Oncology care is tough – no doubt about it. Amidst the whirlwind of doctor’s visits, treatments, and overwhelming emotions, could medicinal marijuana for cancer patients be a glimmer of hope for some? This therapeutic alternative, once shrouded in stigma, is now sparking conversations in hospitals and clinics around the world. 

Imagine relief from nausea and pain, a regained appetite, and perhaps even a sense of calm in the face of the storm. But with these potential benefits come questions. Is it safe? Is it legal? Does it really work? 

Let’s cut through the haze and explore the truth about marijuana and cancer.


Understanding Medical Weed for Cancer

Exploring the potential of marijuana in cancer care introduces a complex landscape that intersects botanical science, patient welfare, and regulatory frameworks. 

This alternative remedy, steeped in historical use and contemporary debate, offers both promise and challenges for those navigating treatment paths. Its compounds, interactions within the human body, and legal status are central to understanding its role in supportive care and symptom management for cancer patients.

The Endocannabinoid System and Cancer: A Complex Network

To understand why medical cannabis for cancer is gaining popularity in oncology care, it helps to know what the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is. The intricate relationship between the ECS and cancer has unfolded as a significant area of research. 

As a complex network of receptors, chemical messengers (called ligands), and enzymes that maintain body homeostasis, the ECS plays a pivotal role in both tumorigenesis (cancer formation) and tumour inhibition.

The ECS has two main “switches” called CB1 and CB2 receptors. When certain molecules, like those found in marijuana (cannabinoids), bind to these switches, it can trigger reactions in your body. 

In the case of cancer, these reactions can either be advantageous or harmful, as highlighted below: 

Advantageous Disadvantageous
  • Activating specific receptors in the ECS can cause cancer cells to self-destruct (apoptosis) [1] or trigger a clean-up process (autophagy) [2] that removes damaged parts of the cell and slows down tumour growth. 
  • The ECS can also help calm inflammation, which can contribute to the development and spread of cancer.
  • In some cases, activating the ECS can have the opposite effect and actually help cancer cells grow and spread. This is why it’s crucial to understand exactly how the ECS works in different types of cancer. [3]


Nonetheless, current research is exploring the ECS as an avenue for cancer treatment. Some potential use cases include the following:

  • New drugs: Developing medication that targets the ECS and triggers the cancer-fighting reactions while avoiding the ones that might help tumours grow.
  • Repurposing existing drugs: Some existing drugs that target the ECS, already used for other conditions, could potentially be repurposed for treatment. This could be a faster and cheaper way to develop new therapies.
  • Targeting specific combinations: Cannabinoid receptors can team up with other receptors, forming unique complexes. Targeting these complexes could lead to even more effective cancer treatments.

Key Compounds in Cannabis

A plethora of compounds within weeds show promise in assisting with cancer symptoms and treating side effects. 

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Exhibits pain relief and antiemetic properties.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): Provides anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotic effects without intoxication.
  • Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabigerol (CBG): Both have emerging profiles for cancer care support, though research is ongoing.
  • Terpenes: Aromatic compounds that may enhance the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids.


Marijuana and Cancer: Benefits of Medicinal Cannabis

Cannabis offers several potential benefits for cancer patients, helping to manage various symptoms associated with the disease and its treatments.

Pain Management

Painkillers not working is a common complaint among cancer patients, and many find that cannabis can help to alleviate their pain. In fact, research has shown that marijuana could be safer and more efficient at treating pain than opioids like morphine or codeine. 

Moreover, a 2017 review suggests that a combination of 2.7-10.8 mg THC and 2.5-10.50 mg CBD leads to significant relief in advanced cancer patients. The review found a correlation between THC and increased pain relief, with higher doses providing greater alleviation. [4]

To learn more about managing chronic discomfort during or after treatment, check out our blog on how to deal with chronic pain

Nausea and Vomiting Control

As one of the more well-documented natural remedies for chemotherapy side effects, marijuana can help control nausea and vomiting, particularly for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

One study published in the European Journal of Cancer Care found that patients experienced significant relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting when using cannabinoid-based medications compared to other conventional treatments, particularly neuroleptics. [5] 


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is another common side effect of cancer treatments that use chemotherapy drugs. It results in damage to the peripheral nerves, causing symptoms such as nerve pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness, typically in the hands and feet. These symptoms can negatively impact a patient’s quality of life and may persist long after chemotherapy has ended.

