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Cancer and CBD Oil: Current Research and Potential Benefits

While research into the uses of CBD oil for cancer treatment is still in its infancy, early results look promising.

There is evidence that cannabinoids like CBD can help cancer patients by providing relief from pain and inflammation, eliminating nausea, reducing anxiety, allowing more restful sleep, and, in some cases, slowing the growth rate of cancer cells.

Keep in mind, the information presented on this page is intended to serve only as an informational guide – a starting point of reference – and should not be considered medical advice.

Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil to Manage Cancer Symptoms

CBD oil provides much relief for cancer patients. CBD is one of over 100 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant; its interactions with the human endocannabinoid system produce a wide range of benefits, especially when it comes to managing cancer-related symptoms.

The cannabinoids that have received the most attention in terms of scientific research and medical use are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While THC has its own health benefits, its intoxicating, mind-altering properties mean it’s not always an ideal solution for people seeking healthy and effective supplements. Cannabidiol does not produce any high, making it the most beneficial to people who want to achieve relief and keep a clear head.

CBD and THC primarily target cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, which are found in the brain and central nervous system. THC acts most prominently on the CB1 receptors; CBD does not bind directly to either receptor and instead produces widespread, beneficial effects throughout the body by acting indirectly on the CB1 and CB2 receptors (amongst a variety of other receptors).

Because of cannabidiol’s effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD oil is able to increase the presence of important neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and adenosine and inhibit immune responses that cause inflammation and pain. Perhaps most compelling, CBD in combination with THC can cause cancer cells to produce ceramide, which leads to apoptosis, or cell death.

There are some clinical trials that indicate CBD may be effective at reducing tumor growth in particular cancers but there is a great deal of research that still needs to be done. Most trials up to this stage have been done on animal models. At this point, you should not consider CBD oil to be an effective alternative to typical cancer treatments. However, CBD oil could still be a powerful natural supplement to the treatment you receive during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery stages.

CBD Oil for Cancer Pain and Inflammation

One of the most celebrated benefits of CBD oil is its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. When being treated for cancer, pain can come from a variety of sources. Tumor growth can damage nerve cells or grow into the bones, bringing pain. It is also not unusual for cancer patients to experience pain at the chemotherapy injection site. And radiation and chemotherapy themselves have been known to cause widespread nerve pain. 

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Quick Disclaimer: CBD can help CBD for cancer-related pains (such as neuropathy) but clinical data specifically with cancer patients is missing as of the time this article was published.

That said, the outlook is promising. Here’s how it works:

Glycine receptors, found in the central nervous system, impact the way you feel and perceive pain. A 2012 study found that CBD acts on these receptors in such a way that significantly reduces the occurrence of neuropathic pain and inflammation. The study concludes, “These cannabinoids may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases involving [glycine receptor] malfunction.”

Inflammation is your body’s natural immune response to injury or infection. Cancer treatments can take a significant toll on the immune system, meaning general inflammation or inflammatory conditions may be triggered. In studies with mice, CBD oil was shown to reduce inflammation in the body by limiting reuptake of the neurotransmitter adenosine. The increased amount of available adenosine in the body acts on adenosine receptors in such a way that reduces inflammation from head to toe, according to several studies cited in a 2015 article by the The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics.

CBD Oil for Nausea

One of the most common side effects of cancer and treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy is nausea. Some cancer patients even experience anticipatory nausea before treatment has begun. (This is most commonly found in individuals who have experienced nausea and vomiting after a round of treatment in the past, and cannot be treated with traditional medication.)

Nausea caused directly is typically addressed with antiemetic medications. Unfortunately, these medications are not effective for everyone and they carry a list of undesirable side effects like fatigue, dry mouth, constipation, heartburn, and tinnitus. Furthermore, there are different types of antiemetics that target different neurochemicals and receptors; what works for one person may be useless to another, making relief difficult to pinpoint.

Luckily, CBD oil has been found effective in the treatment of nausea, both actual and anticipatory. Excess amounts of serotonin in the body trigger a nauseous response in the brain, often leading to vomiting. By activating serotonin autoreceptors in certain parts of the brain, there is decreased release of serotonin in the forebrain areas, decreasing nausea.

While further research on CBD oil and nausea is still needed, the results so far are promising. Traditional medications prescribed to treat nausea target dopamine and serotonin, and because CBD is now known to interact with these neurotransmitters and their receptors, CBD oil could soon emerge as a more natural and gentle alternative to conventional nausea medications.

CBD Oil for Limiting Tumor Growth

It’s important to remember that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done before definitively stating whether or not CBD oil can prevent tumor growth. But there are some indications that, in certain cancers at least, CBD can be impactful.

For example, in a study published by Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, CBD prompted programmed cell death in breast cancer cells, both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative. Furthermore, CBD did not have a negative effect on healthy cells. This is especially compelling because traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause widespread cellular damage to both cancerous and healthy cells. The fact that CBD oil may provide a more targeted treatment is promising.

