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Cannabis and Cancer – Proven Treatment Options

In flow of the past years, we have seen mainstream media focus on cannabis shift away from counterculture stereotypes as we hear more and more remarkable success stories regarding the medicinal value of the plant. Beyond being a proven treatment for epilepsy, pain, glaucoma, and more, cannabis has shown tremendous promise in the field of cancer treatment. While some are still skeptical of cannabis’ ability to shrink tumors and manage other forms of cancer, research on the subject is building quickly and we are seeing many patients use the treatment with great success.
We’ve complied a list of 10 recently published medical studies to give you an idea of some of the research that’s being done, and where it’s heading. Each study focuses on attempted medical cannabis treatments for different types of cancer. Take a look at the list below to discover some of the fascinating and promising research that is being done today. By the time you get to the end of this article, you may be wondering why on earth these treatments haven’t been approved for further clinical trials.

  • The Journal of Neuroscience (http://www.jneurosci.org/content/21/17/6475.abstract) recently published a study that evaluated attempts to use THC (the main active compound in cannabis) to reduce the onset of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Using MRI technology, the researchers determined that the introduction of THC significantly lowered the onset of symptoms. More research in this field could lead to exciting new treatments for neurological diseases.

  • The British Journal of Cancer (http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v95/n2/abs/6603236a.html) published a study conducted by the Molecular Biology department at Complutense University in Madrid, whose goal was to determine if THC could inhibit tumor growth. In this clinical trial, humans with cancer were administered THC treatments and monitored for reduction in tumor size. The doctors later claimed that the THC was administered safely and with no psychoactive effects, and actually did reduce tumor size in some of the patients.

  • The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therepeutics published a study whose results determined that THC and CBD (cannabidiol) dramatically reduced breast cancer cell growth. This further confirms the potential effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for breast cancer.

  • The US National Library of Medicine (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22594963) published yet another study which essentially claimed that clinical testing of CBD products against prostate carcinoma (cancer) is a must. They determined it to be exceptionally effective, thus urging further clinical trials.

  • The American Journal of Cancer (http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/13/6748.abstract) published a study determining that cannabinoid receptors are expressed in pancreatic tumor cell lines at much higher levels than normal pancreatic tissue. Results showed that administering cannabinoids induced apoptosis, as well as reduction of growth, and decrease in spread of the tumor cells.

  • The US National Library of Medicine (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16908594) published a study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University which determined that cannabinoids induce apoptosis in Leukemia cells.

  • The US National Library of Medicine (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20516734) published a study whose results show cannabinoids are potent inhibitors of cellular respiration and are toxic to malignant oral tumors (mouth cancer).

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Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid

One of the very first and most common questions asked by new marijuana consumers is, “What’s the difference between indica and sativa plants?” Throw a third option in to the mix - hybrid - and even veteran connoisseurs get confused by this classification system.

With literally thousands of different cannabis plants being bred, it’s easiest for breeders and consumers to classify the varieties as either an indica or sativa strain. The hybrid category was adopted later as growers began crossbreeding and mixing genetics from different cannabis plants. Today, many consumers base their entire marijuana purchase solely on a strain’s classification.

The most distinguishing characteristics of indica and sativa plants include geographical origin, morphology, flowering time, yield, flavor, and effect.

Geographical Origin

 Indica - Believed to derive from the Hindu Kush nations of the Middle East, indica plants can be found around regions known for their hash culture like Afghanistan, Turkey, and Morocco. They thrive in cooler environments.

Sativa - More of an equatorial plant, sativa plants flourish amidst more variable and warmer weather patterns of countries such as Columbia, Mexico, Thailand, and Southeast Asia.

Morphology

Indica - Great for indoor growing as these bushy plants are typically short and wide. The dark green leaves are broad and covered in heavy coats of resin.

Sativa - Growing up to extraordinary heights of 20 feet or more, sativas are best suited for outdoor gardens. These tall and thin plants are generally a lighter shade of green.

Flowering Time

Indica - With a relatively short growth cycle, indica’s thick and dense buds generally flower between 8 and 12 weeks.

Sativa - Known to have much longer vegetation periods, sativa plants can take anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks to fully mature.

Yield

Indica - These strains typically yield fewer (1.5 to 2.5 ounces per plant) crops of higher quality (~18% THC).

Sativa - Due to their long growth cycle, sativa strains yield much more product (3 ounces to 1 pound per plant). However, these strains possess lower levels of THC (~10-25%).

Smell and Flavor

Indica - The buds of Cannibis Indica have a distinct sweet and sour odor, ranging in flavor from bitter to sugary and fruity.

