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Can Cannabis Help Leukemia? What Research Says.

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cancer medicine leukemia

What is Leukemia and Can Cannabis Help?

Leukemia is cancer of the bone marrow and/or lymphatic tissue–this is where the body produces blood. There are the many different types of leukemia and each type affects the blood in different ways. Cannabis can help some patients fight this disease. Here’s how:

Does Cannabis Cure Leukemia?

There’s no denying that some people have experienced miraculous results using cannabis to treat leukemia. However, it’s important to remember, there are plenty of cannabis patients who never go into remission. Cannabis is not a magical cure-all for everyone. Seek guidance from an experienced oncologist and consider all treatments available.

Nonetheless, cannabis has been proven to possess cancer-fighting properties. Plus, it can ease many of the symptoms of leukemia, while also relieving the side-effects of chemotherapy. These properties can make medical marijuana an excellent addition to many leukemia treatment plans.

What Research Says About Cannabis Treating Leukemia

Comprehensive studies fully examining the benefits and/or risks of medical marijuana have not been conducted. Because of the federal classification, cannabis continues to be very difficult (nearly impossible) for researchers to study.

Much of what we know about medical marijuana is gathered from small clinical studies, laboratory research, and anecdotal evidence (aka the observations and reports from active cannabis patients and their healthcare providers).

This small pool of data is extremely promising. So promising, that many healthcare providers are choosing to include cannabis in their patients’ treatment plans and legalization is rapidly spreading across the country.

cannabis as a treatment for leukemia

Cannabis is Most Effective When Used with Chemotherapy

Research published in the International Journal of Oncology determined cannabis combined with traditional chemotherapy agents produced better results than cannabis alone.

The study discovered that exposing cancer cells to cannabis after chemotherapy was most effective at killing leukemia cells. The study specifically examined chemotherapy agents, cytarabine and vincristine.

The authors reported a synergistic effect between chemotherapy agents and the cannabinoids. This means the cannabis boosts the action of chemotherapy agents, allowing a lower amount of chemotherapy medications to be used, with the same success.

This study is promising, but we need to keep a few things in mind. This research was conducted in a lab dish, we don’t know if the process will be the same in the human body. Plus, more research is needed to understand the proper dosages, the best methods of administration, and exactly how the combination directly affects the human body. The study also specifies a highly concentrated form of cannabis was used, and smoking cannabis would not be an equivalent.

Research About the Cancer Fighting Properties of Cannabis

The National Institute of Health summarizes 13 different studies that show cannabis exhibits anti-tumor properties.This means cannabinoids cause cancer cells to die.

Dronabinol, the synthetic form of THC, has demonstrated anti-leukemia properties in the lab.

Research published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Research demonstrated THC causes cancer cells to die in living organisms.

Research published by the American Society of Hematology demonstrated THC causes leukemia cells to die while in living organisms.

Research published in the International Journal of Cancer Treatment and Research found SIX different cannabinoids have anti-cancer properties. This study also noted that these cannabinoids became more effective by interacting with each other.

Can cannabis help leukemia?

The Best Method of Cannabis Consumption for Leukemia Patients

Methods of consumption are usually recommended based on the symptoms the patient is attempting to relieve.

Smoking offers immediate relief of pain or nausea, whereas oral consumption takes approximately an hour.

However, when fighting cancer we strive for the most concentrated versions available. High levels of cannabinoids are required to fight cancer.

FECO, or fully extracted cannabis oil, is the most concentrated form of cannabis. Small amounts of FECO provide extremely concentrated levels of cannabinoids in a small dose. The most popular form of FECO is RSO, or Rick Simpson Oil.

(FECO is very easy to make if you have access to cannabis flower.)

READ: How to Use Cannabis: Methods of Consumption

 

The Symptoms of Leukemia

The symptoms of leukemia include:

  • Fevers or chills
  • Fatigue & weakness
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver, enlarged spleen
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Recurring nosebleeds
  • Petechiae – Pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • Excessive sweating and night sweats
  • Bone pain or tenderness

Cannabis is an excellent appetite stimulant and a powerful pain reliever.

Does marijuana help leukemia?

Traditional Treatments for Leukemia

  • Chemotherapy
  • Biological Therapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Stem Cell or Bone Marrow Transplant

Cannabis Helps Ease the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause nerve pain, nausea and vomiting, decimate the appetite, trigger anxiety, cause insomnia, and more.

Cannabis, however, can stimulate the appetite, ease nerve pain, relieve nausea and vomiting, soothe anxiety, help patients sleep better, and more. For these reasons, cannabis is an excellent medication to take in conjunction with chemotherapy.

READ: 10 Research-Backed Ways Cannabis Helps Fight Cancer

Cannabis Cautions & Contraindications

Like all medications, cannabis has side effects. Fortunately, the side effects of cannabis tend to be significantly less severe than other pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

Patients suffering from liver failure should not use cannabis as it’s processed by the liver.

In some cases, cannabis can act as an anticoagulant. This should be kept in mind when treating patients who are taking anticoagulants or are having issues with blood clotting.

 

Cannabis Can Interact with Medications

It doesn’t happen often, but marijuana can interact with prescription medications. This is related to the metabolic pathway cannabinoids utilize in the liver.

This article explains a lot more about how Cytochrome 450 works and what to watch for regarding drug interactions. Cannabis Drug Interactions: Weed & Zoloft

 

Meet Real Leukemia Patients Using Cannabis

Meet Bill Hopkins, a survivor of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and cannabis patient. Watch him share his story:

 

Meet Landon, an Acute Lymphatic Leukemia survivor and cannabis patient.

 

Full-Spectrum Cannabis Is Best for Leukemia

What is full-spectrum cannabis?

Full-spectrum cannabis oil is derived directly from the whole plant. This means the oil contains a variety of cannabinoids and other molecules. The cannabinoids, like THC or CBD, have not been isolated or separated from each other.

There are over 100 cannabinoids, and each of them has a different action on cells. Research published in the International Journal of Cancer Research studied SIX different cannabinoids and found that each cannabinoid fights leukemia cells. Even more interesting, this research found that these cannabinoids worked together to produce a stronger effect than on their own.

What Strains Are Best For Leukemia?

Every strain, or kind of cannabis, is very different.

Read: Understanding Strains: Why Every Kind of Cannabis is so Different 

High-THC strains are best for treating cancer.

Unfortunately, many states still prohibit high-THC strains and this is terribly unfortunate for millions of patients.

If you are unable to access THC, high-CBD strains or CBD oil (which can be ordered online, or purchased in many health stores) can benefit leukemia patients. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can help reduce anxiety.

READ: What are the Actual Benefits of CBD

Where Can You Get Medical Marijuana for Leukemia?

The following states have medical marijuana program that allows patients with leukemia to register and obtain cannabis. The types of products available vary from state-to-state.

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington DC
  • West Virginia

 

READ: How to Get Medical Marijuana in NJ.

 

Conclusion

Cannabis can help leukemia and in some cases, it seems nearly miraculous. However, traditional therapies should not be abandoned and cannabis should be used under the guidance of an experienced oncologist. High doses of THC, like in FECO, seem to produce the most powerful results, but even low doses of cannabinoids can help relieve many of the symptoms associated with leukemia and chemotherapy.


Written by Jessie Gill

Jessie Gill, RN is a cannabis nurse with a background in holistic health and hospice. After suffering a spinal injury, she reluctantly became a medical marijuana patient then quickly transitioned into an advocate. Her site, MarijuanaMommy.com combines science with personal insight to educate about medical marijuana. She’s been featured on Viceland and bylines include GoodHousekeeping, Cosmopolitan, MSN, and more.

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