Cannabis has a long history of traditional use as a botanical medicine. The term medical marijuana refers to the use of whole, unprocessed plant and pure extract to treat disease or improve a symptom.1 To qualify, the product must be sourced from a medicinal grade cannabis plant meticulously grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
The cannabis plant has over 400 chemicals and at least 60 different cannabinoids2 — chemical compounds the human body is uniquely equipped to respond to. The two primary ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the latter of which is the psychoactive component in marijuana.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, notable scientific study results led to the creation of two U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications containing cannabinoid chemicals in pill form, but not the use of the whole plant as opposed to single ingredients.3
Movement of CBD oil on and off the list of Schedule 1 drugs4 (the most dangerous category reserved for drugs like LSD and heroin) may signal an underlying struggle between research results and the desire to harness financial potential in pill form. Recently, an unidentified patient in the U.K. was treated with CBD oil and experienced remarkable, physician-documented results.5
Unidentified Patient in UK Shrinks Lung Cancer With CBD Oil
An as yet unidentified 81-year-old patient, believed to be from Stoke-on-Trent in the U.K., was reported in the Daily Mail6 as having experienced remarkable tumor shrinkage after consuming CBD oil each day. Reportedly, the 81-year-old was an ex-smoker who had been treated for prostate cancer 15 years previously.
The man had been diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma in October 2016, a form of lung cancer accounting for nearly 80 percent of lung cancer diagnoses in the U.K.7 He was offered chemotherapy and radiotherapy to prolong his life but declined treatment. By December that year, the mass increased in size, but he once again declined treatment.8
Another chest X-ray in July 2017 demonstrated the disease was still progressing, yet a CT scan in November that year suddenly, and surprisingly, revealed a “near-total resolution of the tumor. The patient had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and also reportedly used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day throughout his 20s and 30s.
After spotting the significant reduction in tumor size and progression, physicians asked the patient about his lifestyle to understand what may they have triggered these changes. According to the patient, he started taking CBD oil two months before his last CT scan.
He reported no other changes in diet, medication or lifestyle, leading his physicians to believe the CBD oil was responsible for the reduction in tumor size. According to the American Cancer Society,9 non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer with five-year survival rates between 6 percent and 60 percent, depending upon the spread of the disease.10
The Daily Mail11 published the patient’s scans, showing how the size of his tumors halved. Although experts have warned this is just one case, other data also support the use of cannabis on the treatment of cancer.
International Research Team Finds THC Reduces Brain Tumor Growth
Although CBD and THC are both cannabinoids that interact with receptors found in the human brain, they have dramatically different effects. CBD is nonpsychoactive, which means you don't experience the “high” you do from consuming or smoking marijuana. THC is the chief psychoactive component in the plant primarily responsible for creating the “high” associated with recreational use.
While the unidentified 81-year-old patient in the U.K. experienced a reduction in tumor size using just CBD oil, an in vitro study from the University of London, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics,12 used both THC and CBD to yield impressive results in alleviating pain, restoring the appetite and shrinking brain tumors.
The study found THC and CBD in combination with radiation were able to shrink tumors to a greater extent than radiation alone. Interestingly, using just one of the compounds or radiation alone had a negligible effect on the treatment of the brain tumors.
The findings suggest patients may not need a lot of THC to bind the cannabinoid receptor in the brain cell, as in small doses it can retain anticancer properties without psychoactive side effects. Senior study author Wai Liu, Ph.D., says the trick is to find the right balance. He told Medical Daily:13
“We think that the cannabinoids are hitting a number of cell signaling pathways, which primes them to the effects of irradiation. Pretreatment with the cannabinoids seems to interfere with the ability of the tumor cell to repair the DNA-damaging effects of irradiation.
We think this is due to the different pathways that these cannabinoids hit. Specifically, THC works via receptors, whilst CBD may not need them; consequently, using them together results in a ‘priming’ effect in tumor cells, making them more sensitive to the ‘cell killing’ effects of irradiation.”
This study also supports the results from others. In 2009,14 researchers in Spain discovered THC kills brain cancer cells through a process known as autophagy. The initial discovery was made in animals. Two human patients suffering highly aggressive brain tumors then received intracranial injections of THC, showing similar signs of autophagy.15