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CBD Oil for Lung Cancer Symptoms: Can It Help? Are There Risks?

Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on April 15, 2024

Cannabidiol (CBD) is not an approved treatment for cancer. However, some people may find that it helps them manage lung cancer symptoms or side effects they experience from lung cancer treatment.

While CBD is popular in some circles as a natural way to manage certain cancer symptoms, including weight loss, sleep problems, and anxiety, it’s important that you look into it before you take it. When you understand the risks and limitations, you can make an informed choice about whether CBD is right for you.

Here’s what you should know about CBD oil and lung cancer.

What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol is a primary active compound naturally found in the cannabis plant, also known as hemp or marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is responsible for the high associated with marijuana use. CBD, however, doesn’t have psychoactive effects but is still an active ingredient. Instead, it acts on the central nervous system and immune system, potentially improving quality of life for some people while they’re taking lung cancer drugs.

CBD oil is found in various forms, including:

  • Liquid for vaping
  • Topical skin creams
  • Sublingual (under-the-tongue) drops
  • Teas and other beverages
  • Supplements
  • Food products (sometimes called edibles), including baked goods and candies

State laws vary regarding the specific types of CBD products available either over the counter or with a prescription, for medical use or otherwise. Your health care provider can provide updates on the legality of CBD in your state, along with advice on transporting it if you’re traveling.

Can CBD Help Reduce Lung Cancer Symptoms?

Many people experience symptoms like nausea and vomiting, trouble sleeping, unwanted weight loss, and pain when they have lung cancer, due to either the cancer itself or its treatment. Lung cancer can affect well-being in a number of ways, and CBD may help some people manage these symptoms to balance their lung cancer treatment with quality of life.

Nausea and Vomiting

Many people experience nausea and vomiting as side effects of cancer treatments. Some antinausea drugs are actually synthetic cannabinoids, or medications related to CBD that are made in a lab. However, these products haven’t proved to be better than other antinausea medications.

This will be a common refrain as you read about research on CBD and lung cancer: More studies are needed to show whether CBD itself helps nausea and, if it does, to determine dosage, frequency, and other details.

Sleep

Sometimes, people with lung cancer struggle to sleep. This can happen because of discomfort from cancer or treatments or be caused by cancer-related anxiety.

One review of studies indicated that CBD may help people sleep better in general, though it didn’t specifically refer to people with cancer. CBD may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, with fewer disturbances. Additional research is necessary to know for sure how CBD affects sleep and understand its specific effects on people with lung cancer.

Weight Loss

One possible effect of lung cancer or its treatment is loss of appetite and related unwanted weight loss. Since many people believe that marijuana gives them the munchies and makes them eat more, some believe they can use CBD the same way.

However, the opposite may be true. One 2022 review of 11 studies suggested that CBD may actually cause weight loss rather than weight gain. The review authors cautioned that the results may be biased, and more research is needed.

Pain

Some people also report that CBD, in various forms, helps them deal with cancer pain. On MyLungCancerTeam, members report using it this way. Among their comments:

  • “Things like CBD ointment provide some relief.”
  • “The pain in your leg doesn’t sound pleasant. I wonder if CBD ointment could help. I swear by it.”
  • “I use CBD salve on my knee and back, and it helps for a couple of hours and then needs reapplication.”

CBD is promising when it comes to helping manage pain, particularly nerve pain and pain in the gastrointestinal tract. It may be useful if you’re experiencing these kinds of pain during your lung cancer journey. Another 2022 analysis of 12 studies indicated that CBD may be helpful for dealing with multiple types of chronic pain. However, the authors concluded that more research must be done.

Does CBD Treat Lung Cancer?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD as a treatment for lung cancer. However, some promising early findings — using mouse models or lung cancer cells grown in the lab — suggest that CBD might be developed for use alongside traditional cancer treatments.

A 2022 review of nine studies using lab-grown lung cancer cells showed encouraging results when it comes to CBD and the destruction of cancer cells. This study was limited by the fact that the results weren’t replicated in animal or human subjects.

When it comes to lung cancer specifically, another lab-based study showed that CBD may help shorten the lifespan of lung cancer cells and cause cell death. Again, these results haven’t been replicated in people.

A 2023 study tested inhaled CBD (not CBD oil) on lung cancer cells and found that it slowed or stopped the growth of some types. Once more, this study was performed only using mice in a lab.

Although CBD may someday be used as a cancer treatment or complementary therapy, more research and human clinical trials are essential to find out whether it’s safe and effective, how best it should be used, and who might benefit from using it.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects of CBD?

Over-the-counter CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means the agency hasn’t evaluated them for treatment effectiveness, proper dosage, side effects, or other safety concerns. As with dietary supplements, there are no safeguards to ensure that a given CBD product contains the advertised amount of CBD or doesn’t have unsafe levels of contaminants like pesticides or heavy metals.

Just because cannabis oil is considered a “natural product” doesn’t mean it can’t cause negative effects. For some people, the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids may include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Slow digestion

It’s also worth noting that smoking and vaping come with health risks. If you’d like to try CBD oil, you may want to start with a topical cream or another method that isn’t inhaled. Always pay attention to how your body feels after starting a new product, and watch for unwanted effects.

Where Can You Find CBD Oil?

Before purchasing CBD products in-store or online, talk to your health care provider. Your oncologist or related health professional can help you understand the laws in your state and let you know if CBD oil may interact with your current treatments or medications.

Speaking with your oncology team about your interest in CBD can open up a conversation about your symptoms and concerns. If CBD oil isn’t the best option, your provider may prescribe something more effective or refer you to other specialists, like dietitians and physical therapists. Palliative care can help at any stage of lung cancer, so you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for more resources to support your well-being.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyLungCancerTeam — the social network for people with lung cancer and their loved ones — more than 12,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lung cancer.

Are you wondering if CBD would be a good idea for you on your lung cancer journey? Have you talked with your doctor about using CBD to ease your lung cancer symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on April 15, 2024
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    Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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