Marijuana can be used to treat pain caused by prostate cancer, as well as the negative side effects of treatment. Additionally, some studies indicate marijuana may be able to shrink cancer cells.
A few months ago, my uncle noticed something unusual: he was having problems urinating.
Experiencing interrupted urine flow and frequent urination that kept him up at night, he went to the doctor.
After several tests, they discovered he has prostate cancer.
He started chemotherapy and is still undergoing treatment. As amazing as the treatment is for prostate cancer, it comes with a lot of side effects.
To mitigate those effects and help treat his prostate cancer, he is also using medical marijuana.
As of 2020, 3.6 million patients legally use medical marijuana in the U.S. In this article, we’ll talk about how marijuana can treat prostate cancer and what strains and products are best for treatment.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is a very common type of cancer that occurs in the gland cells of the prostate.
It is usually associated with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and usually it occurs in males over the age of 40. Smoking, obesity, familial history, and an animal-fat-rich diet are some of its risk factors.
The affected person often presents with symptoms of increased urination, dysuria, painful ejaculation, lower back pain, and hematuria.
What Is Marijuana?
Marijuana, also called Cannabis sativa, is a type of flowering plant.
It has several active components and chemicals. The most commonly used ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Marijuana is also subdivided into two species: sativa and indica. Sativas are responsible for causing invigorating and energy-producing effects that can help lower anxiety and stress. Indicas on the other hand have full-body effects, causing deep relaxation and treating insomnia.
THC has predominantly psychoactive properties, whereas CBD is devoid of psychoactive actions and can be used for many therapeutic uses.
When marijuana is consumed, either by smoking or by eating it, it gets passed into the bloodstream where it gets distributed throughout the body, including the brain.
It produces immediate effects like euphoria, relaxation, increased sensory perception, and increased appetite. However, these effects may be different in different people. They largely depend on the type of marijuana consumed, its amount, and its quality.
THC has a molecular structure that is related to anandamide, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Anandamide communicates chemically between nerve cells. Pleasure, memory, thinking, attention, movement, coordination, and sensory and temporal perception are all affected.
Because THC is comparable to anandamide, it binds to and activates cannabinoid receptors on neurons in specific brain areas, causing effects such as altered perception.
Marijuana also can decrease and improve various mental and physical conditions, and for cancer patients, research shows marijuana can help ease symptoms and side effects of treatment.
How Does Cannabis Help Treat Prostate Cancer?
While cannabis is not an FDA-approved treatment for cancer, some research shows cannabinoids may prevent prostate cancer cells from growing and dividing. It can also help with cancer-related pain and side effects of treatment like nausea and vomiting, nerve pain, and loss of appetite and weight loss.
Here are some of the possible benefits of marijuana in the treatment of prostate cancer.
1. Slow Down Tumor Growth
Some evidence indicates that there are cannabinoid receptors in prostate tissue, and that their stimulation results in anti-androgenic effects.
In one study, 2-methyl-arachidonyl-2′-fluoro-ethylamide (Met-F-AEA) was used on rat thyroid cell tumors. Met-F-AEA is an analog of anandamide, an endocannabinoid, and it caused a significant reduction in tumor volume.
THC has a molecular structure that is similar to anandamide, so it’s able to bind and activate cannabinoid receptors on neurons in specific areas of the body.
This means marijuana can work similarly to anandamide to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.
Another study showed that cannabinoids can help treat prostate cancer. The cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) was able to reduce prostate cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion, and induce apoptosis and cell arrest in Go/G1 phase in a dose-dependent manner.
Thus cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating and decreasing prostate cancer.
2. Reduce Vomiting Caused By Chemotherapy
The anti-nausea and anti-emetic effects of CBD may be mediated by the indirect activation of somatodendritic serotonin 1A (5-HT1A) receptors.
Activation of these autoreceptors may reduce the release of 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.
Vomiting is one of the major side effects of chemotherapy. The main cause of nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy is the activation of the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) by the chemotherapy chemicals circulating in the blood.
Hence, the CBD in marijuana may help decrease vomiting caused by chemotherapy during the treatment of prostate cancer.
3. Alleviate Body Pain
Cannabis can also help soothe body pains caused by cancers. A study conducted over three weeks on advanced cancer pain patients using nabiximol, a herbal preparation containing a defined quantity of specific cannabinoids, showed improvement in the pain symptoms of the patients.
Similarly, another study of cancer patients using marijuana over six months showed a decrease in the amount of pain in the patients.
CBD decreases pain signaling and perception by interacting with the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors.
4. Decrease Anxiety
The cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and the transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptor are just a few of the receptors that CBD can interact with to modulate fear and anxiety-related behaviors.
It has been discovered that its activities on these receptors and the endocannabinoid system cause anxiolytic-like effects.
This may help alleviate anxiety caused by prostate cancer and its treatment.
5. Improve Concentration
Cannabis may be able to increase concentration. Chemotherapy for cancer treatment can be very draining, causing the patient to be drowsy and extremely sleepy.
THC in cannabis has been found to increase dopamine levels in the brain, causing an increase in concentration power and may even help improve memory.
