CBD Oil For Cancer 2021 – Treatment, Benefit & Side Effects

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Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

cannabis oil for cancer

Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of many cannabinoids isolated from the cannabis sativa plant and one of two significant cannabinoids. The other primary cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is for users’ psychoactive high. CBD and THC may help nausea and vomiting, depression & insomnia and, neuropathy[1] all side-effects of cancer (CA), or cancer treatment. There is no data that cannabis oil for cancer is available.

Marijuana is the term we usually reserve for the cannabis plant that contains THC greater than 0.3%, the legal cut-off for tetrahydrocannabinol according to the legislature and the U.S. Farm Bill[2]. Hemp is the term we reserve for the cannabis plant that contains minimal legal amounts of THC and is high in CBD. 

Marijuana and hemp are not the same. Both plants come from cannabis strains, but one is higher in THC and the other higher in CBD. Surveys[3] among cancer survivors showed that 70% used marijuana for pain and anxiety symptoms resulting from their diagnosis. More recently[3], a CBD plus Laetrile combination was successfully tried in an ovarian CA patient. The therapeutic use of the cannabis plant can be traced back to 500 B.C

The use of CBD oil in concurrence with cancer can help to lessen and manage the symptoms caused by cancer treatment. Hence, we have featured the 3 best cannabis oil for cancer for cancer selections right here in this article.

best options CBD Oil on the market in (August. 2022)

Cannabis Oil for Cancer

It is difficult to determine if cannabis oil is beneficial for cancer or its symptoms because studies are mixed and difficult to find. We know that pain and anxiety are part of the cancer picture and CBD may help alleviate these symptoms. We also know that CBD may reduce nausea and vomiting, which may help with the anorexia seen in cancer patients. Topical CBD oil[1] has been shown to reduce neuropathy pain, a common side-effect of cancer treatment. Oral CBD is beneficial for insomnia, and sleep disorders are common in cancer[4] patients. Depression, a common mood malady of cancer-related to the diagnosis, the symptoms, and even the therapy may be treated with the use of CBD oil. CBD may affect mood and pain[5] via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of CBD for oral use, which has hindered the studies on this cannabinoid. Although CBD is legal to sell, it is not legal to orally ingest it[6] without going through a drug approval process, at least at this time. FDA is guilty of being tardy in their CBD recommendations saying that “more research is needed.” 

Top CBD Oil Benefits for Cancer

The following list contains the potential benefits of using CBD for cancer. CBD has the advantage of having few side-effects and already has one drug approved by the FDA, Epidiolex, a CBD oil isolate. CBD oils for cancer may have any of the following effects:

Lessen Anxiety and Sleeping Issues

A large case series of 72 patients was published in The Permanente Journal[6], showing a decrease in anxiety-related symptoms in 79% of the patients with sleep scores improving in 66% of the patients within one month of treatment with cannabidiol. CBD has an indirect effect on the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, preventing the breakdown of the body’s endocannabinoid anandamide, thus promoting relaxation. 

Slows Tumor Growth

Both CB1 and CB2 are expressed in cancer types. Overexpression of these two cannabinoid receptors has been related to a poor prognosis. Researchers found that CBD has potent anti-proliferative and pro-apoptosis effects. Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and in cancer, too little apoptosis occurs. CBD stimulates the death of cancer cells by promoting apoptosis.

Much of the anti-tumor activity revolves around the reactive oxygen species metabolism, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and inflammation. But, that is not the only mechanism of CBD might reduce tumor growth. In breast and prostate cancer, the ECS receptor GPR55 is over-expressed, and CBD plays a role in indirectly inhibiting it, thus slowing down the progression of the tumor.

Another example of ECS involvement is with prostate cancer. Experimental evidence shows[7] that prostate tissue possesses cannabinoid receptors and that their stimulation results in an anti-androgenic effect. Prostate cell cancers exhibit both cannabinoid receptors, and stimulation of these receptors results in decreased cell viability, increased apoptosis, and decreased androgen-receptor expression, and prostate-specific antigen excretion.

Furthermore, it has been suggested in a 2020 paper in Cancers[8] that CBD plays a role in cell cycle arrest, induction of cellular death of the tumor (apoptosis), inhibition of the formation of blood vessels, and inhibition of the migration, adhesion, invasion, and metastasis of cancer cells.

Appetite Stimulation 

Anorexia[9] can affect up to 90% of people with cancer. There are changes in taste, lack of hunger, nausea, or vomiting that lead to a general lack of food enjoyment. CBD increases the sense of wellbeing and may decrease nausea and vomiting, frequent side-effects of chemotherapy. With an increase in the sense of wellbeing and a decrease in nausea and vomiting, the appetite may return, and food may once again be enjoyed. 

Weight loss may occur as a result of an increase in inflammatory cytokines. CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory to decrease inflammation from the cytokines, thus preventing weight loss from this particular mechanism. 

