With an ever growing number of people choosing to try medical cannabis as a treatment for their ailments and/or illnesses, it is vitally important that those newcomers who have no experience with cannabis are provided with reliable information to help them choose the best strain for them.
To the uninitiated, it no doubt comes as quite a shock to discover the huge variety of different strains available, and the often very pronounced differences between them, particularly when it comes to treating specific illnesses. It is a long way from simply picking a strain at random and expecting it to work. Research is important if you want to get it right.
Indica Vs. Sativa
The most obvious choice you need to make as a new medical cannabis patient is between the two main varieties of cannabis – indica and sativa. Indica strains typically produce shorter, bushy plants, with dense buds with an often fruity or sour fragrance. These strains are usually associated with the stereotypical ‘couch lock’ effect, producing as they do a more pronounced body high. Because of this they tend to be favoured by patients looking for sedative effects, but are also effective for appetite stimulation, muscle spasms, pain, and anxiety. Durga Mata CBD or Mazar x White Rhino are great examples of this.
On the other hand, sativa strains produce tall, thin-leaved plants with less dense buds and a different, sometimes spicy, aroma. These strains are well known for their euphoric effects, and are preferred by many patients who suffer from nausea and other abdominal complaints (IBS, Crohn’s, etc), as well as being generally considered more effective for treating symptoms of depression than indicas thanks to their uplifting, energetic nature. Sour Diesel or Chocolate Haze would be perfect if you were looking for this type of strain.
These days, of course, it’s becoming less common to find strains that are 100% indica or sativa. The market has moved steadily towards where we are today, with literally thousands of ‘hybrid’ strains available which combine the different effects of the two traditional varieties in different ways. It is now possible to hand pick a strain that has been bred specifically to treat your symptoms, providing the best of both worlds. When choosing a strain it should be possible to find out precisely what its genetic lineage is, and which symptoms it is likely to treat the best. It naturally requires a little bit of research on your part, but is well worth the effort to find the perfect strain for your needs.
THC Vs. CBD
The other main factor when considering which strain is best for you is its cannabinoid profile. How much of each cannabinoid is present in the product you are consuming will make a huge difference to how effective it is as a treatment for your specific complaint. The two main components of cannabis are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is what gives cannabis its psychoactive effect – the high – but it also has medical properties, including pain relief, reduction of vomiting and nausea, suppression of muscle spasms, and appetite stimulation.
When it was first discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, it was thought that THC was responsible for all of cannabis’ effects, but that is now know to be untrue. The medical benefits of CBD are believed to outnumber those of THC, with research suggesting its efficacy at relieving pain, killing bacteria, reducing blood sugar levels, reducing seizures, inhibiting tumour growth, treating psychosis, reducing inflammation, promoting bone growth, and acting as an immunosuppressant in patients with autoimmune disorders, among many other possible benefits.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge, and spurred on by the black market, until very recently CBD had been essentially bred out of cannabis plants because of its lack of psychoactive effects. Now though, it is thankfully becoming far easier to obtain strains with a guaranteed ratio of at least 1:1 CBD to THC, and often a lot higher. This is great news for medical cannabis users for a number of reasons – first and foremost, it gives them a greater variety of strains and medicinal effects to choose from, but it also means that if you don’t want your medicine to get you high, it doesn’t have to.
Now obviously, every patient is different, and everyone reacts differently to different strains. For example, some find high-CBD indica’s to be most helpful for anxiety, whereas a some prefer sativas. For some, couch lock causes anxiety, whereas for others, it’s the energising effects of sativa’s that help. Point being, it’s best to try a few different strains to figure out which one suits you. You may even find you prefer one for day time use, and another for night time, so don’t just try one and give up when it doesn’t work for you. Most importantly, if you’re able to speak to a medical professional beforehand, do. Your doctor knows your medical history and may be able to offer advice, and all advice is worth listening to at the very least.