How Cannabis Oil Works to Kill Cancer Cells
First let’s look at what keeps cancer cells alive, then we will come back and examine how the cannabinoids CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) unravels cancer’s aliveness.
In every cell there is a family of interconvertible sphingolipids that specifically manage the life and death of that cell. This profile of factors is called the “Sphingolipid Rheostat.” If endogenous ceramide(a signaling metabolite of sphingosine-1-phosphate) is high, then cell death (apoptosis) is imminent. If ceramide is low, the cell is strong in its vitality.
Very simply, when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it causes an increase in ceramide synthesis which drives cell death. A normal healthy cell does not produce ceramide in the presence of THC, thus is not affected by the cannabinoid.
The cancer cell dies, not because of cytotoxic chemicals, but because of a tiny little shift in the mitochondria. Within most cells there is a cell nucleus, numerous mitochondria (hundreds to thousands), and various other organelles in the cytoplasm. The purpose of the mitochondria is to produce energy (ATP) for cell use. As ceramide starts to accumulate, turning up the Sphingolipid Rheostat, it increases the mitochondrial membrane pore permeability to cytochrome c, a critical protein in energy synthesis. Cytochrome c is pushed out of the mitochondria, killing the source of energy for the cell.
Ceramide also causes genotoxic stress in the cancer cell nucleus generating a protein called p53, whose job it is to disrupt calcium metabolism in the mitochondria. If this weren’t enough, ceramide disrupts the cellular lysosome, the cell’s digestive system that provides nutrients for all cell functions. Ceramide, and other sphingolipids, actively inhibit pro-survival pathways in the cell leaving no possibility at all of cancer cell survival.
The key to this process is the accumulation of ceramide in the system. This means taking therapeutic amounts of CBD and THC, steadily, over a period of time, keeping metabolic pressure on this cancer cell death pathway.
How did this pathway come to be? Why is it that the body can take a simple plant enzyme and use it for profound healing in many different physiological systems? This endocannabinoid system exists in all animal life, just waiting for its matched exocannabinoid activator. This is interesting. Our own endocannabinoid system covers all cells and nerves; it is the messenger of information flowing between our immune system and the central nervous system (CNS). It is responsible for neuroprotection, and micro-manages the immune system. This is the primary control system that maintains homeostasis; our well being.
Just out of curiosity, how does the work get done at the cellular level, and where does the body make the endocannabinoids? Here we see that endocannabinoids have their origin in nerve cells right at the synapse. When the body is compromised through illness or injury it calls insistently to the endocannabinoid system and directs the immune system to bring healing. If these homeostatic systems are weakened, it should be no surprise that exocannabinoids are therapeutic. It helps the body in the most natural way possible.
To see how this works we visualize the cannabinoid as a three dimensional molecule, where one part of the molecule is configured to fit the nerve or immune cell receptor site just like a key in a lock. There are at least two types of cannabinoid receptor sites, CB1 (CNS) and CB2 (immune). In general CB1 activates the CNS messaging system, and CB2 activates the immune system, but it’s much more complex than this. Both THC and anandamide activate both receptor sites. Other cannabinoids activate one or the other receptor sites. Among the strains of Cannabis, C. sativa tends toward the CB1 receptor, and C. indica tends toward CB2. So sativa is more neuroactive, and indica is more immunoactive. Another factor here is that sativa is dominated by THC cannabinoids, and indica is predominately CBD (cannabidiol).
It is known that THC and CBD are biomimetic to anandamide, that is, the body can use both interchangeably. Thus, when stress, injury, or illness demand more from endogenous anandamide than can be produced by the body, its mimetic exocannabinoids are activated. If the stress is transitory, then the treatment can be transitory. If the demand is sustained, such as in cancer, then treatment needs to provide sustained pressure of the modulating agent on the homeostatic systems.
Typically CBD gravitates to the densely packed CB2 receptors in the spleen, home to the body’s immune system. From there, immune cells seek out and destroy cancer cells. Interestingly, it has been shown that THC and CBD cannabinoids have the ability to kill cancer cells directly without going through immune intermediaries. THC and CBD hijack the lipoxygenase pathway to directly inhibit tumor growth. As a side note, it has been discovered that CBD inhibits anandamide reuptake. Here we see that cannabidiol helps the body preserve its own natural endocannabinoid by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down anandamide.
This brief survey touches lightly on a few essential concepts. Mostly I would like to leave you with an appreciation that nature has designed the perfect medicine that fits exactly with our own immune system of receptors and signaling metabolites to provide rapid and complete immune response for systemic integrity and metabolic homeostasis.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis oil is a thick, sticky, resinous substance made up of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, that is extracted from the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica).
