There have been studies documenting the anti-tumor effects of cannabis in animals and extracted cells, but cannabis has not been clinically tested on people as a treatment for cancer. Human testing has focused on using cannabis to manage the side effects of cancer and cancer therapies.
The information below, describing the current state of the research, is taken directly from the National Cancer Institute article Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version: Questions and Answers about Cannabis.
Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Cannabis or cannabinoids?
Preclinical studies of cannabinoids have investigated the following:
- Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
- A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment.
- A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells and breast cancer cells.
- A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.
- A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.
- Many animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids stimulate appetite and can increase food intake.
- Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been studied in the brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings throughout the body of animals to understand their roles in pain relief.
- Cannabinoids have been studied for anti-inflammatory effects that may play a role in pain relief.
- Animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may prevent nerve problems (pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and muscle weakness) caused by some types of chemotherapy.
Nausea and vomiting
- Cannabinoid receptors found in brain cells may have a role in controlling nausea and vomiting. Animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids may act on cannabinoid receptors to prevent vomiting caused by certain types of chemotherapy.
Anxiety and sleep
Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of Cannabis or cannabinoid use by cancer patients been conducted?
Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in clinical trials for ways to manage side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, including the following:
- Cannabidiol (CBD) by mouth to treat solid tumors.
- An oral spray combining 2 cannabinoids (delta-9-THC and CBD) given with temozolomide to treat recurrent glioblastoma multiforme.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) to treat acute graft-versus-host disease in patients who have undergone allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Nausea and vomiting
- Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: Two cannabinoid drugs approved in the United States are available under the names dronabinol and nabilone. Both dronabinol and nabilone are approved by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in patients who have not responded to standard therapy. Many clinical trials have shown that both dronabinol and nabilone worked as well as or better than some of the weaker FDA-approved drugs to relieve nausea and vomiting. Newer drugs given for chemotherapy-related nausea have not been directly compared with Cannabis or cannabinoids in cancer patients.
- Inhaled Cannabis: Ten small trials have studied inhaled Cannabis for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Various study methods and chemotherapy agents were used with mixed results. There is not enough information to interpret these findings.
- Oral spray with delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD): Nabiximols, a Cannabis extract given as a mouth spray, was shown in a small randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical trial in Spain to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.
- There is growing interest in treating children for symptoms such as nausea with Cannabis and cannabinoids, although studies are limited. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not endorsed Cannabis and cannabinoid use because of concerns about brain development.
- Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: A clinical trial compared delta-9-THC (dronabinol) and a standard drug (megestrol) in patients with advanced cancer and loss of appetite. Results showed that delta-9-THC was not as effective in increasing appetite or weight gain in advanced cancer patients compared with standard therapy. However, a clinical trial of patients with HIV /AIDS and weight loss found that those who took delta-9-THC had increased appetite and stopped losing weight compared with patients who took a placebo.
- Inhaled Cannabis: There are no published studies of the effect of inhaled Cannabis on cancer patients with loss of appetite. Studies of healthy people who inhaled Cannabis showed that they consumed more calories, especially high-fat and sweet snacks.
- Combining cannabinoids with opioids: In a small study of 21 patients with chronic pain, combining vaporized Cannabis with morphine relieved pain better than morphine alone, while combining vaporized Cannabis with oxycodone did not produce significantly greater pain relief. These findings should be tested in further studies.
- Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: Two small clinical trials of oral delta-9-THC showed that it relieved cancer pain. In the first study, patients had good pain relief as well as relief of nausea and vomiting and better appetite. A second study showed that delta-9-THC could be given in doses that gave pain relief comparable to codeine. An observational study of nabilone also showed that it relieved cancer pain along with nausea, anxiety, and distress when compared with no treatment. Neither dronabinol nor nabilone is approved by the FDA for pain management.
- Cannabis plant extract medicine: A study of an extract of Cannabis that contained specific amounts of cannabinoids, which was sprayed under the tongue, found it was effective in patients with advanced cancer whose pain was not relieved by strong opioids alone. Patients who received the lower doses of cannabinoid spray showed markedly better pain control and less sleep loss compared with patients who received a placebo. Results showed that, for some patients, control of their cancer-related pain continued without needing higher doses of spray or higher doses of their other pain medicines.
