall asleep and have a good sleep.

CBD can help by relieving symptoms such as pain and anxiety that can interfere with sleep.

A recent review article highlighting years of phase I, II, and III of clinical trials conducted with a cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical product, Sativex, has shown significant improvements in the quality and duration of sleep in cancer patients and other chronic and life-threatening medical conditions. This review includes information collected from 2,000 different patients and approximately 1,000 patient-years of exposure to the drug.

CBD chemotherapy

4. Related cannabinoids can increase appetite

One of the main side effects of cancer treatment is decreased appetite, which is vital for the body as it needs nutrients to support recovery.

If we do not eat enough, it is even more difficult for the body to fight cancer, so it is essencial to ensure that we eat.

CBD is not known for its ability to increase appetite.  This effect is mainly attributed to THC present in cannabis. A Phase II clinical study published in 1994 showed that 13 out of 19 cancer patients, who suffered significant weight loss and appetite suppression, experienced substantial increases in appetite and weight gain after taking THC.

Although it is not legal in many countries, THC has been shown to bring significant improvements in appetite. Therefore, if you can access CBD oil containing THC, it is likely that you will experience the greatest benefit of it.

5. CBD can slow the growth of tumor

The main goal of cancer treatment is to stop tumor growth and give the body the best chance to defend itself. CBD oil has been proved to inhibit cancer cells’ growth and help to stop them from spreading to other areas of the body.

In some patients, the use of CBD has decreased the invasion of cancer cells and slowed tumor growth. Most research in this area involves animal studies too. Thus, long-term clinical studies on humans still need to be approved.

However, numerous trials has shown shrinking tumors in animal and in vitro experimentation, such as pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, and colon cancer.

There are several theories about how CBD can reduce the size of cancer tumors. For example, through anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory effects, and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death). However, this largely depends on the form of cancer being treated, along with several other factors.

6. CBD reduces nausea and vomiting

Frequent side effects of chemotherapy are nausea and vomiting. The treatment of these symptoms will significantly improve the overall quality of life in cancer patients.

Cannabis has been used to relieve nausea and vomiting for centuries. Both practical experience and research evidence support the use of CBD for therapeutic relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Cochrane’s work is one of the most extensive studies, which analyzed the results of 23 clinical trials involving cannabinoids, which conclude that cannabinoids are highly effective and provide similar effects to conventional treatments in relieving chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

It is worth mentioning that some studies have found the opposite effect. So it is advisable to try out CBD first and not rely directly on its efficacy in relieving nausea and vomiting. The results can vary widely from person to person.

7. CBD can reduce anxiety and depression associated with the cancer diagnosis

Going through a cancer diagnosis can be extremely stressful. Studies show that many people suffer from depression and anxiety (Depending on the study and stage or type of cancer, the range is between 0% and 58%).

Reducing anxiety and depression is considered one of the most important steps in cancer treatment to promote recovery and improve the quality of life of those affected.

CBD has well-known benefits for relieving depression and anxiety symptoms, which have been thoroughly studied on animals. Several clinical trials are currently underway to look at specific CBD’s effects on people suffering from various forms of depression. More research is still needed to prove these effects on humans.

When CBD use is combined with lifestyle changes, support from friends and family, including personal contemplation, it can be an extremely powerful tool for alleviating depression, anxiety, and overall well-being.

What is cancer?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that cancer is the world’s second leading cause of death. It is estimated that cancer caused death to 9.6 million people worldwide in 2018.

So what exactly is cancer? How does it form?

Our cells are continually multiplying to replace those that are lost due to damage and natural death. When cells are lost, new ones are created to replace them.

However, sometimes this process fails, and the body produces abnormal cells instead of healthy ones. Occasionally, such cells become cancerous, beginning to replicate and spread themselves violently.

What has gone wrong? What causes the formation of these abnormal and potential cancer cells? It all starts with our DNA.

Our DNA is responsible for providing a kind of recipe for making new cells. The body follows this recipe every time a new cell is created. If the DNA is damaged, it can cause problems with the replication process, leading to abnormal or malfunctioning cells instead of healthy ones.

These dysfunctional cells can be either cancerous or non-cancerous. However, both types can begin to replicate themselves and eventually create large “colonies” known as tumors.

