Cannabis has been at the center of one of the most exciting—and
underreported—developments in modern science. Research on marijuana’s effects led
directly to the discovery of a hitherto unknown biochemical communication system in
the human body, the Endocannabinoid System, which plays a crucial role in regulating
our physiology, mood, and everyday experience.
The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to
cannabis—and the subsequent identification of endogenous cannabinoid compounds in
our own bodies that bind to these receptors—has significantly advanced our
understanding of human biology, health, and disease.
It is an established scientific fact that cannabinoids and other components of cannabis
can modulate many physiological systems in the human brain and body. Cannabinoids
are chemical compounds that trigger cannabinoid (and other) receptors. More than 100
cannabinoids have been identified in the marijuana plant. Of these marijuana
molecules, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied most
extensively. In addition to cannabinoids produced by the plant, there are endogenous
cannabinoids (such as anandamide and 2AG) that occur naturally in the mammalian
brain and body, as well as synthetic cannabinoids created by
pharmaceutical researchers.
Extensive preclinical research—much of it sponsored by
the U.S. government—indicates that CBD has potent anti-tumoral, antioxidant, anti-
spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. CBD directly
activates serotonin receptors, causing an anti-anxiety effect, as well.

“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of
cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” says McAllister.
In recent years, scientists associated with the International Cannabinoid Research
Society (ICRS) have elucidated a number of molecular pathways through
which CBD exerts a therapeutic impact. For example, a preclinical study by Dr. Sean
McAllister and his colleagues at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco
report on how CBD destroys breast cancer cells by down-regulating a gene called ID-1,
which is implicated in several types of aggressive cancer. Silencing the ID-1 gene is,
thus, is a potential strategy for cancer treatment.
“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of
cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” says McAllister.

The images above are from an experiment by McAllister testing how CBD can stop the
invasion of cancer cells in human cell lines. Compare the untreated breast cancer cells
on the left to the breast cancer cells destroyed by CBD on the right. Photo credit: The
California Pacific Medical Center
CBD and THC Synergy
According to McAllister’s lab, the best results were obtained when CBD was
administered along with THC. Several studies underscore the therapeutic advantages
for combining CBD and THC—particularly for treating peripheral neuropathy, a painful
condition associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, arthritis, and other
neurodegenerative ailments. Clinical research conducted by with GW Pharmaceuticals,
a British company, has also shown that CBD is most effective as an analgesic when
administered in combination with whole plant THC.