Cannabis and Cannabinoids

The medicinal use of Cannabis or Marijuana or Bhaang dates back at least 3,000 years. It is a plant that primarily grew in Central Asia and is now grown in different parts of the world. Cannabis finds reference as a medicinal plant in many ancient scriptures as it provides multiple benefits. However, in the 1900s, many countries started banning Cannabis due to its psychoactive properties. Medical Cannabis is an extract from the herb Cannabis Sativa L. It offers multiple benefits to patients battling against cancer


Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in Cannabis which effect the central nervous system and the immune system in our bodies. The two primary cannabinoids in Cannabis Sativa L. are:

  1. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD)

Nowadays, cannabinoids are also produced synthetically in labs. The THC compound is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of Cannabis. The plant has many varieties which contain different levels of THC. Of these, Hemp has virtually no THC. Therefore, the cannabinoids derived from Hemp have no psychoactive effects.

Medical Cannabis and Cancer

While active research is being carried out to determine the exact role cannabis can play in the treatment of cancer, from what we know it is currently being used successfully to control nausea, vomiting and stimulate appetite. Further, it is also effective in reducing pain, relieving anxiety and helping sleep.

While some patients might face side-effects like low blood pressure, slowed digestion, dizziness, etc., taking medical cannabis under the supervision of a trained professional is highly recommended.


While there have been many successful preclinical (animal or laboratory) studies of cannabinoids conducted, currently, there is no official record of clinical trials of the use of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans.

Animal and Laboratory studies:

  • Cannabinoids might be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells in mice. This is based on the observation that cannabinoids might be able to cause cell death, block cell growth and the development of blood vessels needed by the tumor to grow.
  • A study in mice also showed that cannabinoids might prevent and possibly treat colon cancer.
  • A lab study in liver cancer showed that delta-9-THC killed cancer cells.
  • A lab study in breast cancer showed that CBD caused sell death with minimal effect on normal breast cells.
  • When CBD was given along with chemotherapy, the glioma cells were more responsive to the treatment.
  • Many animal studies have shown the importance of cannabinoids in pain relief.
  • There are some cannabinoid receptor cells in the brain which may have a role in controlling nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and mood.

Based on many such tests and studies, researchers believe that cannabis and cannabinoids have the potential to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer. It is also used extensively in palliative care. 

References & More Information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Kentucky Hempsters. Hemp 101: What Is Hemp, What’s It Used for, and Why Is It Illegal? July 14, 2015. Viewed September 19, 2018.
  4. National Cancer Institute. Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version.
  5. Mass P, Solinas M, Cinquina V, Parolaro D. Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2013 Feb;75(2):303-12
  6. Guindon J, Hohmann AG. The endocannabinoid system and cancer: therapeutic implication. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2011 Aug;163(7):1447-63
  7. Cridge BJ, Rosengren RJ. Critical appraisal of the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer management. Cancer Management and Research. 2013 Aug 30;5:301-13
  8. Scott KA, Dalgleish AG, Liu WM. The combination of cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. 2014 Dec;13(12):2955-67
  9. Mücke M, Weier M. Systematic review and meta-analysis of cannabinoids in palliative medicine. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. 2018 Feb 5
  10. CAM-Cancer’s Summaries: Medical cannabis and cannabinoids
  11. American Cancer Society. Marijuana and Cancer
  12. Mayo Clinic. Consumer health: Medical marijuana
  13. National Cancer Institute: Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version
  14. The Medical Cannabis Institute Global: Global Medical Cannabis Education Leafly
  15. Donald I. Abrams, MD: Using Medical Cannabis in an Oncology Practice
  16. Donald I. Abrams, MD: Integrating Cannabis into Clinical Cancer Care
  17. Donald I. Abrams, MD: Cannabis and Cancer
  18. Jade Beutler: Exploring the Endocannabinoid System
  19. BCCT(Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies) Website

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