Non-cancerous (benign) tumors are limited to the affected organ, and their growth is generally slow. Eventually, they are cut off from the rest of the body when healthy cells begin to grow around the tumor to make the organ function properly. These tumors are rarely fatal if caught in time. They become dangerous only when they grow as much as they begin to press on other organs, making their function difficult.

On the other hand, cancerous (malignant) tumors vary greatly. Instead of forming tumors that can be eventually cut off, they invade new areas, making abnormal cells reach other organs and tissues. This is referred to as “metastasis.”

Cancer cells have a specific “intelligence.” They relentlessly replicate, even forming their own blood vessels to feed the energy-intensive growth of the tumor. Some cancers even take measures to withstand the effects of chemotherapy designed to kill them.

Cancer cells can resist chemotherapy in several different ways:

– Pumping a chemotherapy agent from cancer cells

– By blocking protein molecules on the cancerous cell wall, which otherwise let in the chemotherapy agent

– Deactivation of the chemotherapy agent before it takes effect

– Rapid repair of the damage caused by a chemotherapy agent

This type of cellular dysfunction can be hazardous. It resists the attack of the immune system and spreads into new areas of the body.

There are many kinds of cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are more than 100 different types of cancer. Each type is characterized by the origin – in which organ cancer forms initially. For example, lung cancer comes from the lungs, while skin cancer begins in the skin. Cancer can also be characterized by the type of cell that forms the tumor.

Each type of cancer is unique and may require different treatments, but the general concept is the same – to stop cancer cells’ spread by interrupting their ability to replicate. That is the primary goal of chemotherapy.

CBD medicinal

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is only one of four hundred compounds found in cannabis. Two primary therapeutic compounds, THC and CBD, are present in leaves and flowers. These compounds are closely related, but they show significant differences in effects.

1. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Although it can relieve pain and has anti-inflammatory effects, it can also cause some unwanted side effects, such as cognitive impairment, anxiety, sedation, dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes, psychosis, and poor motor coordination.

Drugs like Dronabinol and Nabilone are synthetic versions of THC used as an adjunctive treatment to cancer patients.

2. CBD is the primary non-psychoactive component of cannabis. It has been proved to have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and antipsychotic therapeutic effects without the typical side psychoactive side effects like THC.

Recent studies have shown that CBD exhibits anti-cancer activity in many types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer (colon), breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, glioblastoma, melanoma, leukemia, and neuroblastoma.

How do patients with cancer take CBD?

This article is for informational purposes only. Always talk to your doctor before taking CBD or any other supplement.

Nowadays, many people use CBD supplements to support immune system functions and tackle some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy when treating cancer.

Side effects, which may occur in patients with cancer, include weight loss, fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, mouth ulcers, blisters, and hair loss.

Extensive research has shown that CBD has a high safety profile, even when combined with other pharmaceutical drugs.

The most common way of taking CBD is oral. This makes it easy to administer this supplement into the body, allowing users to measure the dose accurately. It also has a relatively high absorption rate compared to other methods.

CBD can also be taken in capsules, applied on the skin as cream (for example, in skin cancer), dissolved in drinks, or mixed into food.

Most research on the use of CBD, and other cannabinoids, along with other cancer therapies, involve higher doses than other health conditions. Talk to your doctor about the correct dose and follow the recommended dosing for the best results.

CBD tincture

Conclusion: Taking CBD when fighting cancer

Research involving CBD has shown tremendous promise of this cannabinoid in the form of complementary treatment in cancer patients. However, more research is needed to demonstrate these effects in practice better.

Most research regarding this alternative involves in vitro animal trials and small group studies on human patients.

The advantage of this useful health supplement is its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system – which is deeply associated with inflammatory response and other aspects of the immune system, including the balance between TH1 and TH2 responses.

CBD can also provide solutions to common side effects of chemotherapy and cancer, such as nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

With a long list of therapeutic benefits and a lack of risks of side effects, CBD is an exciting new prospect for cancer treatment.

“All information presented on this website, as well as all the information provided through this website, is for educational purposes only. None of the information presented herein is intended to replace medical diagnosis and cannot be considered as medical advice or recommended treatment. This website does not endorse or advocate the use of narcotics or psychotropic substances, including other illegal activities.

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