Forward-thinking countries have recognized the healing benefits of cannabis. The most recent legislation of medicinal and recreational marijuana legalization was in Canada in October 2018. The approved operation of retail stores this year in one of the biggest cities in the country, Ontario, has proven that a lot are in favor of this high-caliber plant. Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis. Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer. Learn what the evidence shows about treating cancer with Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), an oil made from the flowers of the cannabis (marijuana) plant.
How Cannabis Oil Works to Kill Cancer
Forward-thinking countries have recognized the healing benefits of cannabis. The most recent legislation of medicinal and recreational marijuana legalization was in Canada in October 2018.
The approved operation of retail stores this year in one of the biggest cities in the country, Ontario, has proven that a lot are in favor of this high-caliber plant. Consumers are no longer limited in purchasing from mail-order marijuana delivery services such as Get Kush dispensary.
On top of this, manufacturers have also been pushing this advocacy at a maximum. Other derivatives of cannabis plants such as cannabis oil are making waves in the health care industry. The efficient ability of cannabis oil in mitigating several health issues such as epilepsy, chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, diabetes, neurological disorders, and even cancer will never go unnoticed.
Is Cannabis Oil Legal?
According to the Controlled Substances Act, all derivatives of cannabis with zero to less than 0.3 percent THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are considered legal. Cannabis plants may vary in THC and CBD content. So depending on the plant source, cannabis oils which have zero to less than 0.3 percent are acceptable.
The potency of cannabis oil will vary on the source and extraction method as well. Some extraction methods are isolates extraction, alcohol extraction, or CO2 extraction. Extracting from a whole cannabis plant which has a CBD-dominant content is said to have the highest yield of cannabinoids.
When getting the higher end of the spectrum from extraction, this highly-potent cannabis oil can interact with the body?s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system has everything to do with the regulation of different body functions including mood, behavior, appetite, pain, sleep, energy, and more. In addition, the endocannabinoid system is also responsible for cell growth and apoptosis.
And since cancer is due to the abnormal proliferation and mutation of cells, the medicinal cannabinoids in cannabis oil is known to help kill abnormal cancer cells especially in the early stages of cancer.
How CBD Oil Helps in Apoptosis
Apoptosis is a natural process in the body where the cells are destroyed as part of a particular organism?s growth. As mentioned, cancer cells grow as an abnormal process in the body because they no longer acknowledge the body?s signals that encourage or destroy cell growth.
As these cells grow and divide, they become more uncontrollable. And since they no longer respond to apoptosis, they tend to expedite cell proliferation and ignore the other signals from ?normal cells.? That is why the endocannabinoid system is an extremely important system in the body because it also helps in modulating cell growth and death.
As cancer cells reproduce faster than the endocannabinoid system can handle, the cancer cells invade through the normal tissues and spread throughout the body. This process is called metastasis.
The endocannabinoid system has two primary receptors. One is the CB1 receptors which are mostly found in the brain, and the other one is the CB2 receptors which are primarily found in the immune system.
THC is the active compound in cannabis that binds to the CB1 receptors and is responsible for mood, behavior, and other cerebral functions. On the other hand, CBD latches onto the CB2 receptors and tells these receptors if there are ?invaders? that are detrimental to the body.
Once they bind together, the receptor activation can then help the endocannabinoid system in signaling an antitumorigenic warning. Which means, it impairs cancer development through inhibiting reproduction, metastasis, and tumor angiogenesis.
Although further studies have yet to be reviewed to prove these claims, the cannabinoids in cannabis oil have undeniably helped cancer patients one way or another. Chemotherapy patients have also turned to cannabis oil for alleviating their post-chemo side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, inflammation, neuropathic pain, immune suppression, and loss of appetite.
Cannabis, CBD oil and cancer
Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. It affects people differently. It can make you feel relaxed and chilled. But it can also make you:
- feel sick
- affect your memory
- make you feel lethargic
CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis.
