Chronic pain has a debilitating effect on quality of life, more than anybody who’s never had it could ever imagine. Not only are patients left to battle with this piercing, intense and often ever-present pain, there are few effective forms of conventional medication. Painkillers are usually prescribed, with opiates being given to tackle severe pain, but these addictive drugs are easy to get dependent on, which brings a host of new issues.
However, cannabis is a complex plant and the variety of strains is an indication that they all offer different experiences and are therefore best consumed in certain sets and settings. Some strains are energizing, making them great for daytime use when you’re in need of a pick-me-up. But take them in the night and you’ll be tossing and turning for hours. Likewise, there are sedative strains that make you dreamy and relaxed at night but would leave you sluggish during the day. These strains are usually best suited to quelling neuropathic and muscle pain. In this article, we’ll showcase the best strains you can take for chronic pain management.
Combat chronic pain with cannabis
Studies have consistently shown cannabis to be an efficacious combatant against several types of chronic pain, including that from chemotherapy. However, more moderate pain can also be relieved through cannabis – the herb’s cannabinoids will help anyone suffering from aches and pains.
In 2011, a clinical literature review determined that cannabis was both safe and effective for use in treating pain that wasn’t linked to cancer. Progressive politicians and medical experts have increasingly advocated for the use of cannabis in place of commonly-prescribed opioid painkillers, that are causing problems in the Western world, as well in Africa.
Studies have found that cannabinoids interact with pain-signalling cells – some are able to switch off pain signals and ease inflammation. This suggests cannabinoids could be incredibly effective against neuropathic pain, which pharmaceutical drugs struggle to treat.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can help to relieve pain. Some are reluctant to medicate themselves with THC, however, due to the compound’s psychoactive properties.
Some of the terpenes in cannabis, the chemicals that give the plant flavor and aroma, also exhibit analgesic properties that could potentially be harnessed in cannabis-based chronic pain drugs.
Amusingly, therefore, the stinky marijuana that has put many off the plant for years is actually the most therapeutic cannabis you could take. These strains are loaded with terpenes. Terpenes are present in vegetables, fruits and herbs – for example, myrcene and linalool can be found in mangoes and lavender respectively.
Each strain has a unique terpene profile, as it does a cannabinoid profile, which explains why there is nuanced variation in the effects. But this is why some strains of cannabis smell spicy and others fruity.
However, the flavoring compounds can be somewhat vulnerable if exposed to poor growing conditions. Cannabis plants must be grown in optimum soil, temperature and with the correct light exposure to reach their maximum terpene potential. All strains produce a different set of terpenes, and some seeds are more likely to produce a potent array than others, but you’ll still need to give your plants a lot of care and attention.
Organic cannabis is preferable, as these plants have a better variety of terpenes, having not been damaged by synthetic fertilizers or been grown in poor conditions.
Best cannabis strains to treat inflammatory pain (e.g. arthritis)
While arthritis will be our focus of inflammation-related pain, inflammation is ultimately responsible for worsening all of the conditions that we mention in this article. Inflammation is a natural process the immune system carries out during healing, it’s just prone to overreacting.
Suffering from excess inflammation is the last thing you need if you’re fighting chemotherapy-induced pain or have broken a bone – inflammation and pain are often intrinsically linked. Therefore, if you can treat the inflammation, you also manage to relieve the pain.
CBD and THC are two cannabinoids which have regularly demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory properties when used to treat many conditions, such as arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Budtenders usually recommend one-to-one strains (strains with equal amounts of THC and CBD) for pain relief, as this profile serves to boost the effects of the cannabinoids. A strain with good quantities of CBD and THC is great at easing arthritis pain and more.
CBD products were found to be four times more effective and anti-inflammatory than aspirin by researchers in a 1988 London study. Aspirin is one of the most common anti-inflammatory meds purchased over-the-counter in the United Kingdom and here in the US, so this is encouraging.
Society’s fears are often on cannabis, but no one has ever died from taking the herb. However, over-the-counter painkillers can be very dangerous, with the risk of overdose very real – more than 16,000 arthritis patients die annually from ODs on OTC drugs.
The high-CBD strains featured in the next section are great against anti-inflammatory pain but could also be used to treat other types of pain, including neuropathic pain. We’ve just selected these as they are particularly good at treating anti-inflammatory pain.
Any chronic patient should check out Harlequin, a strain which consistently offers a 5:2 CBD to THC ratio. CBD’s anti-psychotic properties quell the psychoactive effects from THC, yet this strain still offers a sativa-dominant hybrid experience. It’s a strain unlikely any other.
This profile means that the potential side effects of paranoia and anxiety from THC are reduced without reducing the medicinal value of the herb or its energizing properties. Therefore, Harlequin – and other CBD-rich strains – are great for using in the daytime, and at any time for people who refuse to get high.
