The Grapevine

Smoking Weed For Chronic Illness: 3 Most Common Medical Marijuana Strains And Uses

Bouts of immense pain and fatigue leave many of us in state of physical despair. Prescription painkillers do little to nothing to remedy our ailments. However, for those of us who live in a state where medical marijuana is legal with our "marijuana card," cannabis can be a better alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Once we visit a dispensary, or a licensed producer, we wonder what medical marijuana strain is best for our illness?

First, to understand the strains, we must know what exactly medical marijuana refers to, and its components. The medicinal use of cannabis involves the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The plant has chemicals, called cannabinoids, related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient. Other than THC, the marijuana plant contains more than 100 other cannabinoids. Our body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals that play a role in regulating pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, body movement, awareness of time, appetite, pain, and the senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight).

CBD and THC

Currently, there are two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant, THC and cannabidiol (CBD), which has proven to be of medical interest. THC increases appetite and reduces nausea, and also decreases pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems. Meanwhile, CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. It can be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.

3 Most Common Marijuana Strains

There are three varieties of medical marijuana strains to choose from, including sativa, indica, and hybrids. The difference between these three strains is the amount of THC and CBD that are present. THC is what gets the patient high, while CBD is what releases the medicinal properties. It is the ratio between THC and CBD in a medical marijuana strain that changes its effects and its ability to treat a variety of conditions, according to ProCon.org.

Sativa

Typically, sativa strains are low in CBD and high in THC. These strains have an impact on the mind more so than the body. They're known for being energetic and getting a patient to move around. Sativa is best for conditions like cancer, migraines, and depression.

In recent study published in Pharmacotherapy, researchers observed the effects of inhaled and ingested cannabis in migraine sufferers. The findings revealed the average number of migraine headaches decreased from 10.4 per month to 4.6, with almost 40 percent of participants reporting positive effects. Researchers want to figure out which cannabinoids, strains, and delivery method are most effective in treating headaches and migraines.

Popular sativa strains include: Triple Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, and Pure Power Plant.

Marijuana The three most common marijuana strains that can alleviate chronic illness. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, Public Domain

Indica

Indica strains are relatively high in both THC and CBD, relaxing the muscles and other parts of the body. It's known to produce a physical "body" high, which is great for relaxation and meditation. The strain is often used in treatment for anxiety, arthritis, and Parkinson's disease, among other conditions.

Arthritis, often associated with foot inflammation and morning stiffness, may be alleviated with cannabis. A 2015 study in The Journal of Pain found patients who used marijuana for one year to treat general chronic pain showed reduced discomfort and no serious side effects. "There was also significant improvement among cannabis users in measures of the sensory component of pain, symptom distress, and total mood disturbance compared to controls," wrote the researchers.

Popular indica strains include: Tahoe OG, Banana Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.

Hybrids

Hybrids are strains of cannabis that are grown as a mix of sativa and indica. Hybrid strains are most popular, because they produce therapeutic effects associated with both the sativa and indica strains. This is ideal for patients who want to remedy different types of symptoms.

Hybrids could potentially help with cancer treatment. A 2015 study in The Journal of Biological Chemistry tested cannabinoid treatment ability to kill glioma cells. These cells make up 80 percent of all malignant brain cancers, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. When a glioblastoma reaches stage four, the average life expectancy is less than two years. Researchers believe cannabinoid extracts, when used with radiation, could increase the cancer-killing effects of radiation in mice, slowing down the growth of cancer cells.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the US has admitted that marijuana benefits some cancer patients. The report states: “Recent animal studies have shown that marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others,” referring to the 2015 study.

Popular hybrid strains include: Strawberry Kush, Blackberry Rhino, and Pink Candy.

The Future of Medicinal Marijuana

The U.S. FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. However, the agency has approved two drugs containing a synthetic version of the substance that is present in the marijuana plant, and one other drug that contains a synthetic substance similar to compounds from marijuana, but is not present in actual marijuana. These drugs include,  Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone).

The FDA requires carefully conducted studies, like clinical trials in hundreds to thousands of human subjects to determine the benefits and risks of a possible medication. According to the agency, there have not been enough large-scale clinical trials that highlight the benefits of the marijuana plant that outweigh its risks in patients it's meant to treat.

So until then, those with a license to smoke can take a few puffs for their health.

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