Since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has become a common fixture in households across the United States. Legal hemp opened the doors to legal hemp-derived CBD, and the cannabinoid has consequently found its way into natural health products nationwide.
CBD owes its mainstream appeal to its versatility of uses. Researchers have determined the hemp-derived cannabinoid to be a viable treatment option for chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease and neuropathy, acting as a powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiemetic, among other functions.
Both research and anecdotal evidence confirm that CBD may ease some of the debilitating symptoms that accompany a range of ailments, which begs the question can it also help with cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer refers to a category of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that divide and grow uncontrollably. These cells can permeate and destroy normal body tissue and even spread throughout the entire body.
Normal cell growth and division are of no concern: all cells die eventually and need to be replaced by new cells. Tumors occur when abnormal cells multiply and form lumps. Some tumors are benign and are not cancerous; however, malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body through a process called metastasis.
Symptoms of cancer can vary greatly depending on the type of cancer and the primary location of tumor formation. General symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Lumps, swelling, or thickening felt under the skin
- Weight gain or loss
- Skin changes
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Persistent or worsening pain
- Coughing or hoarseness
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Eating problems or changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Fevers or night sweats
- Muscle or joint pain
Symptoms can come on suddenly and often arise without explanation.
Cancer can occur anywhere in the body. There are many different types of cancer, such as:
- Multiple myeloma
- Brain and spinal cord tumors
- Germ cell tumors
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Carcinoid tumors
Cancer is typically described and treated according to the stage in which it is diagnosed. Lower stages (i.e. stages 1 or 2) refer to cancer that has spread minimally. Cancer occurring at higher stages (i.e. stages 3 or 4) has spread significantly and is more difficult to treat. Stage 4 is the highest stage with the greatest amount of cancer spread.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. However, due to improvements in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment, survival rates are gradually increasing.
How is it treated?
Cancer treatments vary according to the type of cancer and the stage at which it is formally diagnosed. Local treatments target a specific tumor or area of the body and include surgery and radiation therapy. Systemic treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy can affect the entire body. Additional treatment options include hormone therapy and stem cell and bone marrow transplants.
How can CBD help?
Unfortunately, cancer treatments can be dangerous themselves and often come with debilitating side effects. This leads patients to seek natural alternatives to treat disease symptoms and unwanted side effects.
One popular alternative is CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound derived from the legal hemp plant. Emerging research has identified CBD as an effective option due to its potent benefits.
CBD may reduce tumor growth
According to this groundbreaking study, CBD and other cannabinoids inhibit the growth and migration of cancerous cells. It does this by targeting the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors. Located in the brain, these receptors are responsible for regulating homeostasis throughout the body.
Researchers have established that patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer, among others, exhibit excessively elevated CB1 levels. It is thought that, because CBD regulates CB1 receptors, it reduces tumor size by inducing homeostasis.
Another study found that CBD may inhibit breast cancer cell growth by acting on the same homeostatic pathways. Here, researchers also determined that CBD impedes the development of cancerous tumors, meaning that CBD may also act as a preventative treatment for cancer.
CBD enhances radiation treatments
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that typically involves the use of radiation alongside heavy medications. While it can be effective in eliminating tumors and cancerous cells, it in itself can be a debilitating experience.
One 2019 study suggests that CBD acts in conjunction with radiation treatments like chemotherapy by increasing glioblastoma cells’ sensitivity to radiation. Interestingly, this proliferated cancerous cell death while leaving no discernable negative impact on healthy non-cancerous cells.
CBD’s direct interaction with radiation therapy may decrease the overall time in which patients necessitate chemotherapy treatments.
CBD may mitigate pain and inflammation
Severe pain and inflammation due to tumor growth are common cancer symptoms. CBD is known to work as a powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory by targeting the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and nerves that regulate inflammatory responses.
One study published in the European Journal of Pain found that the topical application of CBD gel alleviated joint swelling and significantly reduced pro-inflammatory biomarkers. Additionally, a 2017 study suggests that CBD reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in Alzheimer’s patients, and a review of pharmacological research on CBD also concluded that the cannabinoid relieves the chronic pain that accompanies a range of chronic illnesses.
CBD can inhibit nausea and vomiting
CBD is widely known for treating symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments, especially nausea and vomiting. One 2011 study found that CBD interacts directly with the serotonin receptors in the brain that regulate nausea and vomiting. Researchers concluded that CBD holds clinical applications for suppressing severe and ongoing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
Can CBD cure cancer?
At the current moment, CBD has not been confirmed as a cure for any type or stage of cancer. However, this does not negate the fact that CBD is indeed a powerful option for cancer and its debilitating symptoms.
Although cancer can be an incredibly difficult disease to treat and manage, CBD may offer some significant relief to many patients suffering from the illness. We hope that, as research expands, we may come to better understand how CBD interacts with cancer and how we can utilize this treatment option to the best of our abilities.