Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the numerous cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD is quickly gaining in popularity throughout the natural medicine world since it appears to offer numerous benefits to the body. While the topic is still up for debate, some have suggested that CBD can be used to treat cancer.
While it might be a bit too early to make claims regarding the use of CBD for treating cancer, it can help manage the symptoms associated with the disease or even its treatment.
It is worth noting that CBD isn’t the same as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active cannabinoid found in cannabis that’s responsible for the “high” experienced when it is ingested or smoked. Researchers are also considering using CBD to treat chronic pain and anxiety.
The initial results from small studies on the effect of CBD on cancer cells are promising, but they aren’t conclusive. The following is a discussion about the effects of CBD on cancer and how it can be used to ease the side effects associated with cancer treatments.
CBD is an Effective Complementary Therapy
Most of the available evidence suggests that cannabis and CBD therapies can effectively complement cancer treatment. CBD can help those with cancer by;
CBD can help provide pain relief and boost appetite. Most people that are receiving cancer treatment often suffer from nausea as well as a loss of appetite. The symptoms can make it difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight.
Ingested cannabis delivers to the bloodstream THC along with other cannabinoids and can help boost appetite, but there isn’t any evidence showing that CBD alone has a similar effect.
Relief from Pain
Cancer the disease and its treatment often lead to pain. Cancer usually causes pain due to nerve injury, pressure on internal organs, and inflammation. If the pain is severe, it can actually be resistant to opioids, which are highly effective in providing pain relief.
CBD indirectly acts on the CB2 receptors that can help with widespread relief from pain by reducing inflammation. THC, on the other hand, acts on the CB1 receptors that can be helpful from the pain that results from nerve damage.
Sleep and Anxiety
It is believed that the endocannabinoid system is centrally involved in mood regulation as well as the extinction of aversive memories. Animal studies show that CBD has anxiolytic properties. It has been in shown that the mediation of anxiolytic properties happens through mechanisms that are still currently unknown. The anxiolytic properties of CBD have been shown in several models involving animals.
The endocannabinoid system has also been shown to play a major role in modulating the sleep-waking cycle in rats.
Cannabis, as well as cannabinoids such as CBD, can also be helpful for those suffering from cancer that experiences nausea and vomiting regularly, particularly when this is caused by chemotherapy.
The anti-nausea effect, however, seems to come from the THC in cannabis, as opposed to CBD. People that wish to try using cannabis for the reduction of nausea should be ready for the possible psychoactive effects associated with THC in prescribed products and discuss them with a physician.
People often experience relief from low THC doses. Prescription versions of synthetic THC with fewer side effects are currently available.
Related: Tips For Traveling with CBD
CBD for Preventing Cancer
People often wonder whether CBD or cannabis can be used to prevent cancer. Reviews of numerous studies regarding the link between cancer and cannabis by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have found that the research has mixed results.
An older study involving 64,855 men from the U.S. found that the use of cannabis didn’t increase the risk of cancers associated with tobacco. Still, the same study also found that male users of cannabis that never smoked tobacco had a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
On the other hand, authors of a study conducted in 2015 found an interesting relationship between cannabis use and bladder cancer. After adjusting for several factors, they discovered that the risk of developing bladder cancer was 45 percent lower in cannabis users.
Research has always shown that cannabis smoke still contains carcinogens, but the link between marijuana that’s inhaled and cancer is still inconclusive.
Still, the ingestion of CBD extract doesn’t expose the body to similar carcinogens as those associated with marijuana smoking. Many more long-term studies involving humans are important for determining what role, if any, CBD plays in cancer prevention.
Is It Possible for CBD to Treat Cancer?
Studies have been conducted to investigate the role that CBD plays in the prevention of cancer cell growth. However, that research is still in the early stages. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), CBD can help alleviate the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment. Still, the BCI does not fully endorse using cannabis in any form as a treatment for cancer.
The action of CBD that’s promising as a treatment for cancer is its ability to moderate inflammation as well as changing how cells reproduce. CBD has the effect of reducing the reproduction ability of some types of tumor cells.
