More than 12 million people discover they have cancer every year, and almost 40 percent of people will get the disease at some point in their life. With statistics like this, it’s no wonder that getting cancer is such a common fear. But despite the prevalence of cancer and advances in our medical knowledge, there is still no cure for this disease.
Cannabidiol – also known as CBD – could provide hope for people who are battling cancer. Cannabidiol is a natural substance that shows a promising ability to halt the growth of tumors and kill cancerous cells without causing negative side effects. Though the FDA has not approved CBD as a cancer treatment, research indicates that this compound may be a key weapon in the continuing fight against cancer.
What Is Cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol, frequently called CBD, is a cannabinoid – one of the many different chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol has no psychoactive side effects, making it ideal for medical use. It can be extracted from the cannabis plant in the form of CBD-rich oil. Cannabis oil can be taken orally or as a suppository.
How Does CBD Affect Cancer?
The cannabis plant isn’t the only place cannabinoids are found – the human body also creates them, and they play an important role in regulating the body’s metabolic systems. Cannabinoids that occur naturally in the body are called endocannabinoids. When a person is sick or under a great deal of stress, their internal systems, including the endocannabinoid system, may be thrown out of balance. In cases like this, using phytocannabinoids – cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant – can help facilitate a return to health.
Studies have found that CBD can kill cancerous cells without damaging normal cells. Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys both cancerous tissue and healthy cells, CBD targets only the harmful cells that are multiplying out of control. CBD has another advantage over chemotherapy because it triggers cancerous cells to die naturally without causing damage to the surrounding tissue. Chemotherapy destroys cells by causing them to burst open, which causes harmful inflammation in the body. CBD, on the other hand, activates the process of programmed cell death in cancer cells, which causes no inflammation in the surrounding healthy cells.
A Study on CBD and Breast Cancer
One of the most thorough studies conducted to date on cannabidiol and cancer was led by Dr. Ashutosh Shrivastava, a research fellow at Harvard. He and his team found that CBD doesn’t just halt the growth of cancer – it reverses it by triggering the out-of-control cancerous cells to self-destruct in a way that does not damage the surrounding cells.
This study found that CBD fights breast cancer by inhibiting the ID-1 gene. This gene is responsible for cell growth and proliferation, and it plays a role in the aggressiveness of cancer. When this gene is suppressed, cancer grows more slowly and is more responsive to treatment.
The researchers also discovered that cannabidiol activates signaling pathways in the body that tell cancerous cells to destroy themselves. A normal, healthy cell reproduces 50 to 60 times and then dies via a built-in self-destruction mechanism, known as programmed cell death. Cancer cells do not behave like healthy cells. They have no programmed cell death mechanism, so they keep multiplying without dying. When CBD is introduced, though, it triggers these cells to die the same way normal cells do.
The study also found that CBD inhibits angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels. This is an important aspect of combating cancer because tumors need a supply of blood and oxygen to grow. If new blood vessels cannot grow to feed tumors, the cancerous tissues won’t get the nutrients they need to proliferate and spread to other parts of the body.
Despite the current illegal status of cannabis in many parts of the world, the evidence gathered so far indicates that cannabidiol may play an important role in fighting and even preventing cancer. Cannabidiol seems to have the rare ability to kill cancerous cells, slow down the production of new cells, and starve cancerous growths of nutrients, all without having any toxic effects on healthy cells.
The FDA has not recognized either cannabidiol or medical cannabis as an effective cancer treatment yet. With more studies and evidence, they may change their position, especially since the National Cancer Institute now acknowledges CBD’s potential for fighting cancer. Until then, though, many people will continue to treat cancer with cannabis and CBD based on the evidence that already exists.