EducationA detailed guide on taking CBD with chemotherapy

A detailed guide on taking CBD with chemotherapy

8 min read

Sam North

A detailed guide on taking CBD with chemotherapy

CBD is a medical cannabis cannabinoid that does not produce psychoactive effects. It has gained significant recognition for its potential health benefits, such as pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, and the possible ability to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. As a result, there is a growing interest in using CBD alongside chemotherapy as a complementary approach to cancer treatment.


Chemotherapy is a process that uses powerful medications to target and destroy cancer cells. These medications can have a very harsh impact on the body and the mind. Chemo can lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

CBD can potentially mitigate the adverse effects of chemotherapy. It, therefore, has the potential to offer a significantly better quality of life to people undergoing chemotherapy.

Can I use CBD with chemotherapy?

There have been relatively few studies on CBD and chemotherapy specifically. At present, the most relevant study in this area was by Courtney Griffiths et al. This found that CBD showed promise as a complement to chemotherapy. It also recommended further study.

It has been demonstrated that CBD has the qualities necessary to counterbalance the common side effects of chemotherapy. In particular, it has antiemetic, analgesic, anxiolytic and sleep-enhancing properties. These can counteract side effects such as nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, and poor sleep which often go hand in hand with chemotherapy. 

Current limitations and challenges of CBD research

While the potential of CBD in cancer treatment is promising, it is crucial to acknowledge the existing limitations and obstacles in CBD research.

Most of the studies conducted thus far have been preclinical, primarily utilising cell cultures and animal models. The number of human clinical trials examining the effects of CBD in cancer patients is still relatively limited.

It is imperative to conduct large-scale, randomised controlled trials to establish the safety, efficacy and appropriate dosing of CBD alongside chemotherapy. These trials would provide more reliable and conclusive evidence regarding the benefits and potential risks of combining CBD with chemotherapy.

Thankfully, with the current wave of both medical and recreational cannabis legalisation sweeping the globe, this type of research is becoming increasingly more accessible. No longer are medical researchers restricted by the obstacles imposed by government regulations and prohibitive laws of yesteryear, and so this research can finally be conducted.

Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we will have more definitive answers with regard to the efficacy of CBD alongside chemotherapy. With that said, the currently available studies are more than promising.

How CBD may benefit chemotherapy patients

There are four main ways that using CBD may benefit chemotherapy patients. These are pain relief and management, nausea and vomiting relief, appetite stimulation, and anxiety and depression management.

Pain relief and management

Cancer and its treatment often result in varying degrees of pain. This can be challenging to manage. CBD has demonstrated analgesic properties and anti-inflammatory effects. These can both potentially help to alleviate chemotherapy-induced pain..

Nausea and vomiting relief

Nausea and vomiting are regulated by serotonin receptors in the brain. CBD interacts with these receptors. This synergy provides a mechanism to influence the brain’s response to emetic stimuli. Using CBD in combination with conventional anti-nausea medications could, therefore, be significantly more effective than using either treatment on its own.

Appetite stimulation

Maintaining a healthy appetite is crucial for chemotherapy patients, as the treatment can frequently lead to appetite loss and weight loss. CBD may stimulate appetite through its interaction with cannabinoid receptors involved in regulating hunger and feeding behaviour. By promoting a healthy appetite, CBD may help patients maintain their nutritional status during chemotherapy, potentially improving overall well-being and treatment outcomes.

There is conflicting evidence regarding the efficacy of CBD as an appetite stimulant, but many studies have shown that THC offers strong hunger stimulation. 

Anxiety and depression management

Chemotherapy treatments can have a significant impact on the mental health of patients, often resulting in increased levels of anxiety and depression. CBD has shown promise in addressing these psychological symptoms through its anxiolytic and antidepressant properties. Research suggests that CBD may help manage anxiety and improve mood in chemotherapy patients. 

CBD interacts with various neurotransmitter systems in the brain, potentially influencing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood. By modulating these systems, CBD may promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, providing support for patients experiencing heightened stress during chemotherapy. Additionally, CBD's potential antidepressant effects may help alleviate feelings of sadness or hopelessness that can accompany cancer treatment.

Potential risks and side effects of combining CBD with chemotherapy

When considering the combination of CBD with chemotherapy, it is important to be aware of potential risks and side effects that may arise. These include the following issues:

  • Drug interactions: CBD can interact with specific medications used during chemotherapy, it is therefore vital to consult your doctor to evaluate the potential risks of drug interactions.
  • CBD's effects on the liver: CBD, when administered in edible form, is metabolised by enzymes in the liver and high doses of CBD may inhibit these enzymes. This can potentially impact the breakdown of chemotherapy drugs, leading to altered blood levels and potentially affecting their effectiveness or toxicity. Monitoring liver function and adjusting chemotherapy doses may be necessary when using CBD concurrently.
  • Lack of standardisation in CBD products: The ‘over-the-counter’ CBD market lacks consistent regulations, leading to variations in product quality and potency. Inaccurate labelling and contamination with impurities are possible. It is essential to choose reputable CBD products from reliable sources, ensuring they undergo third-party testing for quality, purity, and cannabinoid content. For the best possible medical outcomes, always source your CBD products through a prescription from a doctor that is registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis and who has experience doing so for cancer patients. The medicinal cannabis sector is subject to much more strict regulatory oversight than the consumer market, which ensures a higher level of product quality. 
  • Other potential side effects of CBD: Although generally well-tolerated, CBD may cause side effects in some individuals. These can include drowsiness, dry mouth, changes in appetite, diarrhoea, or fatigue. It is essential to start with low CBD doses and gradually increase as tolerated, while closely monitoring for any adverse reactions.

Things to consider before using CBD with chemotherapy

Here are four important things to consider before using CBD with chemotherapy:

  • Consult with a healthcare provider: It's crucial to seek guidance from your healthcare provider, such as your oncologist or physician, before incorporating CBD alongside chemotherapy. These medical professionals possess the expertise and knowledge to provide personalised advice that aligns with your unique medical condition, treatment plan and potential drug interactions.
  • Choose high-quality CBD products: Due to the lack of regulations in the CBD market, it is essential to select high-quality products from reputable manufacturers. Look for CBD products that undergo third-party testing to verify their quality, purity, and cannabinoid content. As mentioned above, the medicinal cannabis sector is subject to heavier regulatory oversight, so always source your CBD through a prescription. 
  • Start with low doses: It’s advisable to start with low CBD doses and gradually increase as tolerated. This allows you to assess your individual response and minimise the risk of any potential adverse effects. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on appropriate dosage adjustments based on your needs and treatment goals.
  • Monitor for any adverse effects: While CBD is generally well-tolerated, it is important to monitor yourself for any potential side effects. This includes observing changes in your symptoms, mood or overall well-being. If you experience any concerning or unexpected effects, promptly communicate with your healthcare provider for appropriate guidance.

CBD and chemotherapy in brief

CBD has the potential to make the process of chemotherapy less painful, uncomfortable and stressful. To make the most of it, however, you need to choose the right treatment(s) for your priorities. These are very likely to change over time as your treatment progresses. That’s why our subscription service is as flexible as you require it to be. Whenever your needs change, just let us know and we’ll update your subscription accordingly.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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