Updated on December 19, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The increased availability of medical marijuana in the United States has introduced all sorts of folks to cannabis. Some patients with myasthenia gravis (MG) have found they can use marijuana as an alternative medicine. But, patients who are new to medicinal cannabis may find it a little more complicated than expected.
Cannabis plants come in many varieties called strains that each have different benefits. Since there are thousands of strains out there, it can be hard to tell what will work best for your MG symptoms.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disorder that weakens your muscles. Most cases of MG happen in important facial muscles, like the ones that control eye movement, swallowing and breathing. Regardless of where it appears, MG occurs when your immune system attacks the neurotransmitters that communicate movement to your muscles.
When you have MG, your immune system reduces the amount and function of the acetylcholine transmitters between your muscles and nerves. Acetylcholine is a compound that communicates movement to your muscles. When you don’t have as many working neurotransmitters, your muscles become weak.
MG’s primary symptom is the muscle weakness it causes, but having the disorder can result in other issues, too. For instance, MG can cause stress and pain, which then exacerbate the muscle weakness. The medications typically used for MG cause side effects like nausea, urination issues, fatigue, appetite problems and dizziness.
In states where dispensaries can sell marijuana bud, you may find a menu of strains when you buy medicine. You might see terms like “indica” or a percentage of chemicals called CBD and THC. What does it all mean for your treatment?
When you browse a selection of bud, you should first look at each product’s strain type. Like other kinds of plants, marijuana comes in all sorts of varieties. Cannabis plants come in three types of strains:
Sometimes, strain labels at a dispensary show the percentage of cannabinoids in the product. The two cannabinoids we know the most about are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both chemicals have distinct health benefits and effects, so check if a strain has a higher percentage of one than the other.
So, how can patients with MG use this information to buy the best medication? Some strains are more likely to help MG patients than others.
Scientific evidence shows both CBD and THC can help you manage your acetylcholine levels. But, we also have data demonstrating that CBD specifically helps with muscle spasms and seizures. So, you’ll most likely want to look for a strain with a high percentage of CBD.
Indica strains tend to have a more physical effect than a cerebral impact, so they can relax your muscles. On the other hand, sativa strains impact the brain, so a hybrid of both types could work well for MG patients. You also want to consider what time of day you take your medication. After all, indica strains can make you sleepy, and sativa strains can make you feel “high.”
Expert guidance can help you find the perfect medical marijuana strain for your health needs. Consult with a marijuana-certified doctor or a trained dispensary staff member today to find what’s best for you.