Updated on December 10, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical marijuana is still a new frontier in the United States. Most states consider medical marijuana legalization a new phenomenon, not to mention marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. So, many medical cannabis patients face an unknown experience with factors they never thought about.
One of those factors is choosing a strain of weed suitable for a patient’s symptoms. After all, you can’t just pick any marijuana plant and expect it to relieve your symptoms — you must do your research on how the two types of marijuana strains affect the mind and body.
Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other incurable diseases often turn to medical marijuana in search of treatment that can do what conventional medicine can’t. However, many ALS patients are new to marijuana, so they need to learn the basics before optimizing their cannabis medicine.
All ALS cases result in death, and we currently don’t have a cure for the condition. It causes a lack of nourishment to the cells in your brain and spinal cord, triggering cell damage and cell death. When the cells in your nervous system die, your ability to do basic bodily functions deteriorates.
ALS symptoms tend to affect motor function and cognitive function, but they vary patient by patient. Some motor function-related symptoms include posture issues, unsteadiness and difficulty breathing and speaking. Cognitive issues caused by ALS include emotional outbursts and cognitive changes.
Every ALS case involves paralysis and muscle weakness. Full paralysis occurs in the later stages of the condition. Muscle weakness begins earlier once the nerves related to motor function begin to deteriorate.
We classify marijuana medicine into three varieties: indica, sativa and hybrid. Wbhen buying marijuana flower, you will choose from a list of strains that fall into those categories. It helps to understand the difference when purchasing other cannabis products, as well, since labels sometimes mention the kind of strain used in the product.
Indica strains promote relaxation and sleepiness. They cause a full-body effect as opposed to a purely cerebral one. These strains address symptoms like pain and insomnia.
Sativa strains impact your cognitive functions, clearing the mind and enhancing mood. They also cause more psychoactive effects than indica strains do. Patients with mental health and energy issues usually opt for sativa strains.
Hybrid strains come from crossbreeding any two marijuana strains. While any two types can serve as parent strains for a hybrid, growers can cross a sativa and an indica to cultivate a strain with benefits from both varieties. Read the strain information carefully — some hybrid strains contain mainly indica or sativa, while others have a mix of the two.
Since marijuana strains and ALS come in so many different varieties, the right strain for you is a personal decision. As a versatile medicine, marijuana can fit into just about any treatment plan when tailored to the patients’ needs.
So, think about the symptoms of ALS that bother you the most. Can marijuana medicine relieve them? ALS symptoms treatable with medical marijuana include:
Many of these symptoms can be addressed with any marijuana strain. Regardless of type, marijuana relieves pain, muscle spasms and excessive saliva production. On the other hand, we mainly use sativa strains to tackle fatigue and emotional problems.
If you have health issues treatable by any kind of strain, you should base your decision on your lifestyle and sensitivity to side effects. Indica strains and indica-dominant hybrids suit nighttime doses, while sativa strains and sativa-dominant hybrids are better for daytime use. Patients who experience severe side effects from a particular type may prefer a hybrid that balances out the two kinds.
Hungry for more knowledge? Dive into our ALS condition guide and explanation of strain differences. Remember, our advice can’t replace that of a licensed physician or budtender, so used our search engine to find a marijuana doctor or dispensary near you.