Rick Simpson oil (RSO) is a cannabis oil product. It was developed by Rick Simpson, a Canadian medical marijuana activist.
RSO differs from a lot of other cannabis oils because it contains higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that gets people “high.” Other therapeutic cannabis oils tend to contain a cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) and little or no THC. In addition, Rick Simpson doesn’t sell RSO. Instead, he encourages to people to create their own using his methods.
Read on to learn more about the health claims behind RSO and whether it lives up to the hype.
The main claim surrounding RSO is that it treats cancer. After Simpson was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2003, he began applying RSO to the cancerous spots on his face and neck. According to Simpson, the spots healed within a few days.
According to Rick Simpson’s website, RSO is made from a particular type of cannabis called Cannabis indica, which produces a sedative effect that helps the body heal.
In addition to cancer, RSO is said to also treat:
Rick Simpson decided to try cannabis oil after reading the results of a 1975 study that tested the use of cannabinoids in mice with lung cancer. The study found that both THC and another cannabinoid called cannabinol (CBN) slowed the growth of lung cancer in mice.
Since then, there’s been a good amount of research involving cell samples and animal models that look at the effects of cannabinoids on cancer growth.
A 2014 study on mice examined the effects of THC and CBD extracts alongside radiation therapy. The cannabis extracts appeared to increase the effectiveness of radiation against an aggressive type of brain cancer. According to the study’s authors, these results suggest that THC and CBD may help to prepare cancer cells to respond better to radiation therapy.
However, another study involving human cells found that THC actually increased the growth rate of certain lung and brain cancer cells.
Recently, there have been a few early-stage clinical trials involving human participants with cancer. While these studies have shown that cannabinoids are safe to use in cancer patients, they don’t fully demonstrate whether cannabinoids can help to treat or control cancer.
There’s also a case report from 2013 involving a 14-year-old-girl with a specific type of leukemia. Her family worked with Rick Simpson to create a cannabinoid resin extract, referred to as hemp oil, which she took daily. She eventually tried using some other oils from different sources with mixed results. However, the hemp oils appeared to treat her cancer, though she died a little over two months into the treatment from an unrelated gastrointestinal condition. This makes it hard to conclude anything about the long-term effectiveness of cannabis for cancer.
While these results are promising, much larger, long-term studies are needed to fully understand how different cannabinoids and cannabis strains affect cancer cells.
THC is a psychoactive substance, meaning it can produce a range of psychological symptoms, such as:
It can also cause physical side effects, such as:
- low blood pressure
- bloodshot eyes
- slow digestion
- sleeping issues
- impaired motor control and reaction time
- impaired memory
However, these side effects may only last for a few hours and usually don’t pose any major health risks.
The biggest risk associated with RSO is that there isn’t much evidence that it effectively treats cancer. This becomes very dangerous if someone stops following their doctor’s recommended cancer treatment. If the RSO doesn’t work, cancer can continue to grow and become harder and harder to treat, even with conventional methods, such as chemotherapy.
In addition, Rick Simpson advocates for making your own RSO, which carries some risks. First, you’ll need to obtain a good amount of marijuana, which is illegal in some areas. Second, the process for creating the oil is quite risky. If a spark reaches one of the solvents used to make RSO, it can cause an explosion. Further, these solvents can leave behind cancer-causing residue if they aren’t properly handled.
If you want to try using RSO for cancer, it’s best to keep up with any other treatments recommended by your doctor while you use it. You should also read up on medical marijuana laws in your area. If you live somewhere that allows medical marijuana, consider asking for advice on getting a premade oil at your local dispensary.
While there’s some promising research surrounding the use of cannabis to treat cancer, experts are still a long way from having conclusive evidence about which cannabinoids and strains work best. In addition, some research suggests that THC can actually increase the growth of cancer cells. Large human studies are needed before cannabis becomes a recommended cancer treatment. If you’re interested in using cannabis for cancer or to treat the side effects of conventional treatments, talk to your doctor.