Updated on January 21, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The pain of a chronic condition like arthritis is one of the most common reasons people turn to medical marijuana for relief. Arthritis or chronic pain is a qualifying medical condition for medical marijuana in 36 states.
There are two main types of arthritis, both characterized by joint pain and inflammation. In osteoarthritis, which occurs in virtually everyone with age, the cartilage that provides a cushion between bones wears away, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, which is less common, the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can lead to deformity.
Which cannabis strains help reduce arthritis pain the most? A recent study in the Journal of Headache Pain sought to find out. In the study, 2,032 medical cannabis users with headache, migraine, arthritis, and/or chronic pain completed a survey about the main symptoms they experienced and the strains of cannabis they used to treat those symptoms.
Choosing the best strain of medical cannabis can often be a matter of trial and error. But these specific strains, preferred by the patients with arthritis in the study, can give you an idea of which strains to inquire about when you visit your local medical marijuana dispensary.
Generally, study subjects with arthritis preferred indica strains, a type of cannabis known for its fat leaves, short flowering cycles and physically sedating effects. They also favored hybrid strains, which mix indica and sativa strains, which are known for their energizing effects.
The strains of medical marijuana are listed below in order of most to least popular among the 159 study subjects with arthritis as their primary illness.
OG Shark: With THC levels averaging around 20%, this indica-dominant strain may offer potent blissful and relaxing effects. Paranoia can be a side effect, especially for beginners.
Cannatonic: This hybrid strain offers a THC content that tends to hover around 6%, with CBD measuring 6%-17%, which makes it potentially powerfully relaxing and beneficial for pain management.
Sweet Skunk is an indica-sativa hybrid that offers THC levels of up to 20%. Good for daytime and evening use, Sweet Skunk offers euphoria followed by relaxation, but beware. The THC level may be too much for beginners, resulting in paranoia and hyperactivity.
Jack Herer: This sativa-dominant strain offers THC levels of 15%-24%, with a mellow high that may help relieve chronic aches and pains. But it can also be stimulating, so avoid it if you also have trouble sleeping.
Warlock CBD: This indica-dominant strain is frequently used to ward off pain and inflammation. It typically contains roughly 8% THC and 4% CBD.
Lemon Sour Diesel: This bud offers THC in levels averaging around 16%. Users report it relaxes muscles while fine-tuning mental focus.
White Widow: Containing an average of 15%-20% THC, White Widow may help relieve chronic joint and muscle pain. Medical users also report feeling happier and more creative. Side effects reported include dry mouth and eyes while smoking.
Pink Kush: This indica-dominant strain generally has a high percentage of THC (over 20%) and a low level of CBD (less than 1%), and may not be the best choice for beginners due to the potential for inducing paranoia. But medical users generally report the strain helps with pain management.
Master Kush: Although this indica dominant strain with THC levels averaging 20%-24% is mainly used for relieving stress and anxiety, medical users report that it produces a body-numbing high that can help manage chronic pain. Beginners should be mindful of the potential for paranoia.
Island Sweet Skunk: Medical users report that this sativa-dominant strain offers a whole-body relaxation that can ward off aches and pains while maintaining a floaty brand of functionality. Its THC levels range from 16%-25%, with .1 percent CBD.
Girl Scout Cookies: This hybrid offers THC levels of 25%-28%, with 1% CBD. Medical marijuana users report that it’s a powerful strain for treating chronic pain, muscle tension, inflammation, and cramps thanks to its highly sedative properties.
Skywalker OG: This indica-dominant strain offers levels of THC ranging from 20%- 25%. Users report that it delivers a relaxed and lethargic high that fades into a peaceful sleep, making it ideal for treating chronic pain due to illness or injury
Jean Guy: Medical users of this sativa-dominant strain report uplifting and energizing effects and pain relief from chronic conditions, such as arthritis. But use it in moderation if you’re anxiety-prone.
Overall, Cannatonic was the only strain of medical cannabis preferred by arthritis patients in the study with a low THC to CBD ratio. Most of the strains contained comparatively moderate to high levels of THC.