Do I Need a Different Strain of Medical Marijuana?
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 10/16/2017 in Strains
Updated on December 21, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
When you opt to take medical marijuana to treat your symptoms, you need to be aware all medical cannabis products aren’t the same. There are many varieties, known as strains, from various areas of the world. The characteristics of each cannabis strain give it the unique properties that help treat various ailments and conditions.
That means it’s helpful to consider the strain of cannabis you use for your own medical needs. One strain might work well for you if you have anxiety, whereas another could be useful to soothe your neurological pain, for example.
Just how many medical marijuana strains are there? In 2014, there were 779 strains on file, according to a 2014 Los Angeles Times article. That’s far too many to discuss here in this one article. And reviewing every strain of medical pot that could help treat your condition might naturally leave you overwhelmed and confused.
Instead, we’ll focus on an overview of marijuana strains, touch on some specific strains and discuss why you may need a different strain than the one you’re currently using.
Choosing a Medical Marijuana Strain
You may be under the impression all strains of marijuana offer identical benefits. This is not true. If you’re unfamiliar with the effects of specific cannabis strains, you could end up with one that doesn’t treat your symptoms, well — or at all.
Different strains can treat the symptoms of a plethora of illnesses. So before you choose a strain, it’s a good idea to know about the various subspecies of cannabis — sativas, indicas, ruderalis and hybrids.
What Is Pure Sativa?
Pure sativas can be difficult to grow. They are the tallest varieties of the cannabis plant and can often reach 20 feet in height. Sativas primarily grow in equatorial regions. The plants are thin with light green, narrow leaves. They can flower for 12 to 14 weeks.
Users describe the flavors of sativas as earthy, sweet and/or fruity. When they’re in their purest form, sativa strains can cause irregular heartbeats and paranoia. You could feel as though you have taken too much caffeine when you take them. On the other hand, pure sativas can give you relief from an overactive appetite, depression, nausea, fatigue and pain. Sativa effects include:
- Head high
- Uplifting effect
Because of the effects of sativa strains, individuals tend to take them during the day.
What Is Pure Indica?
In contrast, pure indicas are denser, shorter plants with broad leaves that are darker green than indicas. Originally, these were first found in the central Asian areas of Tibet, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They grow well indoors and usually finish after eight weeks of flowering.
Indicas tend to have fruity, sweet flavors, although some have unsavory, strong fragrances. Users often seek them for their powerful sedating effects as they can help to fight insomnia and pain. Indica strains provide you with a potent high that’s known by many as a “body stone.” It’s best to take indica when you don’t plan on being particularly active. Indica effects include:
- Body high
- Sleep aid
- Pain relief
- Appetite stimulation
Because of the effects of indica strains, individuals tend to take them in the evening.
What Is Hybrid?
Developers have created strains with a huge range of medicinal benefits. They’ve crossbred and refined strains. The process has given more hope to people seeking medical relief from the plant. Hybrid strains allow patients to take advantage of the positive benefits of the different types of cannabis they contain. There is consequently a reduction of unwanted side effects.
What Is Ruderalis?
Ruderalis is Russian in origin. It has extremely low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels but high amounts of cannabidiol (CBD). When the plant crossbreeds with indicas and sativas, it produces autoflowering hybrids. Auto-flowering means that rather than flowering based on the season, the plant flowers according to its age. These auto-flowering hybrids display the medical benefits of their crossed-plants.
Choosing the Right Cannabinoids
You need to take the cannabinoid content of a strain into account when finding one that works optimally for you. Many people mistakenly believe all marijuana gives you a psychoactive, laid-back and sleepy high.
This is not true. Some strains don’t give you psychoactive effects. Everything depends on the types of cannabinoids that are most prevalent in the strain you choose.
Cannabinoids are the molecules in the weed plant that have a medicinal effect. The two most abundant cannabinoids in pot are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD isn’t psychoactive, although it can lighten your mood. THC is the primary psychoactive substance in the plant and gives you a cannabis “high.”
Nowadays, there are many pot strains with a ceiling of as much as 25 percent THC. Ones containing less than 15 percent are not as psychoactive. The majority of strains are either dominant in CBD, THC or have a mixture of both.
Let’s take a look at what these different cannabinoids are useful for.
Why Use THC Strains As Medicine?
THC strains are helpful in the following ways:
- Muscle relaxant
- Stress relief
- Appetite stimulation
- Fighting inflammation
- Treating pain
- Easing nightmares
- Falling asleep
- Addressing anxiety in low to moderate doses
- Treating depression in low doses
Some high-THC strains are:
- Blue Dream
- Gorilla Glue
- Girl Scout Cookies
Why Use CBD Strains As Medicine?
High-CBD strains offer daytime and pain relief. They are anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant and antibacterial. They are helpful with treating the following:
Some high-CBD strains include:
- Charlotte’s Web
Combining THC and CBD
Taking THC and CBD together is considered to:
- Boost anti-inflammatory potential.
- Enhance pain relief.
- Boost antioxidant potential.
- Provide daytime relief.
- Ease THC-induced paranoia and anxiety.
- Improve sleep.
Some balanced CBD/THC strains are:
- Stephen Hawking Kush
- Sour Tsunami
- CBD Critical Care
Signs You May Need a Different Strain of Medical Marijuana
There are many reasons you might not be best matched with the type of marijuana strain you’ve bought. These include potential allergies, the pot being too strong or weak, side effects of some strains, your general tolerance level, how cannabis interferes with your daily life and more. Let’s take a look at some of these in greater detail.
Am I Allergic to Marijuana?
