Medical marijuana advocates are incredibly vocal about the benefits of the herb…but are the cannabis oil claims scientifically proven? Here’s what you need to know about the proven (and possible) health benefits of marijuana – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis oil is created from the psychoactive plant Cannabis sativa and the active compound is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). If a substance has pharmacological similarities to THC, it’s referred to as a cannabinoid. Marijuana is used to describe the leaves of the cannabis plant.
To make cannabis oil, the leaves are gathered and dried, soaked in high-grain alcohol (other liquids can be used but alcohol is preferred), the liquid drained, and warmed until it thickens to a consistency similar to honey.
Cannabis oil is a high concentration of these plant materials. In every drop of cannabis oil, there is more marijuana than the average recreational user would consider.
The quality (and contents) of cannabis oil is currently not federally regulated. While it remains illegal in much of the United States, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor many herbal or alternative products.
At this time, most cannabis oil suppliers are small “mom and pop” operations who grow different strains of the plant, have them tested for THC, and bottle them in small batches.
In one documentary, a lab found that the active compounds can vary drastically depending on the source of the oil. While cannabis oil is much cheaper than conventional cancer treatment, it’s still extremely expensive for most consumers. Getting the quality you pay for (and that is claimed on the packaging) is critical.
Various claims for cannabis oil include its ability to…
- Kill (even cure) cancer
- Drastically lower inflammation
- Relieve chronic pain
- Treat schizophrenia (anti-psychotic)
- Lower anxiety and treat depression
- Ease convulsions
- Reduce nausea and vomiting (associated with cancer and AIDS)
- Improve neurodegenerative disease
- Treat asthma and glaucoma
- Stimulates appetite
I’ve never personally thought much about marijuana. I was never a recreational user and never considered using it for ailments. Going into this article, I was frustrated not to find peer-reviewed data published in respected medical journals. There seemed to be very little legitimate research at all and I wondered if it was an unwillingness to put the much-praised herb to the test.
Then I realized it isn’t like broccoli or spinach or even moringa that can be grown, harvested, tested, and given to human participants.
Cannabis oil claims cannot be substantiated through any method but trial and error or word of mouth. At this time, there’s a sort of support group among those who use marijuana medicinally (often for very serious conditions). They discuss their triumphs and failures, what works, what doesn’t, and new things to try.
Medicinal marijuana use (both prescribed and created in a garage in Oregon) is still very much an underground operation and now I understand why.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Drug – alongside heroin and LSD – and tightly regulates when it can be used in federally funded research. A research facility jumps through many hoops and it can take years to get approval to test marijuana in any capacity.
Due to the fact that cannabis remains illegal in many parts of the world, human trials are rare. The majority of research done involves animals and test tubes.
In the United States, some states have legalized the drug but marijuana hasn’t been legalized federally (and still comes with substantial jail time). This makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, to conduct legitimate scientific research using people in a controlled lab setting.
Long-term human trials are still several years in the future and the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it will continue to be an issue because of social and cultural differences globally. Given the possible benefits, it’s frustrating that it hasn’t been broadly examined.
Let me tell you what I’ve found in my research so you can draw your own conclusions.
The “Mostly Proven” Claims of Cannabis Oil
There are several specific conditions that medical marijuana is broadly accepted to be of benefit. For years, doctors have struggled to treat “user stated” problems that are difficult to test or diagnose.
Chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and mental health conditions are wildly different for every patient. These conditions are admittedly subjective, sometimes based on specific brain chemistry of the patient, and therefore may be more receptive to psychoactive compounds that affect that same brain chemistry.
Anxiety and stress are conditions that are literally overtaking much of the world population. Stress is considered a root cause of many serious health conditions due to the rampant inflammation it stimulates in the human body.
Marijuana is a psychoactive compound that may help ease these mental states by reprogramming how you respond to stress and trauma. Several small studies focused on military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found that patients reported lower anxiety and improved quality of sleep with the use of medical marijuana.
However, every brain is different and if your brain doesn’t acclimate well to marijuana, it can result in symptoms that are the opposite of stress relief. Paranoia, hallucinations, and inability to distinguish reality have been reported.
Chronic pain is something we’ve talked about a lot here at Daily Superfood Love. There’s no way to definitively pinpoint the source of chronic pain, gauge the level of pain the patient is experiencing, or treat it effectively.
Marijuana is known to modulate pain responses. In fact, it changes the way your brain perceives pain entirely. Of the few peer-reviewed studies conducted on marijuana, it’s been established that chronic pain can be safely and effectively treated. This includes fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, which affect millions of people worldwide.
Appetite stimulation is critical for patients undergoing conventional cancer therapies and those with HIV/AIDS. Uncontrolled weight loss due to wasting (cachexia) is devastating to the immune system. Though actual studies are needed, it has been reported as effective by users to stimulate appetite.
