Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you’ve ever wondered about the effectiveness of different medical marijuana options such as smoke, vape, edible, concentrate, tincture, or topical, a 2019 study, “Association Between Cannabis Product Characteristics and Symptom Relief,” may pique your interest.
Researchers from the University of New Mexico collected data from over 3,000 medical marijuana patients between 2016 and 2018 using a symptom tracking app called ReLeaf. Participants logged over 19,000 sessions in the app, taking note of details like quantity of THC and CBD consumed, how it was consumed, strains used, side effects, and real-time experience of symptom relief.
Overall, patients experienced “significant” relief (3.5 on an 11-point scale) in 27 different categories, including the most common medical marijuana needs like pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Data analysis showed dried flower, or “bud,” to be more effective than vapes, edibles, concentrates, or topicals for symptom relief. Researchers also found that indica varieties provided greater help for patients than sativa varieties.
Patients reported more benefit from using THC products with concentrations in the middle range (10-19 percent THC) and higher range (20-35 percent THC) than they did from THC in the lower range (0-9 percent). A greater concentration of CBD was not associated with improved results, though the researchers surmise that this could be due to a number of variables, including the fact that CBD is not psychoactive and its effects may be experienced more subtly and over time—an attribute that contrasts with THC’s rapid onset.
In the U.S., federal cannabis prohibition makes studying medical marijuana challenging; as a result, naturalistic studies (tracking people’s real-world behavior), like this one, are few and far between. As medical marijuana legalization progresses on a state-by-state basis, additional studies will add to our growing body of knowledge about how cannabinoids work therapeutically.