Is It For Real?
As self-professed skeptics, we were not falling for any “miracle stories.” With the internet loaded with people promising that hemp oil cured their cancer without chemotherapy, we at White Cedar needed to investigate for ourselves whether or not it was all just glorified “hype.”
We discovered that the bottom line is this: Not enough human studies have been done to evaluate whether or not hemp oil has any effect on cancer cells. Most of the evidence that supports the use of hemp oil for cancer comes from anecdotal accounts or animal studies.
Nevertheless, there is a constantly increasing number of individuals who claim to have been cured by hemp oil. They are vocal on the web and are sharing their stories in the hopes of helping others. And while these stories undoubtedly inspire new hope, it is incumbent upon each individual to discuss the benefits and risks of taking hemp oil with his or her doctor.
Want to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific research supporting hemp oil and the way hemp oil interacts with cancer cells? Read on.
According to a 2017 review of current research, it is estimated that up to 40% of individuals in the United States will be faced with a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetime. The set of diseases that we call cancer is exceptionally multi-faceted. Common forms of the disease include breast cancer, skin cancer, and lung cancer, but there are hundreds of varieties that a person can be stricken with. It is important to remember that not all cancers are created equally and that different kinds of cancer respond in distinctive ways to various treatments.
A Miracle Story
Oklahoma City native Rhonda Gossett was devastated when she received her diagnosis of stage four breast cancer. As the disease spread first to her bones and then to her brain, the doctors told her there was nothing else to do. After hearing about the many people cured by hemp oil, Rhonda decided to try it. In just a few weeks, Rhonda felt the difference, and within two years, her cancer was gone.
But is there any scientific research standing behind such stories?
Dr. Christine Sanchez of the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, posits that there is. As a microbiologist who has been studying the hemp plant’s effect on cancer since the early 2000s, she discovered that the hemp plant contains cannabinoids that have anti-tumor effects.
How do Cannabinoids Kill Cancer?
In a study co-authored by Dr. Sanchez, cancer researchers looked at how hemp-derived cannabinoids act on a tumor. Using animal subjects, the scientists injected the cannabinoids to the site of the tumor. What they found caused them to believe that hemp oil has significant potential as a powerful cancer treatment.
The scientists realized that when they introduced the cannabinoids into the tumor, the cannabinoids decreased tumor growth significantly. The cannabinoids accomplished this by enhancing the cell signaling involved in controlling cancer cell proliferation.
In addition, the researchers found that cannabinoids inhibit angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. This cuts off the nutrition supply to the cancer cells, making the cells “commit suicide.” Having the cells die in this way is ideal, since the body does not have to bring inflammation to the area to kill the cells. The American Cancer Society supports this study and states, “Cannabinoids…. slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes.”
As if that were all not enough, the scientists were surprised to discover that the cannabinoids also decreased metastasis. Metastasis is defined as the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer. By inhibiting metastasis, cannabinoids lower the risk of new tumors developing.
Other notable studies subsequently supported the results of Dr. Sanchez and her colleagues. Dr. Sean Mcallister is a leading scientist in the area of cannabinoid and cancer interaction. In 2010, he conducted a groundbreaking study that was originally published in the Breast Cancer and Research journal. The study concluded that Cannabidiol (CBD for short), one of the most common cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, has the potential to inhibit human breast cancer proliferation.
The ID-1 Gene
Another study done by Dr. Mcallister indicated that Cannabidiol “turns off the switch” on the ID-1 gene, a protein that supports cancer cell growth. While this gene is supposed to be “turned off” after human embryonic development, in certain types of metastatic cancer this gene is “turned on” again, which causes the cells to proliferate and metastasize. Dr. Mcallister actively argues that because CBD has the amazing ability to inhibit the ID-1 gene, it has potential as a tremendously powerful anti-cancer medication.
Cannabinoids vs. Chemotherapy
Why is the discovery of hemp-derived cannabinoids so sensational? Scientists are hopeful that if cannabinoids can be used in cancer treatment, some of the need for toxic chemotherapy can be eliminated. Of course, no individual should consider replacing chemotherapy for cannabinoids, or even adding in cannabinoids in addition to standard treatment, without the supervision of their doctor. However, when researchers look to the future, they are optimistic about the potential of using cannabinoids to treat cancer holistically and naturally.
