For many years, cannabis has been thought of as a plant with properties that could help with a variety of human ailments. And, few human illnesses cause as much concern as cancer.
While cannabis has been a go-to herbal remedy for some health-related issues for centuries, the research into the active compounds in cannabis is just now getting off to a good start thanks to relaxed laws in many states.
The internet is rife with claims about cannabis and cancer. Yet, there is still a lot that we just don’t know. Nevertheless, there are a few studies that have shown how cannabis could be valuable for people with a cancer diagnosis or that are going through certain treatments. Below is an in-depth review of what we know so far about cannabis and cancer.
Cancer – A Closer Look
Medically speaking, cancer is a serious health issue that causes abnormal cells in some areas of the body to divide and reproduce. This uncontrolled production of abnormal cells can cause affected or even nearby tissues to deteriorate or not function properly. For example, the abnormal division of cancer cells in the brain could cause a tumor, and that tumor could disrupt vital neurological processes.
The number of people in this country that will likely be diagnosed with cancer in the coming year is alarming. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there will be nearly two million new cancer diagnoses in 2022. Thankfully, many types of cancer are now treatable with modern medicine. For example, certain types of cancer respond well to standard treatments like radiation sessions or chemotherapy drugs. Unfortunately, these effective treatment models can also cause their own sets of symptoms.
The Current State of Cannabis and Cancer
In reality, there is not a lot of well-established research regarding using cannabis as a treatment option for cancer specifically. What we do have is an understanding that cannabis may be therapeutically valuable for people dealing with cancer-related symptoms or symptoms associated with different types of cancer treatment.
In just about every state where cannabis has been legalized for medical purposes, cancer is listed as a qualifying condition. Mississippi, which is one of the latest states to work toward making medical cannabis available, also lists cancer as a qualifying condition.
This shows that there is at least some level of recognition that individuals diagnosed with cancer may see some benefit from using the active cannabinoids in marijuana. This is true even if those benefits are simply associated with getting through treatment with less reliance on prescription pain medications or with some greater ability to take in food.
Active Cannabis Compounds Their Importance for Cancer Studies
Cannabis is a highly diverse plant with many active components that are found in its makeup. The most noteworthy compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids, which are plant-made molecules that have similar structures to molecules (endocannabinoids) created by the human body. However, other compounds may also offer some therapeutic value, such as terpenes and flavonoids.
When these active molecules enter the body, they are treated like body-made cannabinoids in many ways. Primarily, these plant compounds are processed by the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to create some level of effect. For example, THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) causes intoxication by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors that may play a role in neural messaging.
In terms of cancer research, most studies are centered around how active cannabinoids can help with either the symptoms of cancer or cancer treatment. However, there are ongoing studies that are also looking further into how cannabinoids may affect different types of abnormal cancer cells directly. It is far too early to make any definitive statements about using cannabinoids to target malignant cells.
The Research Behind Cannabis and Cancer
Only a few small studies have looked at the effects of cannabis on people with cancer. According to the ACS, there have been studies that show smoking cannabis was helpful for nausea and vomiting which is common after chemotherapy treatment related to cancer. Further, there have been studies that established smoking or vaporizing cannabis may help with pain related to nerve damage, which is possible with some types of cancer.
Some cannabinoids have been found to have properties that could be positive for targeting abnormal cells. For example, cannabigerol has been shown to exhibit antitumor properties in test-tube studies, but these studies have not been performed on tumor cells in the body.
Another important property of cannabinoids is their antioxidant activity. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) has been found to have the highest antioxidant activity compared to others like CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG. While this antioxidant activity has not been examined in relation to cancer, we do know that certain other antioxidants have been shown to be valuable for targeting abnormal cellular growth.
Can Cannabis Cause Cancer?
This has been an area of concern for years, especially during periods when proponents of the War on Drugs were on a search for evidence to back up some of the unsubstantiated claims meant to scare people away from the plant. And, there is some evidence that smoking cannabis may mean carcinogenic exposure. Despite this, however, researchers claim that it has been difficult to connect the development of human cancers with cannabis.
A Final Word from Southern Sky Brands
Researchers have spent many years examining the therapeutic efficiency of many different compounds in targeting cancer. Now that cannabis is more accepted as a valuable therapeutic agent, we can only hope that we will learn a great deal more in the near future.
At Southern Sky Brands, we are committed to delivering reliable information about how cannabis and cannabinoids can offer health support. Be sure to follow the Southern Sky blog for the latest updates and information. Looking for hemp-derived cannabinoids? Take a look at our collection of hemp-based cannabinoid products specifically formulated to offer the best level of wellness support.