How CBD Helps With Cancer
Cancer comes in different forms and involves many types of treatment, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, stem cell transplant, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and precision medicine(1).
According to the National Cancer Institute, side effects of cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy, may include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and anemia(2).
A 2011 research study in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggested that CBD had antiemetic (vomit-preventing) properties and may help reduce nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy(3).
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates the body’s homeostasis or biological balance in response to environmental changes(4). The ECS also affects cell growth and apoptosis (cell destruction necessary for growth).
The ECS maintains physiological function, including chronic pain perception, mood, and cognition. Experts believe that the system can modulate these functions through its cannabinoid receptors(5).
CB1 and CB2 are the primary types of receptors with unique roles in the ECS. These receptors exist in specific parts of the human body and may help with treating different cancer cells in various body parts.
CB1 receptors are prevalent in the brain and the central nervous system. They are also located in the retina, lungs, liver, reproductive organs, and gastrointestinal and urinary tracts(6).
CB1 receptors affect motor regulation, memory processing, pain management, appetite, sleep, and mood(7).
Experts link the activation of CB1 receptors to neuroprotective responses, suggesting that cannabinoids with a greater affinity for CB1 receptors may help with neurodegenerative conditions.
Neurodegenerative diseases occur when there are miscommunications between brain cells, resulting in neuron death. Among these neurodegenerative conditions are Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Meanwhile, CB2 receptors primarily exist in immune system cells and their associated structures.
Triggering CB2 receptors stimulates a response that fights inflammation, reduces pain, and minimizes tissue damage.
Anti-inflammatory responses like these may help treat conditions linked to inflammation, including arthritis, Crohn’s disease, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), and inflammatory bowel syndrome(8).
A placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management showed that THC:CBD extract was effective for pain relief among patients with advanced cancer pain not fully relieved by potent opioids(9).
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is a cannabinoid that causes users to experience a high.
How to Use CBD Oils and Tinctures for Cancer
For cancer, you may take CBD in edible forms. These consumable formats include CBD gummies, CBD brownies, and CBD capsules. This method of consuming CBD is suitable for beginners, as it is more straightforward than other methods.
The sublingual method is another way to administer CBD suitable for a more controlled CBD intake. With this option, you take the calibrated dropper included in most CBD tincture products and put a few drops of CBD oil tincture under your tongue.
Leave the oil under the tongue for about two minutes before swallowing. This holding period allows your mucous membranes to absorb the tincture.
Meanwhile, you may also inhale CBD through flavored or unflavored vaping products. This method is ideal for choosing peppermint or fruity flavors over the natural, earthy flavor of pure CBD oil.
Vaping also brings CBD into your system quickly through the lungs. However, note that CBD vapes may affect lung cancer or lung disorders(10).
As such, first–time users of CBD for cancer should seek medical advice from a licensed physician. When purchasing CBD products, you should get advice from a doctor with significant experience in CBD and cannabis oil product usage.
How Soon Does It Take to Feel CBD’s Effects on Cancer?
Depending on how you use a CBD product for cancer and its symptoms, the time it takes for CBD to work may vary.
Taking CBD by Mouth
Oral administration of CBD involves ingestion in the form of food, drinks, gummies, or capsules. For beginners, these are more straightforward ways to take CBD oil.
Through sublingual administration, you can absorb CBD directly into your bloodstream.
You might find CBD oil’s natural flavor unpleasant through sublingual administration. However, the effects of CBD oil generally last for 4 to 6 hours, which you may be able to feel within 15 to 45 minutes(11).
CBD oil tinctures or drops are your practical option if you prefer quick results and maximum dosage control.
Topical CBD Application
CBD topicals, such as CBD transdermal patches and CBD creams, work instantly after rubbing the product onto the affected area. This method may help relieve the painful side effects of cancer.
You may opt to apply topical CBD oil alone or combine the product with creams or lotions(12). Using CBD topicals or other CBD-infused creams with massage therapy may help you feel relief in about 15 minutes(13).
Applying CBD topically may result in CBD not interacting with the ECS as a whole. Instead, CBD topicals target localized clusters of cannabinoid receptors.
Note that determining whether the pain-relieving properties of a CBD topical product comes from CBD or another ingredient is difficult. Topical products may include other common over-the-counter pain-relief ingredients, such as menthol, camphor, or capsaicin.
