Can cannabis cure cancer?
12th February 2020
Walking along your local high street, you’ve probably noticed shops selling CBD oil, along with all sorts of health claims – including the possibility that it could even be used to combat cancer. But could this be true? Could cannabis really cure cancer? We asked our experts to delve into the research.
Billions have been spent on cancer research over many decades, but we still haven’t cured cancer. Our experts explain why that is — and why we still urgently need to fund more cancer research.
We don’t know yet whether cannabis, or any of the chemicals in cannabis, are useful to treat cancer. But it’s an important topic to discuss. And because we believe in the power of research, we dug into the science to answer some of the top questions you might have on cannabis and its effect on cancer.
Can CBD oil be used to treat cancer?
There is no evidence that CBD oil can be used to treat cancer in people. CBD does show promise for the management of some cancer related symptoms, including pain and anxiety, however, more research into appropriate amounts of CBD and its effects on humans is necessary.
But I’ve heard about someone who was cured when they used CBD oil!
The problem with these stories is that it’s difficult to know whether you have all of the facts. It’s impossible to make any kind of judgement without knowing about the type of cancer, other treatment and the person’s medical history.
This is why research and regulated clinical trials are so important. They enable us to make informed decisions on what treatments are likely to work best based on solid evidence.
Does CBD oil offer any medical benefits?
There is some evidence that CBD oil could be effective against some rare childhood epilepsies. But again, more data is needed before we can draw any firm conclusions. Studies also show that CBD oil could be beneficial for managing anxiety and insomnia in some people, and early research also suggests a possible use of CBD for the treatment of certain types of pain.
Is CBD oil safe?
Relatively. The doses sold in UK health stores are generally too low to cause any serious harm. Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and diarrhoea. Most importantly, it can affect certain medications and you should always check with your GP before trying CBD oil. Because CBD oil is freely available to purchase in stores, it is not as tightly regulated as medicines.
Okay, but what about cannabis? Can cannabis be used to treat cancer?
This is difficult to answer, as research into cannabis and the chemicals in cannabis is still in its infancy. Most of the research so far has involved work in cells and mice. THC and CBD are two of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Some cannabinoids inhibit the growth of tumour cells in test tubes and mice, but others encourage growth. Human studies are still small and hard to come by.
One study of cannabis users found they had a lower risk of bladder cancer, but their risk of developing prostate cancer increased.
In the US, dronabinol, a drug containing THC, is sometimes prescribed for patients to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.
In 2021, a new clinical trial was launched in the UK to test whether a cannabis-based mouth spray could treat brain tumours and help patients live longer.
A class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant
Short for cannabidiol, one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis
Oil containing CBD and potentially other cannabinoids, but no THC (at least in the UK)
Another main cannabinoid and the one that makes you “high”
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