Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of many chemicals found in the hemp plant. It has been promoted in some online forums as an alternative treatment and even a cure for many diseases, including cancer. And some people with cancer say that CBD has helped them as a complementary therapy in managing their symptoms and side effects of standard cancer treatment.
However, there is very little research on CBD and its use in treating people with cancer. Here’s what you need to know about what CBD is and what the science currently shows about whether it is safe and effective for use by people with cancer.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of hundreds of chemicals found in the flowering hemp plant. CBD does not have the psychoactive, or consciousness-altering effects of another chemical found in hemp called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical that makes people feel “high”. On the other hand, some people use CBD to help relieve pain, anxiety and problems with sleep.
CBD comes from hemp plants called hemp, which are specifically grown with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Hemp plants grown with high levels of THC are often referred to as hemp. CBD comes from the oil that is extracted from the hemp plant. That oil can then be ingested as a liquid, capsule or chewable gelatin, or inhaled through vaping. It can also be added as an ingredient in products such as lotions and skin patches.
There is much about CBD that is still unknown. It has largely remained unstudied because, until 2018, it was considered a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A Schedule I drug is a drug that has been declared illegal by the DEA because of safety concerns about its potential for abuse and because there is no accepted medical use for it. Then, in September 2018, the DEA updated the category of CBD to become a Schedule V drug. Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse and are considered to have some medical use.
Currently, there is one CBD-based treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called Epidiolex, which is used to treat a rare and severe form of epilepsy in children. There are currently no FDA-approved CBD-based drugs to treat cancer or the side effects of cancer treatments.
Can CBD help people with cancer?
Studies are underway to answer this question. Some scientists are studying whether CBD might relieve some of the side effects of cancer and its treatment, such as pain, insomnia, anxiety, or nausea. Other scientists are studying whether CBD might slow or stop cancer growth.
To date, no large-scale studies have shown that CBD has benefits for treating people with cancer. Most of the studies that have been done to evaluate CBD as a cancer treatment were done on mice or human cells in the laboratory. For example, there are some studies that have shown that CBD inhibits the growth of cancer cells in mice with lung cancer or colon cancer. Another study showed that CBD, along with THC, killed glioblastoma cancer cells in the laboratory. However, no studies have been done in people with cancer.
There have been some studies showing that CBD, alone or together with THC, can relieve pain, insomnia or anxiety, but these studies were not specific to people with cancer. Although no studies to date have shown that CBD eases these side effects specifically in people with cancer or in people receiving cancer treatment, some people with cancer have reported benefits from taking CBD, such as helping with nausea, vomiting, depression, and other side effects. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines, your doctor may consider prescribing cannabinoids for chronic pain management if you live in a state where it is legal. However, the American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines indicate that there is not enough evidence to support the use of cannabinoids to prevent nausea and vomiting in people with cancer receiving radiation or chemotherapy.
There are two synthetic hem,p, nabilone (Cesamet) and dronabinol (Marinol or Syndros) that are FDA-approved to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. These drugs are manufactured in a laboratory.
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