Cannabis is certainly complex. There are over 85 unique cannabinoids found in cannabis. When cannabis is ingested these cannabinoids travel through the blood to eventually lock onto many different cannabinoid protein receptors on the surface of cells. Some of these receptors are classified as CB1, CB2, and a family of receptors known as GPR. CB1 receptors are more abundant throughout the nervous system. CB2 receptors are mostly in the immune system. CB1 and CB2 receptors are also found on cancer cells assisting with regulation of cell death and growth. And a combined receptor composed of linked CB2R with GPR55 is even more abundant on cancer cells. Because of the nature of cancer, when cannabinoids lock onto cancer cells the reaction is considerably different than when they lock onto healthy cell receptors. Cancer cells have far more receptors than healthy cells and have a different reaction to the THC and CBD than healthy cells. Essentially the cannabis while killing cancer cells leave healthy cells unaffected. For our purpose here we are focusing principally on two cannabinoids, THC and CBD. This in no way implies other cannabinoids do not play a part in the healing process. It’s just not yet understood, needing further research.
THC is the substance that gets you high when you smoke, drink, or eat cannabis, marijuana, or ‘pot’. If you grew up in the 60’s you may understand this process all too well. THC is also one of the principal ingredients in cannabis that kills cancer. When activated, it easily attaches to cancer cells via cannabinoid receptors. This process generates a ceramide, a lipid molecule, disrupting the mitochondria, shutting down the cell’s energy flow. As a result, the mitochondria release ctochrome-c, a protein that catalyzes reactions, and ROS (reactive oxygen species) into the cytosol, the fluid found in each cell. Additionally the calcium chemical process in the mitochondria is further damaged. These actions cause the cancer cell to die. So largely THC works on an oxidative process within cancer cells. For this reason it is important to reduce the amount of antioxidants ingested during cannabis treatment, and be especially careful of any large amount of antioxidant food or supplements within 6-hours before or 4-hours after a cannabis application.
CBD on the other hand operates differently. When it locks onto the cancer cell it disrupts the endoplasmic reticulum that facilitates transportation of proteins within the cancer cell by destroying the calcium functional process of the cell. This causes calcium to flow into the cytosol causing cell death. In addition, it facilitates the break down of proteins and peptides in cancer cells, again causing their death.
Together THC and CBD found in cannabis deal cancer a one-two punch. Limited research has shown THC effective at killing cancer cells and CBD not only assisting with the death of cancer cells but especially effective at stopping metastasis. In the lab, cannabinoids have been found to stop cancer cells from dividing, to prevent new blood vessel growth supplying tumors, and accelerating cancer’s own waste disposal process, called autophage, which also assists in cancer cell death. Bay area researchers McAllister and Desprez recently confirmed cannabis inhibits cancer’s progress keeping it from metastasizing. In addition when used together, CBD assists to mildly reduce the ‘getting high’ effects of THC making the entire treatment process a bit easier.
Without doubt, cannabis contains many interesting and healing properties. In addition to arresting cancer, it has been linked with reduced inflammation and seizures, moderating stomach issues, reducing anxiety, depression and psychosis, and helping to resolve neurodegenerative disorders. With all of these benefits many have jumped on the bandwagon offering Internet promotions for CBD oil; yet cannabis is still illegal throughout much of the U.S., so what are they really promoting? Unfortunately, what they’re offering on the Internet will be of little use to cancer patients. You see there are two forms of CBD oil, one made from cannabis, the other made from legal commercial hemp. Though in essence the same plant family, they are far different products. So be very careful in what you buy. Commercial hemp oil, also sometimes sold as CBD oil, actually contains very little beneficial CBD, only 25 parts per million; whereas cannabis CBD oil has naturally occurring CBD at around 150,000 parts per million. You will not receive the benefits you need from commercial hemp oil. Also products sold on the street labeled CBD oil or Rick Simpson Oil may include unknown ingredients, may have reduced potency, or have been manufactured in such a way to compromise the healing properties of the cannabis. For prostate cancer you need the highest quality of purified activated THC and CBD, preferably in a one to one ratio. So where can you find these products in the safest possible manner?