Anorexia is an eating disorder that affects women and men all over the world. It has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health condition. Researchers from Belgium’s Universiteit Leuven found that the areas of the brain (insula) that influences the “reward system” is underactive in women with eating disorders. It is theorized that the dysfunctional endocannabinoid system in the human brain can be supplemented with cannabis.
Nausea and vomiting are severe side effects of conventional cancer therapies. Cannabis oil is considered an outstanding treatment for cancer-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). In the few studies conducted, it’s shown to be as much or more effective than pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to treat both conditions.
The “Cancer Cure” Claims of Cannabis Oil
In a world that grows more cancerous by the year, one would think that anything which remotely appeared to help the problem would be at the front of the line in research.
Again, marijuana is not kale and being unable to get that much-needed research continues to frustrate doctors and patients alike. In the United States, marijuana is the highest trafficked (still mostly illegal) drug. More than 50% of all drug seizures and drug convictions worldwide involve marijuana. That hasn’t stopped users (recreational or medicinal).
Let’s talk about cancer specifically. Every social media platform, dozens of websites, and blogs around the world scream that cannabis oil cures cancer. I’m always hesitant of any claim to “cure” a disease that claims the lives of millions annually.
I wanted facts. Again, I ran into massive deficiencies in research. If I’m this frustrated, I can only imagine how patients wanting answers must feel.
Cancer cell shrinkage may be possible but it is still unknown. It seems to work in test tubes but it has not been studied with human subjects. Advocates insist it works to shrink their cancer but even supporters admit that it isn’t consistent across all patients.
Additionally, many of the cancer patients who credit cannabis oil with “curing” their cancer have used it in conjunction with their conventional cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery). It is literally impossible to know that the marijuana is the primary cause.
According to the American Cancer Society’s page on marijuana and cancer, “Scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.”
They do mention that marijuana is helpful in regards to appetite and pain control but all studies involving humans have used inhaled/vaporized marijuana. There have been no trials on the oil.
Medical marijuana seems to have incredible promise in the treatment of cancer but the results are word of mouth and wholly inconsistent at this point to be sure.Medical marijuana may have promise in the treatment of cancer but the results are word of mouth.Click To Tweet
The “That’s a Little Scary” Part
Before I get into the side effects of marijuana use (because again, this stuff isn’t kale), I’d like to mention that even over-the-counter drugs have their serious problems. Consider acetaminophen (OTC Tylenol) and the fact that it’s the number one cause of acute liver failure cases every year in the United States because it bio-accumulates in your liver over time and no one talks about it.
Be that as it may, marijuana is a powerful narcotic. Stronger than alcohol with a “high” that takes less time to hit a user and is sustained for longer in most cases. Advocates like to call it a “natural herb” and paint it as practically harmless. While I’m fascinated by the research and possibilities for medical application, make no mistake, this stuff isn’t harmless.
Possible side effects of long-term cannabis use…
- Impaired fetal development (if used by pregnant mothers)
- Schizophrenia or worsening of schizophrenia
- Overall cognition impairment
- Damaged memory
- Lessened motor skills and coordination
- Damage to throat, lungs, and mouth (if smoked)
My Bottom Line
Cannabis oil claims have incredible promise in treating mental conditions (anxiety, PTSD, insomnia), disorders that are patient subjective (fibromyalgia), chronic pain, and ease the well-known side effects of conventional cancer therapies (nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite).
It is not as harmless as advocates would have you think nor is it as dangerous as critics would have you believe. Like any powerful drug, it should be used with caution.
There are regulations on alcohol – natural ingredients concentrated for a desired effect – because it has the potential for misuse (drinking and driving), sickness (fatty liver, cirrhosis, and cancer), abuse (alcoholism), and damage to children in the womb (fetal alcohol syndrome) as well as children living in a home where alcohol creates a negative environment. Thousands of studies have been done on alcohol use, abuse, medical applications, and long-term effects.
There must be regulations on cannabis oil – natural ingredients concentrated for a desired effect – because it also has the same potential for misuse, sickness, abuse, and long-term damage.
In desperation, many people may feel there is no other option and I cannot blame them. If you’re a cancer patient (no matter your age) given little hope by the medical establishment, I would also try anything to change the outcome.
As one documentary stated regarding giving cannabis oil to small children: You don’t care about long-term effects…what your life will be like at forty…you’re just trying to get your child to age four. I understand.
However, there is no doubt from any sector that we need human trials. We want to know, we need to know everything possible about this drug. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Because it’s already in production, distribution, and use…worldwide.
Cannabis oil claims are currently word of mouth, the product mostly made in garages, by people who have no background in such endeavors and no scientific or medical training, sold to people who have to guess about dosage and believe the contents are as stated, who are unmonitored and have no way of knowing what is happening on the cellular level inside their body or the body of their loved one…and that’s simply unacceptable.