Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?

January 22, 2023
Cannabis and Cancer
Cannabis and Cancer

Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?

Many people wonder, does weed help with cancer? Just a quick search online and on forums and one can see that there are a lot unsubstantial number of people who have had serious cancers and who believe that the reason for their survival was the use of weed. 

We know that humans have used cannabis for millennia for recreational and medical uses and herbal remedies. However, due to the illegal status, oncologists and clinicians could not properly investigate the curative potential in large clinical trials. “Can cannabis cure cancer?” – is still an open question.

Due to the disastrous nature of cancer, globally, 1 in 6 deaths are due to cancer. In this post, we will cover the basics of what cancer is and how potentially cannabis can interact with this vicious disease.

This post is intended as information and for general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is recommended that you talk to a healthcare professional about this before introducing cannabinoids into your daily routine (especially if you have been diagnosed with any medical conditions or are under any medication). It is not recommended to drive or operate any machinery when using cannabis- or hemp-derived products. Use responsibly!

What is Cancer?

Essentially, cancer is when a population of cells in the body becomes unregulated and starts to multiply faster than the body can control the growth of those cells. These cells can then grow into large masses and/or metastasize to other parts of the body, e.g., bones, brain, or lungs and cause problems far from the origin of the cells.

There are many types of cancer defined by where it is believed to have begun, be it in the kidneys (e.g., renal cells) or the blood/bone marrow. For example, cancer that starts in the lungs may be called lung cancer – but even then, there are different sub-types of cancer in the lung – for example, small cell vs. squamous cell, etc. That same lung cancer may go to the liver – and it is still considered lung cancer as that is where the cells originated. Cancer can then cause problems at the original site as well as at the new sites it has moved to.

Cure or Treatment with Marijuana

First of all, let’s distinguish the concepts of treatment and cure. The word “treatment” refers to using medicine to improve the overall state of a patient. While “cure” means something that makes someone who is sick completely healthy again. Basically, some types of cancer can be cured (when a patient responds to treatment well), but there is no cure for cancer itself, at least for now. 

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer, although its side effects are drastic. Oncologists across the world are dealing with new trials to figure out whether cannabis can be used to reduce the burden of cancer itself or alleviate the side effects of chemo. 

When it comes to cannabis, cancer treatments nowadays very much approve of it as it has shown great results in reducing nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy or other invasive treatments. Although we are not talking about marijuana preventing cancer now, at least the stigma around weed in this field is not as tight and gives scientists something to work on.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is the name offered to the dried buds and leaves of varieties of the cannabis plant, which can grow wild in warm and tropical environments throughout the world and be cultivated commercially. 

Researchers have identified lots of biologically active components in cannabis starting in the 20th century. These cannabinoids include the two best-known and studied chemicals, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Other cannabinoids are being studied.

At this time, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists cannabis and its cannabinoids as Schedule I controlled compounds. This indicates that they can not legally be prescribed, possessed, or offered under federal law. Whole or unrefined marijuana (consisting of marijuana oil or hemp oil) is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any medical use. 

At the same time, The Federal Analogue Act of 2018 has made hemp (a type of cannabis plant) federally legal, provided its THC level is no more than 0.3%. Nevertheless, while some states may apply additional regulations and restrictions on hemp, others may legalize marijuana itself for different purposes.

Legalization opens up many opportunities, first of all, for researchers to get us the answer to the ultimate question: can medical marijuana cure cancer?

Studies on Cannabis Use and Its Impact on Cancer

There is a wide range of cannabinoids that are considered to have potential biological activity in cancer, including CBD, THC, cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), delta-8 THC.

Antitumor Effects

Studies in other mammals, and with rats in particular, have shown that the incidence of different liver cancers was reduced by increasing doses of THC. These decreases were not only dose-related by also decreased the incidence of benign tumors (non-cancerous) in many organs. Another study showed that the administration of delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC, and CBN inhibited the growth of a form of lung cancer both in test tubes and in animal models. In fact, several studies have shown the inhibition of growth by cannabinoids in cancer cell cultures.

There are other studies pointing to the ability of cannabinoids to cause anti-tumor effects by way of inhibiting the growth of blood vessels to cancer and reducing their potential for metastasis. Others have shown the ability of cannabinoids to induce cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells while potentially even improving the longevity of normal cells.

Cannabis Cancer Trials in Humans

There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans, and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, using marijuana for cancer cure is off the table for now.