Rick Simpson, a Canadian cannabis crusader, has spent much of the past 15 years helping those diagnosed with cancer and other malignant conditions find treatment.
The retired engineer formulated a marijuana-derived oil, he named after himself, the Rick Simpson Oil (RSO).
Simpson’s journey in medical cannabis began in 1997 when he suffered a fall and sustained post-concussion syndrome, a disorder that causes dizziness, confusion, and headaches. He was prescribed pharmaceutical drugs but discontinued using them after experiencing tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
Eventually, he turned to medical marijuana after watching a documentary on its benefits. Unfortunately, his doctor refused him the treatment due to insufficient studies which prompted Simpson to grow his own marijuana. He claims the weed helped alleviate his symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
In 2003, after he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, he again immediately sought medical marijuana for therapy, especially after reading a study published in 1974 by the University of Virginia where they found that THC helped to kill cancer cells in mice.
Simpson extracted the oil from the cannabis plant, rich in THC concentrate, and applied it to the localized tumor topically for four days. After the fourth day, when he removed the bandages, he says the cancerous sores had vanished. When he approached medical professionals about his case, no one would hear him out.
Simpson took matters into his own hands and grew his own marijuana for others suffering from cancer. He was even raided multiple times by the Canadian federal police or the RCMP and his crops were destroyed.
Started giving his oil for free
With unstoppable zeal, Simpson continued to mass produce his Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), which was made of a concentrated form of cannabis oil, mostly consisting of high THC levels of 90%. He started giving it to people who needed it – free of charge.
THC is the psychoactive component – in cannabis – that gives people the “high.” Conventional medical marijuana is usually made of CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient that soothes and calms people.
The main difference between the RSO and CBD oil is the ratio of THC to CBD content. The RSO has little to none CBD while the latter is the opposite.
Now, Simpson recommends making RSO at home, providing a recipe for it on his website for anyone to use. He recommends using high indica strains, which provide a sedative effect. The process is similar to making cannabutter and other types of infused oils. RSO is dark in color and is usually stored in syringes for easy application. Simpson recommends increasing the dosage of the oil every few days to slowly titrate and introduce the product to the body.
Critics caution patients in using oil
Although the primary use for RSO is for cancer, many of its supporters say it can be used for a host of other conditions like asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and insomnia.
However, critics of cannabis use say there is not enough research to support this belief. They even assert that while patients seek RSO for treatment, they may stop following their doctor’s recommended cancer treatment. If the RSO doesn’t work, cancer can continue to grow and become harder and harder to treat, even with conventional methods, such as chemotherapy.
Critics caution that some research suggests that THC can actually increase the growth of cancer cells. These medical experts say large human studies are needed before cannabis becomes a recommended cancer treatment.
Critics also say making the oil can be dangerous. The recipe calls for use of naphtha, a solvent that is used in camping fuel over ethanol which is regular alcohol. Naphtha is unsafe and toxic if consumed. It is highly flammable and is a neurotoxin, which means it can severely damage the brain.
Naphtha and other solvents like it used in the making of RSO should be purged from the final product and critics don’t think people can fully purge it. They maintain that residue may still exist in the final product and people can potentially harm themselves in the process of making it.
The bottom line continues to be that while there are some promising results from using RSO to treat cancer, medical researchers are still a long way from having conclusive evidence about which cannabinoids and strains work best. The best choice is to always consult with a medical professional before embarking on any treatment.
As for Simpson and his oil, he still touts its benefits to anyone who is willing to try it. And many still reach out to him to thank him for providing them the relief they needed from their ailments.