- Cannabis has been used for centuries recreationally and as a medicine.
- It is illegal to possess or supply cannabis as it is a class B drug in the UK.
- Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer.
- There are anti sickness medicines that contain man-made substances of cannabis.
What are cannabis and cannabinoids?
Cannabis is a plant. It is known by many names including:
The plant produces a resin that contains several substances or chemicals. These are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids can have medicinal effects on the body.
The main cannabinoids are:
- Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
THC is a psychoactive substance that can create a ‘high’ feeling. It can affect how your brain works, changing your mood and how you feel.
CBD is a cannabinoid that may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychoactive ‘high’ effect of THC.
Different types of cannabis have differing amounts of these and other chemicals in them. This means they can have different effects on the body.
Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK. This means that it is illegal to have it, sell it or buy it.
CBD oil, cannabis oil and hemp oil
There are different types of oil made from parts of the cannabis plant. Some are sold legally in health food stores as a food supplement. Other types of oil are illegal.
CBD oil comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant and does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. It can be sold in the UK as a food supplement but not as a medicine. There is no evidence to support its use as a medicine.
Cannabis oil comes from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. Cannabis oil often contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.
Hemp oil comes from the seeds of a type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the main psychoactive ingredient THC. Hemp seed oil is used for various purposes including as a protein supplement for food, a wood varnish and an ingredient in soaps.
Why people with cancer use it
Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.
There has been a lot of interest into whether cannabinoids might be useful as a cancer treatment. The scientific research done so far has been laboratory research, with mixed results, so we do not know if cannabinoids can treat cancer in people.
Results have shown that different cannabinoids can:
- cause cell death
- block cell growth
- stop the development of blood vessels – needed for tumours to grow
- reduce inflammation
- reduce the ability of cancers to spread
Scientists also discovered that cannabinoids can:
- sometimes encourage cancer cells to grow
- cause damage to blood vessels
Cannabinoids have helped with sickness and pain in some people.
This means a cannabis based product used to relieve symptoms.
Some cannabis based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. The following medicines are sometimes prescribed to help relieve symptoms.
Nabilone is a drug developed from cannabis. It is licensed for treating severe sickness from chemotherapy that is not controlled by other anti sickness drugs. It is a capsule that you swallow whole.
Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine. It is licensed in the UK for people with Multiple Sclerosis muscle spasticity that hasn’t improved with other treatments. Sativex is a liquid that you spray into your mouth.
Researchers are looking into Sativex as a treatment for cancer related symptoms and for certain types of cancer.
How you have it
Cannabis products can be:
- ingested (eating or drinking)
- absorbed through the skin from a patch
- applied as a cream
- applied as a spray
CBD oil comes as a liquid or in capsules.
Prescription drugs such as Nabilone can cause side effects. This can include:
- increased heart rate
- blood pressure problems
- mood changes
- memory problems
Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.
There are also many cannabis based products available online without a prescription. The quality of these products can vary. It is impossible to know what substances they might contain. They could potentially be harmful to your health and may be illegal.
Research into cannabinoids and cancer
We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.
Clinical trials need to be done in large numbers where some patients have the drug and some don’t. Then you can compare how well the treatment works.
Many of the studies done so far have been small and in the laboratory. There have been a few studies involving people with cancer.
Sativex and temozolomide for a brain tumour (glioblastoma) that has come back
In 2021, scientists reported the final results of a phase 1 study to treat people with recurrent glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour that has come back). The study looked at Sativex in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.
Researchers found that adding Sativex caused side effects, which included, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and headache but patients found the side effects manageable.
They also observed that 83 out of 100 people (83%) were alive after one year using Sativex, compared to 44 out of 100 people (44%) taking the placebo.
However, this phase 1 study only involved 27 patients, which was too small to learn about any potential benefits of Sativex. The study wanted to find out if Sativex and temozolomide was safe to take by patients.
