Cannabis has been cultivated by man since neolithic times. For centuries, it has been rumoured to treat everything from inflammation to cancer.
But just how true are these claims? There are those that argue that cannabis is nothing more than a recreational drug that makes people high.
This viewpoint however, is not supported by the evidence. In actual fact, various scientific studies support the possibility that cannabis may be effective in triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis.
There are also many studies which claim that cannabis may be effective in preventing metastasis (the spread of cancer cells).
Cannabis is generally made up of two known substances, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The endocannabinoid system in the human body has receptors for both substances located throughout the nervous system and brain.
According to findings published by the journal Nature Reviews Cancer and the National Institutes of Health, cannabis stops cells from dividing and inhibits blood vessels from growing into new tumours.
The studies also showed that the best results were produced by purified THC or CBD.
CBD was shown to be particularly effective when it comes to treating a wide range of cancers.
A separate study published in PubMed entitled ‘The influence of biomechanical properties and cannabinoids on tumor invasion’ revealed that cannabis was effective in preventing the spread of glioblastoma – a type of brain tumour.
It was also shown to reduce the aggressive growth of brain tumour cells.
Another study entitled ‘Cannabidiol inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1’ studied the effects of CBD oil on cancer.
CBD is known to be effective in treating a wide range of common diseases in the West such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, MS and a whole host of others.
However, the study showed that although cannabinoids have always been known to exhibit a broad variety of anticarcinogenic effects, their potential use in cancer therapy had previously been limited by their psychoactive effects.
However, CBD, a plant-derived non-psychoactive cannabinoid, was shown to impair the invasion of human cervical cancer and lung cancer cells.
The study concluded that: “Altogether, these findings provide a novel mechanism underlying the anti-invasive action of cannabidiol and imply its use as a therapeutic option for the treatment of highly invasive cancers.”
In 1974, the National Cancer Institute published some research which showed that cannabidiol (CBD) could suppress lung cancer cells in test tubes as well as in mice.
A separate experiment was carried out by a team at St George’s, University of London. It has been published in the journal Anticancer Research. The team, led by Dr Wai Liu and colleagues carried out laboratory investigations using a number of cannabinoids, either alone or in combination with each other, to measure their anti-cancer actions in relation to leukaemia.
Of six cannabinoids studied, CBD, cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigevarin (CBGV) in their neutral forms and their acid forms, each demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as those seen in THC. Importantly, they had an increased effect on cancer cells when combined with each other.
While these studies are certainly promising, further research is needed to understand exactly how cannabis works in the fight against cancer.
For example, it is not known how effective cannabis is in the fight against different types of cancer or what dose would be required in order to fight the disease.
As with any disease or ailment, it is always best to consult your physician or doctor if you have any health concerns.