You could start by obtaining a legal medical card if you reside in any one of the 23 U.S. States and Washington, DC now approving medical marijuana use. And the list just keeps growing. This has the benefits of providing cannabis in the most standardized form and quality, with the lowest possible price. Most states only require residency along with a valid medical examination or consultation, and proof you have a condition that will benefit from cannabis treatment. Cancer usually tops their list. When going to this appointment, be sure to bring your cancer documentation such as lab tests, scans, and biopsy reports. After the exam, you’ll be issued a medical marijuana card or certificate to take to a licensed dispensary of your choice. There you will be able to purchase product for treatment. Of course if you’re fortunate to live in Colorado or Washington State where recreational marijuana is now legal, you have the benefit of being able to go to the store for purchase, though the specific product you want may not be carried in their inventory. You’ll also find this retail process more expensive and technically you’ll still need to be a state resident. You know, if it came down to it and you really wanted to try cannabis for your cancer, I would not hesitate to move to a state where medical or recreational forms are legal. It keeps you safe, and legal, for the 3-4 months of self-treatment, and it’s a lot less costly with fewer side effects than many accepted cancer treatments.
When purchasing product you want to look for THC and CBD oil combined in roughly a One to One Ratio. Most often attaining this ratio will require combining two or three products. Many of these products, looking like black or amber goo, come in tubes, or small syringes without the needle. They’re sold as CBD Oil, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), or possibly a CO2 extracted oil. When first looking for acceptable product, you’ll find that the ratios of THC to CBD vary greatly from location to location, and product to product. Pay particular attention to ‘fully tested and certified’ product. Before purchasing any product, you need to know the following:
1) What are the percentages of THC and CBD per gram of product?
2) What are the percentages of Activated THC and Activated CBD?
2) Are there any solvent residues present?
4) Are there any traces of foreign material and microbial contaminants present?
Presently a typical product selection may include tested results such as these:
Product A) High CBD oil:
15.34% Total THC, 59.98% Total CBD, with Total Activated Cannabinoids 61.93%
Product B) High THC RSO oil:
81.26% Total THC, 0.24% Total CBD, with Total Activated Cannabinoids 85.40%
Let’s take a look at how these numbers affect your THC and CBD mixing ratio.
In 1 gram of our example High CBD oil there is:
1,000mg X 15.34% = 153.40mg THC
1,000mg X 59.98% = 599.80mg CBD
This equals a THC/CBD ratio of 1 to 3.91 roughly 1:4
Total Activated Cannabinoids in Product-A are listed as = 61.93% of total volume and are in a roughly 1 to 4 ratio. These include all cannabinoids in the product, not just THC and CBD though these are the principal components. Now remember, we are looking for a close 1 to 1 ratio of activated THC and CBD. Thus we need to add some High THC oil into the mix.
Next, in one gram of the example High THC oil there is:
1,000mg X 81.26% = 812.6mg THC
1,000mg X 0.24% = 2.4mg CBD
This equals a THC/CBD ratio of approximately 339 to 1
Total Activated Cannabinoids in Product B are listed as = 85.40%
Given the THC and CBD numbers in One Gram of Product-A, for a 1-gram daily dose using these products, I might suggest combining approximately 2/3 gram of Product-A and 1/3 gram of Product-B.
This process becomes further complicated when the activated Cannabinoids total much less than total THC and CBD, as activated cannabinoids are required for effective treatment. You can see why having reliable test results and proper labeling of cannabis products is so important. Without product test results, you are only guessing. Can you treat without knowing the numbers, possibly… but most likely not in a successful manner. At this time researchers and doctors tend to agree that keeping your activated THC and activated CBD ratios balanced will provide the best possible results. It may take you some time to find the best product(s). Just keep asking questions, and if one outlet is unable provide you with a verifiable breakdown of their product’s components, go somewhere else!
