Because of its pervasiveness in society and the frequency in which we mention chemotherapy in cancer-related conversations, it feels like the treatment has been around since the beginning of time. In reality, the first clinical trials involving what we would now classify as chemo drugs – and what effect those drugs have on the illness – took place in the 1940s.
Around that same time, an American organic chemist named Roger Adams was creating a history of his own. Adams became the first scientist to identify and isolate cannabidiol (CBD), one of 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and the second-most-abundant component of the plant after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As you probably know now, THC is the compound that results in the euphoric “high” felt after the use of marijuana. But what many people didn’t realize until decades after Adams’ discovery (including Adams, himself) was that CBD is packed with potency — yet it’s non-psychoactive, so there’s no concern about users getting high.
While it shouldn’t be confused with a cure for cancer, scientific research has shown that CBD may help those undergoing cancer treatment to feel better.
What is CBD, and How Does it Work?
CBD has had a rapid rise in popularity in recent years, but there’s still a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings surrounding its use. So, before getting into CBD and cancer, let’s talk more about what CBD is and how it works.
As mentioned, CBD is a component of the cannabis plant, though it does not result in intoxication or a high like THC. Though they’re quite similar chemically, the difference between CBD and THC is how they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, a cell-signaling system that helps to regulate critical functions like sleep, mood, appetite, and memory.
When it enters the bloodstream, THC binds with cannabinoid 1 receptors in the brain that control movement and cognitive functions. On the flip side, CBD primarily binds with cannabinoid 2 receptors, which are heavily focused on the immune system.
CBD and Cancer: How it Can Help
If you or a loved one have cancer, you’re certainly aware of the toll the disease can take. From anxiety and depression to fatigue and body aches, the side effects of cancer and associated treatment have a tremendous impact on the mind, body, and soul. The severity of those symptoms will often leave cancer fighters and their families searching for answers. CBD and nausea are one area that many are exploring — but if you haven’t done any research on the correlation between the two, you might be surprised at what’s out there.
In 2011, a study appeared in the British Journal of Pharmacology that offered scientific credence to CBD’s ability to combat nausea and vomiting. In that study, researchers wrote, “considerable evidence” demonstrates that manipulating the endocannabinoid system can regulate the symptoms, even suggesting that CBD could be a viable option as an antiemetic to prevent the cause of nausea and vomiting. Perhaps the most telling line of the report’s abstract specifically mentions CBD and cancer treatment: “Preclinical research indicates that cannabinoids, including CBD, may be effective clinically for treating both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy or other therapeutic treatments.”
But, limiting nausea is just one of the many ways that research has shown CBD could potentially lessen the symptoms of cancer treatment.
- Pain: Due to the way it interacts with our endocannabinoid system, CBD can actually reduce pain through its anti-inflammatory properties and analgesic effects. You should also know that CBD is non-habit forming and generally poses less of a risk than many over-the-counter and prescription pain killers.
- Anxiety and depression: These mental ailments are two of the most common that cancer sufferers will face throughout treatment, but CBD can help to calm the mind and body. This is again because of the compound’s effect on the endocannabinoid system, which works toward placing our bodies in homeostasis, or a state of evenness and stability. One study in 2018 found that CBD was effective at reducing stress, which is often a trigger for anxiety and depression. And unlike prescription anti-depression medicine, research indicates that CBD “induces fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect in distinct animal models relevant for depression.”
- Lack of sleep: It’s typical for those undergoing cancer treatments to struggle with getting restful sleep, but CBD may be able to provide a boost here as well. By calming the nervous system with a dose of CBD, cancer patients sometimes find that they can achieve more routine and regular sleep patterns.
- Survival: As we talked about earlier, one should never consider CBD a remedy for the treatment of cancer; but when used in tandem with traditional methods, it could have an influence on survival. In fact, one European study from last year demonstrated that mice with pancreatic cancer that received a combination dose of CBD and chemo survived nearly three times longer than subjects receiving chemo alone.
It’s important to mention that in a lot of CBD studies, including several of those we talked about today, scientists will analyze the effects of CBD on rats or mice. That’s not to say that these studies are lacking merit, but we want to make sure that you have the complete picture of CBD and cancer treatment.
Current research should not be used to create false hope or lead anyone to believe that cannabis cures cancer. But research does suggest that cannabis, even CBD-rich hemp, may help relieve symptoms related to treatment.
Finding Quality CBD Products
If you are interested in taking the next step with CBD, there are a few vital points to keep in mind. There are a variety of ways to use CBD, from creams and ointments to vape pens and edibles, but the most popular and perhaps most beneficial is what’s called sublingually. This is a term used to describe placing CBD oil under the tongue and ingesting it through your salivary glands, which most experts believe results in the body absorbing the highest percentage of the compound’s benefits.
Regardless of the type of CBD product you choose, it’s essential that you purchase it from a reputable retailer. Manufacturers and distributors that you’ll want to buy from including those that have verifiable, third-party analysis showing the content of each batch. CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC are legal in the U.S. and should help users avoid any euphoric high.
If you want to try a CBD oil but aren’t sure how to select the right one, it’s best to go to an expert for advice. Remedy Review is an independent website that posts evidence-based information on natural remedies, including CBD product reviews. Check out Remedy Review’s medically-reviewed list of tested CBD oils. The piece is organized into categories like “Best CBD Oil for Anxiety,” “Strongest CBD Oil,” “Best Value,” and others. Site’s like these are a good place to learn more about the potential of CBD.