Harlequin is loaded with compounds that offer neuroprotective and antioxidant effects, amplifying the strain’s therapeutic potential. And don’t forget the pain-relieving effects, that fight inflammation, neuropathic pain and more. The neuroprotective effects of Harlequin could be used to battle neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Traumatic brain injury symptoms could also be eased with Harlequin.
Harlequin is a mellow mood-booster with a typically musky aroma.
CBD, THC, CBC and the terpenes myrcene, pinene and beta-caryophyllene can be used to treat pains. The same compounds (except CBG instead of CBC) can be used for inflammation relief.
CBD, THC pinene and beta-caryophyllene all exhibit antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. CBG is just an antioxidant.
Cannatonic is a quite astonishing cannabis strain that has managed to consistently produce astronomical concentrations of CBD, while keeping the THC levels under control. This bud also contains a plethora of terpenes and other cannabinoids that contribute to a mellow experience. With the CBD outweighing the THC considerably in Cannatonic, you don’t have to worry about tripping!
Take Cannatonic in the daytime if you suffer from consistent pain – also consider taking it before social events if you’re prone to anxiety. Cannatonic is packed with linalool, a terpene found in lavender that exudes calming and relaxing properties. Cannatonic has a flora aroma, with underlying spicy notes.
The linalool combines with beta-caryophyllene and myrcene to provide Cannatonic’s anti-inflammatory effects, along with the cannabinoids CBD, CBG and THC. All of these compounds, minus CBG, also have notable pain-relieving properties.
CBD, THC and beta-caryophyllene are neuroprotectants, while CBD, CBG and THC have potential as antioxidants.
Why not try ACDC, Charlotte’s Web, Sour Tsunami or One to One? If the other strains haven’t been perfect for you or you’d just like a change, then experimenting is a great way of finding out more about how cannabis affects you.
Other uses for cannabis
Tension headaches, back ache, muscular strain and general malaise can all be remedied with a dose of cannabis, a plant which truly is an all-round pain-reliever. Musculoskeletal illnesses typically cause inflammatory pain, which can be treated with the herb.
The healthiest way to consume cannabis is either with a vaporizer or in edible form. Topical treatments are perfect for those who want to neither inhale nor ingest cannabis. Some choose to apply a topical when taking an edible for double the relief. Creams, balms, salves and gels are all thought of as topicals.
The cannabinoids and terpenes in the topical will work with receptors in the skin to ease localized inflammatory pain and muscle tightness.
In the next section, we’ll look at strains that deliver effective relief from tension headaches, tendon and ligament strain, overall body pain, muscle strain and back pain (e.g. slipped disk).
A balanced hybrid, White Widow combines the best of indica and sativa and is a popular strain for both medical and recreational use. This strain melts away the pain while indulging the user with euphoria. This mood-enhancing experience is a true delight.
But White Widow also has a stack of calming compounds to complement the intense high. Linalool, the lavender terpene, gives this strain a beautiful aroma, but also some extra potency as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
White Widow works to reduce swelling that arises in the muscles, which also has a protective effect. By protecting your muscle tissue from extensive inflammation, you prevent scarring which would lead to further muscle damage and tightness.
White Widow’s 50-50 mix makes it a much better daytime strain than many high-THC pain relief options. While this bud will produce some sedative effects, it makes up for it with increased mental awareness. If you have an office job that requires you to stay focussed for monotonous tasks over several hours, White Widow will help you to stay productive, in the moment and in relative comfort.
White Widow relieves pain and inflammation thanks mostly to the THC, pinene, myrcene and linalool present.
For pure, potent pain relief, Afghan Kush fits the bill. A famous and high-strength indica, this strain – as the name suggests – originates from the Middle East, specifically the Kush Mountain Region. Like many strains from those parts, Afghan Kush has a glorious terpene profile that makes this flower incredibly pungent. A few draws of Afghan Kush vapor and you’ll be welded to your sofa and pain-free for a few hours.
The strong indica effects of Afghan Kush means this strain produces primarily a body high. It’s this trait that makes it so effective for back and muscular pain relief. The high concentrations of analgesic THC coupled with a myriad of pain-fighting terpenes all play a role, too – a special mention to the obscure, but exciting terpene, humulene.
Humulene and more terpenes are responsible for the dank aroma that you get from this classic, spicy strain. The beta-caryophyllene has useful anti-anxiety properties, and it’s also thought to offer some relief from cancer pain. Super Sour Diesel is also high in beta-caryophyllene.
The antioxidant effects of Afghan Kush should not be forgotten. Antioxidants are crucial for relieving stress and preventing cell damage. You may only be using cannabis to fight your pain, but this awesome herb is also fighting plenty of other health battles for you.
The CBG, THC, beta-caryophyllene and humulene in Afghan Kush account for the pain and inflammation relief this strain delivers. The THC and beta-caryophyllene and terpinolene are the most important antioxidant compounds in this flower.
If you’re still seeking the optimum strain for pain relief, give Blue Dream, Green Crack or Juicy Fruit a go.
