Cannabis Oil for Cancer Treatment in India

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Cancer Today

Cancer is a word that can send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Known for its high death rate and debilitating nature, cancer is a disease that has a very uncertain progression. Different methods of treatments have been introduced from every corner of the world, however allopathic medicine, which is what’s commonly known as western medicine, dominates the field of cancer treatment as of today. Scientists all over the world have come up with a plethora of anti-cancer medication known as chemotherapy (due to the use of chemicals) that target cancer cells in many ways. Surgical removal of a tumor is performed on certain cases depending on the size and extent of cancer spread. Radiotherapy is another method of treatment done in specific cases of cancer.

Complementary & Alternative Treatment

Alternative cancer treatment may not play a direct role in curing your cancer, but they play a role in helping you cope up with the signs and symptoms caused by cancer and anti-cancer treatment. Cancer & and anti-cancer medication can cause many undesirable side effects that can further aggravate the condition and the quality of life of the cancer patient. Some of the common side effects are anxiety, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, sleeplessness and stress.

Some of the alternative treatments currently practiced as complementary and alternative treatment are;

1.      Acupuncture

2.      Aromatherapy

3.      Exercise

4.      Hypnosis

5.      Massage

6.      Meditation

7.      Relaxation techniques

8.      Yoga

It is important to remember that the research performed on the curative effects of alternative treatment in curing cancer wasn’t able to prove anything substantial enough to consider them as a treatment to cure cancer. However, they have been proven to reduce the undesirable side effects of cancer and its treatment. It should be noted that anyone wishing to try alternative treatment for cancer should consult their oncologist first.

Legalizing Cannabis Use in India

Cannabis has been a part of Indian Culture since the Vedic times and played a role in Ayurveda.

In 1984, it was classified as a Class-A drug categorizing it with cocaine and heroin.

Currently, a few countries in the world have legalized the use of Cannabis. For example – Jamaica, Netherlands, Uruguay and a few states of the United States.

We are encouraging cultivation of tobacco that causes various types of cancer. At the other end, we are ignoring the medicinal properties of a plant that can help cancer patients. We are not even able to take up research as procurement of the plant is illegal in India, whereas oncologists in 21 states of the US are prescribing derivatives of cannabis for cancer treatment,” Dr Vishal Rao, who is one of the leading oncologist in India according to ClinicSpots, told The Times Of India.

Efforts to legalize cannabis in India were made in the last few years.

Of note;

•   In 2015, Medical Marijuana Conferences were held in Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi by the Great Legalisation Movement of India.

•   In July 2017, Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi suggested the legalization of medical marijuana because it would reduce drug abuse and aid cancer patients.

•   About a week after the minister’s statement, the Union Government issued the first-ever license to grow cannabis for research purposes to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in collaboration with the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).

•   In February 2018, the Prime Minister’s Office sent a notification to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare directing the ministry to examine the potential benefits associated with cannabis after a letter was penned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Viki Vaurora, the founder of the Great Legalisation Movement India.

•   In July 2019, the Delhi High Court agreed to hear a petition filed by the Great Legalization Movement Trust challenging the ban on Cannabis.

Medical Research in India so far

Cannabis leaves have been found effective in alleviating pain and other symptoms in cancer patients post-chemotherapy and radiotherapy, according to research conducted by the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) in collaboration with Gujarat Ayurved University. (25 November 2018)

Cannabinoids in Cancer Treatment

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive agent that gives you a sense of ‘high’ and Cannabidiol (CBD), which is thought to have anti-anxiety effects are few of the many examples of Cannabinoids.

Cannabis cure cancer India

Cannabinoids interact with different types of receptors in the human body. Two such receptors are the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. CB1 receptors are mainly located in the CNS, leading to the psychoactive effects Cannabis is popular for, whereas CB2 receptors are located on the surfaces of immune cells, making them a promising Pharmaceutical target due to its lesser association with mental functions.

However, it is important to understand that the effects of cannabinoids are largely dependent on the cancer type and the drug dose.

Anti-Cancer Effects of Cannabinoids

The role of Cannabinoids in the curing of cancer isn’t completely clear. However, it is believed that CB receptors and ligands are increased in number in tumor tissues. This overexpression of CB components has been associated with the aggressiveness of cancer cells. Although in some cases a tumor-suppressive role was observed.

So, by targeting the cannabinoid receptors, ligands, and other components, Cannabinoids affect many essential cellular processes and signaling pathways that are crucial for tumor development. For example, it can inhibit the multiplication, cause tumor cell death and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

It is important to note that the use of cannabinoids should always be done with prior consultation of a medical expert.

Cannabinoids as Complementary Medication

CBD (Cannabidiol) is the cannabinoid that has shown promise in the field of cancer treatment, and its effects are to reduce the unfavorable side effects of cancer treatment.

Cannabinoids may help cancer patients by

1.     Pain relief – pain in a cancer patient can be due to inflammation, pressure on internal organs or nerve injury. Pain can sometimes be resistant to opioids (morphine) in very severe cases. CBD and THC can act on CB2 and CB1 receptors respectfully to reduce the pain associated.

2.     Nausea and Vomiting – Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy.

3.     Increasing appetite – Weight loss during cancer treatment can be managed by increasing the appetite.

4.     Anxiety

Some of the synthetic cannabinoids used as complementary medication are dronabinol and nabilone, which are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of treatment-induced nausea and vomiting.

The Controversy & Adverse Effects

The controversy of using Cannabinoids rotates around the fact that it is considered a drug of abuse and therefore illegal in most countries around the world including India.

Cannabis has been used in India since as early as 2000BC. Different preparations of Cannabis include Charas(resin), ganjalmaalldum(flower) and bhang (seeds and leaves)

Although Cannabinoids are considered to be an addictive drug, its addictive potential is much lower than other substances of abuse. However, the brain does develop a tolerance to it.

Cannabinoid receptors are not located in the Brainstem which is the part of the brain responsible for the control of respiration, and therefore lethal overdoses from Cannabis do not occur.

The Adverse effects observed after the use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids include tachycardia, hypotension, conjunctival injection, broncho-dilation, muscle relaxation, and decreased gastrointestinal motility.