As a last resort you could make your own product by purchasing unprocessed marijuana and cooking it. There are several strains of marijuana that have been breed for different purposes. Some strains have almost breed out all the CBD in favor of higher THC. For treatment, you will be looking for an Indica Strain, not Sativa, with balanced CBD and THC. Using this product you might try making your own hash-oil, which is a very dangerous process when done improperly. This process is not only toxic, but has caused fires and explosions when performed in a confined space. Besides it stinks, and the neighbors will quickly come to the realization what you’re doing. The person who pioneered this process, and popularized treatment of cancer with cannabis, is Rick Simpson. His story and his hash-oil process may be found on the web at PhoenixTears. But because of the dangers of this extraction process, I do not recommend it.
Recently, a less volatile home based process has been added to create product for treatment. Again you start with the raw marijuana but then you process it with coconut oil over low heat (180 degrees F) for around 11+ hours. This forms a cannabis paste. Since no volatile solvents are involved, the entire process is much safer. Of course, with this process you will still need to pay for your own finished product testing that in itself will be costly in small batches, both in terms of dollars and consuming available product. Full testing can run over $200, and consume from 2-4 grams of finished product. Not an expense an individual user wants to undertake.
Because of this, my preference would be to legally buy your finished, fully tested, product from a reliable source. But if that’s just not possible, here is one cannabis paste process:
Start with at least 4-8 grams of Buds that have been properly tested so you know the ratio of CBD to THC. Spread these on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven at low temperature (180º F) for 1-2 hours. When sufficiently dried, remove and blend the cooled Bud into a fine powder mixture in an electric coffee grinder, or similar product. Then in a double boiler on the stovetop, like you would use for melting chocolate, cover the powder with roughly an equal volume of melted coconut oil. Heat slowly on a ‘low’ temperature of 180º F to 200º F for at least 11 hours. Check temperature of this mixture with a thermometer often during the process. After cooling have resultant paste tested for mixture ratio and percent of activated product. If you think this sounds like a lengthy process, you’re right. It’s also a mess to clean up, and it stinks. So once again, it’s best to seek out legal pre-made product that’s been properly tested. More about this cannabis paste process is available online.
Why does one desire heated marijuana for treatment? It’s to convert it into an effective product for the body to use. Raw unprocessed cannabis contains mostly THCA; this simply doesn’t fit effectively into the CB1 receptor. The same applies to CBD. When properly heated during the process to convert CBD and THC, the heat causes a carboxyl group to be removed thus creating active THC and active CBD. The process is called decarboxylation. It’s best done at low temperatures over time preventing destruction of cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis. This new Activated THC and CBD will now fit perfectly into the CB1 receptors on cancer cells. Regardless if you are using RSO Oil, Cannabis Paste, CO2 Extracted Oil or CBD Oil, the extraction process requires heat over time to decarboxylate and activate the finished product. The problem becomes at what temperature. Too high a heat will destroy the beneficial properties of the cannabis, while too little will not decarboxylate the THCA and CBDA. Biochemist Dennis Hill, who states he successfully treated his Stage 4 prostate cancer with cannabis, suggests the optimal heat is 240 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes. Heat may also be applied at lower temperatures for a longer time creating the same results, such as in the long processing time of cannabis paste.
If you have decided this may be a path to try, above all else remember, THC will make you high, possibly impairing reflexes and judgment. Do not plan on normal activity levels during the course of treatment, and never, ever, put those around you at risk when ‘buzzed’ on THC. Remember this is an experimental cancer treatment, be responsible!
Little has been written about the debilitating effects of short term high-dose cannabis treatments. When taken orally in high doses, you may find yourself unable to function at the most basic tasks. Even a trip to the bathroom can be challenging and difficult to navigate. This is because around half of the ‘oral’ THC is converted in the liver into a strong psychoactive metabolite called 11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol that gets you incredibly ‘high’. Immediate side effects of treating orally with THC include sensory distortion, poor coordination, slower reaction time, lowered blood pressure that may cause fainting, and possible panic or anxiety. There is also the possibility your heart may speed up during the process so be sure to have it checked prior to treatment, and find a doctor who understands cannabis follow your progress. After the initial high, many feel sleepy or even depressed. Suggested long-term side effects could include suppression of the immune system, sexual difficulties, mood changes, and the inability to properly reason. These long-term side effects have been witnessed after years of cannabis self-indulgence, therefore the few months of cancer treatment will most likely not be an issue. Still everyone is biologically different, so beware. Needless to say the side effects most often experienced are far less than those from many standard medical treatments for cancer.
