Medical Marijuana and Cancer: How Cannabis Can Help Treat Cancer


The cannabis plant has many cannabinoid compounds that can have profound benefits for those battling cancer. The evidence is research-backed; cannabis is a safe and effective companion treatment that can relieve cancer-related symptoms such as nausea, pain, and inflammation. Research has also shown that cannabis compounds can slow the growth of cancer and shrink tumors. Cannabis can also relieve stress and elevate your mood, helping the cancer patient survive the disease emotionally and psychologically.

Previous Studies Done

There are a number of prominent studies proving cancer combating efficacy of cannabis. A 1974 study was one of the first; it was funded by the American Cancer Society and published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This study demonstrated that mice whose tumors were surgically implanted had reduced tumor size after 20 consecutive days of treatment with THC. Almost thirty years later, a researcher at the University of Madrid followed up on the 1974 experiment and had similar results. The March 2000 issue of Nature Medicine, featured the report that stated that cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, not only shrank cancerous tumors in mice but did not damage the surrounding tissues.

The next year, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study demonstrating the effectiveness of THC for relieving nausea and vomiting that comes with chemotherapy. Finally, the International Journal of Oncology published a report in 2017 demonstrating that cannabinoids have natural anti-cancer effects, whether used with chemotherapy or alone. Likewise, according to research performed by the Yale Cancer Center, the majority of pediatric cancer doctors endorse using medical cannabis for the treatment of children with advanced cancer.

How Cannabinoids Treat Cancer

The medicinal benefits of cannabinoids open a physical key within the body's cells; cannabinoids from cannabis attach to and open the body's CB1 and CB2 receptors. The human body produced endocannabinoid compounds, and the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant closely mimics that.

Both animal and human studies have shown that Cannabinoids:

  • Triggers the death of cells, called apoptosis
  • Stops cancer cells from dividing
  • Prevents the development of new blood vessels that supply tumors
  • Stops or reduces cancer cells from invading neighboring healthy tissue
  • Assists autophagy, defined as cell level waste disposal

To put it simply, cannabinoids can inhibit tumor growth by slowing cancer cell growth, causing cancer cell death, and cutting off the blood vessels that feed cancer tumors, all while protecting normal cells.

Finally, Researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center found that cannabidiol (CBD) can switch off the DNA that causes many types of cancer. Abundant in both industrial hemp and medical marijuana, CBD does not have the psychotropic effect of THC.

While cannabis as a cancer treatment may not be a cure-all, it certainly should be considered by anyone suffering from the disease. At the very least, it can relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting, and at best, it may actually slow or reverse the progression of the disease.


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