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THC Appears to Only Target Cancer Cells, Leaving Healthy Cells Alone

Animation showing stages of apoptosis

THC kills cancer cells by causing mitochondria to stop making energy.

There is a lot of new and old research surrounding cannabis and cancer treatment. And, perhaps just as significant, the medical community is now willing to listen to cancer patients describe how well cannabis treats their symptoms. There may be additional benefit to using cannabis during cancer treatment because THC kills cancer cells. Studies in the lab and animal models show THC to be an effective assassin.

More and more studies back up these patient anecdotal reports to demonstrate that CBD and THC (among other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids yet to be fully discovered) are critical in the fight against cancer. THC helps the immune system find cancer cells and encourages apoptosis, while CBD helps slow or even prevent metastasis.

Research Has Known THC Kills Cancer Cells For 40 Years

With funding and cannabis scheduling the way it is, cancer and cannabis research hasn’t been as prolific in North America as it has been overseas. But this is beginning to change.

Following the release of preliminary data, like the Virginia Study, published in 1975, the American government shut down funding into cannabis-cancer research for twenty years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the US National Toxicology Program rediscovered the positive impact of cannabis on cancer.

Cannabis Researcher

Unfortunately, funding opportunities for cannabis research remain limited. There are many suggested reasons for this, but most cannabis advocates believe that Big Pharma financial incentives to key figures in the government influence funding and research for medicine. Permission is still required for all cannabis research, and as political commentators like John Oliver explain, that can take years.

THC Kills Cancer Cells Via Ceramide Pathways


Well, this goes back to the endocannabinoid system, and the CB1/CB2 receptors. Here, phytocannabinoids found in cannabis trigger cannabinoid receptors. There is a theory being tossed about research circles that disease comes from a deficiency in endocannabinoids. If this is the case, it makes sense that cannabis is able to treat a wide variety of conditions.

CB1 receptors come from the nervous system and the brain; CB2 receptors work throughout the body’s organs and are part of the immune system.

Cancer cell in human body

When THC binds to the CB1 or CB2 receptors (on a cancer cell) it causes the increased production of ceramide, a type of lipid commonly found in skin care products. It is the ceramide that drives cell death. A healthy cell will not increase ceramide in response to THC, but a diseased cell will.

Watch this time-lapse video of THC killing cancer cells but leaving healthy cells alone:

As ceramide increases, it makes the mitochondria more permeable to cyctochrome (an important protein in energy production). Cytochrome leaves the mitochondria and the cell can no longer make energy = death.

We are only at the very beginning of understanding how these mechanisms work; how cannabis works to kill cancer. What we do know, at this time, is that cannabis is a ruthless killer of cancer cells, but always leaves healthy cells alone.

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  • Avatar
    Enoch Liao

    I would like to see the real clinical study links instead of just articles without proof. Thanks

    February 27, 2019 at 4:25 am Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      All of the links to the requested studies are already within the article. Thanks

      February 27, 2019 at 3:33 pm Reply
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    Dan m

    What is the suggested therapeutic dosage for a cancer patient?

    May 17, 2019 at 7:31 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      That information is not yet available from ongoing research.

      May 17, 2019 at 10:05 pm Reply
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        Tommy Fleming

        It’s about time certain minds opened!

        June 2, 2019 at 9:11 pm Reply
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        The issue of therapeutic dosage may not be super critical as overdosing does not cause the same type of issues that other types of pharmaceutical drugs may, such as death if it was an overdose of chemotherapy….I see this the therapeutic dosage issue one of the key arguments that is being used to delay widespread decriminalisation and therapeutic use of this herb!

        July 25, 2019 at 10:04 pm Reply
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      60 grams of RSO in 90 days. Start out with a half of a short grain of rice size and move up as your tolerance increases until you are able to take 1 gram a day.

      April 28, 2020 at 8:26 pm Reply
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    Each type of cancer cell for each type of cancer, and some studies say each individual vary. How can one drug be effective . This study is in its infant stage and should not be pointed except to point out a possible new and interesting lead . All this information is just interesting and unproven by ant creditable studies.

    May 19, 2019 at 10:57 am Reply
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    The bottom line is that right now there isn’t enough reliable evidence to prove that any form of cannabis can effectively treat cancer in patients. This includes hemp oil, cannabis oil or the active chemicals found within the cannabis plant (cannabinoids) – whether natural or man-made.

