What does cbd do for cancer?

  • 4 min read
  • |
  • Updated 542 days ago

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Researchers continue to search for a cure.

In the meanwhile, other scientific teams work to find treatments that will help cancer patients by softening the harsh side effects and complications that accompany this disease.

It’s possible our ancestors had part of the answer. In 1993, archaeologic diggers discovered a 2,500-year-old mummy with a tumor in her right breast (revealed via magnetic resonance imaging). They also found a pouch of cannabis in her underground chamber. Scientists believe the “Siberian Ice Maiden” used the cannabis to manage pain and symptoms from a malignant disease, like cancer. Today, we are rediscovering knowledge that our ancient ancestors took for granted—and to the grave.

Although research and acceptance of cannabis’ pharmacologic benefits have been slow to develop, some cannabis-based products—like cannabidiol (CBD) and medical marijuana (MMJ)—have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent and treat specific cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects.

Even non-FDA-approved treatments have gained momentum, spurred by stories from cancer patients who have used CBD and MMJ with great success.

Back to top


Cancer causes the cells in your body to mutate and divide, bombarding body tissues and eventually destroying them. Scientists have worked intently for decades to find a cure.

In the meanwhile, other scientific teams also work to find treatments that will help cancer patients by softening the harsh and relentless complications that accompany this disease, including:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nervous system and brain problems
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Immune system reactions
  • Chemical imbalances

Sometimes cancer treatments render side effects that are arguably worse than the symptoms of the disease itself. Palliative treatment strives to relieve some of these nasty side effects of treatment, as well as the cancer symptoms themselves.

The FDA has approved certain cannabinoids—nabilone and dronabinol—to treat cancer-related side effects.

Back to top


The cannabis Sativa plant produces many types of cannabinoids, chemical components that provide pharmacologic benefits when they interact with certain receptors in your body. According to the National Cancer Institute, their effects are particularly useful within the immune and central nervous systems.

The National Cancer Institute reports several benefits of medical cannabis for cancer patients:

  • Preventing nausea and vomiting
  • Boosting appetites
  • Relieving pain

Current Oncology reports that, for treating nausea and vomiting, cannabis could be less potent than other medicines designed for this purpose. However, some cancer patients respond only to cannabis treatment. As a bonus, cannabinoids also increase appetite, something that other nausea meds do not do.

Chemotherapy can cause peripheral neuropathy, and scientists think that smoking cannabinoids may help with this effect, too.

What We Know About How Cannabis Helps Cancer

In research like a study published in Pharmacological Reviews conducted over the last few decades, scientists have been learning more about our bodies’ endocannabinoid system (ES). This system seems to be involved in many physiological functions, many related to the nervous system and peripheral organs.

Researchers at the Laboratory of Physiological Studies, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health believe that by modulating a patient’s ES, we may be able to treat a wide range of diseases, including:

  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Osteoporosis

Within our ES, two cannabinoid receptors have been identified. The first, CB1, exists in the brain. The second, CB2, dwells on “natural killer cells” (a type of white blood cell that can kill tumor cells or those that are virus-infected) and lymphocytes, which points to a possible connection to immunity functions, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"Some cancer patients respond only to cannabis treatment. As a bonus, cannabinoids also increase appetite, something that other nausea meds do not do. "

National Institute for Health - Thomas Heyes, Ph.D., M.D.

How Cannabinoids Are Administered

There are many ways to ingest MMJ to relieve cancer symptoms and side effects. You can eat it in a baked product, and you can drink it in tea. Once it enters your system, the liver processes the THC and converts it.

Smoking either MMJ or CBD (as a vaporized oil) is the quickest way to get the treatments into your bloodstream. This method produces smaller amounts of the treatment’s psychoactive chemicals, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Other forms of CBD can be sprayed or dropped under your tongue.

You can also use CBD-based creams and lotions to soothe painful or aching muscles.

Clarifying the High and Addiction Question

Some cancer patients might shun CBD and MMJ out of concern that the treatment will either make them high or will be become habit-forming.

The cannabinoids CBD and THC both come from the cannabis Sativa plant. But the CBD that comes from hemp plants contains little, if any, THC, which is the psychoactive component that creates the high most people associate with the cannabis plant.

CBD, however, is found to relieve pain and lower inflammation—and it does so without creating the high that comes from THC, reports the National Cancer Institute.

The World Health Organization researched the question of CBD’s addictive properties and found that it promotes neither abuse nor dependence.

Please Sign In to View the comments

Traffic Roots Audience Pixel