Today is a fascinating time with the emergence of new science in the field of medical cannabis. Two of the plant’s most exciting features are its extreme low toxicity, as well as its broad effectiveness for many different types of medical conditions. How is it that cannabis can help such a wide range of symptoms and health issues ranging from PTSD to cancer and arthritis, MS to Crohn’s disease and epilepsy, as well as insomnia, pain and muscle spasm? The answer lies in our body’s endocannabinoid system, which acts like the internet of our body to help cells coordinate our immune response. The endocannabinoid system helps our body organize itself by helping cells communicate better to create physiologic balance.
Unlike conventional drugs which can have very serious toxicity issues for patients, cannabis possesses very low toxicity. Cannabis is far less toxic than aspirin or Tylenol for example. No patient or recreational user has ever died from an overdose of cannabis. In fact, cannabis is the least toxic of any pain reliever, which makes it an excellent option for folks who have chronic pain and are on long-term medications such as opiates. Emerging science shows that folks using medical cannabis for their chronic conditions actually are able to reduce the amount of their more toxic medications.
Medical cannabis patients in chronic pain can use cannabis together along with their opiate based painkillers, and cannabis has the special ability to help pain medications work more effectively without adding toxic risk. This translates to fewer accidental deaths from prescription medications. In fact, states with legal medical cannabis show a 25% reduction in accidental opiate prescription deaths. The low toxicity of cannabis can save lives by reducing patient dependence on more toxic medications. This is an intelligent approach to medicine and allows patients to safely control their pain and reduce their risk of toxicity to the liver, stomach, and kidneys.
Not all cannabis is the same, in fact there are more different types of cannabis than there are types of dogs. The reduced psychoactivity of CBD-rich cannabis strains for example, makes these strains a terrific treatment option for patients seeking pain relief, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and anti-spasm effects of cannabis without the sedation or head-high of other types.
Medical cannabis patients do not have to get high to experience pain relief, nor do they have to smoke cannabis to use it as medicine. Delivery methods besides smoking include topical creams, edibles, raw juiced cannabis, and vaporization. These methods provide patients a variety of options to tailor cannabis to their own special situations.
The healing power of cannabis gives patients a low-toxic alternative for many of their chronic medical conditions. Because of its complexity, a proper medical cannabis recommendation requires more than just a few minutes of a doctor’s time, and includes information on cannabinoid content, strain selection, and delivery methods. If you’re not getting this information from your doctor, you’re not getting a real cannabis consultation and are missing information on the full value and healing potential of the plant.
Check out this very interesting video on cannabis and cancer. Emerging research suggests that marijuana’s medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors. -Dr. Jake Felice
There’s a wealth of laboratory evidence that compounds in cannabis kill cancer cells in a variety of ways. Even very low concentrations of cannabinoids have anti-cancer effects, and all cannabinoids have extremely low toxicity. The doctors in this video discuss how it is whole plant cannabis and not pharmaceutical drugs based on the plant’s chemistry that will seize the day and out perform the patented products of pharmaceutical corporations. Right now, federal laws and regulations prevent the study of cannabis in humans in the United States. Let’s do what needs to be done and study this plant in humans – the lives of our loved ones are too short to have politics and religion interfering with our god given right to use this plant to help ourselves and those we love. Here is some information from the National Cancer Institute that you might find interesting on the use of cannabis for helping cancer patients: http://goo.gl/XXsUf
A proper cannabis recommendation requires more than just a few minutes of a doctor’s time, and includes information on cannabinoid content, strain selection, and delivery methods. If you’re not getting this information from your doctor, you’re not getting a real cannabis consultation and are missing information on the full value and healing potential of the plant.
The juice of raw cannabis provides unique healing benefits. Plant chemicals known as cannabinoid acids such as CBD-acids, and THC-acids break down quickly after harvest, so these compounds are not available in traditional preparations such as cooked ‘medibles’, smoking, or vaporizing.
