Over 2,500 years ago, a 25-year-old Siberian woman died of breast cancer. Millenia later, her tattooed remains were found preserved in ice. Surprisingly, remnants of a familiar medicine were preserved with her: cannabis.
Yep, that’s right. Cannabis was used to ease symptoms of cancer more than two millennia ago. Fast forward to present day. Many cancer patients gravitate toward cannabis for relief from nausea, pain, and sleeplessness.
Yet, why do so many people think that cannabis cures cancer? Can the herb do more than simply ease symptoms and make life more manageable? Here’s the simple answer.
Why do people think cannabis cures cancer?
Believe it or not, there is real scientific evidence that cannabis kills cancer cells. However, research is limited to laboratory experiments and rodent models. That means that it is still unclear whether or not cannabis does cure cancer.
To be more accurate, it is not clear whether or not cannabis compounds can kill cancer cells in the human body. It’s also not clear when cannabis medicines effectively kill cancer cells and under what circumstances and doses they are most effective.
Yet, already, many patients are taking matters into their own hands and consuming high-dose medical cannabis oil in hopes of fighting cancer. Medical cannabis oil is a concentrated extraction made from the cannabis plant that preserves all its properties.
This method was popularized by activist Rick Simpson, who took his cancer story public in the free documentary Run from the Cure.
In the documentary, Rick Simpson explained how to make the cannabis oil that he used to treat his basal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Medical cannabis oil is now frequently called “Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)”, after Rick Simpson.
After placing the oil directly onto his cancer, Simpson noticed that his skin began to heal the cancer wounds. Over time, Simpson’s skin cancer disappeared.
Scientific evidence that cannabis kills cancer cells
Unfortunately, the cancer-killing capacities of cannabis have yet to be studied to any meaningful extent in humans. Still, preclinical research over the past two decades has found that cannabis compounds kills cancer cells in several distinct ways. Here’s how cannabis compounds stop cancer cells in the laboratory:
1. Halts proliferation
In both rodent and laboratory models, cannabis compounds have been found to have anti-proliferative effects on cancer cells. Proliferation is when cancer cells start dividing rapidly, creating more and more cells. These cells cause tumors to grow.
Both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have been found to halt the proliferation of cancer cells. THC is the primary psychoactive in cannabis, the compound that causes the classic cannabis high. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychotropic. Though, the compound can help you feel relaxed.
2. Halts metastasis
Metastasis is when some cancer cells break away from their original location and travel to another through the bloodstream or the lymph system. Preclinical research has found that cannabis compounds can prevent these cells from breaking off and traveling, possibly preventing the spread of cancer.
3. Prevents blood vessel growth
For tumors to grow, they need blood vessels to feed them. This process is called angiogenesis. Further laboratory research suggests that cannabis compounds can alter genetic pathways that allow tumors to develop blood vessels.
4. Triggers cell suicide
Perhaps most interesting of all, preclinical laboratory and animal studies have found that cannabis compounds may cause cancer cells to self-destruct.
They do this by triggering both apoptosis and autophagy, which are two methods that normal cells to break apart after they are diseased or damaged.
For some reason, cancer cells stop responding to these signals that trigger programmed cell death. The addition of cannabis compounds seems to kick-start this process again.