If you have prostate cancer, you may wonder whether marijuana can help treat it or relieve symptoms. Here’s what research shows. Many patients are turning to CBD oil for help with issues related to enlarged prostate and prostate cancer. Learn how and why cannabidiol may help.
Can Medical Marijuana or CBD Help With Prostate Cancer?
Medical marijuana is often used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Crohn’s disease. Though it’s been studied, there’s not a lot known about whether it can help treat cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Here’s what science does show.
THC vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?
The major components of marijuana are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These are known as cannabinoids. THC is what gets you high. CBD does not get you high. Rather, it gives you a mellow, comfortable feeling.
Can Medical Marijuana Treat Prostate Cancer?
There are very well established treatments for prostate cancer that include testosterone blockers, radiation, and surgery as well as other medications. Cannabinoids have been shown to have some activity against prostate cancer in the lab and in mice. But it is not recommended for prostate cancer treatment.
Like other chemicals, these cannabinoids can bind to a part of a cell known as a cell receptor and then influence the cell’s behavior. Cell receptors that bind to cannabinoids fall into two categories:
- CB1. These receptors are mostly found in the brain and responsible for the potentially pain-relieving properties of marijuana.
- CB2. These receptors are in the cells of the immune system and blood-forming organs, and may also be in other tissues. When scientists stimulate these receptors with cannabinoids, they’ve been able to kill cancer cells from a variety of human tumors, including brain cancer, lymphomas, and breast cancer.
Research suggests that these cannabinoids help regulate cell growth. They also seem to prevent the growth of cancer cells by making them less likely to survive, grow, spread, and stick to other cancer cells. This means that they may be able to treat many different kinds of cancer, including prostate cancer.
It’s thought that marijuana specifically targets tumor cells but doesn’t really target non-tumor cells. This means that it may be less toxic to the body than other forms of treatment, like chemotherapy.
Research also shows that prostate cancer cells have higher levels of both CB1 and CB2 receptors than normal cells. This means that these cancer cells might be more attracted to cannabinoids than normal cells. Laboratory studies have shown that when these cells are treated with cannabinoids, three things happen:
- The cells are more likely to die.
- Androgen receptor activity on the prostate cancer cell surface decreases. This is important because prostate cancer is fueled by androgens, which are male hormones.
- THC and CBD discourage the formation of tumor blood vessels, which prostate cancer cells need to feed and grow.
One Spanish study found that when cannabinoids were added to three different types of human prostate cancer cells, they slowed the growth of all of them. In fact, the cannabinoids that targeted CB2 were able to kill prostate cancer cells by triggering apoptosis, aka cell death by suicide.
The researchers then transplanted one type of human prostate cancer cell, an aggressive form of cancer known as PC-3, into mice. They divided the mice into three groups: one treated with salt water, one with a cannabinoid, and the third with the same cannabinoid plus a chemical that blocked its effects on CB2. The mice who received the cannabinoid alone experienced a significant reduction in tumor growth compared to the other two groups.
These studies have only looked at prostate cancer cells grown in laboratories or in mice. There are no studies looking at how cannabinoids work in humans, so we don’t know if they would work the same way in people. It’s also unclear exactly how cannabinoids prevent prostate cancer cells from getting bigger or dividing.
Can I Use Medical Marijuana to Relieve Symptoms From Prostate Cancer Treatment?
Research shows that medical marijuana may help with:
- Cancer-related pain. It can help with severe pain, especially if it’s used with opioids. The combination may decrease pain signals in the brain as well as inflammation.
- Neuropathy. This is a feeling of weakness, numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands or feet due to nerve damage. It’s a common side effect of chemotherapy. Animal studies show that cannabinoids can help relieve some of the symptoms, but human studies are mixed.
- Nausea and vomiting. Dronabinol and nabilone are synthetic cannabinoids the FDA approved for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. There isn’t research on other forms of marijuana such as smoking, vaping, or CBD oil.
- Weight loss. Some research shows that THC may help ramp up appetite and slow down weight loss in people with advanced cancer.
Is It Safe to Use Medical Marijuana or CBD Oil With Prostate Cancer?
There are some risks. These include:
- Loss of control over movement, disorientation, and feelings of anxiety or paranoia. carries health risks since it contains many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke.
- Unpredictability. Marijuana plants come in different strains with different levels of active compounds. This makes it harder to predict how you’ll respond to it.
How Can You Get CBD and Medical Marijuana?
You may also have heard of CBD oil. It’s sold everywhere from your grocery store to vitamin shops. It doesn’t contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. CBD is usually sold as an oil, but you can also find it as an extract, a vaporized liquid, edibles like gummies, in foods, in drinks, and in beauty products. Remember, CBD is not regulated by the FDA, so it’s also hard to know how much CBD you’re getting. One study of 84 CBD products found that more than a quarter contained more CBD than was on the label, and some products even contained THC.
The only medical marijuana product approved by the FDA is a prescription oil called Epidiolex to treat epilepsy. There’s no research to suggest it can treat prostate cancer or relieve cancer treatment-related symptoms. It also may cause side effects like:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
It may also interact with other medications you take, like blood thinners. Talk to your doctor to make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that make using it unsafe.
