CBD comes from cannabis plants called hemp that are specifically grown with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Cannabis plants grown with high levels of THC are usually called marijuana. CBD comes from oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. That oil can then be ingested as a liquid, a capsule, a gummy, or inhaled through vaping. It can also be added as an ingredient in such products as lotions and skin patches.
Studies to answer this question are underway. Some scientists are studying whether CBD could relieve some of the side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as pain, insomnia, anxiety, or nausea. Other scientists are studying whether CBD could potentially slow or stop the growth of cancer.
What is CBD?
You may also be wondering if CBD is legal in your area. Some states allow the sale and possession of cannabis, including CBD and THC, for medical and recreational use. Others have stricter regulations, so state-by-state laws should always be learned before transporting CBD across state lines. Things are more complicated at the federal level. In 2018, the U.S. government recognized that hemp can be grown and manufactured legally as part of the Farm Act. Hemp can be used to make things like rope and clothing, in addition to CBD oil. In other words, hemp is no longer a controlled substance, which means it is not regulated by the government. This means that consumers have to evaluate the safety and quality of CBD products on their own. Some CBD, for example, may have much higher levels of THC than what is labeled.
Can CBD help people with cancer?
There is currently 1 CBD treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Epidiolex, which is used to treat a rare and severe form of epilepsy in children. There are not currently any FDA-approved CBD medications for treating cancer or side effects of cancer treatments.
Having said that, there have been some clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans that look promising, and more studies are planned. Although some of these investigations have concluded that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD can help slow the growth or cause death in certain types of cancer cells, it would be premature to make changes in cancer protocols based on these results.
With medical cannabis now legal in 36 U.S. states, and cancer listed as a qualifying condition in many of them, it’s no wonder that more and more cancer patients are inquiring about using it, or its derivative cannabidiol (CBD). It’s also becoming more common for mainstream medical oncologists to consider recommending medical cannabis for their patients undergoing chemotherapy. Before you make any decisions about whether CBD or other forms of cannabis may be right for you, be sure to check with your doctor. Anything you take while undergoing chemotherapy could have unwanted or dangerous interactions with your chemo regimen, so don’t take CBD – or any other supplements or medications – without talking to your oncologist first.
Many patients have found that medical marijuana or its derivatives can help ease pain and nausea, especially those caused by chemotherapy, and the science supports that. In 2017, an ad hoc committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found strong evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
Petrovici AR, Simionescu N, Sandu AI, Paraschiv V, Silion M, Pinteala M. “New Insights on Hemp Oil Enriched in Cannabidiol: Decarboxylation, Antioxidant Properties and In Vitro Anticancer Effect.” Antioxidants (Basel). 2021;10(5):738. Published 2021 May 7.
CBD is ubiquitous these days, and is available in oils, beauty products, capsules, and “edibles” like gummies. Even oromucosal CBD sprays have been tested and shown to be effective as an adjunctive treatment in chronic pain.
Shah SA, Gupta AS, Kumar P. “Emerging role of cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoid receptor 1/cannabinoid receptor 2 receptor agonists in cancer treatment and chemotherapy-associated cancer management.” J Cancer Res Ther. 2021 Jan-Mar;17(1):1-9.
I am undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and a friend recommended I take CBD oil to help with the pain and nausea. Is it safe to do that, and does it work?