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Understanding the Problems Behind Using Cannabis to Fight Cancer
Every day it seems as if we are seeing more and more people experiencing what appears to be successful treatment, reduction, or remission in various cancers by using cannabis. Could it be that cannabis effectively treats cancer or cuts the risk of developing it in the first place? It’s true that there are many health benefits of cannabis, and over the last few decades, especially in the past 5 years, scientists have begun to show that cannabis can fight anxiety, ADHD, epilepsy, lower insulin levels, fight depression, and can slow the spread of cancer cells. Almost all scientific research regarding cannabis as a cure for cancer has been done using either animals or cancer cells that were grown in a lab setting. When it comes to people, however, things become a bit more unstable.
Studies show that in experiments done with mice, when they were given large doses of pure THC, they did appear to have a lower risk of developing cancer. Other studies show that cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana and the derivatives of marijuana, reduced the growth of tumors and the progression of cancer in studies done with animals. Still another study using human glioma cells showed that, along with chemotherapy, cannabidiol made the chemo more effective and led to an increase in the death of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.
Now, having shown this, there has been another side that has not been as well reported. Cannabinoids might also have some unwanted effects on cancer. Some studies show that although high dose THC did kill cancer cells, it also caused damage to important blood vessels and could encourage cancer cells to grow elsewhere. It also has variable effects depending on the levels of cannabinoid receptors present and the dosage given. On top of this information, a few scientists have discovered that some synthetic cannabinoids improve our immune defense against cancer, but that cancer cells can develop a resistance to cannabinoids.
There are several other problems involving the use of cannabis to treat cancer that are also not often mentioned:
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Unless you live in an area where medical marijuana is standardized, there is the matter of where the plant is grown and prepared, as these things can vastly affect the amount of active chemicals found in the plant, and thus, how much is available for the body to use.
SEE ALSO: Is Your Marijuana Laced with Pesticides?
If you have any experience with marijuana at all, you know that there are dozens of different types of plants and there is no set standard for which type (and whether natural or synthetic) is the most effective and/or which types of cancer best respond to which type of marijuana.
This is perhaps the biggest factor. There is no known set amount that will work best. Should you smoke it, eat it, use cannabis oil, or tinctures? Any of these methods will have a variable dose, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to measure the intake. This is why many researchers are trying to use alternative dosing methods such as using whole-plant extracts that contain a specific amount of cannabinoids. This whole plant extract would be a spray that you use under your tongue. The dosage would be exact, but this is still in the experimental stages.
4. Side Effects
Although it’s believed that natural cannabinoids are safe, they are not risk free. Cannabinoids sometimes increase a person’s heart rate and might interact with other drugs, especially antihistamines and antidepressants. They might also affect the way that chemotherapy drugs work in the body.
There is a great deal of interesting research being done about what role cannabinoids will most likely take in the fight against cancer. There need to be more studies done and more individual stories offered, with detailed notes, about how they used cannabis to cure their own cancer or other chronic diseases.
Targeting CB2-GPR55 receptor heteromers modulates cancer cell signaling, Estefanía Moreno, et al., J Biol Chem, published online 18 June 2014.