The healing benefits of cannabinoid-acids are only present for a short period of time before the chemicals break down, so juicing needs to be done quickly after harvest. Fan leaves should make up the majority of the juice, and adding a small amount of cannabis flowers can be beneficial. Cannabis roots can also be added to the mixture as cannabis roots contain CBD, even in non-CBD producing plants!
Cannabinoid acids have amazing properties including anti-inflammatory properties, nerve protecting properties, and pain relieving properties. In raw preparations, the THC has not been heat-activated so there is not the intense sedation that is found in conventional edibles such as pot brownies. This allows for patients to take much higher doses of cannabinoids without the overly sedating effects that would otherwise be a concern. Raw cannabis shows promise for patients with neurological diseases such as MS, as well as for chronic pain suffers, cancer patients, and patients with autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
My patients are having fabulous success with raw juiced cannabis. The juice can be frozen to save preparation time. The freezing is typically done in ice cube trays, though it can also be blended with other juices such as apple juice and made into popsicles. Though it’s not yet being done, there is also potential to get the healing benefits of cannabinoid-acids from fresh freeze-dried preparations in capsule form. Topical application of a raw cannabis poultice is also very effective for pain from neuropathy, as well as musculoskeletal pain including arthritis pain.
Plants with high CBD content are best for juicing as they contain more CBD-acids than non-CBD producing strains.
Because of Washington state’s medical cannabis law, patients are allowed to grow up to 15 cannabis plants for their medical use. This means that patients in Seattle and throughout the state can have affordable, safe, and effective medicine for their own personal use without relying on more costly drugs with higher toxicity and side-effect profiles.
We cannot yet claim at this time that cannabis can cure cancer. Doctors, patients and scientists have however been claiming for years that tens of thousands of cancer patients have been successfully treated with cannabis. One thing to remember with patients and cannabis is that it’s not an either/or situation. Patients can do all of their conventional therapies plus cannabis. Cannabis is so helpful for the side-effects of chemo and radiation. Patients love it and it doesn’t add to their disease burden in most cases.
Unfortunately for many cancer patients living in non-licensed states, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I federally controlled substance which means that our federal government considers it to have absolutely no medical value plus a high potential for harm.
What to do about this? Because of its Schedule I status, research on the medical effects of cannabis has been either illegal, or very limited due to federal laws. This study sponsored by Diego Pellicer will be one of the first to study the misinformation and myths around the question: Can cannabis cure cancer. With more and more research, we will finally be breaking the shackles of ignorance around the healing powers of this amazing plant.
Diego Pellicer is announcing the treatment of prostate cancer patient John Shively, age 86, with PSA = 125, using Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) cannabis treatment, and a comprehensive plan to document the process before, during and after with medical tests at various stages in the process. Once complete, they will publish and broadcast the results broadly. Upon completion, they will review and refine the methodology, and expand the study to include larger test groups, with a view to generating meaningful statistics and useful information on the effectiveness of treating cancer with RSO. The larger goal is to broadcast the objectively measured truth on this topic broadly, whatever that truth is.
Below is an excerpt from Cannabis-Med.org for readers who are interested in delving deeper into this fascinating topic: Cannabinoids, the active components of cannabis and their derivatives, exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite. In addition, these compounds inhibit the growth of tumour cells in laboratory animals -mice and rats. However, at the moment there is not solid evidence to prove that cannabinoids –whether natural or synthetic- can effectively treat cancer in patients, although research is ongoing around the world.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a broad term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are usually able to invade other tissues, causing metastases and high rates of mortality and morbidity. Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases: more than 100 different cancers are well-typified from a histopatological point of view by the WHO and, most likely, there are hundreds if not thousands types of cancers according to molecular and genetic profiling.
Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start. In addition, cancer types are usually grouped into the following broader categories:
– Carcinoma: cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
– Sarcoma: cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
– Leukaemia: cancer that starts in blood-forming tissues such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.
– Lymphoma and myeloma: cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.
– Central nervous system cancers: cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
Conclusion: Cancer is a very serious and heterogeneous disease, so fighting it therapeutically remains an extremely difficult challenge. Cannabinoids might therefore exert beneficial effects in some cancers but not in others.