A 2016 scientific review written by a German researcher indicated that cannabinoids treat cancer in a more integrated way that chemotherapy does. It also comes along with a lot fewer risk factors. The review focuses on the “comparatively good safety profile of cannabinoid compounds.” Cannabinoids earn this description in two main ways. Firstly, cannabinoids only kill cancer cells, without also killing the “good cells.” Secondly, they work to stop cancer on multiple layers of its development.
The Catch-22 of Chemotherapy
Traditional chemotherapy is sort of a double-edged sword. The chemo kills the cancer cells, but it also destroys the immune cells that the body is producing to fight the disease. So although the chemo is killing the cancer cells, it is also weakening the body’s self-defense mechanisms.
Spanish scientist Manuel Guzman reports that cannabinoids, on the other hand, are highly selective. They only target the diseased cells, allowing the body to harness the power of its immune system. Cannabinoids work synergistically with the body’s systems to help combat the disease.
Dr. Guzman’s findings are supported by another scientific review written by his colleague, Dr. M.M. Caffarel. This 2012 review focuses specifically on breast cancer, which affects approximately every 1 in 10 women. Dr. Caffarel writes that cannabinoids have the unique ability to target cancerous cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.
Another ability that is specific to cannabinoids is the power they have to fight cancer in various levels of its development. According to Dr. Ramer, a German scientist, cannabinoids create “multiple effects on various levels of cancer progression such as angiogenesis and metastasis.”
This is a much broader effect than chemotherapy has. By stopping the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and thereby holding back nutrition from the cancer cells, cannabinoids speed up cell death. And by inhibiting the growth of secondary tumors (metastasis), they help slow down the rapid reproduction of the cancer cells.
The Role of Cannabinoids in Traditional Chemotherapy
Although cannabinoids show extremely positive potential as an anti-cancer treatment, substituting hemp oil for traditional therapies can be life-threatening. It is always crucial to be under the careful watch of a doctor while going through treatments. However, even when an individual, along with his or her doctor, decides to go the route of traditional chemotherapy, cannabinoids have an essential role to play.
Higher Survival Rates
A cutting-edge study published in July of 2018 showed that patients who ingested hemp oil while undergoing chemo treatments had a survival rate which was three times higher than those who did not take hemp oil. That’s right, the patients who made use of cannabinoids during their treatment tripled their chances for survival. By enhancing the body’s immune system, cannabinoids help the body “team up” with the chemotherapy to fight the disease together.
Cannabinoids Assist with Chemotherapy Side Effects
The wide range of health benefits and healing properties of cannabinoids help chemotherapy be even more effective. However, these miracle compounds can do even more. In multiple studies, cannabinoids have been shown to decrease the intensity of chemotherapy side-effects. For anyone who has experience with the debilitating side effects of treatment, this is a big deal. Cannabinoids can help make life more bearable, or even enjoyable, while going through treatment.
A research review published in the British Journal of Pharmacology concluded that “ Preclinical research indicates that cannabinoids, including CBD, may be effective for treating both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy.” In addition, because of their powerful anti-inflammatory effects, cannabinoids have been shown to reduce swelling of the hands and feet. And finally, the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects of cannabinoids help patients feel better and more hopeful during their treatments. Treatment is a scary and stressful process, and one that hemp oil can make more smooth and light.
The case for hemp extract is very strong. Scientists and researchers alike are excited by the studies that have already been done to evaluate the effect that cannabinoids have on cancer. Although the studies have not yet been conducted on human subjects, the results of animal studies provide direction and motivation for researchers to continue studying the effects of cannabinoids on cancer. Hemp oil can also be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to help increase survival rates and speed up recovery time. To put it succinctly, cannabinoids have the dual potential to help treat cancer and mitigate the side effects of traditional treatments.
With every medical issue, it is essential to be under the watchful care of a competent physician. When that medical issue is cancer, it is even more imperative. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan. At the same time, however, keep an eye on the developments - cannabinoids may just be the new standard cancer treatment in just a few short years.
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