The cannabis plant has long been associated with recreational use due to its euphoric, mind-altering effects. However, more individuals and researchers are delving into its therapeutic potential, especially in pain management.
Broadly (and legally) speaking, cannabis varieties can be divided into hemp and marijuana based on their THC content. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating "high,"and hemp has almost none while marijuana can contain as much as 30 percent or more. Beyond this binary categorization, cannabis is classified into three primary types: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. And if we go into the nitty-gritty, you can talk about strains.
A strain is a specific variety or genetic line of plants bred for its unique combination of chemical compounds. Some strains are reputed to aid pain relief, largely attributed to the interplay of cannabinoids and terpenes with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In this article, we'll get into all these concepts and more and highlight some of the best cannabis strains for pain relief, while we’re mostly looking at hemp, most of these strains still apply as some of the best marijuana strains for pain relief.
What is a Cannabis Strain?
The term “strain” is used to refer to a specific variety bred for its unique combination of chemical compounds and with a specific lineage. While Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid classifications give a general idea about the expected effects and growth patterns of cannabis plants, it's important to note that individual reactions can vary.
For instance, not all Sativas will invariably provide uplifting effects, nor will all Indicas necessarily induce relaxation. However, for the most part, these classifications serve as useful starting points for consumers.
What's the difference between these general categorizations of cannabis?
- Indica: Recognized for their shorter and bushier stature, Indica plants grow faster and produce larger yields than their Sativa counterparts. Regarding chemical composition, Indicas typically possess a higher CBD to THC ratio. Historically, they have been associated with relaxing and sedative effects, which is why many believe Indicas to be more suitable for nighttime use.
- Sativa: Sativa plants are taller with narrower leaves and thrive in warmer climates. They usually possess a higher THC-to-CBD ratio. In terms of effects, Sativas are often considered uplifting and cerebral, making them popular choices for daytime consumption.
- Hybrid: As the name suggests, Hybrid strains are bred from both Indica and Sativa plants and aim to capture the beneficial traits of each. Hybrids' physical appearance, growth pattern, and chemical composition can vary widely, depending on their parent strains.
Within these broad categories, individual "strains" have been selectively bred over time to exhibit specific traits, be it flavor, aroma, growth pattern, or the type and intensity of effects they produce.
The 7 Best Cannabis Strains for Pain Relief
- Auto Pilot
- Cherry Wine
- Blackberry Kush
1. Auto Pilot
Leading the list, Auto Pilot, primarily used in Neurogan's hemp products, has garnered attention for its potential pain-relieving qualities.
The Auto Pilot has variations as both a hemp and marijuana strain. Whether you're gravitating towards the non-intoxicating hemp version (with THC levels below 0.3%) or considering the marijuana variety with a higher THC content, Auto Pilot promises a unique experience grounded in its rich terpene profile.
The buds of this strain have a distinct peppery and musky aroma thanks to the beta-caryophyllene and myrcene terpenes. These terpenes lend more than just a flavor and scent profile. They're bioactive compounds known for their potential anti-inflammatory properties and sedative effects associated with pain relief. This duo may work synergistically to support those looking to relieve pain with a powerful yet balanced cannabis strain.
ACDC is categorized as an indica strain, and it's known for its high CBD content and very low THC content, coupled with its rich terpene blend, which might offer a multi-pronged approach to pain relief.
Myrcene, for instance, is often associated with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Meanwhile, linalool and caryophyllene may provide additional inflammatory benefits.
ACDC owes its unique genetic makeup to Cannatonic, a strain revered for its balanced CBD and THC content. By isolating and enhancing the CBD-rich phenotypes of Cannatonic, breeders cultivated ACDC with its characteristic high-CBD profile. Like Auto Pilot, ACDC is considered one of the more powerful pain-relieving strains for people seeking non-intoxicating effects for daytime use.
Harlequin's genetic lineage reads like a global tour of cannabis strains. It's a Sativa-dominant hybrid that combines the genetic traits of Colombian Gold, Thai, and Swiss landrace strains and a Nepali Indica. This eclectic mix of genetics has resulted in a strain that brings together the best of multiple worlds, culminating in Harlequin's unique profile.
Harlequin can be found as a medical marijuana strain with a very low THC content associated with potent pain-relieving effects. At its core, Harlequin is renowned for its consistent CBD:THC ratio, which is typically around 5:2. This balance means that while it does contain higher CBD levels than many strains, it also has a noticeable but moderate THC content for a slight psychoactive effect.
Harlequin can also be found as a legal hemp strain with less than 0.3% THC, which means you don't need a medical marijuana card to access it.
