As discussed earlier, cannabis has many uses that go beyond just getting high. There are several studies exploring whether or not marijuana can help patients in remission treat symptoms of cancer. Specifically, it is looking to aid in pain management, appetite stimulation, and weight loss.
Many different types of cancers suffer from overactive immune systems. This constant state of inflammation can cause chronic pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Because of this, some doctors order chemotherapy drugs that include corticosteroids, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
However, due to the side effect profile of these medications, people with cancer often self-prescribe alternative therapies instead. These range from ingesting natural products like vitamins and minerals, to using herbal supplements such as CBD.
There have been a few small clinical trials conducted with cannabis as an intervention for pain in individuals who have cancer. Two out of three participants experienced either significant decrease in pain or no change in pain levels, while using cannabis compared to a placebo control group.
In one study, six out of eight participants were able to reduce their opioid use when they needed them by replacing them with medical marijuana. They all reported improved quality of life and reduced anxiety related to medication withdrawal while using cannabis instead of opioids.
Given the growing body of evidence supporting its safety and potential efficacy for symptom improvement in cancer, we should consider offering cannabis as part of our standard treatment regimens.
Clinical trials with cannabis
Recent studies have shown that smoking marijuana may help in treating certain types of cancer. There are even some studies suggesting it can be more effective than conventional treatments in some cases!
A review published in 2017 analyzed six clinical studies looking at the effects of smoked or oral cannabinoids (marijuana compounds) on patients with various forms of solid tumors, including pancreatic, lung, colon, stomach, and breast cancers.
The researchers found that two out of three studies reported benefits for some symptoms such as pain or nausea; one study didn’t find any benefit. None of these studies determined whether there was a difference in how well the drugs worked between groups who were given placebo versus active drug.
However, the authors noted that several limitations should be considered when interpreting the results. First, all six studies had very small sample sizes — often only five to twenty people per group. Second, four out of the six studies were observational rather than randomized controlled trials, which is the best way to determine if a new intervention works.
Overall, this means we don’t know whether the observed positive trends in outcomes could be due to chance, confounding factors, or effect of the treatment. Given these limitations, the reviewers concluded that although more research is needed, current evidence does not suggest that use of smoked or orally administered CBDs is helpful in reducing adverse symptoms associated with cancer and/it may actually cause some worsening of those symptoms.
Popular cannabinoids and their effects
There are over 100 chemical compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids. Some people focus only on one type of cannabinoid or even one compound within a specific group of cannabinoids. This is known as “high-focused” medicine.
However, what most physicians and clinical researchers find is that there is more than one pathway to effective treatments.
That is why it is referred to as “mixed-biofunction medicine.” What this means is that CBD may work differently for each person because everyone has his or her own unique biochemistry.
Some patients feel better after smoking CBD oil, while others need to ingest it in other forms — such as tinctures or capsules.
There are several reasons why some individuals respond well to mixed-MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils when using CBD for cancer treatment.
First, many people lose weight quickly when they use marijuana soothes hunger. Many also notice improved sleep quality. Both of these can help you manage pain and stress, which make your body more reactive and susceptible to disease.
Second, studies show that cannabidiol may interfere with how certain drugs interact with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This could reduce unwanted side effects and increase effectiveness of both therapies.
Third, recent research suggests that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main active chemicals in marijuana, may play an important role in killing tumor cells.
Large-scale studies of cannabis
A review of all existing research indicates that cannabinoids have significant anticancer properties. They reduce tumor growth and promote apoptosis, or cell death. They also work as chemo agents in some cancer types. However to date, there are no adequate clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of marijuana as a whole medicine to help treat any type of cancer.
A few small randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigated the individual compound cannabidiol (CBD), which is one of the most prominent active compounds in cannabis. These RCTs found it was effective in reducing symptoms of pain and nausea/vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
But again, there is not enough data to prove CBD can be used to prevent or treat cancer as a whole. Because of this, medical professionals cannot endorse using cannabis as a form of holistic treatment for cancer.
Side effects of cannabis
While there are some studies suggesting that cannabinoids may help treat cancer, you should be aware of all the potential side effects before diving in.
Many of these symptoms occur because your body is trying to eliminate the components of the marijuana being used. These sometimes very serious symptoms can easily be avoided if patients are made aware of them.
