Cannabis is not a cure for cancer. However, marijuana has been found to offer benefits to cancer patients, including treating nausea, pain, increasing appetite and help improve sleep by lessening anxiety.
All these issues require more study. However, as pointed out by the National Cancer Institute, marijuana has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. They also note that many doctors in the United States have started prescribing cannabis for symptom management in cancer patients.
Here’s a look at some of the areas where cannabis can benefit cancer patients. All of the findings are part of studies cited either by the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute.
Nausea and Appetite
This is one of the primary areas where studies have found that cannabis can benefit patients. It’s especially helpful for those who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, which can cause both a loss of appetite and, in the worst cases, nausea. The THC in marijuana also has been found to stimulate the appetite in laboratory animals. Patients in various studies have also reported an antiemetic effect (it prevents vomiting).
This type of pain is caused by damage to nerves. Marijuana has been found to help patients manage this pain, making it easier to live with. Cancer patients also experience pain related to inflammation and inflammation of the bone.
The National Cancer Institution cites a study that showed THC had “substantial analgesic effects” on cancer patients, as well as antiemetic effects and appetite stimulation.
Anxiety and Sleep
This one is a bit harder to explain. The endocannabinoid system is something we all have within our body – they are lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors. More importantly, in the context of this topic, they are believed to play a major role in the regulation of mood and the “extinction of aversive memories,” according to the cancer institute.
The endocannabinoid system was also found to help regulate the sleep/wake cycle for lab rats in tests.
What does that mean in layman terms? Aversive memories are a good thing. They help us to understand danger signals (we know a fire alarm means to flee a building) or avoid things that have hurt us in the past (food that made us sick, for example). But anxiety involves feeling these fears when danger is not present, and cannabis can help calm and control these irrational fears.
It’s important to note that in some people, marijuana can cause elevated anxiety.
These are some of the areas where research has found that cannabis helps cancer patients. All agree that more research is needed. However, marijuana shows a great deal of promise in helping cancer patients with symptom management.