If we have a look at Harlequin's terpene profile, you'll see familiar compounds. Myrcene leads the charge with its herbal, earthy tones. Pinene follows closely, imparting a refreshing pine undertone. Additionally, hints of caryophyllene introduce a spicy kick, and limonene offers a subtle citrusy zest.
4. Cherry Wine
Cherry Wine is predominantly recognized as a high-CBD, low-THC hemp strain. Most of its variations will have less than 0.3% THC, classifying it as hemp rather than marijuana. This ensures that users can tap into its potential benefits without experiencing a significant psychoactive "high," making it a popular choice for those who wish to remain clear-headed while seeking relief from chronic pain.
The strain's name is more than just a fancy moniker. Users often note that Cherry Wine carries an aroma and flavor profile reminiscent of rich cherry wine, making it a treat for the palate and the nose when smoked.
Many users are drawn to Cherry Wine primarily for its potential therapeutic properties. Its high CBD content and diverse terpene profile are believed to contribute to its potential pain-relieving effects. The presence of myrcene and caryophyllene, both of which have been associated with anti-inflammatory properties, may work synergistically with CBD to offer relief to those battling chronic pain or inflammation. The absence of significant THC levels ensures that users can benefit from pain relief without a pronounced psychoactive experience.
5. Blackberry Kush
Blackberry Kush is predominantly a marijuana strain due to its THC content, which can be quite high. While many high-CBD strains are on the market, Blackberry Kush typically isn't one of them. The THC-rich profile tends to provide users with the relaxing, sedative effects commonly associated with this strain.
Unless you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you will need a medical marijuana license to access this strain to treat chronic pain or address anxiety and depression symptoms.
The strain's high THC content can produce a body-heavy sensation, which some users find effective against physical discomfort. Moreover, the presence of caryophyllene and myrcene, both of which have been associated with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, might play a role in its potential to alleviate pain. These effects make Blackberry Kush a popular choice for evening use, especially for those looking to unwind and possibly find respite from physical discomfort.
Catatonic is recognized for its high CBD content, often presenting a CBD-to-THC ratio that leans heavily toward the former.
Most variations of Catatonic will classify it as a hemp strain due to its typically low THC content (usually below 0.3%). However, certain phenotypes might contain slightly higher levels of THC, moving it closer to the marijuana spectrum. Still, the strain's most distinguishing feature is its CBD richness, making it a potent cannabis strain for those looking for chronic pain relief.
Catatonic's name might hint at an immobilizing experience, but it's somewhat of a misnomer. While the strain can be relaxing, it doesn't typically induce the "catatonic" state its name suggests. The name is likely a playful nod to one of its parents, MK Ultra, which references the notorious CIA mind-control experiments.
The strain's CBD dominance and the synergistic effects of its primary terpenes (especially myrcene and caryophyllene, which are often linked to anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties) may offer a holistic approach to pain management. Its balance ensures that users can potentially experience pain relief without an overwhelming psychoactive effect, making it suitable for daytime use for some.
7. (Bonus) Black Cherry Gelato Strain
Black Cherry Gelato Strain is an enticing hybrid strain known for its delightful flavor profile and potential pain-relieving properties. This strain is a cross between Black Cherry Funk and Acai strains, resulting in a unique combination of genetics that offers both an enjoyable experience and potential relief from discomfort.
One of the standout features of Black Cherry Gelato is its rich terpene profile. It's often loaded with myrcene, which has anti-inflammatory and sedative properties, making it a valuable asset in the realm of pain relief. Additionally, limonene may contribute a touch of uplifting citrus aroma, while caryophyllene adds a hint of spiciness to the overall bouquet.
The THC content in Black Cherry Gelato can vary, but it generally falls within a moderate range. This means it can provide a gentle euphoric effect without causing overwhelming psychoactivity, making it suitable for those seeking pain relief without feeling overly sedated.
How Cannabis Relieves Pain
The human body possesses an intricate system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which regulates numerous processes, including pain perception. The main active compounds in cannabis, cannabinoids (like THC and CBD), can mimic the body's natural endocannabinoids, potentially modulating pain sensation.
THC primarily interacts with CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain (central nervous system), which may help to alter the body's pain response.
CBD tends to interact with CB2 receptors found throughout the body. Their combined interaction with the ECS can provide a balanced approach to pain management.
While CBD products are often used for their pain relief potential without psychoactive effects, some people enjoy the mind-altering effects of THC for pain, which can also provide some relaxing and numbing effects.
Terpenes and the Endocannabinoid System
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in various plants, including cannabis. They contribute to the plant's aroma, taste, and therapeutic properties.
