Ever since modern cancer treatments were first devised, cannabis has been linked as a potential therapy and treatment option. Usually combined to help combat some of the symptoms of chemotherapy, cannabis has recently been suggested to actually help combat cancer cells that are already present, and even help fend off cancer from forming in the first place. Surprisingly, this revelation mostly comes from the place you’d least expect; the government.
So, what does the government have to say about cannabis’ cancer-killing properties? Does cannabis really kill cancer cells? Let’s dig a little deeper and take a look in this comprehensive review.
What is Cannabis, & Why Do People Take it When Suffering from Cancer?
First, it’s important to understand what we mean by ‘cannabis,’ as the term itself is pretty broad in its scope. Cannabis is the flowering bud from the Cannabis sativa plant, which contains cannabinoids like THC and CBD that interact with a health system in our body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
This system is responsible for a large number of different functions within the human body and is principally triggered by two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2. These two receptors are located in different parts of the body; CB1 is mostly in the brain and central nervous system, whereas CB2 is more generally spread throughout the body.
These different receptors are thus able to create different effects depending on which ones are triggered.
For example, the CB1 receptors are able to help increase the release of serotonin and other useful brain chemicals, whereas the CB2 receptor is known to help mitigate the inflammation response in the body.
This effect on the neurochemicals and different bodily responses is the main reason why people take cannabis when they are suffering from cancer.
One of the most common treatments of cancer is chemotherapy, an intense process wherein all of your body’s cells are damaged and forced to undergo a lot of “unpleasant experiences,” all in an effort to try and rid the body of cancerous cells.
Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy include intense pain, both localized and neurological, as well as nausea and discomfort.
Luckily for those going through chemotherapy, cannabis has been know to provide great relief for both of these symptoms.
As cannabis stimulates the CB1 receptor, it has the ability to help control the sensation of pain, in the same way that the CB2 receptor can help control inflammation. Additionally, cannabis helps mitigate the feeling of nausea or stomach issues, generally allowing you to get through chemotherapy more easily than if you weren’t using it at all.
However, as cannabis has been used by people while on chemotherapy for years, people began noticing a very interesting thing; some who took cannabis started getting better at a much faster rate than those who didn’t. It seemed that cannabis actually helped to remove cancerous cells, rather than just helping to treat the side-effects of chemotherapy.
What Does the Government Say About Cannabis & Cancer?
Despite how you may feel about it, when you are considering cannabis and the treatment of cancer, it’s important to know how the government feels about it. Thanks to decades of rigorous anti-cannabis campaigning, the government isn’t exactly predisposed towards “liking” cannabis.
But all the research and evidence pointing towards cannabis being useful to help treat cancer is useless if the federal government refuses to recognize it and allow its legality to treat the condition.
However, a huge change has occurred recently wherein the federal government finally, at long last, admitted that cannabis can actually do some good. Despite endless preaching that cannabis was the devil’s own plant, the Department of Health’s National Cancer Institute admitted that cannabis could be used to help treat – and possibly even prevent – cancer.
In an official publication released by the National Institute of Health, the government stated that “Cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.” Additionally, the government report outlined other uses for cannabis, such as its ability to help reduce inflammation, as well its properties as an effective antiviral, antibacterial, and a host of other medicinal benefits.
Thanks to federally-backed research, cannabis has been observed as having the ability to kill cancer cells, at least in a controlled laboratory setting. In fact, in a huge list of studies, the Department of Health outlined all known research that has demonstrated cannabis’ ability to help combat cancer.
In some of the studies, individual cancer cells were observed being destroyed by the introduction of cannabis, as well as it having the ability to help protect vital organs like the colon and the liver from developing cancerous tumors.
This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but federal recognition of the benefits of cannabis means that we are just that little bit closer to fully legalizing cannabis, at least for the use of treating cancer.
With the federal government taking cannabis’ ability to treat cancer seriously, it looks like the world of cannabis legalization has just taken a big step forward.
But how accurate is their information, and the studies that are being referenced? How does cannabis actually work to kill cancer cells? While it’s well and good knowing that the government supports it, what are the actual mechanisms behind cannabis and its effects on cancer?
Does Cannabis Actually Kill Cancer Cells?
Scientists were intrigued at the idea of using an illegal substance to help treat cancer, as cannabis has only recently been properly studied for use as a medicine, rather than just as an illicit substance. One of the most important studies that looked into Cannabis’s effects on Cancer was a study by Sledzinski et al. for the Journal of Cancer Medicine. They found that the CBD and THC within cannabis altered the operation of signal pathways within the body.
Due to the engagement of the CB2 receptors, the cannabinoids within cannabis helped encourage new signal pathways to be created, which in turn increased the rate of cellular regeneration and the likelihood that living cells would stay healthy.
This is important for the treatment of cancer because this condition, unlike other diseases, is essentially all about a grouping of cells that have “forgotten how to die.” Cancerous cells fail to die, and instead “convert” nearby cells to cancerous growths as well, eventually spreading and causing health issues that can, after a while, result in death.
By opening up more signaling pathways, it appears that cannabis is able to help circumvent these cancerous cells’ ability to convert other cells to cancer, as well as helping already damaged cells to regenerate properly and get back to a healthy state.
Annoyingly enough, we don’t fully and completely understand the exact mechanics behind cannabis ability to fight cancer cells. We know it has something to do with cannabinoids’ natural properties as an antiviral and an antibacterial, but we don’t fully understand how it specifically targets cancer cells. It’s possible that cannabinoids treat cancerous cells as a natural predator and work to remove it, but why this would be the case is still currently being researched.
Additionally, the use of cannabis as an analgesic to help mitigate pain and nausea might be helping treat cancer in a whole different way. When you treat the side effects of a medical condition, the actual cause of the condition can actually begin to get better a lot faster than it would otherwise.
This is because, by treating the pain and nausea that you get with both cancer and with chemotherapy, patients that dose themselves with cannabis are able to allow their bodies to focus on getting rid of the cancer rather than dealing with the side effects and pain from the damage to their bodies. In other words, the very act of treating the pain actually makes your body more able to combat cancer.
Final Thoughts: Does Cannabis Kill Cancer Cells?
Cancer as an illness is one that has baffled mankind for millennia – a condition with a million different varieties and a million different causes, all without any concrete method to treat it. However, thanks to recent research, cannabis is now firmly established as having a variety of uses in both treating and preventing cancer.
With the recognition by the federal government of these facts, it is likely that we will begin to see more efforts towards legalization in the near future. Funny enough, cannabis in one specific form was actually recently legalized; in October 2018, CBD was legalized federally for the treatment of two specific varieties of epilepsy.
Though this is only CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid within cannabis, and not THC or the rest of the plant that has been legalized (and the fact that it’s only been legalized for a specific syndrome), it doesn’t lessen the importance of this monumental change in policy. Cannabis, in at least one form, is now considered a proper medicine legal throughout the country.
With all the research still being undertaken towards treating cancer using cannabis, it’s surely only a matter of time before the government wakes up and makes sure everyone can use cannabis to treat themselves. While you may not like it, what the government has to say about cannabis and cancer cells is ultimately the most important thing in the world. Without their approval, treating cancer with cannabis won’t get anywhere.
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