Researchers have now started a larger phase 2 trial called ARISTOCRAT, to find out if this treatment is effective and who might benefit from it. Speak to your specialist if you want to take part in a clinical trial.
Sativex and cancer pain
There are trials looking at whether Sativex can help with cancer pain that has not responded to other painkillers.
The results of one trial showed that Sativex did not improve pain levels. You can read the results of the trial on our clinical trials website.
Cancer and nausea and vomiting
A cannabis based medicine, Nabilone, is a treatment for nausea and vomiting.
A Cochrane review in 2015 looked at all the research available looking into cannabis-based medicine as a treatment for nausea and sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. It reported that many of the studies were too small. Or not well run to be able to say how well these medicines work. They say that they may be useful if all other medicines are not working.
A drug called dexanabinol which is a man-made form of a chemical similar to that found in cannabis has been trialled in a phase 1 trial. This is an early trial that tries to work out:
- whether the drug works in humans
- what the correct dose is
- what the side effects might be
The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.
Word of caution
Cannabis is a class B drug and illegal in the UK.
There are internet scams where people offer to sell cannabis preparations to people with cancer. There is no knowing what the ingredients are in these products and they could harm your health.
Some of these scammers trick cancer patients into buying ‘cannabis oil’ which they then never receive.
You could talk with your cancer specialist about the possibility of joining a clinical trial. Trials can give access to new drugs in a safe and monitored environment.
The science blog on our website has more information about cannabis and cancer.
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) for Cancer: Does It Work?
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), an oil made from the flowers of the cannabis (marijuana) plant, gets attention online from people who claim it treats cancer. There’s no solid evidence for it. But some early research suggests that some chemicals in marijuana have future potential as a cancer treatment.
Cannabis oil comes in many types and formulations. These include cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is often part of medical marijuana.
Unlike many other cannabis oils, Rick Simpson Oil is high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. THC is the chemical in marijuana that provides the “high.”
Online reports say Simpson is a Canadian engineer and cannabis activist. After a bad fall, he found that marijuana helped lessen his dizziness and other symptoms. Later, when he developed basal cell skin cancers on his arm, Simpson used cannabis oil as a treatment. As the reports go, his skin cancers went away.
What Is Rick Simpson Oil?
RSO is an oil made by washing cannabis buds with a solvent, such as pure light naphtha, and then boiling off the solvent leaving behind the oil.
RSO is not a branded product. That means there’s no one “Rick Simpson Oil” for sale. On his website, Simpson explains how to make his namesake oil. But he does not sell a version of the oil for profit.
Because RSO contains high levels of THC, it’s illegal to buy in many places. But in states that have legalized marijuana — either for personal use or for medical use — you can find RSO at cannabis dispensaries.
Can RSO Treat Cancer?
Cannabis oils that contain THC may help control nausea and vomiting for people who are going through chemotherapy. There’s also evidence that they can treat pain and improve appetite.
But research has not shown that RSO or other forms of cannabis oil can treat cancer. Some very early studies on using THC to treat cancer have been encouraging, though.
In animals and in the lab, studies have found that THC and other cannabis chemicals can stop the growth of tumors. These lab studies have looked at cells related to lung, skin, breast, prostate, and other cancers. They’ve found that cannabis can in some cases stop the cancer cells from spreading.
Other research on THC and other cannabis compounds shows that they may kill off cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.
Cannabis is generally safe. Common side effects include dizziness or memory problems.
Other Medical Uses of Cannabis
Many U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. There’s evidence that it can treat pain, nausea, and other symptoms.
When it comes to cannabis oil, there are also medical benefits. Research has shown that some CBD oils, including those that contain THC, can help control certain types of seizures among people with epilepsy. The FDA has approved some drugs that contain CBD for seizure treatment.
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Leafly.com: “Who is Rick Simpson and what is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?”
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FDA: “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.”
PhoenixTears.ca: “Producing the Oil.”
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