You can feel CBD’s purported effects within minutes when using a vape pen to inhale CBD vape juices. After inhalation, the effects may last between three to five hours(14).
However, determining the precise amount of CBD you get from each draw of CBD vapes is challenging.
Still, inhaling CBD vapors may be the quickest way to get CBD into your body. Through inhalation, you allow CBD to enter your bloodstream through the lungs. As such, CBD does not go through your digestive system.
Note that the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Society’s advocacy affiliate, opposes the vaping or smoking of medical marijuana and other cannabinoids in public places.
ACS CAN states that the carcinogens in marijuana smoke pose numerous health hazards to cancer patients and other people in the patient’s presence(15). Carcinogens are substances that promote cancer formation.
What to Look for When Selecting a CBD Oil or Tincture for Cancer
Although CBD is not approved as a supplement for treating cancer according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)(16), you may still choose from the three forms of CBD currently available on the market: full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolates.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all of the natural compounds present in Cannabis sativa plants, from flavonoids and terpenes to cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
High–quality full-spectrum hemp extract contains a higher cannabidiol content than the other cannabis compounds.
CBD oil that contains all of cannabis’ naturally occurring chemical compounds produce the entourage effect. This phenomenon involves the combination of all the cannabis plants’ contents to produce synergistic effects in aiding anxiety disorders and mood disorders(17). These conditions are common side effects among cancer patients.
To obtain full-spectrum CBD, manufacturers make industrial hemp plants undergo extraction methods, such as steam distillation, CO2 extraction, or alcohol extraction. Manufacturers then mix the pure hemp oil with a carrier oil, such as hempseed oil or MCT oil.
Researchers of a 2018 study indicate that the FDA recognizes the Supercritical-CO2 process as safe in pharmaceutical manufacturing(18).
Like full-spectrum CBD, the broad-spectrum CBD variant contains almost the same phytocannabinoids as full-spectrum products, except it is THC-free.
Some individuals may prefer broad-spectrum CBD over full-spectrum as the former contains no psychoactive THC compounds.
Meanwhile, CBD isolate is the purest type of CBD on the market. Companies usually sell CBD isolate products in powdered or crystalline form.
Manufacturers obtain CBD isolate products by removing all other hemp plants’ compounds during the extraction process to leave pure CBD.
Despite the availability of different CBD types, you must only purchase the best quality products from reputable sources. Here is some advice to consider when selecting the best CBD oil for cancer to maximize the purported health benefits of CBD.
- Look for the CBD product’s certificate of analysis (COA) or third-party lab results. This document confirms that the item you selected has undergone thorough lab testing.
The COA indicates that the CBD product contains the exact specifications listed on the product label to prove that it is of the highest quality.
- Ensure that the COA confirms the absence of residual solvents, chemical additives, pesticides, heavy metals, and other harmful contaminants.
- Confirm whether the CBD product you intend to purchase comes from organic hemp. High-quality CBD products from organic hemp ensure that the amounts of THC are within the federal limit of less than 0.3%.
- Look up the CBD legalities within your home state and the CBD brand’s manufacturing location. Consider buying CBD oil from some reputable CBD brands that source their high potency CBD hemp from farms in Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, and North Carolina.
- Consult your family healthcare professional before using CBD for alleviating cancer symptoms. We recommend consulting a medical practitioner with experience in using CBD and medical cannabis products.
- Avoid purchasing CBD products from brands that claim to sell CBD derived from hemp plants’ stalks and seeds. Non-GMO industrial hemp stalks have very little CBD content, while its seeds have no cannabidiol.
- Choose a CBD shop that offers a money-back guarantee for its products to ensure product satisfaction.
How Much CBD to Take for Cancer
In a Harvard Health article, Peter Grinspoon, MD, stated that the most effective therapeutic CBD dosage for cancer or any particular medical condition remains unknown(19).
Additionally, the FDA, which regulates the safety and purity of medical drugs and dietary supplements, has not approved CBD specifically for cancer.
The American Cancer Society agrees that there is a need for more longitudinal and extensive research on cannabinoids for cancer patients(20).
The organization supports the need for more effective therapies that can overcome the side effects of cancer and its treatments, which are often debilitating.
