Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the United States. Each year, more than 225,000 people receive a diagnosis of lung cancer.

While it’s typically treated with chemotherapy and other targeted therapies, newer research is examining whether cannabis oil could be used in the treatment of lung cancer.

Several small, limited studies suggest it may help stop cancer growth. Meanwhile, the oil is already being used to manage cancer symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatments.

Read on to learn more about what cannabis oil can and can’t do when it comes to lung cancer.

Before getting into the specific benefits of cannabis oil, it’s important to understand the different types of cannabis oil that are available.

Cannabis and hemp plants contain different cannabinoids. These are chemical components that have some effect on you when consumed.

The two most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Most tinctures, oils, and cannabis products today contain some ratio of THC and CBD.

THC is the one that produces the “high” most people associate with cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, is typically used for therapeutic purposes.

Cannabis oils 101

The main types of cannabis oil include:

  • CBD oil. This is a nonpsychoactive cannabis product. It doesn’t contain THC, so it won’t produce a “high.” CBD oil is prized for its therapeutic effects, including easing anxiety, pain, and side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Hemp-derived oil. Hemp is very similar to the cannabis plant, but it doesn’t have any THC. It can contain CBD, but its quality is usually considered inferior. Still, hemp-derived oil can be a good option if you live in an area that hasn’t legalized cannabis.
  • Marijuana-derived oil. Cannabis oil extracted from the same plant as dried marijuana leaves and buds has a higher ratio of THC. As a result, it has psychoactive effects.
  • Rick Simpson oil (RSO). RSO contains high levels of THC with little to no CBD.

When choosing a cannabis oil, make sure to carefully look at the label so you know what ratio of THC to CBD you’re getting.

Experts don’t have a definitive answer, but they’ve found some promising evidence over that last few decades.

For example, a 1975 study reported that THC and another cannabinoid called cannabinol (CBN) slowed the growth of lung cancer in mice.

More recently, a 2014 study found that THC and CBD may help prime cancer cells to respond better to radiation therapy. However, this study was performed in cells, not in animals or humans.

There’s also a 2019 case report about a man who had lung cancer and declined conventional cancer treatment in favor of using CBD oil. His tumor appeared to respond to this alternative treatment.

However, this wasn’t a formal study involving controlled human clinical trials to test safety and efficacy. Many other factors may have played a role in the man’s results. Plus, these results haven’t been replicated in any kind of large-scale study.

Still, other research suggests cannabinoids may have a negative impact on cancer. In a 2004 study, THC actually increased how quickly certain lung and brain cancer cells grew.

the verdict

So far, there’s not enough evidence to say whether cannabis oil has the potential to cure cancer. Larger, long-term studies in humans are needed to determine whether it works and, if it does, how to use it safely and effectively.

While there’s not enough evidence to suggest that cannabis oil can cure cancer, it may offer relief from a range of lung cancer symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • headaches
  • nerve pain

Cannabis oil, including THC and CBD products, might also help manage the side effects of conventional cancer treatments, such as:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • pain
  • reduced appetite
  • fatigue

In 2018, the United States removed hemp from its list of controlled substances.

This means that hemp-derived oils, which don’t contain THC but offer modest amounts of CBD, are more widely available. But not all states have updated their laws to reflect this federal change.

Marijuana-derived cannabis oil, on the other hand, is still illegal on a federal level. Some states have legalized or decriminalized it. In these states, you can find different types of cannabis oil at dispensaries, which are shops that sell cannabis products.

You can find detailed information about state laws here.

You can also talk with your doctor about dronabinol (Marinol). This pharmaceutical-grade THC medicine is often prescribed to help people manage chemotherapy side effects. It’s legal in the United States, even where marijuana is not.

Cannabis oils are sold as concentrated liquid extracts. The chemicals and ratios of each cannabis oil vary. If you buy from a reputable seller, the ratios should be listed on the bottle.

You can apply drops of the oil to the tongue and swallow. The oil may taste bitter. You can mask the flavor by adding it to a tea or other beverage.

Some cannabis oils can be vaped, but this can irritate your lungs. Plus, experts still aren’t sure about the long-term effects of vaping. Generally, vaping cannabis oil isn’t recommended if you have lung cancer.

Cannabis oils are generally deemed safe, but they can cause some side effects of their own, especially those derived from marijuana.

The THC in marijuana-derived cannabis oil will produce a psychoactive response. This is the “high” that’s commonly associated with marijuana use.

In addition, this type of cannabis oil may cause psychological side effects, such as:

  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • disorientation
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • irritability

Physical side effects are possible with THC products. They include:

  • dizziness
  • sleeping issues
  • low blood pressure
  • bloodshot eyes
  • impaired motor control
  • slowed reaction time
  • impaired memory
  • increased appetite

The side effects are typically temporary and only last as long as the high remains. Generally, they don’t pose any long-term health risks. But they can be quite uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t used to them.

If you try a marijuana-derived oil and find the side effects are too strong, opt for a CBD-only oil or a product that has a higher ratio of CBD to THC.

Hemp-derived cannabis oil isn’t known to cause any significant side effects, even at high doses. When people do have side effects, they tend to report diarrhea, stomach upset, and fatigue.

There isn’t enough evidence to recommend cannabis as a treatment for cancer.

However, it may offer relief from cancer symptoms and traditional treatment side effects. Just make sure you study the laws in your area so you know your options.

Even if cannabis oil seems to be having an effect on your cancer, don’t stop following your healthcare provider’s recommended treatment plan without talking to them first. Doing so could compromise future treatments and make the tumors more difficult to treat.