Saturday December 23, 2017

By Erin Hiatt


The American Cancer Society reports that about one third of women and nearly half of all men will be diagnosed with some type of cancer during their lifetime. Cancer is an equal opportunity attacker, and pulls no punches with people of all ages, racial and ethnic groups.

The U.S. government spends about 4.8 billion annually on cancer research and has for many years, but no cure is on the horizon. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says that with the rise of inflation and the spiraling cost of research, their ability to prevent, treat and diagnose cancer is compromised.

The Trump administration’s backdoor efforts to cripple the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may make meaningful progress in cancer research untenable. Additionally, it could hamper people’s ability to get proper cancer treatment as the affordability of insurance becomes unreachable for many, especially those in low to middle income tax brackets.

Given these challenges, some seek to enhance their cancer treatment through the healing benefits of cannabis.

But does cannabis actually help treat or cure cancer? Let’s take a closer look.


The Basis of Cannabis and Cancer Research

More than 40 years ago, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published their findings from a study called Antineoplastic Activity of Cannaibinoids, in which combinations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN) were found to have inhibited cancerous growth in mice.

The lore has continued to grow as many people have found success, some even saying that they “cured themselves,” with cannabis. One of the more famous examples of purported cannabis self-healing is Rick Simpson, creator of the vaunted Rick Simpson Oil (RSO).

Rick Simpson Oil Example
An example of Rick Simpson’s cannabis oil, otherwise known as RSO. Rick Simpson

Simpson was an engineer who suffered an accident while working with aerosol glue and asbestos, long-known to be a cause of mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the cardiopulmonary system. Simpson dealt with headaches and dizziness for years after the accident, and later, basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, on his arm.

Simpson received no support from his doctor when he broached using cannabis as a form of treatment, so Simpson forged his own path and created RSO, a potent cannabis oil with THC levels in the 90 percent range. All these years later, Simpson lives a healthy and vibrant life, sharing his cannabis oil recipe freely so that others may make their own, not only for cancer but many other ailments.

Cannabis and Cancer Resources

Rick Simpson is not the only person in the know in regard to cannabis and cancer. Cure Your Own Cancer, a site dedicated to sharing the stories of those who have used cannabis to treat their cancers, is replete with resources linking to studies that correlate cannabinoids with inhibiting cancer cells.

Despite promising research, it is still incredibly difficult for doctors and scientists to bring cannabis from alternative healing therapy to mainstream medicine.

This is mainly because of cannabis’ Schedule I status – even though studies have shown that combinations of THC and cannabinoids battle cancer cells by preventing them from proliferating, starving the cells, and inducing programmed cell death.


Ways Cannabis Fights Cancer

Millions of Americans are using complementary and alternative medicine in tandem to treat cancer. And the palliative benefits of cannabis for cancer patients appear to be incredibly beneficial in easing cancer’s side effects, like nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, sleep disruption, mental well-being, and last but not at all least, pain. Here’s how:

Nausea and Vomiting

Cannabis is a known antiemetic, soothing one of chemotherapy’s most reviled side-effects. Indeed, pharmaceutical companies have even gotten in on the act, creating a synthetic cannabinoid called Marinol, legal across the U.S. and available by prescription. Of course, no synthetic cannabinoid could ever compare to the real deal, though.

Loss of Appetite

Cannabis has a penchant for giving people the munchies, and in this case, it’s a good thing. Stimulating the receptor systems that release the hunger hormone, it also ups the appetite and makes eating food a more pleasurable experience.

Sleep Disruption

Different cannabis strains prompt different responses, and for a patient that has trouble falling asleep, an indica varietal can induce drowsiness and sleep. On the flip side, a patient who struggles with cancer-induced fatigue but has to remain alert during the day can opt for an energizing sativa.

Grand Daddy Purps Flower
Grand Daddy Purps is a great strain to help a patient sleep.

Mental Well-being

THC is known for its ability to improve mood, and even non-psychoactive CBD has been shown to help with low spirits and depression. It is thought that serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain, is heightened with CBD.

Many believe that serotonin may also improve digestion, memory and intimate sexual relationships.


Physical pain caused by cancer can be acute or chronic and can originate from tumorous growths pressing on bones, organs and nerves. Some believe that to relieve pain and suffering, a strain high in both THC and CBD is the most effective.

Each person’s experience as they fight cancer is sure to be unique, and trial and error in dosing and strain should be expected as patients find solutions that work specifically for them. And until a cure for cancer is found, cannabis could be an invaluable complementary treatment.

Do you have any cancer and cannabis success stories? We’d love to hear them!

Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

Related Articles