Cancer Doctor
Cancer Doctor

Cannabidiol: What is CBD and what can it do for cancer?


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is fast becoming a common buzzword in the world of natural healthcare. But, what is it, and what can it do for cancer patients?

What is CBD?

CBD, or, cannabidiol is one of many cannabinoid compounds that comes from the cannabis plant, phytocannabinoids to be exact. CBD can be found in both hemp and marijuana, though, it is much more prevalent in the marijuana plant. Because of the abundance of cannabinoids throughout many parts of the plant, it is relatively easy to extract.

Dr. Jonathan Stegall of the Cancer Tutor-verified The Center for Advanced Medicine in Metro Atlanta is an oncologist. His integrative approach begins with making a connection with the cancer patient and then determining the best treatment approach for the individual.

Dr. Stegall also interacts with readers on Facebook. He was asked about supplements in cancer treatment and if he places any value on CBD supplements.

“We are still learning a lot about CBD oil, but some smaller studies have shown that they seem to have benefits without any notable side effects. Patients ask me about CBD oil a lot, and my response is that we are still learning how to best use it, but that it is typically safe to continue taking while receiving other treatments.

“I predict that the most powerful combination for cancer will be a combination of CBD and THC. The ratio seems to matter, depending on the type and stage of cancer we are treating. As with CBD alone, we are very early in the research.

“I am not an expert on either, but am open to seeing where research from the lab and from clinical cases take us, especially if both are indeed safe with no apparent side effects when used at proper dosages.”

CBD and the science

Cannabinoids bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our endocannabinoid system is a major part of our primary endocrine system and is a crucial part of modulating the chemicals that control and maintain the body's homeostasis. The phytocannabinoids in cannabis actually mimic the body's own endocannabinoids.

The receptors that CBD interacts with are most commonly found in the immune system and when CBD interacts with them, it can produce an anti-inflammatory effect. [1]

CBD has become a focus for the development of new drugs. “It has a wide spectrum of action because it acts through endocannabinoid receptors; CB1 and CB2 and it also acts on other receptors, such as GPR18, GPR55, GPR 119, 5HT1A, and TRPV2. This indicates its therapeutic value for numerous medical conditions because of its neuroprotective and immunomodulatory properties.” [2]

Therapeutic uses include CBD being used as an:

  • analgesic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anxiolytic
  • anti-arthritic
  • anti-depressant
  • anti-Alzheimer disease
  • anti-ischemic
  • neuroprotective
  • anti-fibrotic

Further, “More promising areas appear to include diabetes and cancer where CBD exhibits lesser side effects and more therapeutic benefits as compared to recent available medical therapies.” [2]

Does it get you ‘high'?

Unlike the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabidol), CBD has non-psychoactive properties. In other words, it will not make you feel ‘high'. This high happens because THC binds to CB1 receptors which are, for the most part, in the brain. CBD, on the other hand, does not bind to the CB1 receptors and therefore has a different effect on both the body and the brain, affecting more than 60 molecular pathways. [3]

That said, there is evidence that THC and CBD are more effective when they are used together. There are now medications developed that offer both of these phytocannabinoids for the most effective outcomes. [4]

This video explores the differences between THC and CBD.

Is it safe? Addictive?

CBD has been shown to have a very good safety profile, particularly in relation to many other types of pharmaceutical drugs. According to a review of clinical data, “In general, the often described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research.” [5]

There has been no reports or concerns in relation to addiction to CBD. “Currently, CBD is undergoing a lot of research which suggests that it has no addictive effects, good safety profile and has exhibited powerful therapeutic potential in several vital areas.” [2]

“Currently, CBD is undergoing a lot of research which suggests that it has no addictive effects, good safety profile and has exhibited powerful therapeutic potential in several vital areas.”

Side effects

The most common side effects include tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite and/or weight. Further, “In comparison with other drugs, used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile. This could improve patients' compliance and adherence to treatment.” [5]

Clinical data and studies also highlight the fact that CBD is often used as an integrative therapy. With this in mind, it is important to continue to monitor studies in relation to interactions between other medications and treatments. “Therefore, more clinical research is warranted on CBD action on hepatic enzymes, drug transporters and interactions with other drugs and to see if this mainly leads to positive or negative effects, for example, reducing the needed clobazam doses in epilepsy and therefore clobazam's side effects.” [5]

CBD and cancer

The therapeutic anti-tumor properties of cannabinoids were first explored and documented in 1975 by Munsen et al. [6] Since then, there have been many different studies supporting the outcomes of this initial study.  Further, continuing studies are giving more evidence to support the idea that cannabidiol, specifically, inhibits the creation and spread of tumors. [7] [8] [9]

There are current studies to support the positive results of CBD as a treatment for a plethora of different types of cancers. Some of these include:

  • brain [10] [11]
  • breast [12] [13] [14] [15]
  • lung [16]
  • cervical [17] [18]
  • colon [19]
  • Prostate [20]

Integrative uses

There is evidence that CBD can work as a beneficial adjunct to chemotherapy by helping relieve chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain while not interfering with the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. [21] [22] [23]

The anecdotal evidence

Anecdotal evidence, while not supported by scientific studies, can be informative and useful when deciding if CBD may be beneficial for a cancer patient. With a simple search, you will find many examples of anecdotal evidence in support of the use of CBD for cancer online.

In the video below, Debra Kimless, MD offers case presentations of cancer patients treated with several different cannabinoids including CBD. She also explores the practice of micro-dosing, what it is, and how it is used.

How is it administered?

The most common way of administration is smoking which isn't always the bests mode from a medical point of view. Other forms of administration include:

  • ingestion (edibles, capsules)
  • tinctures
  • sprays
  • vaporization
  • topical
  • suppositories

Studies are currently being done to formulate the best means and dosing for cannabidiol for patients. [24]

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