Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 cannabinoids, or chemical compounds, found in the cannabis plant. CBD is easily the second most popular and widely talked about cannabinoid following THC, the cannabinoid known for its psychoactive properties responsible for feeling high. CBD’s popularity has exploded in recent years as the medicinal properties of this non-psychoactive compound have come to light through research and testimonials. Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states and Washington D.C. with more states legalizing access to cannabis every year. Celebrities, athletes, and severely ill children are speaking up and demanding access to cannabis medicine, catching the attention of the media and the public more intently.
A Better Way?
It’s not difficult to find someone who has been impacted by cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute in 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease. In addition, the number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024. Newly approved cancer drugs cost an average of $10,000 per month, with some therapies topping $30,000 per month. This doesn’t include the cost of chemotherapy, provider fees, or lost income. These staggering statistics provide a bleak outlook for cancer patients. What if there was a better way to help patients? Could CBD provide any benefits? Let’s look deeper.
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The modern legalization movement started gaining momentum in the 70s and 80s when cancer patients began reporting relief from chemotherapy and AIDS patients began reporting relief from wasting syndrome after consuming cannabis.
Fast forward to today and there have been several anecdotal stories of CBD treating the side effects of cancer in patients of all ages.
Joe’s Story, Sound Familiar?
MMA fighter Joe Schilling describes (paraphrased) how cannabis oil killed cancer in his father, “I was able to visit my dad in the hospital. My dad’s prognosis was that he was going to die soon from cancer. He agreed to Cannabis Oil therapy, with CBD but not THC. There was cancer in his lung, cancer in his brain, cancer in his chest, a massive tumor was on his neck. We gave CBD oil to him for something like 7 months. He decided against chemo, he did not want to do it.” Schilling notes his father’s poor diet choices and refusal to take vitamins and states, “the doctors did their tests and graphs, you know the things that they do, and amazingly, 90% of the cancer was gone. I have no doubt what so ever that it was the CBD oil that killed the cancer because he was doing absolutely nothing else correctly. The 10% of the cancer that was still alive was surrounded by dead cells and was going to die out too.”
44-year-old mother of two, Dee Mani, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, the worst type. Dee’s sister had died undergoing chemotherapy, the treatment her doctor’s recommended, so Dee sought a different choice — cannabis oil. Dee says she took one drop of oil every night before bed and five months after her starting cannabis oil, Dee was cleared of her original diagnosis. Dee claims that the oil helped her with other conditions like insomnia and back pain and plans to take oil for the rest of her life.
Is there Scientific Proof?
So what is the science behind these stories? There have been limited scientific studies done on humans in the United States due to the schedule one classification of cannabis. But an emerging body of studies have shown the potential for cannabis and CBD’s antitumor effects and research from nations unblocked by government restrictions, like Israel, is making waves in the medical marijuana community.
What’s The Real Story?
Cristina Sanchez, a molecular biologist from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, explains to CannaInsider, “cells, not only cancer cells, but every cell in our body can die in different ways. One could be similar to an accident, a car accident, a traumatic death which is called necrosis. And there is another way to die which is a clean death and by clean I mean no inflammation of the surrounding tissues. And this cancer cell death is called Apoptosis. And when someone’s dealing with anti-tumor compounds, one wants this particular kind of death to happen because the other one is associated to inflammatory processes and things like that that you don’t want in a patient.”
CBD and cannabis have been studied in other specific cancers. A 2013 study published in the journal Chemotherapy studied the effects of synthetic THC against gastric cancer grafts in rodents. Rodents treated with the THC saw a 30 percent reduction in tumor growth over 14 days of treatment when compared to the control. A 2012 Journal of Molecular Medicine study found tumors in mice with laboratory-induced colon cancer shrunk with CBD treatment. A 2013 study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics found that CBD triggers cell death in certain lung cancer cell lines, decreasing tumor viability.
The Hopeful Alternative, Botanical Treatments for Cancer
Sanchez explains further, “chemotherapy attacks every single cell in our body that is undergoing proliferation. Every cell that is dividing will be attacked by chemotherapy. And which cells are dividing in our body? First cancer cells of course, those are the ones you want to kill, but also the cells of your immune system, the cells of your stomach and a lot of tissues. So that’s why chemotherapy is so toxic because it’s not only attacking cancer cells but other cells that are proliferating inside our bodies. And the difference with cannabinoids is that these compounds only attacked cancer cells. We don’t understand why yet in molecular terms. We don’t know what makes a cancer cell different in terms of the sensitivity to cannabinoids, but we know that this is a fact. Cannabinoids kills cancer cells and they do not affect the viability of non-cancer cells.”
Cannabinoids are naturally available in the cannabis plant but are also commercially available in synthetic drugs approved by the FDA. Dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC, is used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and is prescribed when other drugs have failed to work. Nabilone is a synthetic version of CBD also used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Tommy Chong Believes This:
One of the more visible cases of using CBD to treat cancer was done by Tommy Chong. Famous for his comedy albums, Cheech and Chong, Tommy is a vocal cannabis activist and user. In 2012, Chong was diagnosed with prostate cancer and used CBD oil and a natural diet to treat his condition, opting out of expensive and aggressive medical procedures. Chong was quoted saying he was,“cancer-free thanks to a disciplined diet … and the use of hemp (hash) oil.”
There is a lot to be hopeful for as legalization marches forward and as cannabis becomes more widely accepted for its medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, with cannabis and CBD still listed as schedule one substances, research is limited and many medical professionals still remain in fear to discuss or endorse medical cannabis for something like cancer. As of March 2015, over 15,000 patients in the state of Colorado reported severe nausea or cancer as their reporting condition for their medical card. Organizations like Project CBD, Realm of Caring, and CannaKids provide resources and connect families who seek cannabinoid therapy for their illnesses. According to a 2016 estimate by procon.org, there are over 2.5 million medical marijuana users in the United States. This number grows every year as more states legalize access to medical cannabis and it’s becoming harder for the mainstream medical community to ignore this growing group of people.
Finally, in a 2016 review conducted by oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams studying cannabis’ role in cancer care, the authors state, “preclinical data suggest that cannabinoids could have direct antitumor activity, possibly most impressive in central nervous system malignancies. Clinical data about the effects of cannabis concentrates on cancer are as yet unavailable. Oncologists could find cannabis and cannabinoids to be effective tools in their care of patients living with and beyond cancer”. The review also notes that 82 percent of oncologists believe their cancer patients should have legal access to cannabis, according to a 2014 WebMD poll.
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CBD OIL CANCER TREATMENT
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