One last note regarding possible side effects and withdrawal symptoms, when taking 1 gram of cannabis per day your body will become attuned to the cannabis. If you quickly stop the treatment, withdrawal symptoms will occur. These could include night sweats, interrupted sleep, vivid dreams, and general flu-like symptoms. Symptoms usually last for 3-5 days, gradually tapering off. To avoid withdrawal, the best process is to lower your cannabis dosage very slowly over several weeks time, and be sure to contact your doctor if symptoms persist.
You may also want to discuss with your doctor using Citicoline during cannabis treatment and/or at withdrawal. This is a readily available supplement in the U.S. with a reasonable safety track record. Most common side effects for large doses include stomach upset and diarrhea. Some believe it can be used during treatment to mitigate the side effects of THC psychoactivity reducing such side effects as paranoia and anxiety, while improving focus and mental energy. This is believed to allow for a quicker dosage ramp-up and easier withdrawal. The suggested use during treatment is to take 250-500mg one hour before a cannabis dose. More research on this product and dosage needs to be done. Citicoline facilitates production of phosphatidylcholine a chemical important for brain function. It may also protect against brain tissue damage, improve visual function, increase brain glucose metabolism, increase dopamine receptors, and prevent memory impairment. Again, few studies have been completed regarding this product and cannabis though it has been used for many years. A June 2014 review of literature regarding Citicoline concludes that it is considered neuroprotective against the neurotoxic effects of drug use thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms.
Having said all this, there may be a way to avoid the extreme debilitating highs when using cannabis while possibly improving cannabis absorption. Though more testing is needed, the solution appears to be through rectal administration using available, or homemade suppositories, or 1CC slip or soft tip syringes (without needle) with RSO or CO2 extracted oils. Using this method, the THC and CBD avoid the digestive track and liver, and travel into the body through the vena cava allowing for much better bioavailability, higher blood concentrations that begin sooner and last longer, and fewer psychoactive side effects. Suppository molds, and 1CC slip tip syringes are easily available through Amazon.com. Those who make their own suppositories often use cocoa butter as a carrier as it is solid at room temperature, melts in the body, and is generally soothing and non-irritating. If you are fortunate enough to live in Colorado, there already exist legal outlets where properly tested cannabis suppositories are available, along with medical doctors who will provide advise regarding their use.
In addition to the potential healing properties of THC and CBD, positive side effects of using suppositories in this manner include reduction of hemorrhoids and rectal inflammation, and you are able to function much better on a day-to-day basis during treatment.
Making cannabis suppositories at home is relatively easy, especially with single-use suppository molds available online. Start with a ratio of 10 grams of cocoa butter to 1-2 grams of activated cannabis oil. After doing your calculations regarding percent of activated THC and CBD for each product, you will know what amounts of THC and CBD to combine to achieve the nearest 50/50 ratio of THC and CBD. Cocoa butter is also available online, or from any good chocolate store.
Now use very low heat to slowly melt the cocoa butter. Be careful not to burn the oil. Using a double boiler often used to melt chocolate is recommended. Then add the cannabis oil and stir thoroughly until evenly distributed and mixed. This may take some time. Once mixed, pour the warm fluid into the suppository molds, and set aside to harden. You can facilitate this process by placing the filled molds in the refrigerator or freezer. These low-dose suppositories are now ready for use. As you continue to use the cannabis, gradually increase the amount of activated THC and CBD in the suppositories over time. Your goal is to reach a point where your have 1 gram of a 50/50 THC and CBD blend in each suppository with at least 70-80% activated product. Once this is reached, continue with application for two months and then test your cancer markers. During this treatment time, pay particular attention to staying hydrated. Drink extra water and electrolytes to prevent rectal dehydration that tends to reduce rectal absorption.
