We now take for granted that cannabis can be used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. Insomnia, depression, stress, headaches, arthritis, PTSD, lack of appetite, mood disorders—these are all ailments which cannabis can be used to combat. But what if there was even more power in the marijuana plant than we thought? As cannabis is more and more being considered a legitimate medicine, more research is going into its potential applications, and one condition that may be treatable stands out: cancer.
Cannabis has long been used to mitigate the horrible side effects of chemotherapy, but there is one cannabis product in particular that has been slowly building a following for its purported ability to cure cancer itself. This product is Rick Simpson Oil, also known as RSO, or Phoenix Tears, and its medicinal applications are reported to be staggering.
Interestingly, Rick Simpson Oil didn’t derive from a quest to cure cancer. Rick Simpson was an engineer with tinnitus.
In 1997, Simpson was working in a hospital, using aerosol glue on pipes in a poorly ventilated area. The fumes caused him to black out, fall from a ladder, and hit his head.
He was taken to the emergency room, and cleared of any serious injury. However, he did experience persistent dizziness and ringing in his ears. He found that his prescribed pharmaceutical medication was not helping him—in some cases even making his symptoms worse—and he was interested in the medical benefits of cannabis. After receiving little assistance from his doctor, Simpson decided to find his own cannabis, and soon thereafter noticed his symptoms diminishing.
Five years later, in 2003, Simpson discovered three bumps on his arm. Tests proved that they were basal cell carcinoma—skin cancer.
Rick Simpson refused traditional treatment, and petitioned with his doctor to try using cannabis. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute had recently published a study in which THC was found to slow the growth of cancer cells in mice, and Simpson used this to argue for it as an alternative medicine. His doctor refused, and Simpson was once again left to his own devices.
He applied high quality cannabis oil to a bandage, and then left the cancerous bumps covered for several days. Upon removing the bandage, he discovered that the bumps were gone.
Simpson has since directly helped over 5000 people treat various conditions with his eponymous oil, but not without difficulty. Despite countless success stories, Simpson has had his home raided several times by police, and had valuable plants destroyed. Now, with cannabis becoming increasingly mainstream, many producers have stepped forward to disseminate his discovery and make the medicine accessible to more people than ever.
In so many words, “Rick Simpson Oil” is used to describe the decarboxylated extract of high potency indica strains. The man himself originally made his discovery using oil that he collected and distilled from the golden resin inside of a glass-topped vaporizer. He later claimed that he had simply been cleaning the vape, and had intended on throwing the resin out, until he realized that the cannabinoids had not actually been burned, but only heated, and may still retain some medicinal value.
After evaporating the alcohol which he had used to clean the resin off, Simpson applied a little bit of the resulting oil to a rolling paper and added tobacco. After one puff he felt he had to lie down . . . and realized he had found something potent.
He fiddled with the formula for years, trying different strains and different temperatures. A turning point came when he tried the oil on his own cancer, and then used it to treat others. He describes a “tugging sensation” that many patients comment on when using cannabis as a topical treatment. His formula produced this same sensation, but to the point of almost immediately causing discomfort. Clearly he had raised the bar for potency.
Interestingly, Rick Simpson himself has not settled on a perfect strain for making RSO. Rather, he suggests that a combination of different pure indicas will result in the perfect medication, as the different oils will mix and combine their medicinal effects. Indicas are important though, as these produce the “sleepy sedative effects” that both aid in healing and keep the patient relaxed while healing occurs.
Rick Simpson claims that high-potency cannabis oil cured his cancer, and this is a claim echoed by many of the people who he has treated. One particularly high-profile case emerged in 2013, when Rick Simpson himself worked closely the parents of a 14-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with terminal acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Simpson tailored his formula to meet her specific needs, and developed an oil—referred to as “hemp oil”—which she took every day. This “hemp oil” appeared to have a positive effect on her leukemia, although she passed away soon thereafter from an unrelated gastrointestinal condition.
Unfortunately, very few studies have been done involving humans and the effectiveness of cannabis in treating cancer. This is largely due to the persecution of cannabis and cannabis users throughout the twentieth century—an effect that will hopefully be remedied in the coming decades. For now, anecdotal evidence seems to point to something very, very interesting in Rick Simpson’s magic oil.
Aside from cancer, Rick Simpson Oil has been hailed as a miracle cure for so many other conditions. Part of its effectiveness is undoubtedly due to its practicality—RSO is arguably the most versatile form of cannabis in the world. It can be smoked, vaporized, ingested, or applied topically, making it ready and available to treat virtually anything.
We can only hope that as cannabis becomes legal and increasingly mainstream, more studies will be done on the potential applications of this apparent miracle drug. Rick Simpson clearly stumbled upon something incredible when he cleaned the resin out of his vaporizer, and there’s no telling how far that discovery may reach. For now, Simpson is continuing his crusade for what he sees as “nature’s answer to cancer,” and thousands of people are finding relief in his incredibly simple discovery in the world of alternative medicine.