Using medical cannabis is an alternative to traditional pain-relieving medications that have been growing in popularity. The use of marijuana may relieve certain types of chronic pain like inflammation or nerve damage.

Studies show that chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States. And though there is a rise in using cannabis for medical purposes like pain or anxiety, most marijuana products lack approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The cannabis industry is just too new to have enough evidence necessary to confirm the safety and effectiveness of all the products.

Though, informal research and evidence suggest that cannabis or simply certain chemicals in it may aid in relieving certain kinds of pain. There are certain types of strains out there that can have slightly different effects on the consumer.

Some Things To Consider About Pain

Although experiencing pain is an uncomfortable experience, it is also something natural. Pain is the alarm of an issue. It is the symptom that shouts out that all is not right with our bodies. Because there are many causes for the pain, the relief needed will always be different. 

The complexity of pain can rival the complexity of the benefits of cannabis.

Which Strains Work Best For Pain?

Unfortunately, there is limited research out there on using specific strains over others. However, there are sites and people who will recommend strains for pain. But, strain-specific recommendations have not been medically proven yet. 

The first thing is understanding that there are three different types of cannabis plants. There are the cannabis Indica, cannabis Sativa, and hybrids that may be balanced or can lean either heavy on India with fewer amounts of Sativa or vice versa.

An online survey of just under 100 participants was done back in 2014. The people conducting the online survey found that the participants preferred Indica strains for their pain. They use it for pain management, sedation, and sleep. The participants also would prefer Sativa strains for energy and mood improvement.

For pain management, the participants reported a significant effect while under the influence of an indica strain. They found it helpful for minor headaches (not migraines), spasticity, neuropathy, and joint pain.

Though this survey provided some insight and information, this study was actually very limited. The limit lies in the small scale of participants and the use of self-report, rather than observing themselves. Furthermore, researchers did not use a controlled setting for marijuana use. This potentially resulted in differences in dosage, potency, and cannabis composition/type of consumption.

Another study was done on the effects of organically grown cannabis in the treatment of a plethora of medical conditions. However, a little more than half of the participants for this study were using marijuana to treat their HIV.

This study was more extensive since its duration was three years. While following the participants for those three years, they were asked about the effects of the plant on their condition during this time. The study indicated that Indica strains have more of a chance to improve energy and appetite. Moreover, both Indica and Sativa strains could alleviate nausea.

But How Does It Work?

What makes cannabis popular and significant is the presence of cannabinoids in the plant. In addition, since 2016, there has been attention on terpenes as well. Terpenes exist in the essential oils of plants and are responsible for their taste and smell. Terpenes are secondary to cannabinoids as far as pain relief, but some can not only provide relief for stomach pain and nausea, but also for inflammation, which could alleviate pain. As far as cannabinoids, there are two different types that have been most studied. They are known as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

There are big differences in the effects of these two cannabinoids. THC resembles the cannabinoid chemicals that naturally occur in our bodies. Furthermore, we have receptors for cannabinoids called the Endocannabinoid System. When consumed, THC can stimulate the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. This triggers what is called the “brain’s reward system” and reduces pain levels. The trigger releases dopamine in your brain, thus causing the psychoactive experiences provided by THC. However, the THC stays dormant as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or simply THCa. When enough heat is added, the acid becomes neutral and we are left with the psychoactive THC. 

On the other hand, CBD does not cause a high experience like THC. However, it does interact with pain receptors in the brain to provide, to a certain degree, pain relief, and anti-inflammatory results. This is why indica plants, which tend to have higher traces of CBD, are preferred for pain relief.

So What Do We Know?

Though there are claims and some surveys done, there just hasn’t been enough research on cannabis on a scientific level, let alone any relations to medical benefits like relieving pain. This is due to marijuana being classified as an illegal drug for so long. Now that it is legal, it can be studied. With that being said, there has been enough research to start making theories of such claims for relieving pain.

For example, if we consider terpenes we can find some possible connection with relieving pain. The terpene eucalyptol has properties of anti-inflammatory. This terpene is obviously named after the plant it mostly exists in, the eucalyptus tree. However, there have been small traces of eucalyptol in some cannabis strains. And this is known to be anti-inflammatory. Because terpenes aren’t illegal and exist in all plants, they can be studied. This is why it can be said that a cannabis plant containing eucalyptol can help ease pain. There is no substantial proof without actually testing a cannabis plant with eucalyptol can be a significant anti-inflammatory and alleviate pain.

As we do more research, we will find more discoveries about cannabis and its ability to aid our everyday lives. Though we don’t have much research done yet, patients and cannasseurs all know that cannabis has been improving our quality of life for centuries. Hopefully, the mysteries of weed’s medical properties will be discovered and allow us to harness these properties for quality medication with little to no negative side effects.

*The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease