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Can cannabis cure cancer?

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?

The short answer is that 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. If you want to delve deeper into the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific data, this article is a great place to start.

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. For a more detailed breakdown of the current science, give this article a go. 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. The jury is still out whether any part of cannabis will treat cancer in the future. But if you’d like to learn more about the current research, have a look here.

In the US, dronabinol, a drug containing THC, is sometimes prescribed for patients to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.

So, what do people really need to know about cannabis and cancer?

We support any new and bold ideas in research, including into cannabis and its components. However, for now at least, there is simply not enough evidence to support the idea that cannabis can cure cancer.

What's what

Cannabis

The plant

Cannabinoids

A class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant

CBD

Short for cannabidiol, one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis

CBD oil

Oil containing CBD and potentially other cannabinoids, but no THC (at least in the UK)

 

THC

Another main cannabinoid and the one that makes you “high”