Those undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer can experience uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating side effects. Chemotherapy – or “chemo” — is a category of intravenously administered medicines or drugs that are designed to attack rapidly growing cancer cells. The drugs are very strong, and they kill any cell growing fast, even healthy ones. This can lead to side effects like nausea and vomiting, hair loss, pain, swelling in the hands and feet, sore mouth, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, memory changes, fertility problems, emotional changes, and fatigue. Studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD), a natural cannabinoid derived from cannabis plants like hemp, may be able to help patients manage the more difficult to control side effects of chemotherapy.
Here’s a look at how CBD may be able to complement chemotherapy treatments:
1. Reduce Nausea and Vomiting
Several studies have found evidence that CBD has anti-nausea and anti-emetic effects that may make chemotherapy treatments more comfortable for patients. CBD suppresses nausea and vomiting likely through indirect activation of somatodendritic 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus, studies suggest.
One research review concluded: “Preclinical research indicates that cannabinoids, including CBD, may be effective clinically for treating both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy or other therapeutic treatments.”
You can learn more about how cannabinoids like CBD regulate nausea here.
2. Reduce Neuropathic Pain
CBD may also be beneficial for reducing chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. One study found that CBD prevents the neuropathic pain and thermal sensitivity without negatively affecting nervous system function or the efficacy of the chemotherapy treatment. Earlier this year, investigators found evidence that cannabinoids may ease nerve pain. Researchers believe these pain-relieving effects of CBD are also associated with the compound’s influence on 5-HT1A receptors.
In a clinical trial, cancer patients with intractable pain saw significant reductions in pain after just two weeks of treatments containing CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
You can learn more about how CBD can potentially help reduce pain here.
3. Reduce Swelling
CBD has shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that may prove to be beneficial for managing the swelling of the hands and feet that some patients experience while undergoing chemotherapy. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system’s CB2 receptors, CBD suppresses the inflammatory response through multiple mechanisms. In one animal study, CBD effectively reduced edema in inflamed paw tissue.
You can learn more about how cannabinoids like CBD reduce inflammation here.
4. Control Appetite to Prevent Weight Loss
While the cannabinoid THC is better known for its appetite-promoting capabilities, CBD’s influence on the body’s endocannabinoid system may also help manage appetite. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for balancing many of our systems, including the regulation of food intake. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors to potentially help it better regulate appetite and eating motivation.
5. Promote Emotional Health
Taking CBD while undergoing chemotherapy may potentially help patients modulate feelings of depression and anxiety. Depression has been associated with a dysfunction in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating mood. Studies have confirmed that CBD’s influence on the endocannabinoid system and 5-HT1A receptors elicits antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, so it won’t ever cause a high. You can learn more about the compound and the research investigating its therapeutic potential by visiting our education page.