Updated on May 20, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Google “cancer and cannabis” and you are going to find endless pages and citations for studies. The majority of the growing body of clinical research into cannabis suggests that cannabinoids can help reduce certain types of cancer progression.
Government-funded clinical studies in Thailand have been doing some amazing research. In 2019, one research team reported improvement of lung cancer in mice that were treated with cannabinoids. Lung cancer is one of the deadliest diagnoses, with no current effective treatments for patients. The study saw THC, CBD, and CBN cannabinoid compounds stopped (not just slowed down) lung cancer cells’ growth.
Thailand has been aggressively tackling cannabis health research. In the past three years, the Government Pharmaceuticals Organization (GPO)discovered that THC and CBD combinations inhibited cancer cells in test tube studies. And isolated test results where cannabinoids effectively reduced cancer growth rates for breast, bile duct, and pancreatic cancer.
What researchers in Thailand are approaching is a more transparent understanding of the link between inflammation and cancer. And how phytonutrients in individual plants and fatty acids in certain types of foods like salmon can help prevent chronic inflammation. And lower risks that contribute to the development of cancer.
Cancer and Cannabinoid Studies Emerging from Thailand Hold Exciting Promise
The National Cancer Institute in Thailand studied fourteen (14) patients that were diagnosed with terminal cancer. All the patients were in palliative care and experiencing severe pain symptoms that were not improved with conventional pain medications. Each patient reported a 50% improvement in pain relief after receiving THC extracts for thirty days.
The Department of Medical services used a THC extract for ninety days on another group of forty-two (42) patients. The patients in the trial study reported improvement in pain management and symptoms of appetite loss and insomnia. Yet another study from Thailand reported symptom improvement for sixteen (16) patients with Parkinson’s disease.
A ratio combination of THC and CBD extract helped reduce symptoms, including dry mouth, confusion, heart palpitations, and digestive upset. The Parkinson’s patient study was conducted at the Sakonnakhon Hospital.
What is unique about Thailand’s research findings is that the human clinical trials focus on canniprene, a type of cannabinoid that is unique to Cannabis Sativa. 160 strains of Cannabis Sativa have been found to contain the canniprene cannabinoid, and the isoprenylated bibenzyl is found to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
The Connection Between Growth and Inflammation: How Can Cannabinoids Help?
Did you know that one of the first steps in treating cancer is to radically change dietary food sources? Inflammation is closely tied to the development and growth of cancer. Although researchers are still trying to understand how inflammation triggers the action of certain types of cancer.
When you think about inflammation, you may imagine a sprained muscle, or swelling, perhaps a rash or something else you can see externally. But the most harmful types of inflammation happen internally. And the signs of excess inflammation can also be confused with other symptoms and go unnoticed for years. Until a chronic health condition develops.
Inflammation is one of the human body’s methods of defending itself against disease. One of the primary ways our immune systems conquer bacterial and viral infections. The symptoms of inflammation vary, but inflammatory processes are triggered by the brain. The human brain sounds the alarm, and the inflammatory response goes into effect.
Symptoms of inflammation can include (but are not limited to) five major signs:
Loss of function (functio laesa)
Industrial chemicals and polluted air exposure can trigger chronic inflammation. Some people also have autoimmune disorders, where the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. And unresolved diseases and infections also increase levels of inflammation. Other lifestyle habits like low diet and lack of adequate hydration can also contribute to increased inflammation levels. And the body’s ability to turn off inflammation wears out over time.
Why All Green Things Are Good For You: Including Kale and Cannabinoids
One of the signs of inflammation is increased acidity in the body. A low PH level determines whether the body has an overall acidic environment. It is understood by the medical community that cancer thrives in acidity. One of the first priorities for cancer patients is to change their diet to reduce the inflammation (and acidity) in their bodies as they undergo treatment.
Foods that lower inflammation naturally are all high in phytonutrients. Just like many cannabinoids. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can eat daily include:
Green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach)
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines)
Berries (strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and oranges)
If you understand how inflammation works, consider those unhealthy food preservatives, certain types of animal fats (red meat can be carcinogenic), and chemicals in your environment are contributing factors. Each one can substantially raise your internal PH (acidity) and inflammation.
Chronic inflammation that isn’t managed is similar to putting out a welcome mat for cancer. It is no coincidence that cancers with the highest fatality rates (lung, pancreatic, liver) are organs that filter chemicals every day.
How Can Cannabinoids Help Moderate Symptoms for Patients?
Globally, cannabis is used as a wellness modality for patients living with cancer. In the United States, cancer is one of the qualifying health conditions approved for medical marijuana in the thirty-four (34) states that have legalized patient programs.
Evidence-based research continues to provide proof that cannabinoids can slow and sometimes stop the progression of systemic cancer. The growing body of evidence globally is an exciting progression and step toward a possible cure for cancer.
Individuals living with cancer face a variety of debilitating health conditions and symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms for cancer patients include:
Loss of appetite
Dry or blistered skin and sores
Fevers and night sweats
Patients who are medical card holders that qualify for cannabis treatments use medical marijuana to address symptoms. Oral medication and radiation therapies (chemotherapy) cause a host of side effects that are difficult for patients to manage. Each one of the symptoms can further degrade the strength that the individual needs.
Compassionate care of cancer patients is a top priority. If the patient has been suffering chronic pain for years, they can develop a resistance to opioid medications. Chronic daily pain caused by inflammation can disrupt sleep, reduce appetite, and contribute to depression or anxiety symptoms. Stress that can further weaken the patient’s immune system and defense against cancer.
Many patients with cancer that use medical marijuana find better pain management results. And certain strains of cannabis can be an effective appetite stimulant.
Is a Cure for Some Types of Cancer Right Around the Corner?
All methods of therapy used to reduce cancer cells involve killing the actual cells. Through oral medications and/or radiation therapies. We have all heard the advice of doctors and dieticians to eat the Mediterranean diet. Rich in greens, fish, nuts, and olive oil help reduce inflammation and balance acidity in the body.
The research in Thailand is exciting because the therapeutic focus isn’t on killing cancer cells. It is about stopping cancer from becoming systemic and spreading to other parts of the body. And the new research published from Thailand Government Sponsored Trials holds a lot of promise to stop cancer progression. And for patients, that could mean a better chance at recovery and a better quality of life during cancer treatments.