Judging by the over half-million Google search results garnered by it, it’s no doubt that cannabis oil has become a popular topic as of late — especially as a potentially miraculous treatment for any number of devastating conditions like cancer.

But what exactly is cannabis oil and are the claims about it too good to be true? Let’s take a brief look.

Cannabis oil being prepared What is cannabis oil exactly, and should we believe all the hype about it? Photo by Adam Ward/Newspix/Getty Images

A Concentrated Burst

Cannabis oil is merely the concentrated, distilled form of the plant most commonly known as marijuana, with all the plant material stripped away via a solvent. Though it’s also used with other oils to whip up an assortment of edible pot-infused treats, cannabis oil has achieved the most notoriety for its possible medicinal uses.

Like marijuana, cannabis oil contains two primary ingredients: the high-inducing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol (CBD), the second most active ingredient in marijuana. Typically, oil brands marketed for medicinal uses contain much less THC than your average joint but both ingredients have been touted for their curative powers.

Some Support

When it comes to cannabidiol and its related cousin chemicals, all broadly called cannabinoids, there’s some support showing they can reduce chemotherapy-related pain and other symptoms like vomiting and nausea in patients. Elsewhere, other research has shown cannabinoids can uniquely target and kill cancer cells and there have even been anecdotes of supposedly miraculous recoveries from cancer as a result of using cannabis oil.

THC, on the other hand, has been theorized to delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as help veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to help relieve their anxiety.

Controversy

Many of these promising studies, however, are generally in the earliest stages of research. Maybe cannabinoids can eliminate cancer cells or cut off their blood supply in the real world, or maybe, like many a purported cancer cure, they can only work in the lab.

What we do know is that desperate people have been taken for a ride when it comes to cannabis oil. Charity Cancer Research UK noted in 2015 that “scammers are tricking cancer patients and their families into handing over money for ‘cannabis oil’, yet receiving nothing in return.”

Their verdict on the oil itself? “There is no doubt that cannabinoids — both natural and synthetic — are interesting biological molecules. Hundreds of scientists around the world are investigating their potential in cancer and other diseases — as well as the harms they can cause... But claims that this body of preclinical research is solid ‘proof’ that cannabis or cannabinoids can cure cancer is highly misleading to patients and their families, and builds a false picture of the state of progress in this area.”

None of this is to say that cannabis oil is worthless as a medical treatment. Currently, medical research hasn't fully explored the drug's true protential yet. In the meantime, we should be wary of those claiming to say otherwise.