How To Dose Medical Cannabis For Cancer Patients

Health Anna Wilcox 2/22/2018
questions around cannabis
The benefits of medical cannabis for cancer patients can be amazing. Now it's time for some clear guidance.

After getting a diagnosis that may signify the end of life, cancer patients face the insurmountable challenge of deciding the best possible path to survival.

For many, the prospect of conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation seem grim.

After all, the severe side effects of these treatments are well known.

On top of the cancer diagnosis, knowingly facing hair loss, intense nausea, vomiting, and pain without guarantee of effectiveness can be traumatic.

These side effects come at a time when the diagnosis is shocking enough.

Understandably, many cancer patients find themselves searching for anything that can improve the prognosis and make surviving a little easier.

To help patients like these, Mara Gordon founded Aunt Zelda’s. Aunt Zelda’s creates safe medical cannabis formulations and works with patients to directly treat their individual ailments.

Gordon explains how she works with cancer patients in her clinic and breaks down insights the Aunt Zelda’s team has gleaned after working with thousands of medical cannabis patients in California.

One of the hot topics in this Green Flower course?

How Gordon identifies the ideal medical cannabis dose for cancer patients...

How to dose medical cannabis for cancer

cannabismedical dose
Cannabis dosing can be very counter-intuitive at times.

To start, it is not at all recommended to self-treat after a cancer diagnosis.

This is a critical aspect of medical cannabis for cancer patients.

Working with a knowledgeable medical cannabis specialist who has experience working with cancer patients can drastically improve the effectiveness of the treatment.  

First, not all cancers respond to cannabis treatments.

While preliminary research suggests that some types of cancers do respond well to cannabis compounds, there are over 200 different types of cancer and it's possible that not all of them are sensitive to cannabis medicines.

Further, since formal research on the topic is lacking, finding the exact dose, best drug combination, or most effective product is not an exact science.

Through her decade as a medical cannabis caregiver, Gordon has figured out that individual patients will require unique formulations of cannabis medicines.

These unique cannabis cancer treatment formulations include dosage recommendations that are custom tailored to each distinct patient.

In her course, Gordon outlines several ways that the Aunt Zelda’s team doses medical cannabis for cancer patients.

Here are three of her insights:

1. Decide what the cannabis will be used to treat

cannabis oil extract from leaves
Cannabis can help cancer patients in more ways than one.

There are a few different reasons why a cancer patient may want to consider cannabis medicines.

For one, it is well known that medical cannabis can help patients manage the severe side effects of chemotherapy and related cancer treatments.

Yet, as word spreads about the herb’s potent anti-cancer properties, more patients are interested in including the plant as a potent cancer treatment.

Making the decision about how you would like to use cannabis is one of the first choices a patient makes regarding dosage.

A patient hoping to only manage symptoms will take a fairly low dose compared to those who hope to kill cancer cells.

“If you use cannabis to deal with the side effects, you’re not really worried so much about getting to a therapeutic dose for killing cancer cells,” explains Gordon.

“You’re more concerned with: Am I nauseous now? Am I nauseous after taking the medicine? Am I able to sleep? Do I have bone, ache pain? Just alleviating symptoms. One is about symptoms and one is about a systemic approach to healing the body and treating disease.”

As Gordon articulates, with a symptom management dosage, you may be making yourself feel better with cannabis treatments, but if you only target symptoms you may not be taking a dose of cannabis medicine that is high enough to kill cancer cells.

“If you’re dealing with killing cancer cells,” says Gordon, “your dose is going to go far, far higher.

“You’re going to be dealing with and looking at how advanced the disease is, what the actual diagnosis is, what types it is, but, I would say that the average patient is probably going to be on somewhere around an average of 300 milligrams in total cannabinoids.”

When Gordon says “total cannabinoids” she is not just talking about THC.

Instead, she’s referring to the total amount of THC, CBD, and other phytocannabinoids present in the cannabis plant.

However, Gordon is quick to articulate that this number cannot be applied to every person.

One person may need as little as 100 milligrams of total cannabinoids while another person needs 800.

It all depends on the needs of the individual.

In contrast, if you’re hoping to manage chemo side effects, for example, the dosage would be closer to 25 to 50 milligrams of total cannabinoid content.  

2. Start low, go slow

Many patients at Aunt Zelda’s rely on very high doses of THC to achieve their therapeutic results.

Yet, these patients do not take these high doses from the get-go. Instead, they titrate up to their ideal therapeutic dose over time as part of their cannabis cancer treatment protocol.

“The worst thing you can do when you’re trying out cannabis,” begins Gordon, “especially if you want to use it therapeutically and not just palliatively, is to take it all at once and have a horrible experience and say, ‘well I tried that and it was awful and I’m not going to do it again’.”

So, what does Gordon recommend instead?

“Start out low,” she says. “Go up slowly over time.”

3. Weight doesn’t matter

checking weight
A person's weight does not affect cannabis dosing needs.

There are several major factors that distinguish cannabis medicines from conventional pharmaceuticals.

How the plant is dosed is one of those major factors.

While pharmaceutical drugs are often titrated up based on the weight of the patient, the Aunt Zelda’s team has discovered something surprising about how cannabis medicines work.

“We have found in our research so far, treating thousands of people and having extreme amounts of data on many, many hundreds of patients, that there is no correlation between the weight of the patient and the dose.”

That means that a person who weighs a mere 118 lbs may still require more cannabis than a person who weighs 200 lbs.

Those at Aunt Zelda’s have simply found no correlation between the ideal dosage for an individual and what they weigh. The ideal product varies greatly from person to person.

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