Marijuana in cancer treatment and management is unavailable in the literature on Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is recognized as a narcotic in both of these ancient medicine systems. Pliny the Elder makes mention of the use of cannabis for pain relief. Sushruta Samhita mentions the use of cannabis as an anti-phlegmatic and as a cure for leprosy.

Marijuana was added as a plant with medicinal value to the US Pharmacopeia in 1850. It is listed as a treatment for neuralgia, tetanus, leprosy, dysentery, uterine bleeding, and many other ailments.

The synthetic form of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol is the bioactive molecule in marijuana), under the trade name of Marinol, was approved for medical use in May 1985 to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

According to the Indian Central Science and Industrial Research publication, Cannabis plants are a tonic, intoxicant, stomachic, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, narcotic, soothing, and comforting in folk medicine. Seeds and leaves are used to treat cancerous ulcers and tumors.

A US Department of Health and Human Services patent, US 6630507 B1, was awarded to Aidan J. Hampson, Julius Axelrod, and Maurizio Grimaldi in October 2003. The abstract citation is reproduced below:

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties unrelated to NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonism. This new-found property makes cannabinoids useful in preventing oxidation-associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases.

Cannabinoids have applications as neuroprotectants, for example, in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses, useful in the method of the present invention…

A study by Tashkin (2013) could not associate respiratory impairment with even prolonged smoking of marijuana. A probable association with higher levels of THC may still exist.

There does appear to be consensus on the psychological impact of marijuana, as with any drug that has psychoactive components and action. The components of marijuana are under investigation regarding its effectiveness as a treatment for autoimmune diseases and malignancy (Owen et al., 2014).

The association of marijuana with lung and upper-aerodigestive track cancers could not be established in a California-based case-control study (Hashibe et al., 2006). However, another case-control study conducted in California has shown an association between marijuana use and nonseminomas and mixed tumors (Lacson et al., 2012).

Let me quote American Cancer Society observations on the possible role of marijuana in cancer treatment:

“Several small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can help treat nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.

A few studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be a helpful treatment of neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves).

Smoked marijuana has also helped improve food intake in HIV patients studies.

There are no studies of the effects of marijuana oil or hemp oil.

Studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.

More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.

There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating human cancer, and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.

Relying on marijuana alone as treatment while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”

The role of marijuana in cancer management can be scientifically argued.

Additional reading:

Natural Solutions for Cancer

Asian herbs and their wondrous health-giving properties

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