It is medical marijuana that stimulates appetite[10] more than does CBD. Medical marijuana contains both THC & CBD. In fact, the FDA approved THC as a therapeutic agent[11] in treating HIV anorexia in the form of drugs called nabilone or drabinolol. THC’s effects on nausea and vomiting, pain, and anorexia are due to its binding firmly to the CB1 receptor in the ECS. However, there is a weak binding to the CB2 receptors located in the immune system.

Pain Relief

Researchers stated that CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory, thus decreasing pain caused by inflammation. It has also relieved neuropathic pain. Using hemp oil for decreasing these types of pain may be beneficial, whether from cancer or not.  Rugby players, for example[12] were interviewed about their use of CBD for pain relief, and 80% of 172 respondents reported that it relieved their pain. Studies exist for the role CBD plays in pain relief for other conditions, but not for cancer, at least, not without THC. 

Patients who have poor pain management or who respond poorly to opioid medications need alternative treatments. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis may play a role in pain[13] modulation of cancer using various doses of THC and CBD. Still, more clinical trials need conducting to get the amount correct and to determine efficacy. Doses used in collective studies reviewed ranged from 2.7 mg – 47.2 mg THC and 0-40 mg CBD. Clinical trials have been sparse due to THC’s psychoactive effects and some of the negative psychiatric side-effects. It might be worth mentioning that CBD is non-psychoactive.

Nausea Relief

When CBD was administered to animals at a dose of 5mg/kg, nausea was reduced[14], and the effect was maintained at seven days. A 2016 study showed that Sativex, a mixture of THC and CBD, reduced nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy. The activation of serotonin receptors may mediate the anti-nausea effect of CBD[15]. Preclinical work suggests that CBD products may benefit chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting through activation of these receptors. 

All studies on cannabinoids and nausea have used oral products[15] that may be less effective than inhaled or sublingual forms of cannabinoids. Therefore, the mode of delivery has potential effectiveness properties. Many marijuana users have claimed that the smoked form of cannabis is far more effective than oral doses of CBD or cannabinoids. Several reasons have been proposed for this preference: 

  • Ability to self-titrate dose; 
  • Difficulty in swallowing pills when suffering from nausea and vomiting;
  • Faster speed of onset of effects;
  • A combination of actions of the other cannabinoids has an entourage effect. 

No controlled studies have addressed these theories, and none have focused solely on CBD without THC’s concomitant use.

Types of CBD For Cancer

CBD products for the treatment of the symptoms of cancer have not receive approval from the FDA. However, this does not prevent a curious and sometimes desperate public from using products that may potentially benefit them yet cause few, if any, side-effects. While CBD products cannot cure cancer, many studies have pointed to their usefulness in treating the symptoms resulting from a cancer diagnosis


Cannabis oil for cancer may function more effectively if they are full-spectrum CBD as opposed to broad-spectrum or isolates. CBD oil that is full-spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids from the original plant and is most suitable for cancer patients’ needs. The best CBD oils are those extracted from agricultural hemp in an organic, pesticide-free environment. 

cannabis oil for cancer

Many people prefer taking their CBD oil in the form of a CBD tincture, which is extracts of hemp (in liquid form) combined with a mixture of alcohol, glycerin, or the essential oils cinnamon or peppermint. Tinctures have a high bioavailability and absorb quickly when you put under the tongue and holding it there for 30-60 seconds for absorption into the bloodstream. Other medicinal essential oils may add to hemp-based tinctures such as basil or lavender. CBD tincture products also use alcohol for a base instead of oils that may use extra virgin olive oil or Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) derived from coconut oil. 

CBD oils come in dosage forms from 250 -3500 mg. Per 30 ml bottle. Doses vary depending on the amount in the dropper. A 1500 mg per bottle of CBD oil will contain 50 mg per 1 ml serving from a 30 ml bottle. 

CBD Capsules 

CBD products may include capsules, which are essentially CBD oil in capsule form. You can easily take the capsules without worrying about flavors or taste. Cannabis capsules are usually made from a bovine based gelatin, although many companies offer a vegan, plant-based capsule. 

Capsules may also contain other ingredients such as melatonin or minor cannabinoids to boost intended therapeutic effects. 

Capsules contain a specified dosage without a need to measure out your dose. The CBD  dose is usually 10-25 mg. per capsule. Storage of capsules is easy, no refrigeration necessary, and it is compatible with a vitamin regimen. 

CBD Topicals 

CBD products include topical balms, creams, and lotions that can be applied to the skin. It appears that the primary physiological function[16] of the skin’s ECS is to control the proper and balanced growth, differentiation, and survival, as well as immune competence of cutaneous cells.  

Accumulating recent evidence[16] suggests that skin tumors express the CB1 and CB2 receptors and that local administration of cannabinoids in animal models suppress the growth of malignant skin tumors. 

The best CBD for cancer would be the hemp-based full-spectrum topicals. Just as in the oil products, you can buy broad-spectrum or isolate topicals. However, full-spectrum remains the best topical CBD oil for cancer patients.

Using CBD oil on the skin bypasses the bloodstream, so there is no danger of failing a drug test.