Clinical trials for CBD as a single drug or adjunct cancer therapy are warranted and urgently needed.
However, authors of a 2019 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry suggested that subjects who took 300mg of CBD experienced the most noticeable reduced stress response(21).
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer patients may experience emotions that induce anxiety, sadness, fear, sleep problems, and confusion(22).
Another study stated that the chronic use of CBD oil, reaching as high as 1,500mg a day, is safe for human consumption(23). This study involved an even higher CBD dose yet recorded no harmful side effects among its participants.
Benefits of Using CBD for Cancer
A few promising studies have researched CBD’s potential in treating cancer and its side effects.
In 2012, the results of a study published in the Indian Journal of Urology suggested that cannabinoids are potential agents for managing prostate cancer(24).
Another study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment highlighted the efficacy of CBD in reducing breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis (the spread of cancer cells from where they first formed)(25).
Later on, a 2014 study noted that Cannabis sativa extract with high cannabidiol content supports the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and weakens colon cancer formation by activating cannabinoid receptors(26).
Another 2014 review of related studies published in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology suggested that cannabinoids are promising compounds in the treatment of gliomas(27). Glioma is a type of tumor that begins in the glial cells, which surround nerve cells and help them function.
Meanwhile, according to a 2016 study involving animal cancer models, cannabinoids may impede tumor cell growth(28). This study is published in the Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry journal.
More recently, a 2019 study published in the journal Oncotarget demonstrated that CBD may initiate cell death and make glioblastoma cancer cells (brain or spinal cord cancer) more vulnerable to radiation while protecting healthy cells(29).
In 2020, the National Cancer Institute suggested that CBD may enhance the uptake or increase the potency of certain cancer treatment drugs(30).
Risks of Using CBD for Cancer
Although existing studies highlight CBD’s promising results, there is minimal evidence that supports claims highlighting CBD as a viable treatment for any cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that CBD is “generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile(31).” Still, the FDA prohibits the marketing of CBD oil as dietary supplements or medicine for any condition(32).
The FDA ensures the safety of human and animal drugs to protect public health(33). The agency has approved Epidiolex only as a CBD treatment for children with seizures associated with rare forms of epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
With significant scientific evidence, Epidiolex is the first and only FDA-approved medication derived from marijuana plants(34).
Meanwhile, the FDA has also approved two drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, as synthetic forms of THC for treating chemotherapy-related nausea(35).
However, note that using CBD may induce side effects, including dry mouth, drowsiness, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and fatigue(36).
CBD also has the risk of interacting with certain medications or supplements that you may already be taking(37). Similarly, a 2017 research suggested that CBD may interact with other drugs and alter how the body metabolizes certain medications(38).
Legality of CBD
In the USA, you can use CBD legally on a federal level. This legality only applies to 47 out of the 50 states, each with varying degrees of regulation for CBD use(39). You may only travel with CBD between states that share similar CBD restrictions.
CBD’s legality in the US was made possible with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or the 2018 Farm Bill(40). This law redefined hemp as cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis to differentiate hemp plants from marijuana plants.
Hemp plants and marijuana plants are both varieties of Cannabis sativa plants. Marijuana plants are cannabis plants with more than the established 0.3% THC limit.
Cannabis plants’ components include terpenes, fatty acids, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. CBD and THC are present in both hemp and marijuana plants because they are the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis plants.
The psychoactive effects of THC make people experience getting high. This euphoric effect is a critical factor in the legality of CBD products.
CBD oil with the federally legal limit of 0.3% THC by dry weight does not produce euphoria, yet you can still benefit from cannabis plants’ purported benefits.
Historically, all varieties of cannabis were Schedule I drugs, according to the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act(41). Schedule I drugs consist of potentially abusive or addictive substances without any officially recognized health benefits.
When congress approved the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp plants were removed from the Schedule I category.
The 2018 Farm Bill also gave the FDA the authority to regulate CBD’s circulation on the market(42). The agency reprimands CBD companies that make unproven claims of CBD’s health benefits to sell CBD products.
The 2018 Farm Bill relaxed the legal restrictions of producing, manufacturing, and owning hemp-derived CBD products. Still, state laws are the primary authority in drug-related offenses, meaning local laws may supersede federal law(43).