The healing properties of cannabis are nothing new. In ancient India, cannabis was used to treat ailments such as insomnia and pain. The Greeks used it to cure ailments such as nosebleeds and tapeworms. In Medieval Islam, history shows cannabis used as a diuretic, antiemetic, and antiepileptic (1).
Even in the West, cannabis was the primary pain reliever prescribed by doctors until Aspirin took its place in 1897. Up until the “war on drugs” began around 1937, there were at least 2000 different cannabis-based medicines on the market (2).
Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still labels cannabis a Schedule I drug in many states because “it has a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” (3).
With the advent of the medical marijuana movement in the US, however, more studies are being funded to determine the actual healing potential of this herb.
Cannabis and Cancer
Despite the onslaught of negative warnings about cannabis, most of which are likely linked to or generated by drug companies that stand to lose billions on dangerous cancer drugs should cannabis be recognized as an effective natural alternative, there are countless cannabis cancer studies proving the herb’s powerful anti-cancer properties.
The National Cancer Institute, mandated by US law to educate Americans about cancer and the latest research efforts, even shows that cannabis does, in fact, kill cancer cells (4).
The organization admits that the cannabinoids in cannabis inhibits tumor growth by causing cells to die, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of the blood vessels tumors rely on for growth.
It also reveals that cannabis is effective for dealing with a variety of cancer-related symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, pain and sleep disturbances.
One 2013 study shows cannabidiol (CBD) has very powerful anti-cancer agents, which is important because researchers also determined that some cancerous cells are actually more sensitive to CBD-induced apoptosis (cell death) (5).
There are also numerous studies on the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, which reveal it is responsible for a multitude of healing properties, including powerful anti-cancer properties.
One study specifically shows THC is effective for brain cancer, a particularly aggressive and typically terminal form of cancer (6).
The number and types of cancers cannabis is shown to treat is truly astounding, especially when you consider the ongoing fight proponents for the herb face daily simply to have it recognized as a therapeutic agent.
Cannabis Cancer Studies
Cannabis’ medical properties really shouldn’t be ignored.
According to Breast Cancer.Org, approximately 246,660 women will develop invasive breast cancer in 2016 and another 61,000 will have the non-invasive (in situ) form (7).
Most of these women will choose conventional medicine like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to combat the disease, therapies that are highly invasive and even toxic (8).
Proven natural and holistic therapies are typically ignored despite studies that show cannabis, a far less invasive and toxic alternative can actually slow metastatic breast cancer.
One study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics shows that cannabidiol (CBD) is not only non-toxic, but it can actually decrease the aggressiveness of this very deadly form of cancer (9).
Other studies also confirm the findings; one study even concluding that CBD not only reduces the primary tumor mass, but it shrinks the size and number of metastatic cancer cells (10).
Another study published in Cancer Treatment Reviews shows that CBD hampers tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis and as such, offers new hope as a non-toxic breast cancer therapy (11).
Another study published in the journal PLoS One concludes that CBD can be useful “…for developing innovative therapeutic strategies against breast cancer.” (12).
Studies show prostate tissue possesses cannabinoid receptors that have an anti-androgenic effect when stimulated (13). This research is vital for new cancer therapies since we already know prostate cancer cells need androgens (male sex hormones) to grow.
Currently, conventional medicine uses Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT), a widely used cancer protocol for men with prostate cancer. This therapy deprives prostate cells of androgen, thus inhibiting further development.
Doctors typical achieve this goal in one of two ways:
1. Surgical removal of one or both testicles (orchiectomy), which prevents further testosterone production. While this treatment is extreme, it does reduce the level of testosterone by 90-95 percent. This procedure is also irreversible, however, so it is rarely used.
2. Medication, which is the typical treatment of choice if a man chooses to explore ADT (14).
There is plenty of evidence showing that using ADT for prostate cancer confined to the prostate offers no demonstrated survival advantage, and in fact, causes significant harm such as impotence, diabetes, and bone loss. Despite this, 80 percent of American doctors still provide ADT to their patients with localized prostate cancer (15).
There is another option, however, and that is cannabis. Serval studies show that the endocannabinoids in cannabis are a beneficial option for the treatment of prostate cancer, especially cancer that is nonresponsive to common therapies (16).
When it comes to colon cancer, one study published in Pharmacological Research concludes that cannabinoids have anti-proliferative, anti-metastatic, and apoptotic effects on cancer cells and even promote wound healing. Researchers show that cannabinoids even have protective effects on “intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.” (17)
Other studies on cannabis and colon cancer show that CBD can significantly “control colon cancer proliferation.” (18)
According to the American Cancer Society, “Two recently identified types of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are extremely difficult to treat with existing drugs.” (19).
