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Treating Chemotherapy-Related Nausea with Medical Cannabis

Chemotherapy remains one of the most common treatments for cancer, and while chemo is effective, the side effects can be debilitating.

Even milder side effects like nausea can significantly interrupt your day-to-day life or impact your health long-term. If you can’t keep food or drinks down for long, you could face nutrient deficiency and other health challenges.

Can you get your medical marijuana card for nausea from chemotherapy? While the answer will vary by state, medical cannabis is certainly an option for people looking for nausea relief. In this guide, we’re breaking down how medical marijuana might be useful for people struggling with nausea during cancer treatment to help you stay well on your way to remission.

The Chemotherapy Experience

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer, and for good reason—since it targets fast-growing cells (cancer cells included), it can help shrink tumors, reduce symptoms, and destroy cancer cells before they reach advanced stages of development.

Unfortunately, chemo carries baggage. Side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite

Both the side effects of chemotherapy and the logistics of treatment have the potential to disrupt your everyday life. For instance, if you’re receiving IV chemo treatments (the most common administration method for cancer patients), you’re likely visiting the doctor’s office more frequently or adjusting your usual routine.

Eating is just one routine that might be disrupted when you start chemotherapy, whether it’s due to your schedule changes, side effects, or something else. However, eating well during cancer treatment is paramount; helping your body get the critical nutrients it needs will support your overall wellness as you strive for remission.

What Causes Nausea During Chemotherapy?

There are two main causes of nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy:

  1. CTZ activation – Chemotherapy drugs can activate the brain’s chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ), which can induce vomiting and other physical responses.
  2. Anticipatory nausea and vomiting – Nausea can also be caused by sights and smells—the smell of the IV clinic or even a mental image of your upcoming appointment might be enough to induce nervous nausea or vomiting.

Whether you experience CTZ or anticipatory nausea (or both), nausea and vomiting have a strong potential to interrupt your daily life—they’re inconvenient at best and painful at worst.

Your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe an anti-nausea drug like ondansetron (Zofran), but if these drugs aren’t a good fit for you, you might be in search of alternative relief.

Medical Cannabis and Nausea

Let’s break down what we know about medical marijuana and chemotherapy nausea.

Nausea-Quelling Cannabinoids

One of the most common cannabinoids leveraged for nausea relief is cannabidiol or CBD. However, patients taking Sativex (a drug available in the UK containing both CBD and THC) also reported a reduction in nausea.

There are a few important things to note about using cannabis for nausea during cancer treatment:

medical marijuana buds and seed

  1. Everyone responds to cannabis differently – While Sativex (which contains CBD and THC) has provided relief for some patients, everyone responds differently to individual cannabinoids and combinations. Finding the ideal cannabinoid for nausea treatment often requires experimentation.
  2. Context matters – Especially for anticipatory vomiting, patients should consider how the stimuli around them could be affecting their nausea. While cannabis can help reduce the physical symptoms of nausea, unpacking the triggers behind vomiting is just as important for long-term relief.

Anecdotal Evidence

The scientific community is still unpacking why cannabis can reduce nausea, but anecdotal reports and preliminary data point to an early conclusion: that marijuana can be yet another tool for cancer patients looking for relief.

Depending on the strain, formula, dose, and administration method, patients report that cannabis induces feelings of:

  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Creativity and complex thought
  • Hunger and thirst

All of these commonly reported effects of marijuana could prove useful for patients on a chemotherapy journey:

  • Relaxation and sleep are key for cancer patients—rest is critical for recovery and general wellness during treatment.
  • Introspection can help patients unpack the triggers of anticipatory vomiting. In a calmer state, many patients feel more comfortable investigating tough questions and emotions: “Why does this trigger make me feel like I need to vomit?” “Where is this response coming from?” “How can I change my thinking or behavior to adjust to this trigger?”
  • The drive to eat and drink can help combat appetite loss associated with chemotherapy—a side effect that can often impact patients’ overall nutrition during treatment.