Anxiety and sleep
- Inhaled Cannabis: A small case series found that patients who inhaled Cannabis had improved mood, improved sense of well-being, and less anxiety.
Have any side effects or risks been reported from Cannabis and cannabinoids?
Adverse side effects of cannabinoids may include:
Because Cannabis smoke contains many of the same substances as tobacco smoke, there are concerns about how inhaled cannabis affects the lungs. A study of over 5,000 men and women without cancer over a period of 20 years found that smoking tobacco was linked with some loss of lung function but that occasional and low use of cannabis was not linked with loss of lung function.
Because use of Cannabis over a long time may have harmful effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems, rates of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) in Cannabis users have been studied. Larger studies that follow patients over time and laboratory studies of cannabinoid receptors in TGCTs are needed to find if there is a link between Cannabis use and a higher risk of TGCTs.
A review of bladder cancer rates in Cannabis users and non-users was done in over 84,000 men who took part in the California Men’s Health Study. Over 16 years of follow-up and adjusting for age, race/ethnic group and body mass index (BMI), rates of bladder cancer were found to be 45% lower in Cannabis users than in men who did not report Cannabis use.
Both Cannabis and cannabinoids may be addictive.
Symptoms of withdrawal from cannabinoids may include:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Hot flashes.
- Nausea and cramping (rarely occur).
These symptoms are mild compared to withdrawal from opiates and usually lessen after a few days.
If you share this information from the National Cancer Institute with your doctor, let us know how he or she responds in the comments below.
Five Ways Cannabis Affects Sleep
Medical patients often suffer from not sleeping well. We dug into recent studies to see if cannabis improves sleep. Here are five things you should know:
THC boosts melatonin
The psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC has been shown to dramatically increase melatonin production, causing a spike up to four thousand times that of baseline levels. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates circadian rhythm and sleep.
Increase slow-wave sleep
According to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of San Diego, THC increases the third and fourth stages of the sleep cycle, also known as ‘slow-wave sleep’ (SWS). Increased SWS has been linked to an increased reduction of beta-amyloid, the harmful neural protein associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and other memory loss conditions.
While cannabis is known for increasing SWS, it also reduces the fifth phase of sleep, commonly known as rapid eye movement (REM). Less REM means having less dreams, but there is yet to be any evidence of negative effects.
Treat sleep apnea
Cannabis’ sleep-inducing properties are an excellent natural remedy for those suffering from sleep apnea. This helps them to fall and stay asleep easier and with less interruption.
Reduce RBD in Parkinson’s Disease
By using a high-CBD cannabis before bed, you can lessen REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) effects such as tremors, violent movements, and nightmares. High-CBD cannabis has been found to be more effective than Levodopa, a prescription drug commonly prescribed to patients with Parkinson’s and onset-RBD.
Melatonin and marijuana (Lissoni, P., Resentini, M., and Fraschini, F. “Effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol on Melatonin Secretion in Man.”)
Cannabinoids for medical use (Journal of American Medical Association)
Effect of drugs on sleep (National Center for Biotechnology Information)
THC effects on sleep & sleep during withdrawal (Europe PMC)
How Cannabis can help RBD in Parkinson’s (Vanwinkles.com)
Has cannabis had an affect on your quality of sleep? Let us know in the comments section below.
Grow Medicinal Marijuana At Home With A Grow Box
Growing your own medicinal marijuana is a liberating experience. You control all the variables. You know exactly what is in the bud you are smoking. grow box is a discreet and easy way to grow marijuana indoors at home, freeing yourself from dependence on both doctor and dispensary.
Gain independence with a grow box
A grow box is like a tiny, camouflaged green house. It is a self-contained unit with soil or hydroponic growing medium, lights, filters and pumps. Just add seeds, electricity and voila! You are growing your own medicinal marijuana.