Some common side effect include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fatigue, trouble sleeping, dry mouth, weight loss, muscle cramps, hot flashes, headache, and hallucinations.
Certain drugs have shown to reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy by interfering with the activity of the hormone insulin. Because most chemo treatments work by killing rapidly growing cells, people who use cannabis often experience glucose levels that remain high due to the compound’s action on insulin.
This can cause complications such as infections or even death for someone with an immune system that has been severely damaged. People using cannabis during treatment must be monitored carefully for signs of infection or changes in diet needed to manage blood sugar levels.
Overall though, cannabis has not been found to be harmful when used for medical purposes under appropriate supervision. It seems clear that more research needs to done to determine how it can best be applied for health benefits.
Dosing of cannabis
Medical marijuana has been around for quite some time now, but there are still many questions about how to use it for optimal benefits and minimal risk. One important thing to consider is the length of time you plan to use medical cannabis as part or all of your treatment regimen.
Just like with any other medication, longer exposures can have greater effects. Therefore, choosing an appropriate dosing schedule is essential in achieving positive results while minimizing negative side effects.
Dose timing also makes a difference. For example, if you were taking a morning dose to help reduce nausea from chemotherapy, then nighttime would be less effective because that’s when symptoms usually occur.
Fortunately, we do have some information about how different doses affect THC and CBD levels! But what kind of information? We will discuss that below.
About strain differences
As mentioned earlier, there are many different cannabinoids in cannabis, but only two that have been confirmed to help with certain cancers: THC and CBD. However, not all strains of marijuana contain these cannabinoids or enough of them to see results.
Some patients find it helpful to use medical marijuana that has high levels of one specific cannabinoid to reduce pain or increase appetite. For example, someone who is trying to lose weight might be prescribed a whole plant extract containing CBN (which we cannot obtain from legal sources) to boost appetite.
However, this isn’t possible for everyone because some people respond differently to individual compounds in cannabis. Medical professionals must determine which cannabinoids are needed for each patient, so most doctors don’t prescribe just one compound.
A growing body of research suggests that some types of medical marijuana may work better than others for treating various conditions. This could mean reducing symptoms more effectively or achieving greater relief.
For instance, studies show that tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC)-rich cannabis may be more effective at easing nausea and vomiting than other forms.
But researchers also found that THCa can have unwanted effects…and even counteract the benefit of the medication you’re taking!
That means using the right kind of medical marijuana can make treatment less efficient and potentially harmful for your health.
About the process of extracting cannabis
Extracting or cooking marijuana down into its active compounds is what really makes it useful so that you can use the whole plant or only specific components to treat certain conditions.
Some of these active ingredients are called cannabinoids. There are some 21 different types of cannabinoids in cannabis, with each having their own effect and role to play in medical treatments.
Certain ones have anti-inflammatory effects while others promote calm nerves and sleep, for example. And there’s even one type of cannabinoid which has been shown to help destroy cancer cells!
But before you start consuming anything herbal, just make sure your health is stable first! Discontinuing any medicine that you’re on close monitor of symptoms and how they respond will be important.
There’s also an urgent need for more research into the safety and efficacy of using cannabis as a treatment for various diseases. Until those studies are done, we recommend speaking with professionals who have expertise in this area.
Concentration and purity of cannabis extracts
As mentioned earlier, there are two main components in marijuana- cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids are compounds that occur naturally in cannabis. There are over 100 different types of cannabinoids, including things like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what makes people feel “high” or stoned.
However, not all cannabinoids are the same! For example, CBD does not make you high, it has been shown to have many health benefits. Therefore, some companies use CBD instead of THC as an extract.
Terpenes are another key compound in cannabis. Terpenes give rise to the distinctive smells and flavors of weed. Some strains contain lots of specific terpenes, while other strains are less strong in their scent. Both can have unique effects depending on your body.
There are several ways to prepare cannabis products. You can either add dried cannabis to liquid or cook the whole plant matter down into a solid form. How you do this will determine how much total cannabinoid and terpene content you get.
Some studies have tested the efficacy of purified cannabidiol (or CBD) oils in treating certain cancers. Because they are more concentrated, some say it may be able to treat cancer cells more effectively than whole flower cannabis.