Cannabis has been making a lot of noise lately, as multiple states across the U.S. and countries around the world have successfully legalized medical Cannabis.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant grown in many parts of the world, and has been used for medicinal purposes dating back to ancient times. It produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. These Cannabinoids are active chemicals in Cannabis that cause drug like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. Some of these cannabinoids are psychoactive and act on the brain by changing mood or consciousness. Cannabinoids can be taken by mouth, inhaled, or sprayed under the tongue.
Studies of The Therapeutic Properties Of Cannabis
Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in the laboratory and the clinic for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite. Two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention or treatment of chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting.
However, the therapeutic potential of cannabis almost appears limitless, as it extends far beyond just relieving nausea or pain in the terminally ill. Christina Sanchez, a molecular biologist from Compultense University in Madrid, Spain, has been studying the molecular activity of cannabinoids for more than 10 years, and during this time she and her colleagues have learned that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, induces tumor cell “suicide” while leaving healthy cells alone.
This discovery was pretty unexpected, as Sanchez and her team had actually been studying brain cancer cells for the purpose of better understanding how they function. During this process, they observed that when exposed to THC, tumoral cells not only ceased to multiply and proliferate but destroyed themselves, both in lab tests and animal trials. This was first reported on back in 1998, and published in a paper on the anti-cancer effects of THC in the European biochemistry journalFEBS Letters.
The Human Body is Designed to Utilize Cannabis Compounds
Research in the 1980s revealed that the human body contains two specific targets for THC. There is a framework known as the endocannabinoid system, that processes THC and other cannabinoids, along with containing various cannabinoid receptors throughout the body that utilize them. Together, these two natural systems allow the body to benefit from the cannabinoids found in cannabis, some of which aren’t found anywhere else in nature. The endocannabinoid system regulates a lot of biological functions: appetite, food intake, motor behavior, reproduction, and many, many other functions. And that’s why the plant has such a wide therapeutic potential.
Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids help to inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow larger. Laboratory and animal studies have gone on to show that cannabinoids can kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
Brain Cancer Benefits
- A study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics outlines how brain tumors are highly resistant to current anticancer treatments, which makes it crucial to find new therapeutic strategies aimed at improving the poor prognosis of patients suffering from this disease.
- A study published in the British Journal of Cancer, conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University in Madrid, determined that THC and other cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth. THC was found to decrease tumour cells in two out of the nine patients, and the delivery was safe and was achieved with zero psychoactive effects.
- A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience examined the biochemical events in both acute neuronal damage and in slowly progressive, neurodegenerative diseases. They looked at THC and found that it reduced neuronal injury in rats, and provide evidence that the cannabinoid system can protect the brain against neurodegeneration.
- A study published in The Journal of Pharmacology And Experimental Therapeutics already acknowledged the fact that cannabinoids have been shown to possess antitumor properties. This study examined the effect of cannabidiol (non psychoactive cannabinoid compound) on human glioma cell lines (Glioma is the word used to describe brain tumor). The addition of cannabidiol led to a dramatic drop in the viability of glioma cells, the study concluded that cannabidiol was able to produce a significant antitumor activity.
Breast Cancer Benefits
- A study published in the US National Library of Medicine, conducted by the California Pacific Medical Centre determined that cannabidiol (CBD) inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion. They also demonstrated that CBD significantly reduces tumor mass.
- A study published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics determined that THC as well as cannabidiol dramatically reduced breast cancer cell growth.
- A study published in the Journal Molecular Cancer showed that THC reduced tumor growth and tumor numbers. They determined that cannabinoids inhibit cancer cell proliferation, induce cancer cell apoptosis and impair tumor angiogenesis (the creation of new blood vessels), providing strong evidence for the use of cannabinoid based therapies for the management of breast cancer.
- A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) determined that cannabinoids inhibit human breast cancer cell proliferation.
Lung Cancer Benefits
- A study published in the journal Oncogene, by Harvard Medical Schools Experimental Medicine Department determined that THC inhibits epithelial growth factor induced lung cancer cell migration and more. They go on to state that THC should be explored as novel therapeutic molecules in controlling the growth and metastasis of certain lung cancers.
- A study published by the US National Library of Medicine, conducted by Harvard Medical School investigated the role of cannabinoid receptors in lung cancer cells. They determined its effectiveness and suggested that it should be used for treatment against lung cancer cells.
- A study published by the US National Library of Medicine by the Institute of Toxicology and Pharmacology, from the Department of General Surgery in Germany determined that cannabinoids inhibit cancer cell invasion. Effects were confirmed in primary tumor cells from a lung cancer patient. Overall, data indicated that cannabinoids decrease cancer cell invasiveness.
Prostate Cancer Benefits
- A study published in the US National Library of Medicine outlined multiple studies proving the effectiveness of cannabis on prostate cancer.
- A study published in the US National Library of Medicine illustrates a decrease in prostatic cancer cells by acting through cannabinoid receptors.
- Another study published by the US National Library of Medicine determined that clinical testing of CBD against prostate carcinoma is a must, as cannabinoid receptor activation induces prostate carcinoma cell apoptosis (cell death).
Blood Cancer Benefits
- A study published in the US National Library of Medicine conducted by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology by Virginia Commonwealth University determined that cannabinoids induce apoptosis in leukemia cells.
- A study published in the journal Molecular Pharmacology recently showed that cannabinoids induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in mantle cell lymphoma. The study was supported by grants from the Swedish Cancer Society, The Swedish Research Council and the Cancer Society in Stockholm.
- A study published in the International Journal of Cancer also determined and illustrated that cannabinoids exert antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in various types of cancer and in mantle cell lymphoma.
Liver Cancer Benefits
- A study published by the US National Library of Medicine determined that that THC reduces the viability of human HCC cell lines (Human hepatocellular liver carcinoma cell line) and reduced the growth.
Pancreatic Cancer Benefits
- A study published in The American Journal of Cancer determined that cannabinoid receptors are expressed in human pancreatic tumor cell lines and tumor biopsies at much higher levels than in normal pancreatic tissue. Results showed that cannabinoid administration induced apoptosis. They also reduced the growth of tumor cells, and inhibited the spreading of pancreatic tumor cells.
Oral Cancer Benefits
- A study published by the US National Library of Medicine results show cannabinoids are potent inhibitors of cellular respiration and are toxic to highly malignant oral Tumors.
Colon Cancer Benefits
- A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of theColon and have some potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer.
A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD made the chemo more effective, and increased cancer cell death without harming the normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.
Other Effects of Cannabinoids Include:
- Anti-inflammatory activity
- Antiviral activity
- Relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis
Dr Clara Johnson, obtained her medical degree from the University of Colorado in Denver. She joined the Hong Kong Department of Health in 2014, where her career in public health began, she launched new services to prevent the spread of disease and promote better health
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