Do cannabinoids inhibit cancer growth? (Laboratory research)
Virtually all the research into cannabinoids and cancer cells has been conducted so far using cancer cells grown in the lab or in animal models. Many scientific studies have reported that various cannabinoids (both natural and synthetic) exert a wide range of growth-inhibiting effects on cancer cells, including:
– Triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis.
– Stopping cells from dividing.
– Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumours –a process termed angiogenesis.
– Reducing the chances of cancer cells to metastasize through the body, by stopping cells from moving or invading neighbouring tissue.
– Speeding up the cell’s internal ‘waste disposal machine’ –a process known as autophagy – which can lead to cell death.
Conclusion: Cannabinoids are efficacious drugs to treat at least some types of cancers in laboratory animals –mice and rats.
Do cannabinoids inhibit cancer growth? (Anecdotal evidence in humans)
As mentioned above, basically all the research investigating whether cannabinoids can treat cancer has been done in the lab. It is therefore important to be very cautious when extrapolating these results up to real live patients, who are a lot more complex than a Petri dish or a mouse. Anecdotal reports on cannabis use have been historically helpful to provide hints on the biological processes controlled by the endocannabinoid system and on the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids. In the precise case of cancer there is a notable presence of videos and reports on the internet arguing that cannabis can cure cancer. These anecdotal claims may be completely or partially true in some cases, but overall remain –at least to date- weak and obscure. For example:
– We do not know whether the (supposed) effect of cannabis was due to a placebo effect.
– We do not know whether the tumour has (supposedly) stopped growing by natural/endogenous reasons -some tumours regress spontaneously/owing to the body’s anti-tumour defences.
– We do not know how many patients have taken cannabis and have not obtained any therapeutic benefit, that is, what is the (supposed) efficacy of the cannabis-based therapy.
– As most likely patients have gone through standard therapy prior to or concomitantly with cannabis use, we do not know whether the (supposed) effect of cannabis was in fact due -at least in part- to the standard therapy -perhaps enhanced by cannabis, but we have no proof.
– We do not know what are the parameters of tumour progression that have been monitored and for how long the patient has been monitored -many potentially beneficial effects of antineoplastic drugs (or of cannabis in this case) are just short-term actions, but what about long-term progression-free survival and overall survival?
– Cancer is a very heterogeneous disease, and so far none has put together a sufficient number of patients for a particular type of cancer to support that cannabinoids are efficacious drugs in that precise cancer.
Conclusion: Although it is possible –and of course desirable- that cannabis preparations have exerted some antineoplastic activity in some particular cancer patients, the current anecdotal evidence reported on this issue is pretty poor, and, unfortunately, remains far from supporting that cannabinoids are efficacious anticancer drugs for large patient populations.
Do cannabinoids inhibit cancer growth? (Clinical research)
Results have been published from only one Phase I clinical trial testing whether cannabinoids can treat cancer in patients. Nine people with advanced, recurrent glioblastoma multiforme –an aggressive brain tumour– that had previously failed standard therapy were given highly purified THC through a catheter directly into their brain. Under these conditions cannabinoid delivery was safe and could be achieved without significant unwanted effects. In addition, although no statistically-significant conclusions can be extracted from such a small cohort of patients and without a control group, the results obtained suggested that some patients responded -at least partially- to THC treatment in terms of decreased tumour growth rate, as evaluated by imaging and biomarker analyses. These findings were encouraging and substantially reinforced the interest on the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer therapies. However, they also highlighted the need for further research aimed at optimizing the use of cannabinoids in terms of patient selection, combination with other anticancer agents and use of other routes of administration.
Conclusion: There are still many unanswered questions around the potential for using cannabinoids as anticancer drugs, and it is necessary and desirable that exhaustive clinical studies are conducted to determine how cannabinoids can be used, other than for their palliative effects, to treat cancer patients.
Dr Manuel Guzman is professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. He coordinates the Cannabinoid Signaling Group.