To this end, medical cannabis for pain can help by reducing inflammation, modulating pain signals, and offering neuroprotective effects. According to a 2021 retrospective analysis, patients who received marijuana before treatment felt a greater reduction in pain, suggesting a protective effect brought about by cannabinoids. [6]

Appetite Stimulation

Loss of appetite is a common issue among patients, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Appetite loss sometimes progresses into cancer-related cachexia and anorexia syndrome (CACS), a syndrome marked by the reduction of skeletal muscle mass that cannot be completely reversed by nutritional support. It is a common complication of advanced cancer and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

Cannabinoids have been found to stimulate appetite, helping patients maintain a healthier nutritional status. A 2019 pilot study from Integrative Cancer Therapies showed that the administration of dosage-controlled cannabis capsules led to significant weight increases without side effects among advanced patients with CACS. [7]

Sleep Improvement

Poor sleep quality is an often overlooked side effect of chemotherapy. Medical cannabis can help promote better sleep by reducing pain, stress, and anxiety. Moreover, THC has sedative properties that can help induce sleep.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology found that a significant number of cancer patients dose marijuana for sleep. Participants reported improved sleep initiation and continuity and reduced dependence on sleep medication after weed consumption. [8]

Psychological Benefits

Anxiety and depression frequently co-occur in cancer patients. Clinical evidence indicates that medical cannabis for anxiety, especially formulations rich in CBD, may alleviate anxiety symptoms. Additionally, cannabinoids have shown promise in reducing behaviours associated with depression, highlighting their potential as an adjunct in oncology care.

A person in a white lab coat with a purple cancer awareness ribbon is holding a small bottle of cannabis oil and a cannabis bud in their hand.

Risks and Side Effects

While the supportive role of medicinal marijuana in symptom management for oncology patients is recognised, it’s necessary to be aware of the potential risks and side effects that may arise.

Short-Term Side Effects

Patients considering this therapy should be informed about possible immediate reactions. While they vary according to individual tolerance and dosage, some of the more common ones include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia
  • Fatigue or somnolence
  • Changes in mood or perception
  • Increased heart rate
  • Short-term memory impairment

Long-Term Risks

The long-term use of this adjunct has its own set of considerations. While ongoing studies are assessing the full scope of long-term consequences, some identified risks are:

  • Potential for dependency
  • Impaired cognitive function, particularly with early age of initiation
  • Possible respiratory issues with certain methods of intake
  • Altered brain development when used by adolescents


Methods of Cannabis Consumption for Cancer Patients

Different methods of taking medical weed offer various benefits and uses for those with cancer:

Method Use Benefits
Edibles Systemic relief Extended duration, no respiratory risk
Tinctures/Oils Direct, sublingual Quick onset, easy to dose, less psychoactive delivery
Vaporisers Immediate effect Reduced respiratory risks compared to smoking
Topicals Localised relief No psychoactive effects, targeted relief


Note: In the UK, the regulations surrounding cannabis access for cancer patients underscore its controlled status, with emphasis on non-smoking forms of consumption due to smoking being illegal. Access is primarily through prescription for specific conditions and must comply with medical guidelines.


Cannabinoid Medication

Cannabinoid medications are chemically pure drugs that are approved for various uses:

Medication Primary Use Benefits
Dronabinol Antiemetic, appetite stimulant Approved for chemotherapy-induced nausea and anorexia
Nabilone Antiemetic Synthetic alternative with similar uses to Dronabinol
Nabiximols Muscle spasticity, pain Oral spray offering THC and CBD, used for multiple sclerosis


Comparing Regulated and Illicit Cannabis: What Cancer Patients Need to Know

When considering medicinal marijuana for cancer patients, it’s crucial to understand the differences between regulated products and those from the black market. This comparison ensures patients make informed choices, prioritising safety and efficacy.

Aspect Regulated Cannabis Illicit Cannabis
Quality Control Subject to strict testing and standards No quality control, risk of contaminants
Legal Status Legal with prescription in many areas Illegal, carrying potential legal consequences
Safety Verified for purity and potency Unknown ingredients and concentrations
Source Transparency Sourced from licensed producers Sourced from illegal growers, no transparency
Medical Oversight Prescribed and monitored by healthcare providers No professional oversight or dosage guidance

While both prescribed cannabinoids and their unregulated variants may offer symptomatic relief for cancer patients, the distinctions are pivotal. For those considering cannabinoid therapy as part of their cancer treatment regimen, consulting with healthcare professionals to utilise prescribed options is advisable for a safer and more beneficial approach.


Choose Lyphe for Compassionate Medical Cannabis Care

The logo of Lyphe Clinic.

At Lyphe, we prioritise your health and well-being on your journey to wellness. We understand the complexities surrounding cancer treatment and the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana for managing symptoms and enhancing life quality. Our mission is to provide you with convenient, safe, and legal access to medical cannabis, ensuring you receive the oncology support and care you deserve.

Here’s why you should partner with us:

  • Convenience at your fingertips: Schedule your consultation easily online and access our services from anywhere in the UK and Channel Islands, embracing care without borders.
  • Patient-first approach: Your wellness journey is unique, and we tailor our approach to meet your specific health goals and needs.
  • Access to expertise: Leveraging our experience and knowledge, we offer guidance and support, grounding your treatment in expertise and compassion.

