Now this WON'T be a discussion about the merits of rolling dried weed and smoking it for a medically approved high! The "medical marijuana" movement is mostly a wedge to get the drug legalized for recreational use. It's not my topic today. As I'll explain, I don't think inhaling the smoke is a good idea.
Rather, you're about to learn about the powerful anti-cancer properties of hemp oil extracted from the cannabis plant. This very strong form of cannabis is supported by pre-clinical, in vitro, and animal studies.
According to Dr. Robert Melamede, associate professor of biology at the University of Colorado, "over 600 peer-reviewed articles show that numerous cancer types (lung, breast, prostate, glioma, thyroid, leukemia, lymphoma, basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, etc.) are killed by cannabinoids in tissue culture and animal studies."1
And medical marijuana proponent Rick Simpson said many of today's Big Pharma heavyweights actually sold hemp-based medicines in the 1800's and early 1900's! So this might make you wonder…
Why all the HOOPLA about HEMP?
The Latin name "Cannabis sativa" actually translates as "useful hemp." The moniker is on target, considering that this plant provides fiber that is used to make clothing and shoes… seeds and oil that are helpful in foods and medicines… and even pulp to make paper.
Hemp oil is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. You probably know those as the "good fats" that help control cholesterol, fight inflammation and ward off heart disease.
But the plant's anti-cancer properties lie deep inside its main psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol—or THC for short. Its benefits were highlighted in 2008 by some laboratory tests conducted by a team of scientists from Spain, France and Italy. According to results published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation2, THC stimulated death of brain cancer cells—while simultaneously leaving non-cancerous cells unharmed.
Alternative health practitioner Marc Sircus, Ac., OMD said the August 15, 2004 issue of Cancer Research3 similarly declared that THC stopped the spread of brain cancer in human tumor biopsies.
What's more, THC also selectively prevented the gamma herpes virus from activating and multiplying. Researchers believe these viruses may increase the chances of developing cancers such as Kaposi's Sarcoma, Burkitt's lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease.
But here's the kicker: This is not new information…
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said federal bureaucrats actually commissioned the first experiment documenting the anti-cancer effects of cannabis in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia.
According to study results published in an August 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper article, THC "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."
These findings were even published the following year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
So why is this scientifically supported anti-cancer treatment not a staple in hospitals and cancer treatment centers?
The war against weed rages on
Despite the early findings about the positive health benefits of THC and hemp oil, the government continued to designate the herb as a "Schedule 1 controlled substance." Armentano said this essentially classifies the plant as a drug with a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use."
Since then, 15 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to promote and protect the medical use of marijuana. Nevertheless, Armentano said this won't necessarily stop Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raids and arrests on medical marijuana suppliers and patients.
Federal law still trumps state law—and in this case, that still makes it illegal to possess or distribute marijuana. For that matter, the government has to grant permission for anyone to even conduct clinical research on marijuana.
Many advocates who support complete legalization of marijuana for medical use say the pharmaceutical industry is behind the federal frenzy against widespread use.
If the drug companies can't make enough dough on a natural substance — they feel you're better off without it!
Can hemp oil really be that safe and effective?
Although hemp oil itself is a legal product, Andrew Weil, M.D., a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said the type of hemp grown to produce oil has a low THC content that decreases throughout the production process. It's not potent enough to be of medical use.
Rick Simpson advocates in-home extraction of hemp oil to ensure that higher concentrations of THC remain active. He has shared his process in the YouTube documentary Run from the Cure and has even shared samples of the oil with cancer patients.
But this is also why Simpson is living in Europe as a fugitive from the Canadian government.
Simpson is not a doctor and does not have a medical or scientific education. His administration of hemp oil treatments to cancer patients did not win him the favor of Canadian government officials.
Regardless of continued government resistance, some folks are convinced by anecdotal evidence and available studies that hemp oil is no snake oil! For that matter, many members of mainstream medicine agree that the cannabis plant may be useful to cancer patients suffering from anorexia, anxiety, depression, nausea, and pain.
But Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine urges caution in adopting this treatment.
Grinspoon said "while there is growing evidence from animal studies that [hemp oil] may shrink tumor cells and cause other promising salutary effects in some cancers, there is no present evidence that it cures any of the many different types of cancer. I think the day will come when it…will be demonstrated to have cancer-curative powers, but in the meantime, we must be very cautious about what we promise these patients."4
My take is that a cannabis extract may someday take its place in the array of natural cancer treatments available to all — but we're not there yet. Meanwhile, I think it would be hazardous and impractical for my readers to try to obtain high-potency hemp oil and experiment on themselves or their loved ones.
As for the kind of cannabis you smoke, it seems to me the damage to the respiratory system (and possibly to other body systems) is likely to outweigh any benefits. I've also seen plenty of evidence that it accelerates the aging process, most likely by creating a massive cascasde of free radicals, much the way tobacco smoke does. Inhaling smoke is not a healthy idea, even if it is a delivery system for a drug that might help fight cancer.
Having come of age during the hippie era, I can tell you the drug does a great deal of harm. I'm convinced it's addictive — despite what some advocates claim — and in most cases it turns frequent users into bumbling underachievers.
Put a pothead side by side with a non-user of the same age and you'll be shocked by the difference. A 25-year-old non-user looks like a rosy-cheeked child compared to a 25-year-old pothead. A 60-year-old pothead looks like someone 85.
But the medical uses of the drug do make a fascinating subject, and someday I hope researchers are able to legally find out whether a cannabis extract is a good cancer treatment.