    Many researchers worldwide are actively investigating cannabinoids, and Cancer Research UK is supporting some of this work. These studies use highly purified chemicals found in the cannabis plant, or lab-made versions of them, and there is genuine interest in these as potential cancer treatments. But this is very different to street-bought cannabis and hemp oil available online or on the high street, for which there is no evidence of any impact on cancer.

    May 19, 2019 at 11:07 am Reply
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      Gerry Lynch

      No proof? I suggest it’s time you opened your eyes to this thing called the internet! Cannabis in its various forms has been used since the 19th century to treat, not only cancers but also epilepsy, Parkinson’s and a great variety of other ailments. Cannabis use was only criminalised due to lobbying and pressure from pharmaceutical companies who are not interested in cures only in treatments. It’s laughable to suggest that Cancer Research are now ‘looking into’ the possibility of THC being used in cancer treatment! They’ve had around 80 years of research, using our charitable donations, paying their CEO six figures in salary, to reach this conclusion, when I, in the space of two years have researched cannabis success stories and know that it works. Everyone throws out the standard, ‘clinical trials have not been done, so we can’t recommend it’s use’! There is surely enough discussion online now to make it a priority, so get the clinical trials done… NOW. Let’s stop messing around with the very costly poisons and killers which mask as treatments, namely chemotherapy and radiotherapy! They serve no purpose other than to ensure that a cancer sufferer endures the most dibilitating end to their life!

      June 27, 2019 at 5:55 pm Reply
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      OMG there are SO hundreds of studies proving this!!! You need to do your research!!

      Read More:

      It is totally hogswash that there is no research or studies!

      July 25, 2019 at 10:09 pm Reply
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    i put RSO on skin cancer and it disappeared. I’m a believer. Cancer Patients don’t have time for academic studies that should have been done decades ago.

    May 26, 2019 at 12:59 am Reply
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    Steve Palfrey

    Rather have hope than statistics.
    Researchers have been proven wrong, or paid before. A plant is usually the best option of cure. Who in Gods name treats Cancer, with Radiation???

    June 1, 2019 at 1:54 pm Reply
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    Jamie Butler

    My Mother passed away today. After her Chemotherapy stopped working the cancer was in her stomach and liver and I gave her shortbread I made from boiling cannabis in butter. She started eating it a couple of months ago. Amazingly, her blood scan was 98% last week when she had scans, expecting a blood transfusion, which wasn’t necessary. Unfortunately, a stent in her liver blocked up and she was hospitalized with severe pain and passed away under morpine as she was too weakened by the pain to operate. Honestly. If only I had given her the cannabis shortbread a few months previously, because her condition improved so dramatically following the cannabis.

    June 27, 2019 at 9:41 am Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      Oh no…I am so sorry for your loss. 🙁 What a shock after she was recovering. Sending you so much support and big hugs.

      June 27, 2019 at 10:46 am Reply
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      I am so very sorry to hear about the loss of your Mum Jamie! Please don’t be harsh on yourself, you can help others by spreading the word. You have seen first hand the benefits.
      We live in a sad world when you now cant trust your Doctors to do the right thing by you because they get kick backs for prescribing Chemo!
      All the best.

      July 25, 2019 at 10:12 pm Reply
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    Bev Sturgiss

    Hi I am so confused. I found a cancer on my breast just after Christmas 2018. I was operated on in February. Did not loose my breast fortunately. Have been through 4 very debilating Chemo sessions and am currently going through Radiation. The doctor has prescribed 7 years of oestrogen when Radiation finished. Now I do not want to go through menopause again. What is my option. I am 63 now and suffered a stroke and a brain haemorrhage in 2015. I was doing really well even got my drivers license back. Do you have any suggestions. I need advise.

    June 29, 2019 at 11:03 pm Reply
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      Bev, check out Rick Simpson Oil, Phoenix Tears on YouTube. Once you have had Chemo it is highly likely that you now have cancer stem cells which is why 4-5 yrs down the track people who have been in remission end up having cancer through out their body. Get onto the cannabis oil or make your own butter and begin treating yourself regularly to make sure you stop any relapse or any chance of cancer to quietly take hold and spread without you knowing.

      July 25, 2019 at 10:16 pm Reply
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    how and where can you buy THC?

    January 7, 2020 at 9:38 am Reply

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