Research shows how cannabis can help treat cancer

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Multiple studies support the idea that cannabis can reduce cancer and alleviate its symptoms

Marijuana and individual cannabinoids (compounds in the plant, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD)) have been studied in order to control the side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy. The findings seem to indicate that certain cannabinoids may help alleviate some of these side effects. It remains to be seen what effect the plant has in curing the disease in general.

Studies of cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant seem to indicate that certain of these compounds may be useful in the treatment of nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, as well as in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The use of cannabinoids as an antitumor agent has been tested in animals. Some laboratory studies have confirmed that they can kill cancer cells and inhibit tumor growth. In humans, it has been tested in injection form in patients with glioblastoma, with a possible antitumor effect.

Loss of appetite (anorexia) is a common symptom in people with cancer. Studies done with cannabinoids to increase appetite yield contradictory results. Some trials attribute little effect and others a more intense effect. On the other hand, studies done with inhaled cannabis have shown that it can increase the number of calories consumed in people with cancer, without this meaning that it increases appetite.

Pain is also a frequent symptom, due to inflammation and bone damage. Its reduction is key to maintaining the quality of life. In terms of pain, the use of cannabis in cancer has shown an analgesic effect in some studies. There are also some trials showing a therapeutic effect of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety and improving sleep.

In numerous human studies, different THC derivatives have been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. These derivatives are dronabinol and nabilone, and their use for this purpose is approved in the United States. Studies suggest that these products may even be more effective than conventional drugs.