Cannabis oil is a cannabis based product obtained by separating the resins from cannabis flowers using a solvent extraction process. Cannabis oil can also be known as marijuana oil, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), Full extract cannbais oil (FECO), hash oil, dabs, shatter, or wax.
Cannabis oil is the most potent of three main cannabis products, which are the actual cannabis flower (marijuana), resin (hashish), and oil (cannabis oil). Cannabis oil is the most concentrated form of the three main cannabis products. That is what makes cannabis oil the most potent.
Cannabis Oil produced and sold by “dealers” can have many contaminants and many times will have minimal amounts or no THC or CBD in them at all. Most of the time cannabis oil available on the street should be avoided for medicinal uses such as treating cancer. It’s always better to make your own oil or to have someone you trust make your oil. This helps assure a very pure, high quality oil is obtained. If you know who made your oil, you can better know what you are getting in your oil.
High quality cannabis oil can be used in many ways medicinally and can be used for many different conditions. Cannabis Oil can be orally ingested, vaporized into the lungs, used as a suppository or applied topically. You can also mix your oil with creams or salves for beauty treatments and other external uses.
Some of the conditions cannabis oil has been used for include: cancer, diabetes, crohn’s disease, gout, pain relief, Glaucoma, Opioid Dependence, treating alcohol abuse, epilepsy, psoriasis, anorexia, asthma, adrenal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, pain, migraines, Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, Multiple sclerosis.
Cannabis oil also posses antioxidant properties. This property makes cannabis oil useful in the treatment and prevention of wide variety of diseases, such as ischemic, age-related inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Cannabis oil may also have a use as neuroprotectants for such things like limiting neurological damage following a stroke or head trauma. It can also be used in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.
Based on history cannabis is believed to have originated from Central Asia. Cannabis is one of the oldest plant medicines known to man. It is difficult to trace the beginnings of cannabis use use by humans because it was cultivated and consumed long before the appearance of writing.
According to archeological discoveries, cannabis has been known in China since the Neolithic period, around 4000 BC.
Contrary to popular belief, Cannabis has been the subject of countless scientific and medical research over the past few years. Around the world, scientists have been studying and learning about this incredibly helpful plant. Here is a collection of cancer and cannabis studies and scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals.
We have tried to separate them based on their main focus, such as type of cancer.
Please note that all links may not allow you to view an entire article. However, summaries and abstracts are available for free.
- “The combination of cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model”
from Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 2014
- “Cannabinoid action induces autophagy-mediated cell death through stimulation of ER stress in human glioma cells”
from The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2009
- “Cannabinoids and gliomas.”
from The Journal of Molecular Neurobiology, 2007
- “A pilot clinical study of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme”
from British Journal of Cancer, 2006
- “Cannabidiol inhibits human glioma cell migration through a cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism”
from The British Journal of Pharmacology, 2005
- “Antitumor Effects of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoid, on Human Glioma Cell Lines”
from The Journal of Pharmacology, 2004
- “Cannabinoids Inhibit the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Pathway in Gliomas”
from The Journal of Cancer Research & American Journal of Cancer, 2004
- “Inhibition of glioma growth in vivo by selective activation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor”
from The Journal of Cancer Research & American Journal of Cancer, 2001
- “Suppression of Nerve Growth Factor Trk Receptors and Prolactin Receptors by Endocannabinoids Leads to Inhibition of Human Breast and Prostate Cancer Cell Proliferation”
from Endocrinology, 2013
- “Cannabidiolic acid, a major cannabinoid in fiber-type cannabis, is an inhibitor of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell migration”
from Toxicology Letters, 2012
- “Cannabinoids: a new hope for breast cancer therapy?”
from Cancer Treatment Reviews, 2012
- “Crosstalk between chemokine receptor CXCR4 and cannabinoid receptor CB2 in modulating breast cancergrowth and invasion.”
from PLoS One, 2011
- “Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis.”
from Breast Cancer Research & Treatment, 2011
- “Cannabinoids reduce ErbB2-driven breast cancer progression through Akt inhibition”
from Molecular Cancer, 2010
- “Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells.”
from Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 2007
- “Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Inhibits Cell Cycle Progression in Human Breast Cancer Cells through Cdc2 Regulation”
from Journal of Cancer Research, 2006
- “Anti-tumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma”
from Journal of Pharmacology, 2006
- “Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis via intercellular adhesion molecule-1.”
