Patients who are suffering from medical conditions in which traditional drug treatments are ineffective will often look for an alternative source of symptom and pain relief using medical marijuana. If you’re just beginning to search for the best medical cannabis to treat your particular condition, the amount of choices can be overwhelming. We hope to provide some simple information here to get you on your way in choosing the right strain or hybrid strain to best meet your needs.
Sativa and Indica
Sativa and Indica are the two main types of medicinal cannabis, with each yielding different medical benefits and physical effects. Sativas are tall, thin plants with narrow light-green leaves. Sativa grows quickly and as high as 20 feet in one season. Indica, on the other hand, is a short, stocky, dense plant, with broad darker green leaves. Indica has a faster flowering time, 8 to 10 weeks versus Sativa’s 10-16, and is more commonly used to make hash. Sativa has a fruity, floral and sweet aroma while Indica tends to have a dry, acrid, even skunk-like odor.
Sativas, while tending to have a higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the primary psychoactive component of marijuana- are less potent than Indica. Therefore, for many patients, effects of Sativa are found to increase focus, creativity, energy and serotonin levels, offering them not only relief from their conditions but also an elevation in mood. Sativa is often characterized as “cerebral,” meaning it gives patients more of a “head/mind high.” For some illnesses, however, Sativa alone is not strong enough to provide sufficient therapeutic relief for body pains.
Indica strains are reported to be more relaxing and sleep-inducing, relieving nausea and stress and giving a sense of calm. Indica is used to treat a larger number of conditions and is often favored by those diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and glaucoma as it is shown to be very effective at reducing nausea, stimulating the appetite and reducing intraocular pain. Indica is often characterized as giving a “body stone” in contrast to the “head high” of Sativa.
Hybrid Medical Marijuana Strains
In addition to the two main strains, thousands of hybrid marijuana strains are also available. Often hybrids will fall into two broad groups: Indica-Sativa or Sativa-Indica. Each hybrid strain is developed to treat different ailments and have different effects. The goal of hybrids is to combine characteristics of each strain to minimize some of the unwanted effects of one while adding the desired effects of the other. For instance, Indica-dominant hybrids are effective for pain relief with the Sativa component allowing the patient to maintain energy and activity levels. Sativa-dominant strains are good for stimulating appetite, with the Indica component helping to reduce body pain and increase relaxation.
The options on hybrid strains are endless, and you may not know which specific strain will help your medical condition most until you try it. The two top criteria in choosing the best strain and to communicate to your medical marijuana provider are:
- What is the illness or ailment you have been diagnosed with?
- What are the symptoms you are trying to treat using medical marijuana?
Although most well-known for treating cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, cannabis is effective in treating illnesses and autoimmune diseases such as:
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Back pain
Choosing the best medical marijuana strain for your particular condition can take a little trial and error, but knowing the difference between the two main strains can help shorten the search. Potency and dosage vary with each strain, your condition and your individual tolerance. Your medical marijuana providers (sometimes also referred to as ‘budtenders’) can recommend the best strain and dosage that will best reduce your pain while still maintaining your ability to function in your everyday life.
For more detailed information about the many different strains available, we have listed United Patients Group’s Cannabis Strain Guide in the resource section of our website. Also, feel free to contact us for a recommendation of a medical marijuana dispensary in your area that can help you determine the best strains for your condition.