Start your path to wellness with Lyphe. Book your online appointment today and unlock the benefits of medical cannabis treatment tailored just for you.


Final Takeaway

Medicinal marijuana for cancer patients presents a mix of potential benefits and risks. While it can help manage pain, nausea, and sleep quality, it’s essential to consider the possible side effects and long-term implications. As research continues, understanding the role of medicinal marijuana in cancer care will evolve, offering more clarity and options for those in need.

If you or a loved one are considering this option as part of a broader care strategy, we invite you to connect with us. Book your appointment with Lyphe today, where expert guidance awaits to journey with you towards informed health choices.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does CBD help with cancer?

CBD has been extensively studied for its possible role in alleviating symptoms related to cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, and insomnia, but comprehensive standardised studies are limited, and results are mixed. However, more systematic clinical trials are needed to determine its safety and efficacy in cancer therapy.


What cannabis is used for cancer treatment?

Certain weed-derived medications, such as dronabinol and nabilone, have been approved for treating related symptoms like nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Additionally, cannabinoids are also being investigated for their potential in holistic oncology care.


What kills cancer cells in the body?

Traditional treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy are designed to kill or remove cancerous cells in the body. Additionally, newer forms of treatment, such as immunotherapy, work by empowering the patient’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.


What stops cancer cells from growing?

Tumour suppressor genes and signalling pathways that regulate the cell cycle are control mechanisms that can stop cancer cells from growing. When these controls are functional, they prevent uncontrolled cell division, which is a characteristic of the disease.


What triggers cancer cells to grow?

Cancer cells grow and divide due to a variety of triggers, including genetic mutations that may cause a cell to produce too many proteins that encourage cell division or stop producing proteins that would normally inhibit it. Additionally, cancer cells can exploit nutrients such as glucose and amino acids like glutamine not just for energy but also as signals to fuel their growth.



  1. Pagano, E., Borrelli, F., Orlando, P., Romano, B., Monti, M., Morbidelli, L., Aviello, G., Imperatore, R., Capasso, R., Piscitelli, F., Buono, L., Di Marzo, V., & Izzo, A. A. (2017). Pharmacological inhibition of MAGL attenuates experimental colon carcinogenesis. Pharmacological Research, 119, 227–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2017.02.002
  2. Vara, D., Salazar, M., Olea-Herrero, N., Guzmán, M., Velasco, G., & Díaz-Laviada, I. (2011). Anti-tumoral action of cannabinoids on hepatocellular carcinoma: Role of AMPK-dependent activation of autophagy. Cell Death & Differentiation, 18(7), 1099–1111. https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2011.32
  3. Velasco, G., Sánchez, C., & Guzmán, M. (2015). Endocannabinoids and cancer. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, 449–472. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20825-1_16
  4. Blake, A., Wan, B. A., Malek, L., DeAngelis, C., Diaz, P., Lao, N., Chow, E., & O’Hearn, S. (2017). A selective review of medical cannabis in Cancer pain management. Annals of Palliative Medicine, 6(S2). https://doi.org/10.21037/apm.2017.08.05
  5. Machado Rocha, F. C., Stéfano, S. C., Cássia Haiek, R. D., Rosa Oliveira, M. Q., & Da Silveira, D. X. (2008). Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients: Systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cancer Care, 17(5), 431-443. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2354.2008.00917.x
  6. Waissengrin, B., Mirelman, D., Pelles, S., Bukstein, F., Blumenthal, D. T., Wolf, I., & Geva, R. (2021). Effect of cannabis on oxaliplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy among oncology patients: A retrospective analysis. Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology. https://doi.org/10.1177/1758835921990203
  7. Bar-Sela, G., Zalman, D., Semenysty, V., & Ballan, E. (2019). The Effects of Dosage-Controlled Cannabis Capsules on Cancer-Related Cachexia and Anorexia Syndrome in Advanced Cancer Patients: Pilot Study. Integrative Cancer Therapies. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735419881498
  8. Zhou, E. S., Nayak, M. M., Chai, P. R., & Braun, I. M. (2021b). Cancer patient’s attitudes of using medicinal cannabis for sleep. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 40(3), 397–403. https://doi.org/10.1080/07347332.2021.1910396


The content provided on this blog is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. We strongly advise readers to seek guidance from a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical concerns.
To reflect its medicinal nature rather than recreational use, we prefer the term ‘medical cannabis’ over terms such as ‘marijuana’, “grass”. or ‘dope’ which may carry negative connotations.
The opinions expressed in the blog belong to the respective authors, who are not medical professionals, and may not necessarily align with those of Lyphe Clinic. Lyphe Clinic does not endorse any specific products or services mentioned, except those provided through Lyphe Clinic.
Readers should be aware that the legality of medical cannabis varies by location, and this disclaimer may be subject to periodic updates.

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