Incorporating Medical Cannabis into Your Chemo Journey

If you’re thinking about using medical marijuana to combat some of the side effects of chemotherapy, it’s important to find the right method, stay consistent, and talk to your medical team.

Finding the Right Method

The administration method is an important consideration for people living with nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy.

Let’s explore the three most common administration methods in the context of chemo-induced nausea:

  • Edibles – If you’re struggling to keep solid foods down, edibles might not be an effective administration method for medical cannabis. Since the active ingredients need to move through your digestive system to start working, vomiting can interrupt the onset of the effects of cannabis edibles.
  • Tinctures or oils – Tinctures (alcohol-based cannabinoid extractions) and oils (fat-based cannabinoid extractions) can be stirred into your favorite soothing beverage (a hot cup of ginger tea for instance). They can also be administered directly into the mouth.
  • Smoking or vaping – Smoking and vaping are some of the cannabis community’s favorite ways to dose intentionally. Vaping, in particular, can be a discreet, portable, and low-odor method. For patients struggling to keep down both food and drinks, smoking might be ideal for nausea prevention and relief.

Considerations for Oropharyngeal Cancer Patients

If you’re treating oral, throat, or esophageal cancer, you might be experiencing additional oral symptoms like:

  • Mouth pain
  • Dry mouth or reduced saliva production
  • Sores or wounds in the mouth

If you’re experiencing these symptoms along with nausea or vomiting and keeping food and drinks down is nearly impossible, smoking might not sound like an ideal method.

Oropharyngeal cancer patients might need to consider options that accommodate their general mouth discomfort, like:

  • Using a vaporizing method – Smoking a joint with a sandpaper-dry mouth might increase your discomfort if you’re undergoing throat cancer treatment. Instead of traditional combustion (burning marijuana and inhaling the smoke), consider a vaporizing method (turning marijuana into a water-based gas instead of a carbon-based gas). Using water-based glassware (like a bong or a bubbler) or a vaporizer could increase your smoking comfort.
  • Dropping tinctures and oils under the tongue – Administering oils or tinctures sublingually (under your tongue) can help you avoid any unpleasant tastes or smells—if you’re struggling to eat and drink without pain, this method might be ideal.
  • Combining edibles with other anti-nausea remedies – If edibles are the only administration method available for you, consider combining your edible with other remedies like over-the-counter drugs (Nauzene, for instance), ginger ale, or prescription drugs (like Zofran).

Staying Consistent

Consistency is key for medical cannabis patients, especially people using marijuana to treat pain and physical discomfort (like nausea).

To optimize the effects of marijuana, consider the following:

  • Setting a dosing schedule with your marijuana doctor
  • Using calendar alerts and smartphone alarms as reminders
  • Asking a caretaker or friend for help remembering to take your marijuana dose

Like over-the-counter pain relievers, taking a dose before you expect to feel symptoms can help you stay ahead of the curve and stave off discomfort before it starts.

Talking to Your Medical Team

During cancer treatment, your healthcare providers should know about all of the medications you’re taking—marijuana included.

Consider looping your medical cannabis doctor into any communications about your treatment plan. Your medical team will collaborate to both treat your cancer and help you maintain a high quality of life throughout your cancer journey.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Chemotherapy Patients with All-Natural Relief

Medical cannabis can help you unlock relief from nausea, vomiting, and general discomfort during chemotherapy. And if you’re looking for an accessible, affordable medical card solution, TeleLeaf is here to help.

Our team is passionate about connecting people with the all-natural, plant-based relief they deserve. Whether you’re trying to maintain normalcy during cancer treatment or you’re working through mental health challenges, we know that cannabis is a powerful option for long-term, safe, and effective recovery.

Reach out to us to schedule an appointment with a licensed medical cannabis provider today.


Cleveland Clinic. Chemotherapy

VeryWell Health. Why Do Nausea and Vomiting Occur with Chemotherapy?

Medical News Today. What To Know About CBD for Nausea

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