If you suspect you may be allergic to pot, your doctor can run a skin test to pinpoint an allergy. Symptoms of a marijuana allergy include:
- Nasal passage inflammation
- Itchy eyes
More severe allergic reactions include minor throat swelling, rashes and hives. During a skin test, your doctor puts extracts from crushed buds, leaves and flowers of the plant in contact with your skin. If you have a positive reaction, like swelling, reddening of the skin, skin breakouts or itchiness, you have an allergy. Some people develop a reaction within hours of a skin test, whereas others don’t react for days.
Your immune system reacts negatively to proteins. It releases immunoglobulin, an antibody that should normally attack foreign entities. Histamine is simultaneously released. The process may cause adverse stomach reactions, such as diarrhea and vomiting, in some medical marijuana users. If your allergic reaction is mild, stomach cramps could be your only gastrointestinal symptom.
Your doctor might prescribe you antihistamines or vitamin C supplements to help alleviate your symptoms. Vitamin C reinforces your immune system and can reduce the intensity of your allergy.
Addressing a Low Tolerance to Marijuana
You could have a low tolerance to medicinal pot if you have a bad experience the first time you take it. For this reason, you should try it in moderation when you begin your medical cannabis journey. You should ask your medical marijuana doctor or budtender about the strains that are best for beginners. For example, you don’t want to take a strain that’s high in THC to begin with, as this can induce paranoia or anxiety.
Bear in mind that factors such as your tolerance level, amount consumed, delivery method, THC and CBD levels and the weed strain provide every patient with a different experience. If you’re new to weed and are asking yourself, “What is the right strain for me?” these suggestions will help:
- Choose a strain that’s high in CBD. CBD has relaxing, medicinal qualities, whereas THC is more psychoactive. Additionally, CBD offsets any anxiety you may feel from THC. The best route for you could be to consume only pot strains with low THC levels or CBD-only types. Your marijuana doctor or a budtender can advise you on this.
- Start off slowly. Ease yourself into taking cannabis. With all the anecdotal success stories around, you might feel tempted to go full steam ahead into trying vast quantities of weed. Don’t. Pot affects people differently. Make sure you’re comfortable with a small dose before you try upping it. When you take marijuana, you impact your brain’s chemistry. By starting off taking small hits, you can discover what your body can tolerate.
- Consider the delivery method. The way you take pot provides a particular effect. If you smoke a strain and eat that same strain, your experience is different.
Medical Marijuana Delivery Methods and Effects
Let’s take a closer look at the delivery methods you can use and what may be best for you. These are the four most common:
- Smoking. Most people take pot by smoking it. It’s easy to control the dose you take. Also, the effects of smoking weed last only about 30 minutes. The downside is smoking is bad for your lungs.
- Vaping. Vaping is a good option if you’re a beginner. It’s not hard on your throat and lungs as you can control the dose and preserve the flavor of the flower.
- Topicals. Putting topicals on your skin to relieve pain and inflammation has no psychoactive effects. Topicals are a perfect option for beginners.
- Eating. If you opt to consume edibles, you should only eat a small piece at a time. Edibles take time to kick in. If you take too much too soon, you could begin to feel paranoid. You can eat fresh cannabis and juice it, too.
Other Considerations for Finding the Right Strain of Pot
Cannabis is a unique plant. Learning how different strains affect you involves trial and error. It’s also true that individual batches of each type can vary due to growth environment and the plant’s phenotype, or observable characteristics.
It’s crucial to learn some basics about pot, such as how to store it, so it doesn’t’ go bad. You need to ensure you store your medical marijuana correctly to get the most out of it. Some edible products need to be refrigerated, so keep that in mind if you travel frequently. There are other types of pot products you need to keep at room temperature.
Some cannabis products last forever, while others have an expiration date. Also, always be aware of both the dominant cannabinoid and the classification when it comes to picking a strain. If you’re in any doubt, speak to your medical marijuana doctor or the staff at your dispensary.
Reliable Strains to Consider When You’re New to Medical Marijuana
We’ve compiled a short list of generally reliable strains that are excellent for you if you’re just starting out. They are:
- Granddaddy Purp. Granddaddy Purp is a berry-flavored indica-dominant hybrid useful to help you get a good night’s sleep naturally. It also boasts pain-killing properties. If you suffer from chronic stress or pain, this strain might be right for you.
- Blue Dream. Blue Dream is a hybrid of Haze and Blueberry strains. You feel great relief in both your mind and body when you take this strain. The Blue Dream strain has an appealing flavor and aroma that’s especially useful if you suffer from anxiety.
- Green Crack. Green Crack is a sativa-dominant hybrid. It’s perfect for taking in the morning to provide you with an energy boost and make you feel focused.
The above are some of the most popular strains in the world today. You should have no difficulty whatsoever obtaining these from a dispensary.
Learn More About Medical Marijuana Strains
Diving into the realms of medical cannabis is daunting. There’s so much to find out about and to know. It’s also an exciting prospect as you’re able to take control of your treatment. Medical weed empowers you in that respect.
You can always ask for expert advice on how to choose a marijuana strain and what to look for in a strain of marijuana. For instance, you can ask your marijuana doctor or budtender questions like:
- Should I switch strains?
- What’s the best method of ingestion for me?
- Am I taking too much pot for my needs?
- Am I taking too little weed to help my condition?
- Is the strain I’m taking better for daytime or nighttime use?
Often you find the problems you have with a specific strain have a simple remedy. You may just need to adjust your dose or take your pot differently. With some advice and some experimentation, you’ll find the right strain.
Choosing the correct medical cannabis for your needs can be a little tricky since each person must test different strains, doses and ingestion methods until they find the best match. Hopefully, this article has answered some of your questions. Cannabis may seem like a simple plant, but its potential is boundless.