Can cannabis oil help with cancer?

Cannabis oil is a hot topic at the moment. In this blog, written by our senior information development nurse, we explain more about cannabis oil and cancer and try to answer some questions you might have.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis has many names (marijuana, hemp, pot, grass and hash) and has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.

The cannabis plant produces substances called cannabinoids. Some may have medicinal value. The two main cannabinoids are:

  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) – this is illegal in the UK
  • cannabidiol (CBD).

Could cannabis have a role in cancer treatment?

These two cannabinoids have been studied to see if they could have any role in the treatment of cancer. The results are still unclear.

Scientists have found that cannabinoids can:

  • cause a cell to die
  • stop cells from dividing
  • stop cells from developing new blood vessels.

But they have also found that cannabinoids can:

  • damage important blood vessels
  • in some situations, encourage cancer cells to grow.

Could cannabis help with cancer symptoms?

There is some evidence that the chemicals in cannabis might help with symptoms such as nausea and pain.

But these studies have had mixed results when used in clinical trials. Because of this, experts feel that more research is needed into the chemicals found in cannabis and their possible benefit.

What about cannabis oil?

Some people are keen to try anything that might help treat cancer, especially if things aren’t going well with conventional treatments. Cannabis oil is something you might come across.

If you are thinking about using cannabis oil, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Buying it online can be risky. One reason for this is because you don’t know what you are getting, for example how pure it is.
  • There are side effects of using cannabis oil. Cannabinoids can increase your heart rate, cause dizziness, hallucinations, paranoia and make you feel ‘stoned’. They may also interact with other drugs.
  • The cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) and products that contain THC are illegal in the UK

More information

We hope this blog has answered some of your questions about cannabis and cannabis oil. We have more information on our website. Or you can read more detailed information about cannabis on the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) website and Cancer Research UK’s website.

If you still want to know more and are searching for information online, remember that on reliable websites you should be able to see:

  • a date when the information was last reviewed on each page – the information should be updated regularly
  • who has written the information
  • information about the sources that were used
  • if the website is sponsored by a company – if it is the information may be biased towards that company’s products or services.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo