Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there are over 80 FDA approved pharmaceutical drugs available to treat the symptoms caused by cancer and only four available as a preventative option. However, medical marijuana has recently been in the news for its anti-cancer chemical compounds and could be a frontline component of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Some cancer patients choose a complimentary treatment to gain a sense of empowerment and incorporate a holistic approach into their personal struggle against the disease.

What types of CAM’s are available for cancer treatment?

  • Mind-body therapies: tai-chi, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, imagery
  • Nature/biological-based remedies: vitamins, supplements, botanicals, special diet plan
  • Manipulative and body-based practices: reflexology, chiropractic therapy, massage therapy
  • Energy healing: Reiki, sound/vibrational healing, therapeutic touch
  • Whole medical systems: Ayurveda, Ancient/Traditional Chinese, Naturopathic

Botanicals, such as hemp-derived cannabinoids found in cannabis fall under the naturopathic and biologically-based CAM’s.  The cannabinoids found in medical marijuana interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).  This biological system, much like the central nervous system is responsible for a variety of tasks and use of the cannabinoids found in cannabis are naturally bioavailable through this system.  According to many medical marijuana patients, they find relief from multiple cancer-related symptoms, such as chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite after dosing.  Lark W. (verified purchase) April 20, 2022, wrote, “does the trick for me – at bedtime, about 3/4 dropper – and I’ve a sweet night’s slumber, no pain.”

“Some CAM therapies have undergone careful evaluation and have been found to be generally safe and effective. These include acupuncture, yoga, and meditation to name a few.”  Herbs, such as cannabis, turmeric and cinnamon have gained the attention of researchers for their organic healing characteristics. Capsules, tinctures and edibles are fast-becoming popular forms of CAM consumption for medical marijuana patients. They offer precises doses without smoke inhalation and include a variety of cannabinoid ratios.

What cancer symptoms might be managed with medical marijuana?

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Nausea (N/V)
  • Psychological burdens
  • Loss of appetite

 Two lesser-known components of the marijuana plant, namely the cannabinoids dronabinol and nabilone, produce positive effects in the treatment of nausea and vomiting (N/V) in chemotherapy patients.  In the UK, hemp-derived cannabinoids can be taken legally when prescribed by a professional healthcare provider.  Medications that are commonly prescribed include Sativex, a mouth spray containing THC and CBD, “as a treatment for cancer related symptoms and for certain types of cancer.”

Most of us have heard of CBD by now, however, another marijuana cannabinoid that is commonly prescribed in the UK as well as the USA is Nabilone, which is extracted and put into capsule form, “to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy in people who have already taken other medications to treat this type of nausea and vomiting without good results.”

The use of medical marijuana to treat cancer-related chronic pain is also legal in the UK.  “The use of cannabinoids and Cannabis sativa either as medicine or as food is increasing. Food supplements containing cannabidiol (CBD) or “full spectrum” extracts are very popular. These products have been promoted for a wide range of health issues, such as insomnia, anxiety, drug addiction, fatigue and cancer.”

Medical marijuana has been legalized to treat some symptoms of cancer, but the evidence is mounting for the plight of cannabis as a cure.  Can cancer be prevented?  It is unlikely that the day will come when a cancer diagnosis isn’t given, however, finding free-radical-fighting chemical compounds that ward it off isn’t a far stretch of the imagination.  Especially for scientists, such as Dr. Laureano de la Vega, a cancer researcher who, in 2019 began exploring the possibility of whether or not, “CBD can limit cancer’s ability to spread, using lung and triple negative breast cancer cells grown in the lab.”

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