Throughout this section, I have repeatedly written about using properly tested legal product. With each State creating individual diverse laws for the legalization of medical marijuana, there is much to be desired concerning the quality of available product. In some instances, even with purchasing product from a legal source, you may not receive what’s advertised, or even have available the product you need.
For example, buying product in Washington State at this writing is a bit like buying products in the Old West out of a covered wagon that just pulled into town. Medical marijuana outlets range the gamut from sleazy dives to clean well-run medical facilities. Within each of these facilities, the greater abundance of product is without test results, and staff often has minimal product knowledge. Then when the marijuana does include some published ingredient information on the packaging, the information may not be complete or there is little backup documentation. That’s right, the product may be labeled for THC, and or CBD percentage, but does not come with the test report verifying the printed information, percent of ‘activated’ product, or if there are residual solvents or biological contaminates. Instead the purchaser often hears, “trust me, others are getting good results”. Even finding product can be a problem. Most dispensaries of medical marijuana have little high quality CBD available. You see much of the available plants are now genetically grown to enhance THC, not CBD. For cancer patients, this is a continuous issue.
Then there is the secret shopper Report from New Mexico. A neuropathy patient, working with a local newspaper and testing lab, purchased 14 cannabis products from shops in the Santa Fee and Albuquerque areas. What they discovered was disappointing. While some products tested as advertised for quantities of THC and CBD, many only contained 10% to 50% of labeled quantities. This is a clear case where patients in need were being sold substandard product.
What can be done about these deficiencies and abuse? Until we have Federal approval and uniform product regulation, patients should refuse to purchase any product without full test reports openly available. Further, I believe States that provide approval for medical marijuana need to setup their own ‘secret shopper’ random testing program with large fines for any licensed retailer selling substandard, untested product to medical marijuana patients. Fines and licensing fees could easily cover the cost of shoppers, product purchase, and testing. Clearly the system to date is not perfect, though I believe we are headed in the right direction, and medical marijuana does appear to be getting results.
Does cannabis work to cure cancer or put it into remission? You be the judge. Cancer cure rates are largely unknown; to our disgrace as yet no major patient studies have been completed, though excellent results have been obtained in smaller clinical trials and laboratory settings. All you can do now is read as many smaller studies and personal stories as possible, both the good and the bad, then make your own decision. The good news is the choice is yours.
Laboratory studies have been promising. So much so that one recent 2013 study clearly supports full clinical testing of CBD for treating prostate cancer. From around the world there are many medical studies that support the use of cannabis to treat cancer in many of its forms including brain cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, blood cancer, oral cancer, and pancreatic cancer. A 2006 study with patients suffering from glioblastoma multiforme who previously experienced failed treatment with surgery and radiation found life extension with THC usage. A 2010 breast cancer study confirmed that THC reduced tumor growth and the severity of lung cancer metastases. A 2008 study by Harvard Medical Schoolfound that THC inhibited lung cancer cell migration, and recommended that it be explored to control growth and metastasis of various cancers. A Swedish 2006 study confirmed that cannabinoids kill mantle cell lymphoma. Another study relating to oral tumors showed cannabinoids are toxic to malignant tumors. In addition there are many stories from patients who reported melanoma cures through the use of topical cannabis oil. Foundation for this process is backed through limited recent such as the 2013 paper, ‘Epigenetic control of skin differentiation genes by phytocannabinoids’, and the 2015 research study ‘Differential role of cannabinoids in the pathogenesis of skin cancer’.
And the list of healing stories and research goes on. For further information you may also want to visit the Alchimia Blog to view a list of 82 studies of marijuana in relation to cancer. Clearly cannabis is providing some form of positive healing results for treating cancer. Why then if we truly want to cure cancer, do we not do everything within our power to explore it further? Could it be the stigma of getting high or that it is not socially and politically correct? More likely it is because there is no major financial return for pharmaceutical companies? Cannabis is easy to grow, much less expensive compared to new approved drugs, and available around the world. Because of this the question becomes, “Regardless of its ability to relieve suffering and save lives, who will fund the millions needed to do the research for its official approval?”
Stay tuned for my next post in this series on Potential New Natural Cancer Treatments.