Does Marijuana Kill Cancer Cells?

Cancer is the one condition that mankind is still struggling with. We’ve managed to cure smallpox, helped treat AIDS and even managed to beat back malaria, but a reliable cure – or even a treatment – for cancer still eludes us.
Cancer is so awful because of the sheer number of different varieties it has, which make it incredibly difficult to treat efficiently.
However, thanks to recent legalization efforts, marijuana is quickly being realized as an option to help treat people suffering from cancer.
For decades, people have been using cancer to help control their pain and discomfort with chemotherapy, but is it possible that marijuana can actually kill cancer cells and make you better entirely?

What is Cannabis and Why Could it Help?

Cannabis is known today because of its properties as a psychoactive drug, but also as a medicine thanks to the effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a health system that runs throughout the entire body, interacting with a variety of different bodily functions. The ECS is mainly triggered through its two primary receptors, the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
These receptors are triggered by cannabinoids, such as the ones that exist within marijuana. The ECS was actually first discovered when scientists first isolated cannabinoids from the cannabis plant.
The two different receptors, when triggered, have different effects on the body due to where they’re located. The CB1 receptors are primarily located within the brain and central nervous system, allowing the CB1 receptors interaction to influence your mental state and also control the pain response.
The CB2 receptors are located more liberally throughout the body, with their primary function being the regeneration of different cells.
Interestingly, the different receptors are triggered differently by different cannabinoids. THC, famously, causes a psychoactive high, whereas CBD and other cannabinoids do not. This is because THC attaches itself to the receptors, triggering them constantly and causing an over-stimulation resulting in a high.
CBD, as well as other cannabinoids, only trigger the receptors gradually, which allows them to contribute a lot more health benefits than THC.
Scientists believe that cancer might be able to be treated using marijuana, primarily due to the way the cannabinoid interacts with the body. The CB2 receptor is considered the most likely solution. This is because, when the CB2 receptor is interacted with, it encourages cell proliferation and could possibly help cancerous cells recover.
However, the primary reason we use cannabis for cancer isn’t anything to do with that.

Why People Take Cannabis When Suffering From Cancer

Ever since cannabis was first legalized for medicinal purposes, people have been using alongside their cancer treatment.
The primary reason people use it is for its pain suppressant properties, as well as its anti-nausea capabilities.
This is because the most common form of treatment for cancer is to undergo extensive chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy is, quite literally, putting poison into your body to kill your cancerous cells. However, those cancerous cells are destroyed alongside the healthy cells, as it is rather difficult to differentiate between the damaged and healthy cells.
This causes (among other things) intense nausea, vomiting and discomfort, as well as general, nonspecific pain.
Marijuana is frequently used to help treat this, due to how cannabinoids interact with our sense of pain, as well as our sense of nausea.
When we consume marijuana, it interacts with the CB1 receptor, encouraging it to dull the sensation of pain. Additionally, it releases a variety of hormones such as serotonin, which help make the experience for a cancer sufferer more pleasant.
This analgesic ability is covered very well in this study by Ethan Russo, which examines cannabis’ ability to fight off pain when the cause is neurological, or when it’s a result of other conditions like cancer.
This means that, for years now, people have been treating themselves using medicinal marijuana for the purpose of dulling their symptoms, but not to specifically battle the cancer itself.
In a similar way that you take common painkillers to treat a headache, cancer patients were using marijuana to help get through each passing day.
However, as the years went on since legalization, scientists have begun to realize that cannabis could actually be used to not only help make cancer easier to deal with, but also possibly to actually treat it.

Does Cannabis Help Kill Cancer Cells?

Scientists first started looking into marijuana as an actual cancer treatment because they began noticing that, if a cancer patient imbibed marijuana frequently, they were recovering at an increased rate compared to those who abstained.
A study by Sledzinski at al., which was published for the Journal of Cancer Medicine, found that the Cannabinoids found within Marijuana, principally CBD and THC, actually worked to change the way in which signal pathways in the body operated.
They discovered that, through interaction with the CB2 receptors, cannabinoids encouraged new signal pathways to form, which allowed for an increase in cell regeneration, as well as healthy cell survival.
Cancer as a disease is a strange one, primarily because it is so unique in what it does to your body. With other diseases, they work to destabilize your body for the purpose of destroying you, or in the case of a viral infection, for the purpose of proliferating themselves to your detriment.
In the case of cancer, however, it’s very different. Cancer is, quite simply, when cells forget to die. Instead of growing to a finite point and then dying to be replaced by another, newer and healthier cell, the cancerous cell simply keeps surviving.
It continues to grow, adding on more and more mass and the body simply can’t remove it, as it doesn’t tell the body that it’s broken.
This means it grows continuously, spreading to other areas of the body until, eventually, your body shuts down.
By encouraging healthy cell proliferation and survival, CBD and THC both have the ability help reduce cancerous cells.
This, sadly, does not mean that cannabinoids actually kill cancer cells, but they may help in reducing their ability to exist in the first place. Additionally, by encouraging the body to create more cells healthily, it’s possible that the human body can help remove cancerous cells on its own with the help of THC and CBD.
Another study, conducted by Massi et al. for British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, found that CBD in particular was incredibly useful in helping control and regulate cell life with regard to Cancer.
During the study, CBD was used as the main focus, trying to determine if an exclusive regimen of CBD – rather than other cannabinoids – would aid in the destruction of cancerous cells.
The study found that CBD is uniquely suited to helping treat cancer, as it operates in a very singular manner.
Instead of working and activating along one single cellular pathway in the way that THC does by interacting with the receptor aggressively and continuously, CBD instead works through multiple pathways.
Massi et al. concluded that this alternate method of interaction with the endocannabinoid system meant that cells were encouraged to remain healthier and were better able to be replaced.
This study demonstrates that CBD is incredibly effective at helping treat cancer and remove cancerous cells, but it is the THC that provides the pain relief and makes the experience of suffering through cancer that much easier.
In this way, marijuana works in multiple ways to both help treat cancer and to help cure it.

Final Thoughts

Marijuana as is becoming well known for its therapeutic properties when used with cancer patients, but thanks to a recent deluge of studies into marijuana’s abilities at treating cancerous cells, people could now use marijuana to actually help treat their cancer.
When considering any drug and whether or not it will help patients with cancer, the immediate question is always “will it kill cancer cells?”
However, for many drugs – marijuana included – the reason they help with cancer isn’t that they kill cancer cells specifically, but instead help the body to remove the cancer cells itself.
The aggressive nature of chemotherapy is what makes the frequently-used treatment so horrendous – it seeks to kill cancer cells through any means necessary. Any drug that actively seeks to destroy cancer cells is going to have the same problem; it might kill healthy cells alongside the cancerous ones.
With marijuana, it instead works to help the body naturally destroy the malignant cells, thanks to encouraging healthy cell regeneration and a gentle reminder for petulant cells that they do indeed need to die and be replaced with healthier ones.
Marijuana might not necessarily kill cancer cells outright, but it makes it a whole lot easier for your body to do the work for you.
Not only that, but marijuana is great at helping you get over the frequent symptoms of cancer, such as continuous pain and nausea.
It would appear that, as far as cancer is concerned, marijuana is a drug that could both treat your condition and make the whole experience just a bit easier as well.