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There are several ways patients often incorporate cannabis into cancer regimens. Some use the herb to manage symptoms like nausea, pain, and vomiting. Additional patients use the herb to lighten their spirits during one of the most trying times of their lives. Others still use raw cannabis juices and highly concentrated medical cannabis oil in an attempt to treat the disease with a natural remedy. But, does cannabis help or hinder chemotherapy treatment? Here’s where the evidence stands so far.

Does cannabis help chemotherapy treatment?

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Does cannabis improve the odds of recovering from chemotherapy treatment or does it hurt your chances? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t known at the moment.

However, there are a few reasons why some professionals are cautious when it comes to cannabis use during chemotherapy.

One concern revolves around smoked cannabis. Smoke from any burning material contains carcinogens, which are not especially helpful to those with immune systems suppressed by chemotherapy. Though, the herb may not be equally as carcinogenic as tobacco, according to one 2008 report.

Those who wish to use cannabis during chemotherapy treatment may benefit from other forms of consumption, like edibles, vaporization, and medical cannabis oil. 

Another concern is the dosage of the herb. In general, many cells in the body grow tolerant to the effects of cannabis over time. Whether or not this happens in cancer cells is not yet clear, which means that understanding what amounts of cannabis are beneficial is almost impossible.

In 2014, researchers at the University of Anglia found that THC, the primary psychoactive in cannabis, may reduce tumor growth in cancer patients. However, these pre-clinical studies have some limitations. Dr. Peter McCormick, one of the study authors, explains in a press release:

Our research uses an isolated chemical compound and using the correct concentration is vital Cancer patients should not self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future.

There has been further evidence of the herb’s ability to defeat cancer. For more information, take a look at the articles below:

Does chemotherapy interfere with cannabis?

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Some influencers think that things may actually be the opposite way around; chemotherapy may interfere with cannabis treatment. However, this sentiment is not currently backed by conventional scientific evidence.

According to legendary cannabis activist Rick Simpson, who has healed his own cancer with cannabis oil, an extra dose of cannabis medicine may be needed to undo the potential carcinogenic effects of chemotherapy. Simpson writes on the Phoenix Tears website:

Hemp oil has a very high success rate in the treatment of all forms of cancer and now there is no shortage of testimonials available on the internet, from individuals who have used this oil successfully to do just that.

But unfortunately, many people who came to me seeking help, had already been badly damaged from the chemotherapy and radiation treatments the medical system supplied.

Unfortunately, however, Simpson’s claims have not been backed up by clinical trials or the standard scientific process.

While many progressive doctors will provide guidance for cannabis treatments for cancer, using cannabis as an add-on or replacement for chemotherapy is highly experimental. There is no data on the plant’s efficacy or how best to use it for certain types of cancers.

Patients that opt to use cannabis as a cancer treatment are largely stepping into the unknown, relying on information passed down from other patients who have had success.

Rick Simpson and his free documentary Run From The Cure have inspired thousands of patients to experiment with medical cannabis oil.

Managing the side effects of chemotherapy treatment

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Cannabis-like pharmaceuticals are already available and prescribed for side effects of chemotherapy. Two synthetic cannabinoids, dronabinol, and nabilone have been approved for the reduction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. These two drugs are modeled after THC.

Last December [2016], the world’s first clinical trial of medical cannabis for the management of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting began. Researchers in Australia will examine the effects of real cannabis products on chemotherapy patients.

The results of this study will provide a good window into whether or not the herb interferes with traditional medications or is well-tolerated and effective. Though, the fact that cannabis-like drugs are already being used are positive signs for the results of the trial.

Until results from more human trials are published, patients are left with anecdotal evidence and guidance passed down from others who have taken this path.

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Delilah Butterfield

Delilah Butterfield is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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