Research suggests certain terpenes offer anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties . When combined with cannabinoids in what's often referred to as the "entourage effect," terpenes might amplify and complement the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids.
Ways to Take Cannabis to Relieve Pain
The consumption of cannabis has evolved significantly over time, branching out from the traditional smoke-inhale technique to a plethora of innovative and health-conscious methods. Let's have a quick look into the various ways one can use cannabis for potential pain relief.
- Smoking: The traditional method, it offers quick onset of effects but may not be suitable for everyone due to potential lung irritation.
- Edibles: Products such as CBD gummies or pills consumed orally offer prolonged effects but may take longer to start working.
- Topicals: These are creams, balms, and lotions infused with cannabis extracts. These are applied directly to the skin for localized pain relief without any systemic or psychoactive effects.
- Extracts and Tinctures: For those not interested in raw cannabis, there are products containing concentrated extracts of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. They can be consumed directly or added to food and drinks.
Choosing the right consumption method largely depends on individual preferences and specific needs. It's always recommended to start slow, particularly with edibles and extracts, to find the most comfortable and effective dosage. Consulting with a healthcare or cannabis professional can further guide one's journey toward potentially harnessing the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for pain relief.
Discover The Best Cannabis Products for Pain Relief
Navigating the vast realm of cannabis products can be overwhelming, especially when searching for pain relief options. As the industry has evolved, so have the formulations and product types, moving beyond just the raw plant material.
Here are some standout products that have garnered attention for their potential pain-relieving properties:
1. Neurogan CBD Gummy Squares
The potent 90 mg and 120 mg gummy options, in particular, have been praised for their potential to alleviate pain. Not only do they provide the therapeutic benefits of CBD, but they also offer a delightful taste, making the consumption experience pleasant.
Available in both full-spectrum and THC-free broad-spectrum CBD extracts, users have the option to select the one that aligns with their preferences and needs.
The full spectrum CBD variants mimic the natural profile of the cannabis plant, containing a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. Due to the "entourage effect," these components work synergistically, enhancing the overall benefits. Notably, they include up to 0.3% THC, though not in intoxicating levels.
Broad spectrum CBD offers a diverse cannabinoid and terpene profile but without THC for those looking to avoid the cannabinoid entirely. Moreover, these are vegan-friendly gummies with a low sugar content, catering to health-conscious consumers.
2. Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) Gummies
These RSO Gummies are a new addition to our cannabis product family, incorporating the reputed Rick Simpson Oil. Known for its concentrated and potent formulation, RSO has been traditionally linked with pain relief.
The formulation contains 115 mg of diverse cannabinoids, including the well-known CBD, as well as others like CBG and CBDA. These cannabinoids are celebrated for their potential individual and collective benefits. The presence of CBG, for instance, has been linked with neuroprotective effects, while CBDA is known for its potential anti-inflammatory properties.
What's truly commendable about this oil is its bioavailability. With its rich composition, RSO ensures a full-spectrum wellness experience. This isn't just about potential pain relief; it's about a holistic approach to well-being, seamlessly integrating vitality and flavor into daily life.
For those new to RSO, the distinct bitter and earthy pine taste might be surprising. However, it's more than just a flavor — it's a marker of its high-quality raw CBD content, signaling authenticity and potency.
3. Extra-Strength CBD Capsules
One of the standout features of these softgels is their discretion. They don't carry the aroma of cannabis and can be taken in any setting, ensuring privacy for the user. This is particularly beneficial for those who want to integrate CBD into their daily routine without drawing attention.
However, discretion is only part of the appeal. These softgels offer a consistent dosage of 125 mg of full spectrum CBD per serving. This means users know precisely how much CBD they're ingesting every time with these cannabidiol pills, eliminating any uncertainty or variability. Such consistency can be vital for those using CBD to address specific wellness goals, as it ensures a steady intake of the beneficial compound for relieving pain.
The Takeaway: The Best Cannabis Strains for Pain Relief
While the personal accounts regarding cannabis for pain relief for everything from neuropathic pain to acute physical injury are compelling, and some studies have backed these claims, the full therapeutic potential of cannabis is yet to be entirely unlocked.
In this article, we've outlined that each cannabis strain possesses its own unique combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds that can interact differently with each individual's physiology. Because of this, individual experiences can vary, and what works best might be a combination of strain, consumption method, dosage, as well as other pain management therapies.
Finding the ideal balance might require experimentation and patience, but the potential benefits could be well worth the journey.
- Cox-Georgian, Destinney, Niveditha Ramadoss, Chathu Dona, and Chhandak Basu. "Therapeutic and medicinal uses of terpenes." Medicinal plants: from farm to pharmacy (2019): 333-359.