Can CBD be used to treat cancer?

August 7, 2023

Welcome, beloved readers, to yet another riveting episode of our cannabis chronicles. Today, our protagonist is the buzzworthy acronym that’s been making waves in the wellness universe: CBD. Oh yes, CBD, or cannabidiol if you’re feeling fancy, is the new ‘It Girl’ of alternative therapies, being whipped out of proverbial wellness toolkits left, right, and center, to combat everything from anxiety to zits. But today, we’re wading into more profound waters, the big ‘C’ – Cancer. So, fasten your seat belts as we dive into the question: Can you treat cancer with CBD?

Now, to be absolutely, unambiguously clear, our dear friend CBD is not some miracle potion freshly brewed by Merlin that will banish the malignant, multiplying miscreants we call cancer cells into oblivion. But while it’s not a magic wand, it might just be the Hermione Granger of our wellness wizarding world – smart, powerful, and consistently reliable in dealing with various unpleasantries.

So, where does CBD fit into the cancer conversation? It may not cure, but it can certainly comfort. Think of it as the wellness world’s version of chicken noodle soup: it won’t get rid of the flu, but it will make you feel heaps better while you ride out the storm.

A bit of context: CBD is derived from cannabis, a plant that’s been around longer than civilization itself. But despite its ancient roots, it’s only recently that science started seriously poking and prodding at cannabis, extracting insights along with cannabinoids. They found out cannabis has over 100 different cannabinoids, each with its unique effects. Our star CBD is just one of these. Unlike its flamboyant cousin THC, CBD doesn’t cause a high. Instead, it provides a range of therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and potential anti-cancer properties.

Now, “anti-cancer” may sound a bit misleading. CBD isn’t rampaging through your body like a tiny avenger, hunting down and annihilating rogue cancer cells. Instead, preliminary studies have shown that it can inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells in a Petri dish. However, we must remember that our bodies are not Petri dishes. If they were, every morning jog would be a tsunami and eating a sandwich would be like moving mountains.

So, can we expect these preliminary, Petri-dish victories to translate into actual, human-scale triumphs? In the absence of substantial, peer-reviewed, clinical-trialled, doctor-endorsed evidence, the jury’s still out on that one. What we do know, however, is that CBD has some promising potential in managing cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects.

Cancer treatments can be notoriously grueling. Imagine, if you will, hosting a party where chemotherapy and radiation are the uninvited guests who trash your place, leaving you to clean up the mess. Nausea, pain, loss of appetite – the morning after can be brutal, and CBD could potentially help manage these symptoms.

Has there been any clinical research?

A 2010 study found that a CBD and THC mouth spray provided better pain relief than opioids for cancer patients. Better yet, it didn’t come with the addictive potential of opioids. Another study suggested that CBD could help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy side effects.

On the non-physical side, facing cancer can feel like having an existential crisis on steroids. Anxiety and depression are common among cancer patients, and several studies have suggested that CBD could have a role in managing these mental health issues.

However, it’s essential to tread this path with caution. While CBD may play a supportive role, it’s not a stand-alone treatment. Always consult with your doctor or oncologist before adding CBD, or any supplement, into your treatment plan. The medical realm is not a DIY craft project; throwing random elements together won’t necessarily result in a charming, Pinterest-worthy outcome. It’s all about personalized treatment plans, overseen by professionals who can monitor progress and adjust accordingly.

Moreover, it’s crucial to ensure the quality of the CBD product used. The market is rife with shady characters selling snake oil in CBD bottles. Always opt for products tested by third-party labs, ensuring they contain the CBD they claim and are free of harmful contaminants.

So, can you treat cancer with CBD? Not quite, not as of our current knowledge, at least. Can CBD help manage cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects, potentially improving the quality of life for cancer patients? Preliminary research and anecdotal evidence seem to suggest so. And while we eagerly await more comprehensive studies, it’s heartening to know that we have a potential ally in the form of CBD in the fight against cancer.

Always, always consult your healthcare team

But remember, never self-medicate or substitute prescribed treatments with CBD without consulting with your healthcare provider. We’re not at Hogwarts, and while CBD might be our Hermione Granger, it’s crucial to have a full team (a healthcare team, that is) when battling the dark arts of diseases.

Let’s not forget that CBD, as gentle and non-psychoactive as it is, is not some innocuous entity that will float around your bloodstream causing no disruption whatsoever. It still interacts with your body, or more specifically, with a group of enzymes in your body. These enzymes, known as cytochrome P450 enzymes, are responsible for metabolizing about 60% of clinically prescribed drugs. Essentially, they’re the hardworking janitors of your body, sweeping away medications once they’ve done their job.

But CBD, being the complex character it is, can sometimes interfere with these enzymes, effectively telling them to “take a break, guys, I got this.” This, in turn, can impact how other drugs are metabolized, potentially leading to higher or lower levels of these drugs in your system than intended. So, while CBD might be the friend who helps clean up after a party, it can sometimes be the friend who monopolizes the karaoke machine, changing the whole vibe of the event.

Such interactions can be especially significant when dealing with certain cancer medications. Take tamoxifen, for example, a commonly prescribed drug for some forms of breast cancer. Studies suggest that CBD could interfere with how the body processes tamoxifen, possibly impacting its effectiveness. Now, that’s not to say that CBD and tamoxifen can never be in the same room, but it does mean that their relationship needs to be carefully managed under the watchful eye of a healthcare professional.

The same goes for chemotherapy drugs, which have a narrow therapeutic index. That means the difference between the effective dose and the toxic dose is relatively small, leaving little room for error or interference. So, if CBD is causing these drugs to stick around in the body longer than they’re supposed to, the consequences could be serious.

This is why it’s so crucial to consult with your doctor before incorporating CBD, or any supplement, into your treatment plan. Not because CBD is bad, but because the health journey, particularly with something as serious as cancer, is a carefully choreographed routine. Every medication, every treatment, every lifestyle adjustment has its part to play, and any changes need to be made with knowledge and intention.

Remember, CBD is not a magic bullet. It’s not going to single-handedly cure cancer, or replace your current treatment plan. It’s more like a supporting actor, potentially helping manage side effects and improving quality of life, but always under the guidance of a healthcare professional. And just like a play, your treatment plan is not a one-man show, but a well-rehearsed ensemble performance.

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