However, they equally noted that some types of dosages of cannabinoid can actually suppress the immune system thus allowing the unchecked growth of tumors.
Currently, there aren’t any large clinical trials investigating cannabis or cannabinoid use as a treatment for cancer. A lot more research is needed to unearth the potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer.
Related: Frequently Asked Questions About CBD
Other Possible CBD uses
CBD has previously been in the news as a possible epilepsy treatment. Research is still in the early stages. Researchers are testing the extent to which CBD can reduce the number of seizures suffered by those with epilepsy along with how safe it is. According to the American Epilepsy Society, cannabinoid research offers hope for seizure disorders and that research is currently being undertaken to better understand safe use.
A study was conducted back in 2016 and involved 214 people suffering from epilepsy. Study participants added oral doses ranging from 2 mg to 5 mg of CBD every day to their existing anti-epilepsy medications. Researchers conducting the study monitored the study participants for 12 weeks, recording all negative side effects, and checking on how frequent their seizures were. Overall, the participants had 36.5% fewer seizures every month. However, 12 percent of participants have severe adverse side effects.
Researchers are examining a receptor in the brain to better understand how CBD could help those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders, which are the diseases that lead to the deterioration of the brain and nerves over time. The receptor is referred to as CB1.
Researchers are studying the use of CBD oil to treat the following:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
CBD can also help reduce inflammation that can worsen neurodegenerative symptoms. Further research, however, is required to fully understand the effects of CBD oil for treating neurodegenerative diseases.
Side Effects of CBD
If you stop taking CBD, you may start experiencing insomnia.
The brain’s cannabinoid receptors don’t act the same way as many other drug receptors. It is due to this reason that there could be a lower risk of experiencing side effects.
Unlike the traditional medications used to manage pain, there are no apparent lethal CBD doses. The reason for this is that the drug doesn’t affect the central nervous symptoms as opiates do.
The cannabinoid receptors are, however, widespread in the body, which means that CBD not only affects the brain but also numerous other tissues and organs.
Small-scale studies have found that people usually tolerate CBD well, but some people may experience mild side effects, which include:
- Appetite changes
- Weight changes
CBD can also interact with a variety of medications thus causing liver damage. The medications include:
- Sleep aids, or Sedatives
- Muscle Relaxers
- Chemotherapy Drugs
- Blood Thinners
- Anti-Seizure Medications
- Anti-Anxiety Medications
It might be necessary to speak to a doctor regarding the use of CBD products since they can also interact with some over-the-counter supplements and aids. People should be extra cautious when taking CBD alongside a prescription medication that warns about possible interactions with grapefruit.
Increased liver toxicity is a possible side effect of CBD. According to a 2019 study in the journal Molecules, varying doses of CBD were administered to mice. The mice that received higher CBD doses experienced lover damage within a day.
Clinical trials of Epidiolex, which is the brand name of CBD medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat epilepsy, didn’t find any indications of physical dependence. Still, the manufacturers of Epidiolex have warned of its potential to cause liver problems in the product’s safety information.
The NCI notes that CBD inhibits specific enzymes that could play an important role in cancer therapies. Cancer treatments that rely on such enzymes could be less effective when a person takes CBD.
Is CBD Actually Legal?
Hemp-derived CBD products containing less than 0.3 percent THC are legal on the federal level, but they might be illegal in some states. Marijuana-derived products are illegal on the federal level but can be legal in some states. Check the laws in your state as well as those of anywhere you travel. Always remember that nonprescription CBD products are not approved by the FDA and could actually be labeled inaccurately.
The Bottom Line
CBD appears to be a beneficial compound for many symptoms of cancer, but not scientific research currently available suggests that it can be effective when it comes to treating cancer.
Cannabis and cannabinoids might have their place as a complementary treatment in some cases, for instance, for those that require help in managing nausea and chronic pain.
It is always advisable to talk to a doctor before using CBD or any other compound while undergoing cancer treatment to ensure that it won’t react with the rest of the medications you might be taking.