If you’re considering using medical marijuana, check your state regulations. If it’s legal, you should be able to purchase it at a medical dispensary.
Harvard Health Publishing: “Pot for the Prostate,” “CBD Products Are Everywhere, but Do They Work?”
International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Cannabinoids and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review of Animal Studies.”
British Journal of Pharmacology: “Non-THC Cannabinoids Inhibit Prostate Carcinoma Grown in Vitro and in Vivo: Pro-apoptotic Effects and Underlying Mechanisms.”
British Journal of Cancer: “Inhibition of Human Tumor Prostate PC-3 Cell Growth by Cannabinoids R(+)-Methanandamide and JWH-015: Involvement of CB2.”
Can You Take CBD Oil for Enlarged Prostate & Other Prostate Issues?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has developed a dedicated following thanks to its perceived effectiveness against anxiety, epilepsy, localized pain, and other conditions. Using CBD oil for issues such as an enlarged prostate is fairly common place, and although research is still limited (and much of the evidence for its efficacy is anecdotal) the popularity of this compound continues to grow. Like THC, CBD is a cannabinoid, an active compound found in cannabis. But unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, so it doesn’t get the user high.
Some researchers are examining cannabidiol and other cannabinoids as part of a larger treatment for common prostate issues, including prostate cancer and prostate enlargement. Little is known for certain at this point, but researchers have uncovered some intriguing findings.
Before we delve into the specifics of CBD for enlarged prostate (and other prostate issues), we need to define the conditions. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to address the three most common prostate issues that men face:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, commonly known as enlarged prostate)
- Prostatitis (bacterial and non-bacterial)
- Prostate cancer
Each of these conditions has its own causes, treatments, and implications when it comes to using cannabidiol.
CBD for Enlarged Prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)
The term “enlarged prostate” most commonly refers to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This is a condition where the prostate is enlarged but not affected by cancer. It commonly affects older men and may cause unpleasant symptoms like painful urination, pain in the hips and pelvic area, blood in the urine or semen, painful ejaculation, and frequent urination.
Though prostate enlargement can have numerous causes including inflammation, UTI, and kidney stones, it’s important to understand the role that testosterone plays. Testosterone causes the prostate to grow, so it may be possible to reduce the likelihood of hyperplasia by slowing testosterone production.
Some research indicates that cannabinoids like cannabidiol may inhibit testosterone production. This may prove beneficial for people who struggle with recurrent BPH. Though researchers point to THC as being the cannabinoid most closely associated with this effect, there may still be value in CBD and other cannabinoids as well.
For BPH sufferers, there’s another possible benefit of taking CBD: pain relief. In a comprehensive review of cannabis studies, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that “there is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.” A University of South Carolina School of Medicine study found cannabidiol to be among the most effective cannabinoids for inflammation.
CBD for Prostatitis
Not to be confused with an enlarged prostate, prostatitis is a condition commonly caused by a type of bacteria that enters the prostate from the urinary tract; it can also be caused by a sexually transmitted disease like HIV or chlamydia. The condition may be chronic or acute, and it affects people of all ages.
As with enlarged prostate, cannabidiol may be able to relieve some of the pain, discomfort, and inflammation associated with this condition. What’s more intriguing, cannabidiol may have antibacterial properties that can address the problem at its source. Researchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland tested the antibacterial properties of CBD and found that it “had a very similar potency to that of common antibiotics.” This is an intriguing development, as antibiotics are the most common treatment solution for prostatitis.
CBD and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer that men face (the first being skin cancer), impacting about 175 thousand American men each year. Over the past few years, researchers have been looking at cannabinoids as a potential treatment option for people with prostate cancer. A 2013 study found that cannabidiol is particularly effective among cannabinoids as a killer of prostate cancer cells. A growing body of research reinforces this potential. While cannabidiol may not cure prostate cancer, the compound may be effective for helping prevent and treat the disease.
In addition, CBD may help with the vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy. Research shows a link between the body’s endocannabinoid system (the internal receptors that respond to cannabinoids) and the areas of the brain responsible for nausea and vomiting. For those struggling with nausea as part of a cancer treatment, CBD may help to provide some relief.
Should You Take Cannabis or CBD for Prostate Issues?
Granted much of the research has focused on the whole cannabis plant and the full spectrum of cannabinoids, raising the question as to whether CBD on its own has as much value. While cannabidiol should provide at least some of the desired benefit, here are the factors to consider:
- CBD is non-psychoactive while whole-plant cannabis is psychoactive. If you don’t want the high or you’re concerned that you may be subject to drug-testing, stick with cannabidiol.
- Cannabis may be more potent overall due to the entourage effect (the interaction of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds to maximize the drug’s effect). However, a Full Spectrum CBD product may also offer the entourage effect to a lesser extent. That’s because it contains all the compounds, including THC—the THC content is limited to just .3% in hemp-derived products.
- Recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states, and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states with the proper doctor’s recommendation. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal nationwide. If you want to remain in compliance with the law, you may need to consider this as a deciding factor.
If you’re considering CBD for prostate issues, first speak with your licensed cannabis doctor. Then consider if cannabidiol or other cannabinoids might be a viable part of your treatment. CBD has only minor side effects and is well-tolerated in most people, so it’s worth trying out even if the benefits prove to be minor.