CBD Vape

CBD products may include vape oils which are inhaled into the lungs with a special vape pen which heats the oil into vapor. The vapor is breathed into the lungs and gets into the bloodstream reaching peak concentrations in about three minutes. Vape oils may be combined with essential oils which are best avoided. 

CBD Oil Cancer Research

In cancer patients, cannabinoids have been administered primarily as palliative care. CBD for cancer treatment has few to no studies to refer to in humans. Much of the research into cancer and cannabinoids have included animals. Research on animals shows positive benefits for cannabinoid therapy, and research into CBD for cancer is expanding. The best CBD oils have yet to be identified for cancer patients, but research hints at the full-spectrum CBD oils. 

Research[17] has shown that cannabinoids may stop the malignant cells from dividing and may interfere with their blood supply. Studies also show that cannabinoids may stimulate the immune system to attack tumors and destroy them. Taking CBD may potentially control the resistance cancer develops towards chemotherapy. The effects of it on cancer are encouraging enough to continue researching the use of CBD products in cancer treatment. 

Does Cannabis Kill Cancer Cells?

A 2011 study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics[18] showed how cannabis-induced programmed cell death occurs in breast cancer tissues through autophagy and apoptosis. Apoptosis, if you recall, is programmed cell death, and autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out dead, damaged cells to make room for new ones.

Resecannabis oil for cancerarch[18] shows us that CBD has antineoplastic properties. So, cannabis has been responsible for the death of certain cancers within the animal model in the lab. The exact mechanisms are unknown, and further study is warranted.

CBD Oil for Cancer Treatment

The effects of CBD are varied and compatible with what is necessary to achieve a higher quality of life in a patient. Especially with the use of full-spectrum CBD, one might expect a regression of many of the bothersome symptoms associated with a cancer diagnosis. And, while human research is lacking, the effects of CBD might even arrest the growth of cancerous tumors.

Which CBD Oil is Best for Cancer

Based on study results, it would seem that the best CBD oil products for cancer would be full-spectrum. Full-spectrum CBD products would contain trace amounts of THC to engage the full entourage effect. In contrast, broad-spectrum oils may be high quality but have no THC in them. Non-GMO, organic hemp extract made in the United States is the best CBD product to take. Start with a product that has a low amount of CBD per mg. You’ll find that “sweet spot” that is effective for you. Remember that the amount of CBD per day you take is cumulative, and it may take a while for the full effects to kick in. 

Good high-quality CBD products will be lab-tested and contain less than 0.03% THC. They will also include a Certificate of Analysis issued by a third-party lab to verify that the products are free from solvents, pesticides, mold growth, and heavy metals. The Certificate should also give a cannabinoid and terpene profile to complete the ingredient picture. Third-party labs are an indicator of quality assurance on the company’s part since in-house lab reports can be prone to error or manipulation. The lab’s name that processed the CBD product’s results will be on the Certificate of Analysis. It should be different from the company’s name, indicating that a third-party lab ran the quality assurance report.

Where to Buy CBD Oil for Cancer

You can purchase CBD oil almost anywhere in the United States. You can purchase it at dispensaries, recreational marijuana stores, pharmacies, and even in some gas stations. But if you want a high-quality hemp product, you will probably shop online where the choices are many, and the quality is often high.

How to Use CBD Oil for Cancer

The use of cannabis products for cancer is limited to what you can get legally. CBD oil from active hemp extract is legal in all 50 states. To use CBD oil for cancer, you want to start low and go slow. You also want to inform other health care professionals involved in your care that you are using CBD due to potential drug interactions.  

 You want to match your product to your symptoms. For example, if you are having pain, you can use an oral and a topical combination to get the most relief. If you experience nausea and vomiting, you probably will want to inhale your CBD rather than put it through your digestive system. If you don’t like the taste of oils or tinctures, use a capsule instead. Want to relax and let the stress of knowing you have cancer go away? Try a CBD bath bomb. Whatever your symptoms are, there are CBD products that might help you.


While the use of CBD in cancer is exciting, we still have many studies to conduct. We must move from animal studies to human studies to better understand the mechanisms involved in cannabis and CBD modulation of cancer growth and control of symptoms, especially symptoms related to chemotherapy and pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best CBD oil for cancer?

An organic, hemp-based, pesticide-free full-spectrum oil.

What is the difference between marijuana and hemp?

Marijuana is high in psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol and hemp is high in non-psychoactive cannabidiol.

+ 18 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Xu, D.H., Cullen, B.D., Tang, M. and Fang, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 21(5), 390–402. Available from: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cpb/2020/00000021/00000005/art00007.
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  6. Office of the Commissioner (2020). What to Know About Products Containing Cannabis and CBD. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis.
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Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler has been a Registered Dietitian for over 25 years and currently runs her own Telehealth Clinic while freelance writing in her spare time. She graduated with a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from Michigan State University and has a plethora of experience in both clinical nutrition as well as public health. She has been deemed a trailblazer in her profession and continues to strive for excellence in public health education in integrative medicine and in her professional writing career.

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