This, however, largely depends on the amount of cannabis consumed and its type. A larger dose may cause impairment of cognitive functions and hamper memory as well.
Side Effects Of Using Cannabis To Treat Prostate Cancer
There are side effects of cannabis use, and their severity may vary. However, numerous patients choose to continue using cannabis. Possible side effects include:
- Changes in blood pressure, with both low and high reported
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
The 5 Best Cannabis Strains For Patients With Prostate Cancer
There are numerous strains that will offer positive effects for patients with prostate cancer, but here are five of the best cannabis strains for reducing the side effects of treatment as well as the effects of the cancer itself.
1. Northern Lights
Northern Lights is a pure genetic, indica-dominant strain with Afghani indica and Thai sativa ancestors. It is 95% indica and 5% sativa, and has a THC content of around 21% with almost no CBD content.
It can produce euphoria-like effects that can spread throughout the body and relax muscles. It can also help calm down the mind. These effects can be of immense help during the healing time of undergoing physiotherapy. Medically, Northern Lights is also used to treat depression, chronic pain, insomnia, and stress.
ACDC is a potent blend containing low levels of THC and high CBD content. It is particularly efficient at alleviating anxiety. ACDC is a cannabis strain with a Cannatonic phenotype.
It has low levels of psychoactive properties and therapeutic uses that include treating chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and chemotherapy side effects.
Its CBD content can help numb the pain caused by chemotherapy and cancer and help make the treatment more manageable.
ACDC’s low level of THC is perfect for users who want the benefits of marijuana but not the psychoactive effects. So it may be a good option for cancer patients who want therapeutic effects without the high.
3. Granddaddy Purple
Granddaddy Purple is a cannabis strain that promotes sleep and relaxation. It is also called Granddaddy Purp and GDP. It has a THC level of 17% and is made from a cross of Mendo Purps, Skunk, and Afghanistan.
It is a potent substance, being able to cause both cerebral euphoria and physical relaxation. Granddaddy Purple has been used in the treatment of stress, appetite loss, muscle spasms, and conditions like restless legs syndrome.
4. Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web is known around the world for having a high CBD concentration and low THC content. It has a THC content of 0.3% and thus is considered to be non-intoxicating. Its extracts are often used to create health products.
It can help to treat chronic conditions such as seizures and epilepsy. Charlotte’s Web also possesses anti-inflammation and pain-killing properties. A large dose however can cause headaches and dizziness.
Chocolope, also called “D Line,” is an uplifting and stimulating sativa strain made by combining Chocolate Thai and Cannalope Haze.
It can help cancer patients overcome lethargy. Its name is a homage to the 1980s chocolate strains.
Chocolope can help to provide energy between exhausting chemotherapy sessions. This strain has a double sativa pedigree and can cause a euphoric high. It is also used in the treatment of depression, stress, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic illnesses.
4 Best Marijuana Products For Treating Prostate Cancer
1. THC FECO HT
THC FECO HT contains flower-only oil consisting of indica THC. This full-extract cannabis oil (FECO) is derived from cannabis strains including Granddaddy Purple, Cotton Candy, Purple Kush, and Girl Scout Cookies.
This product is taken from the cannabis flower and mixed with ethanol and liquid nitrogen. This technique extracts higher cannabinoids with less plant material, causing more transparent and highly potent oil. As a result, THC FECO HT contains 700 to 800mg of THC/g.
Its high THC content makes it ideal for those with high tolerance to THC, as well as those seeking relief from pain. For cancer patients or any user who would rather not smoke marijuana, the oil can be consumed as an edible.
3:1 Indica THC DOM is a FECO made using only the flowers of the indica plant.
This oil has a THC to cannabis ratio of 3:1, which is three parts indica THC and one part CBD compounds.
It was originally developed for treating chronic pain in hospice patients. However, it can be useful for people with cancer as well as degenerative neurological conditions, and severe or chronic pain.
3:1 Indica THC DOM is a flower-only, full-extract oil made from Girl Scout Cookies, Cotton Candy, Granddaddy Purple, Purple Kush, and other cannabis strains.
This tincture can decrease the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation during cancer treatment. It is a coconut oil-infused cannabidiol and has a dominant CBD content in a ratio of 18:1.
Restore has multiple uses, including use as an anti-inflammatory and to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
It can also be used to alleviate pain caused by cancer. Because of its high CBD content and low THC content, this product can be used by those who are sensitive to THC.
This vape cartridge can help with various conditions like inflammation and the negative side effects of chemotherapy. It is a 100% organic, flower-only oil derived from ACDC only.
Its CBD to THC ratio is 18:1, making this an ideal product for users who are sensitive to THC. The higher dose of CBD relative to THC can make this a preferred product for cancer patients who want the effects of CBD without the effects of THC.
Numerous marijuana strains can help not only mitigate the symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy-induced side effects, but some research shows it may also be able to decrease the size of cancer cells.
This makes marijuana potentially advantageous for prostate cancer patients. However, always consult your doctor before using any substance.
About the Author
Mingma Sony is a board-certified clinical doctor and currently works as a medical officer in the emergency department at Mahendra Narayan Nidhi Hospital and helps many patients daily.