Treating neuropathic pain with cannabis
More than three million Americans annually are affected by neuropathic – or nerve – pain. Tissue damage and central nervous system damage are usually responsible for neuropathic pain. The symptoms are common among fibromyalgia patients and those who regularly experience migraines. The condition can be very debilitating.
Cannabis research has found that vaping the herb is a superb way of relieving neuropathic pain, and that it does so much more effectively, safely and softly than the standard prescription painkillers. In the correct dose, THC treated diabetic neuropathy without significantly inhibiting cognitive ability.
Multiple Sclerosis pain is treatable with CBD and THC, and it’s thought that similar muscular diseases could also be managed with cannabinoid therapy. These unique cannabis compounds ease brain inflammation and modulate cells which release pain signals.
Cannabinoids are the most useful group of cannabis compounds in tackling inflammation-related pain and general pain. However, all the strains in the following section have been picked because of their impressive terpene profiles. Some terpenes enhance the existing medicinal properties of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids, which are powerful antioxidants on their own. The neuroprotective properties of such strains are even greater than normal cannabis strains, and therefore ideal at managing neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
Cannabinoids and terpenes team up to make cannabis a super-powerful antioxidant, that can repair damage done to brain cells and nerve cells. Some cannabinoids are also thought to help with neurogenesis. The effect of cannabis on the brain is perhaps the most exciting of all research being carried out on the herb.
Fibromyalgia, diabetes, migraines, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and similar muscular conditions, phantom limb, HIV/AIDS and other types of neuropathy may all be treatable with the appropriate strain of cannabis.
Super Bud is a world-class cannabis strain with an eclectic mixture of therapeutic terpenes. This strain far exceeds what pretty much any other is able to offer in the terpene department. The profile of this strains leaves us in no doubt of its indica-dominant status, and the musky, mango aroma of Super Bud assures us it is rich in myrcene. Some woodiness and spice is also detectable in this Green House Seeds creation.
However, the pain relief and cerebral properties are thanks to the impressive, if not record-breaking concentrations of THC. At around 17 to 18 percent THC, you get a strong, but not overly intense high. The decent levels of cannabinol (CBN) contributes to the potent pain relief.
Swedish scientists established how THC and CBN provide pain relief in a study published back in 2002. The cannabinoids encourage endorphin release and relax blood vessels.
Super Bud contains high levels of THC, CBN, myrcene, beta-caryophyllene and pinene, which contribute to the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The same compounds, minus myrcene, offer some neuroprotection.
Yes, the Jack Herer is named after the famous cannabis author and activist, and this energizing strain is a fitting tribute to the great man. A sativa-dominant hybrid, Jack Herer provides a buzz that’s recognizable by tokers all over the planet. This bud will pick up your mood more naturally than any caffeinated beverage – it’s a great strain to have on hand during the day.
CBD-rich and indica-dominant strains have emerged as popular choices for chronic, inflammatory pain relief, but Jack Herer confirms to us that THC is an excellent pain-easer too.
But there are several terpenes, including pinene that also warrant credit for the overall analgesic effects of Jack Herer. The slight woodiness of this strain comes from the pinene, a compound that is thought to have several more, as yet undiscovered medicinal uses.
The decent mix of neuroprotective terpenes is another asset for Jack Herer. This collection of compounds helps to relieve stress and calm inflammation in muscle and brain tissue. Whether you smoke this strain or consume it in an edible, you’ll still be getting the full profile of terpenes and cannabinoids.
The pain relief and inflammation-fighting qualities of Jack Herer are mostly down to the THC, pinene, beta-caryophyllene and myrcene. THC, pinene and beta-caryophyllene have neuroprotective properties, too.
Looking for more strains that provide relief from neuropathic pain? Maybe check out Obama Kush, One-to-One, Lemon Thai, Sour Grape or Sour Haze.
Enjoy a night’s sleep without pain
Whatever type of pain is keeping you awake at night, you may be able to remedy it with cannabis. These strains are helpful for all sorts of pains, with their potent indica effects whacking you with a big hit of sedation: LA Confidential, Grandaddy Purple, Critical Mass and Hindu Kush.
Fight chronic pain-related depression with cannabis
Anyone who has battled with chronic pain or has been around someone who knows will be aware that the physical symptoms can often manifest into mental complaints – namely depression. This serious mental health disorder can, if untreated, have a severe impact on quality of life.
However, cannabinoids have overwhelmingly anti-depressant effects and can have a positive influence on your mood from the first dose. Several studies have identified how cannabis helps people to deal mentally and physically with pain. Sometimes, cannabis doesn’t effectively treat the condition a person was intending it to, but still enhances their quality of life by providing several other benefits.
There are several strains that can help with depression and stress, some of which are high in CBD, others are high in THC.
The next time you’re in the dispensary, try to find Sour Diesel, Girl Scout Cookies, ACDC (high-CBD), Strawberry Cough and Amnesia Haze.
If you use cannabis to combat any type of pain, leave us a comment and share your favorite strains with us.