CBD vs. THC for Cancer Treatment: Is there a Difference?


The use of cannabis for medical purposes has gained significant attention in recent years, particularly in the realm of cancer treatment. Two of the most well-known compounds found in cannabis, CBD and THC, have shown promise in helping patients manage symptoms and side effects associated with cancer. In this article, we will explore the differences between CBD and THC in the context of cancer treatment.

Understanding THC

THC, short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis. It is responsible for the euphoric effects commonly associated with marijuana use. THC works by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system, producing various effects on mood, appetite, and pain perception.

When it comes to cancer treatment, THC has shown potential in helping patients manage symptoms such as pain, nausea, and vomiting. Research suggests that THC can help alleviate these side effects by interacting with specific receptors in the body.

Understanding CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is another prominent compound found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce a "high" feeling. CBD works by interacting with various receptors in the body, including those associated with pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

Studies have shown that CBD may have potential therapeutic benefits for cancer patients. One of the main areas of interest is its ability to reduce inflammation and pain. CBD has also been found to possess anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties, which can be particularly helpful for individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

The Differences in Their Effects

While both CBD and THC may offer benefits for cancer patients, they have different effects.

  • Psychoactive effects: THC is known for its psychoactive properties, producing a euphoric "high." CBD, on the other hand, does not have any psychoactive effects.
  • Pain management: Both THC and CBD have shown promise in relieving pain associated with cancer. THC may provide more immediate relief, while CBD may have long-lasting effects.
  • Nausea and vomiting: THC has been widely studied for its antiemetic properties, making it effective in reducing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. CBD may also help manage these symptoms, but its effectiveness may vary.
  • Anxiety and depression: CBD has been found to have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, which can be beneficial for cancer patients who experience mental health challenges during treatment. THC, on the other hand, may exacerbate anxiety in some individuals.

The Entourage Effect

One concept that is frequently discussed in relation to cannabis and its compounds is the entourage effect. The entourage effect suggests that the various compounds found in cannabis, including CBD and THC, work synergistically to enhance their therapeutic effects.

While CBD and THC can be effective when used individually, some studies suggest that their combined use may produce better results. For example, a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that cancer patients who used whole-plant cannabis extracts containing both CBD and THC experienced greater pain relief compared to those using extracts with only THC or CBD.

Legal Considerations

When it comes to the legality of CBD and THC, the landscape can be complex. While THC is federally classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, CBD derived from industrial hemp (containing no more than 0.3% THC) was legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill.

State laws regarding the use of cannabis and its compounds can vary greatly. In Texas, for instance, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the medical use of low-THC cannabis oil for patients with certain qualifying conditions, including cancer. However, recreational use of cannabis remains illegal in the state.


In conclusion, both CBD and THC have shown promise in the realm of cancer treatment. While THC is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD offers non-psychoactive relief. Both compounds have demonstrated the potential to alleviate symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. The entourage effect suggests that combining CBD and THC may produce enhanced therapeutic benefits. It is important for individuals considering cannabis-based treatments to consult with healthcare professionals and adhere to their local laws and regulations.