Sativa - Known for being quite pungent, sativa strains offer sweet aromas with earthy undertones of pepper and even ammonia.

Effect and High

Indica - These strains tend to be more sedating and relaxing, offering a full-body high. Therefore, most prefer indica strains for nighttime use and to treat insomnia and anxiety. Indica strains also tend to have the strongest analgesic effect so are typically chosen to battle chronic pain and muscle spasms.

Sativa - Considered more for daytime use, sativa strains produce an energized, cerebral high. Due to its uplifting and euphoric effect, sativas are chosen to treat ailments such as fatigue, depression, and other mood disorders.

Along with pure indica and sativa strains, there are a myriad of other strains most commonly referred to as hybrids. By combining and crossbreeding different indica and sativa plants, the resulting hybrid will grow, mature, and smoke in relationship to the genetic traits in its lineage.

There are 3 basic hybrid categories:

Indica-dominant

In most cases, these strains are best reserved for nighttime dosing, but some strains also offer more active highs, great for mood elevation.  These hybrids produce a relaxing, full-body high while also providing ocular effects and mental relaxation. Those with autoimmune diseases prefer indica-dominant hybrids.

These hybrids offer the robust cerebral high as is customary in sativa strains, but are bred with the shorter flowering time and heavier yields of indica plants. Since these strains typically contain smaller amounts of THC, they are perfect for daytime use.

Even Hybrids (50/50)

Individuals seeking the optimal balance of effects, 50/50 hybrid strains accomplish just that. They offer the perfect combination of both mind and body relief.

Cannabis is a complex plant, offering an array of benefits to its consumers. The combinations of strains are endless as are the medical utility, effect, and potency of every strain.

As breeders continue to develop new strains of cannabis plants, it’s important to note that not every strain is going to affect every consumer in the same way. Individuals who dose more regularly will obviously have a higher tolerance than individuals who dose less frequently. Additionally, delivery methods can also affect the reaction consumers have to the same exact strain.  Consumers are encouraged to take care when selecting strains and dosages as to reduce the risk of potential side effects and costs.

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Choosing The Right Strain For You

For cannabis newbies, finding the right strain of marijuana can be an overwhelming task. Even veteran connoisseurs can be confounded by the availability of options on the market.  But an endless list of strain options is necessary to fulfill the endless needs of the thousands of consumers looking to treat medical conditions or elicit a great high.

 So with the myriad of choices, how do you choose a strain most suitable for you? Gaining a basic understanding of the two main types of cannabis is a great place to start.

 Stains can derive from two different types of plants—cannabis sativa or cannabis indica. Each plant offers unique properties and payoffs. Commonly, sativa strains contain higher amounts of THC which gives marijuana its psychoactive effects. Promoting more of a cerebral high, sativa strains are generally chosen for daytime use as their effects are found to increase energy, focus, alertness, and creativity. But while sativa strains are great mood enhancers, leaving you feeling uplifted, they’re not quite as potent and may not be the best therapeutic treatment for medical conditions and body pains.

Indica strains, on the other hand, tend to have the opposite effect and can cause drowsiness but are great as an overall pain killer, anti-nausea, and even anti-convulsant. Indica strains contain high levels of THC but also increased levels of CBDs. CBDs are non-psychoactive and can moderate the effects of THC. Indica strains are great for nighttime use since they provide a strong body high, inducing relaxation and sleep.

 If you’re looking for more of a balance of effects, there’s actually a third option—hybrids. Out of the thousands of hybrids, typically they’re either sativa-dominant or indica-dominant with a few even blends in between. The goal of hybrids is to enhance the desired effects of one strain while minimizing unwanted effects of the other. Want the pain fighting powers of an indica but without the lethargic couch-lock? Need the alertness and focus proffered by sativas in addition to an anti-inflammatory? Hybrids can offer the best of both worlds.

Even with this short list of claimed attributes and effects, you can only estimate how your body will react to a strain. You won’t know the specific effects any strain will have on you until you try it. And while knowing what meets your demands for your recreational purposes doesn’t necessarily mean the same strain will be appropriate for treating your medical needs. It’s going to be a trial and error process and the foremost important questions you need to address are:

If using recreationally, what type of high are you looking for, body or head?

  • If treating medical conditions, what are your symptoms?

 Knowing the difference between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains can shorten your search, but a great marijuana provider can also point you in the right direction. Depending on a strain’s potency and your tolerance, a good “budtender” can also offer dosage advice.

 Keep in mind each individual reacts differently to marijuana. Delivery methods can also affect your reaction. Take care when selecting strains and dosages as to reduce the risk of potential negative side-effects.