Medical Editor’s Note: The above study involved an in-vitro experiment on isolated cells.

The potential cancer-treating benefits of CBD oil are not just limited to breast cancer. Its potential as a cancerous cell combatant has also been observed in bladder cancer, brain cancer, leukemia, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.

As more research is done and a greater understanding of the ways CBD oil works in the human body is gained, more effective, side effect-free treatments may soon emerge for a variety of cancers.

CBD Oil for Managing Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Nausea is not the only side effect of cancer treatments. People going through chemotherapy and radiation can experience fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression.


Cancer treatments can be draining. Your body is in fight mode, and chemotherapy and radiation can do significant damage to healthy cells in their efforts to kill cancer cells. This makes getting a restful sleep even more important than usual. While there are not any studies currently assessing the effect of CBD on fatigue in cancer patients specifically, the correlated research looks promising.

As mentioned before, CBD oil can reduce pain, allowing you to fall asleep more easily. CBD can also help reduce anxiety by elevating the levels of adenosine in the brain and decreasing cortisol levels in the body. This combination results in an easier time getting to sleep due to a better mood and calmer state of mind.

But perhaps more importantly, CBD oil may promote daytime wakefulness. In a 2004 study performed on eight young adults, those that ingested 15 mg of CBD were found to be more alert and awake after sleep, compared to those who ingested a placebo or THC. As with any new form of medical treatment, CBD oil will still require further testing as it applies to cannabidiol’s ability to help combat fatigue.

Loss of Appetite

A loss of appetite is a common side effect of cancer treatments. Being unable to eat means you cannot always provide your body with the nutrients and calories it needs to regain health and stay energized.

Cannabinoids can help stimulate appetite. THC is the cannabinoid believed to have the greatest impact on appetite by stimulating the CB1 receptors and controlling eating behaviors, but CBD oil may be able to help, too. The antinauseant properties of CBD oil can help one feel ‘well’ (not nauseous) enough to eat.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that CBD has also been studied to suppress appetite

Cancer treatments can also cause pain in the mouth and throat. CBD oil’s pain relieving properties can mitigate this pain and provide enough relief so eating becomes manageable again.

Cannabis-derived products can also help calm the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, making eating and digestion much easier. By working on the CB2 receptors in the GI tract, CBD oil can reduce gastrointestinal inflammation, reducing digestive pain and potential blockages that might keep you from wanting to eat.  


A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying and treatments can be overwhelming, making depression a common experience for cancer sufferers. Between dramatic internal changes and massive external pressures, emotional balance can be difficult to maintain.

CBD was shown to be an effective mood elevator in a 2016 study, yielding similar results to mainstream antidepressants that function as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are one of the most common prescribed treatments for depression, though they can often come with unwanted side effects like nausea, insomnia, and a reduced libido. CBD oil produces little to no side effects, but it has been known to react to certain antidepressant medications. So, if you’re thinking about taking CBD oil to manage depression, speak with your doctor beforehand.

In addition to CBD oil’s effect on serotonin as it relates to mood, cannabidiol also positively impacts adenosine and anandamide levels in the body. As mentioned above, CBD inhibits adenosine reuptake, elevating the amounts present in the brain. This increase impacts the A2A adenosine receptors in a way that increases mood and clarity. Anandamide, known as the “bliss molecule,” is responsible for feelings of joy and a sense of motivation. CBD acts as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, which increases the amount available in the brain and decreases the limiting effects of depression.

How to Take CBD Oil for Cancer

Before you begin taking CBD oil, it’s very important that you discuss your plans with your doctor. Your doctor will have a firm understanding of your cancer treatment plan and will be able to help you sort out whether or not CBD oil can benefit you. Because CBD can interact with certain medications, it is important that you seek advice first.

In addition to speaking with your physician, you might also consider speaking to a doctor who specializes in cannabis for more information on your CBD treatment options.

If you are experiencing pain, nausea, or other negative side effects from your cancer treatments, and the traditional ways of dealing with these things are not working or of interest to you, CBD oil may be the answer.

There are lots of different ways you can take CBD oil for cancer. The format you choose will depend on your lifestyle and preferences, but also your state of health. Chemotherapy can damage the cells in the mouth and throat, making swallowing difficult and painful. In this instance, a capsule may be too burdensome and drops or a tincture may be more useful. You can also decide to use a product that includes THC (where it is legal to do so), which can be beneficial if you’re looking to increase appetite.

CBD Oil Dosage

Because no two people are exactly alike, there is no universal dose of CBD oil for cancer. No matter which product or format you choose, it is important to follow the suggested serving size on the package.

At CBD Oil Review we have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion if you’re looking for further guidance:

The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.

If you are not getting results from this amount, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25mg every 3-4 weeks until you find relief.

For more information about dosage, check out our CBD oil dosage guide

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