Cannabinoids and cancer

Cannabinoids have been known for their palliative effects in cancer, including reducing chemotherapy-induced vomiting, increasing appetite, reducing pain, and improving mood and sleep.

However, there is growing evidence that cannabinoids not only have a role in palliative care, but can also have a "direct killing effect on cancer cells". Although more research is needed, their known effects on cancer are: the ability to reduce tumor size, stopping new cancer cells from growing, and preventing blood vessel formation to such cancer cells, and preventing metastasis. 

A 2013 review on CBD and cancer wrote that “cannabinoids possess anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects and they are known to interfere with tumour neovascularization, cancer cell migration, adhesion, invasion and metastasization.” However, the use of THC and other cannabinoids is still limited by their undesirable psychoactive effects. As a result, non-psychoactive cannabinoid compounds, such as CBD, are attracting more attention in recent years.[1]

If we want to use cannabinoids as a cancer therapy, we need a large dose and combination of many different cannabinoids, typically THC and CBD, and other compounds, such as terpenes. Although, when used alone, both THC and CBD can have their own anticancer properties, this effect will be better if they are used together.

Currently, clinical research on cannabis as treatment for cancer is still new and is ongoing. Although many testimonial stories have been published, the majority of scientific evidence is currently limited to tests in petri dishes or laboratory animals.

How to use cannabinoids for cancer

It is not recommended to abandon conventional treatments in favor of alternative therapies. In fact, there is evidence that combining cannabinoid therapy with conventional therapies can also produce good results. Cannabinoids can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy while reducing its side effects.

However, it should be noted that some cancer drugs can interact with cannabinoids. Therefore, consult an expert before starting to use cannabinoids for cancer.

Cannabinoids as cancer treatment

Please note that with cancer, it is necessary to combine many different cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. Cancer patients often turn to cannabinoid therapy when their condition is too advanced, and often there isn't enough time to figure out the right dosage or experiment with different types of cannabis products or varieties. As a result, many people agree that using as much cannabinoid as possible in the shortest possible time is the best approach. All cannabinoids, including THC, are safe to use in high doses under good supervision and support from a team consisting of medical professionals.

Doctors will tell you what the appropriate dosage is. But in general, high doses should be used, with the recommended dosage range from 200mg to 2000mg of total cannabinoids per day. The most commonly used THC:CBD ratio is 1:1. However, different ratios can give different results. People may also prefer CBD when they cannot tolerate the psychological effects of too much THC. Beginners will often have difficulty with THC doses of 20 - 30mg or more when they start.

Therefore, it is necessary to start with a small dose containing less THC, and then gradually increase it. On average, over a period of 4 to 6 weeks, the patient's body will be able to comfortably tolerate a larger dose.

Cannabinoids can work well in conjunction with conventional medical therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. There is growing evidence that THC or CBD can help increase the effectiveness of these methods, while minimizing side effects.

For palliative care

Cannabinoids can be used in palliative care for pain relief, appetite enhancement, nausea, stress, depression…

Start on low dosage, around 5-10 mg of cannabinoids, then gradually and slowly increase it until you can feel the desired effects.

Caution: Cannabinoids and immunotherapy

Recently, researchers found that people who combine immunotherapy with medical cannabis have less favorable clinical outcomes. The reason may be that cannabis is generally immunosuppressive, reducing the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

Therefore, a patient on immunotherapy should stay away from cannabinoids for now, until there is further research on this topic.[2]


[1] Massi et al., “Cannabidiol as Potential Anticancer Drug.”

[2] Bar-Sela et al., “Cannabis Consumption Used by Cancer Patients during Immunotherapy Correlates with Poor Clinical Outcome.”

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