Choose the right marijuana strain for you
There are two important considerations when choosing a strain of medicinal marijuana to grow yourself:
Your Medical Requirements – Are you looking for a powerful sedative effect to help with your insomnia or a functional day-time smoke to relieve pain and lighten anxiety?
Your Growing Space – Choose small, bushy strains like Indica or hybrid seeds instead of a tall, leggy Sativa. For your first grow an auto-flowering marijuana variety is the best choice because they require very little care or expertise.
Grow enough marijuana to meet your needs
Grow boxes are available in all sizes. Several surveys in the UK, Canada and the US suggest that most medicinal marijuana patients use 1-3 grams per day, or about 2 ½ pounds per year.
Even the tiny PC Grow Box, which holds just two small plants, can produce two pounds of dried bud per year. The compact SuperBox allows you to grow 8 plants at once with annual yields of 7 pounds or more.
Grow your medicinal marijuana under lights
Marijuana grows best under lights that mimic natural sunlight. There are three common types of grow lights used in the cultivation of marijuana:
- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
- High Intensity Discharge Lights (HIDs)
- Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Most grow boxes use either CFL or full spectrum LED grow lights. HIDs don’t work well in the enclosed space of a grow box because they get too hot.
While you can grow small amounts of marijuana successfully using CFLs, high quality LED grow lights save electricity and produce the highest yields.
Obtain higher yields using hydroponics
A hydroponic system doesn’t use soil. Growing hydroponic marijuana is not as complex as it may sound.
Many grow boxes come with a simple hydroponic system already set-up. You simply add nutrients, which often come with the grow box, and water. You can even choose to grow marijuana with organic nutrients.
Grow marijuana naturally in soil
Some people prefer to grow marijuana as naturally as possible. The Earth Cab grow box series is one style of grow box designed for soil.
Grow a continuous supply of medicinal marijuana
Once you get started you don’t need new seeds for each growing cycle. You can propagate new marijuana plants by taking cuttings, called clones, of your favorite existing plant.
A dual chamber grow box has a special space for making clones. These grow boxes allow you to produce a constant supply of fresh buds.
Find the perfect grow box for your situation
For the many medicinal growers discretion is essential. Look for a specially designed stealth grow box.
You can also choose a fully automated grow box that allows you to leave town for two weeks and come home to healthy plants.
Use this detailed review of the best grow boxes of 2015 to find the perfect set-up for you.
Grow medicinal marijuana at home with a grow box
Are you considering growing at home? Let us know why in the comments below!
How Edibles Are Made
Since there are so many manufacturers throughout the US, cannabis-infused foods are produced in a variety of different ways. Read up on how your favorite edibles are made and learn how to make your own medicinal treats:
They’re usually made with trim
Trim contains the leftover leaf matter from the cannabis flower that growers usually throw away. It’s less potent than bud, but it’s full of trichomes and can be used in large quantities to produce a stronger effect.
Cannabis is decarboxylated
Decarboxylation activates THC and other cannabinoids to result in a more potent product. To achieve this, cannabis needs to be heated either through smoking, vaping, or baking. The flower is typically cooked for a long time over low heat before it’s used to make edibles. Eating raw cannabis won’t have a very strong effect, and it won’t taste good.
Cannabinoids are extracted
Edibles are infused with highly concentrated cannabis extracts. Depending on the extraction method, edibles can contain either tinctures, canna oil, or cannabutter. If you’re wondering how a specific edible was made, ask your budtender or contact the manufacturer.
Canna oil and cannabutter are common
THC is fat soluble, so cannabis is often cooked with oil or butter. When heated, the activated cannabinoids absorb into these ingredients. Check out this recipe for cannabis cooking oil and this one for cannabis-infused butter. Or try making cannabis coconut oil.
Tinctures are used in hard candies
Some edibles don’t go through a baking or cooking process, so tinctures are added instead of flower. Tinctures are liquid cannabis extracts made from a solvent like alcohol, vinegar, or glycerol. Rather than passing through the digestive system like cannabinoids in most edibles, these are absorbed by the body and can result in a quicker effect.
Have you ever made your own edibles? Tell us in the comments below.
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