CONNECT WITH CANNABIS: Cannabis and cancer

Attitudes about cannabis are changing, albeit slowly. While recreational use of cannabis will be legal as of tomorrow, there is still an air of ‘taboo’ about this ancient plant. Much of this stems from the fact that it has been illegal in Canada since 1923 and was even classed as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the U.S. (Schedule 2 in Canada). Because of this, the research into the health benefits has not been as widely researched as other plants and herbs.

With shifting attitudes about cannabis, however, that will undoubtedly change as more medical research is conducted into such things as the effects of cannabis as a preventative and treatment for cancer.

Currently, there are relatively few large-scale studies on cannabis and cancer, but there are almost 70 good general studies on the subject. These do not include the hundreds of studies on such things as cannabis and inflammation or oxidative stress for example, both of which are linked to cancer. There are also a number of studies into the effects of cannabis on pain and nausea, major symptoms experienced by cancer patients.

How does cannabis work?

Cannabis use dates back thousands of years. Hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, was widely used for its fibre, as rope, food and even as a medicine. Cannabis contains compounds known as cannabinoids, which interact with your body through naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors that are embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.

Among other things, cannabis is proapoptotic, which essentially means it triggers cellular ‘suicide’ of harmful cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. As an antiangiogenic, compounds in the cannabis plant also work to shut down the blood supply to tumours, which is why cannabis is being studied for its anti-tumour effects.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) specifically recognizes a laboratory study of delta-9-THC, the main active

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