from The FASEB Journal, 2012
- “Cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, as novel targets for inhibition of non-small cell lung cancer growth and metastasis.”
from Cancer Prevention Research, 2011
- “Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits epithelial growth factor-induced lung cancer cell migration in vitro as well as its growth and metastasis in vivo”
from Oncogene, 2008
Mouth & Throat Cancer
- “Cannabinoids inhibit cellular respiration of human oral cancer cells”
from Pharmacology, 2010
Uterine, Testicular, & Pancreatic Cancer
- “Cannabis and Cannabinoids”
from National Cancer Institute, 2014
- “Cannabinoids Induce Apoptosis of Pancreatic Tumor Cells via Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress–Related Genes”
from Cancer Research, 2006
- “The role of cannabinoids in prostate cancer: Basic science perspective and potential clinical applications”
from Indian Journal of Urology, 2012
- “Anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of anandamide in human prostatic cancer cell lines: implication of epidermal growth factor receptor down-regulation and ceramide production”
from Prostate, 2003
- Id-1 stimulates serum independent prostate cancer cell proliferation through inactivation of p16INK4a/pRB pathway
from Carcinogenesis 23 (5), 721-725, 2002
- “Cannabinoids in intestinal inflammation and cancer”
from Pharmacological Research, 2009
- (PDF) “Turned-off Cannabinoid Receptor Turns on Colorectal Tumor Growth”
from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2008
- “The endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide, induces cell death in colorectal carcinoma cells: a possible role for cyclooxygenase 2″
from Gut, 2005
- “Expression of cannabinoid receptors type 1 and type 2 in non-Hodgkin lymphoma: Growth inhibition by receptor activation”
from International Journal of Cancer, 2008
- “Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced apoptosis in Jurkat leukemia T cells is regulated by translocation of Bad to mitochondria”
from Molecular Cancer Research, 2006
- “Targeting CB2 cannabinoid receptors as a novel therapy to treat malignant lymphoblastic disease”
from Blood, 2002
- “Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors”
from Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2003
- “Anti-tumoral action of cannabinoids on hepatocellular carcinoma: role of AMPK-dependent activation of autophagy”
from Cell Death & Differentiation, 2011
Biliary Tract Cancer
- “The dual effects of delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol on cholangiocarcinoma cells: anti-invasion activity at low concentration and apoptosis induction at high concentration”
from Cancer Investigations, 2010
- “Marijuana may lower bladder cancer risk”
from American Urological Association, 2013
Overview Articles (All Cancers)
- “Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug”
from British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2013
- “Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cancer: current status and future implications”
from Oncotarget, 2014
- (PDF) “Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise”
from Cancer Research, 2008
- “Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis by cannabinoids”
from The FASEB Journal, 2003
- “Sativex-like Combination of Phytocannabinoids is Neuroprotective in Malonate-Lesioned Rats, an Inflammatory Model of Huntington’s Disease: Role of CB1 and CB2 Receptors”
from ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 2009
- “Cannabis-based medicine reduces multiple pathological processes in AβPP/PS1 mice”
from Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2015
- (PDF) “Non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids: new therapeutic opportunities from an ancient herb”
from Cell Press, 2009
Foundational Cannabinoid Research Articles
- (PDF) That which we call Indica, by any other name would smell as sweet
from Cannabinoids 9(1), 9-15, 2014
- Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System
from PLoS One 9(3), e89566, 2014
- Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects
from British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364, 2011
- Gut feelings about the endocannabinoid system
from Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 23 (5) 391–398, 2011
- (PDF) Evaluation of the Cyclooxygenase Inhibiting Effects of Six Major Cannabinoids Isolated from Cannabis sativa
from Biol. Pharm. Bull. 34(5), 774-778, 2011
- Characterization of tunable piperidine and piperazine carbamates as inhibitors of endocannabinoid hydrolases
from Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 53(4): 1830–1842, 2010
- (PDF) The endocannabinoid system in targeting inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases
from TRENDS in Pharmacological Sciences 28 (4), 180-187, 2007
- (PDF) The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy
from Pharmacological Reviews 58(3), 389-462, 2006
- (PDF) Low dose oral cannabinoid therapy reduces progression of atherosclerosis in mice
from Nature 434, 782-786, 2005
- An Overview of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System: Components and Possible Roles of this Recently Discovered Regulatory System
from Erowid.org, v1.1 May 2003, v1.2 Feb 2005
- Letters to Nature: Leptin-regulated endocannabinoids are involved in maintaining food intake
from Nature 410, 822-825, 2001