Studies on cannabis, however, show the herb can induce cytotoxicity in leukemia cell lines: “We have shown that THC is a potent inducer of apoptosis, even at 1 x IC (50) (inhibitory concentration 50%) concentrations and as early as 6 hours after exposure to the drug. These effects were seen in leukemic cell lines (CEM, HEL-92, and HL60) as well as in peripheral blood mononuclear cells.” (20)
Another study from 2006 also concludes that cannabidiol can dramatically induce cell death in leukemia cells. Researchers of this study claim that cannabidiol may actually be a new and highly selective treatment for leukemia (21).
Other studies show that cannabinoids not only inhibit the growth of a broad spectrum of tumor cells but that they are effective agents to trigger apoptosis in human leukemia cells (22).
A previous 2003 study published in Leukemia and Lymphoma also concludes that two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol-dimethylheptyl (CBD-DMH) will induce apoptosis in a human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (23).
Estimates show 4,120 women will die from cervical cancer this year (24). While the 5-year survival rate is 68 percent, if cancer spreads to a distant part of the body, this rate drops to only 17 percent.
Most women with uterine cancer have surgery to remove their uterus (hysterectomy) and as well, often both fallopian tubes and ovaries. This is a non-reversible, highly invasive treatment.
Post-surgery, doctors also often recommend radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of the three for more aggressive forms of endometrial and metastatic cancer (25).
Studies on cannabis and cervical cancer cells clearly show that cannabidiol extracts can prevent cell growth and induce cell death in cervical cancer cell lines.
A 2016 study, published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, further shows that “both cannabidiol and cannabis sativa extracts were able to halt cell proliferation in all cell lines at varying concentrations.” (26)
Melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin diseases and it can easily spread deep into your skin and quickly metastasize to other tissues in your body.
Currently, there are few options for treatment beyond prevention and early detection. If diagnosed and treated early, when tumors are still thin and not deeply rooted in the skin, surgery is still an option. If missed, however, a melanoma will continue to divide under the skin’s surface and invade healthy tissue.
This type of malignant melanocyte tends to grow downward instead of horizontally, so it becomes thick and deep and the disease easily invades your lymphatic system where it becomes hard to control as it spreads to other parts of your body (27).
Even with intensive research, prevention and early detection are still the only effective measures against melanoma. As such, new therapeutic strategies are vital for the management of this devastating disease.
One such treatment is cannabis according to a study published in the FASEB Journal, which shows cannabinoids encourages cancer cell death while decreasing growth, proliferation, and metastasis of melanoma cells (28).
Other studies show that cannabinoids are also effective for non-melanoma skin cancers. Specifically, cannabinoid-treated tumors show an increased number of apoptotic cells.
Researchers conclude the results “support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of skin tumors.” (29)
According to other research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation: “Local administration of [cannabinoids] induced a considerable growth inhibition of malignant tumors generated by inoculation of epidermal tumor cells into nude mice. Cannabinoid-treated tumors showed an increased number of apoptotic cells. This was accompanied by impairment of tumor vascularization, as determined by altered blood vessel morphology and decreased expression of proangiogenic factors (VEGF, placental growth factor, and angiopoietin 2). … These results support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of skin tumors.” (30)
One of the complications of cancer is a compromised immune system, which results in cancer patients falling victim to an array of other diseases.
Research published in the paper Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids shows that cannabis is a viable alternative for these people.
The study shows that cannabinoid compounds play a key role in “modulating the immune system to improve the outcome of a cancer diagnosis.”
Researchers suggest there is significant “therapeutic potential of these compounds in immune disorders and cancer.” (31)
Other studies confirm cannabimimetic agents have substantial effects on natural killer cells, which makes them valuable agents for reducing tumor growth and cell apoptosis.
Researchers claim that “cannabis demonstrates a subtle but significant role in the regulation of immunity and that this role can eventually be exploited in the management of human disease.” (32)
While there are literally hundreds of studies that clearly demonstrate the powerful anti-cancer properties of cannabis for preventing and even eradicating cancer without the often deadly side effects of conventional treatments, it is still an uphill battle to legitimize the herb.
Legalizing it is a good first step. In the interim, researchers continue to study cannabis’ potent healing abilities.
Scientific Studies from the National Institute of Health
If you’re still in doubt regarding the effectiveness of cannabis for healing cancer, have a look at these 100+ scientific studies from the National Institute of Health: