Various cannabis strains have a number of medical applications for a wide variety of human disorders and maladies. As the science of cannabinoid research continues, the untapped potential for cannabis as medicine continues to become increasingly apparent. Among the hundreds of compounds found in marijuana, the relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes may hold the answer to therapeutic relief relating to a number of common physical and mental conditions, providing options to conventional pharmaceutical medications.
One of the most common uses of cannabis is for pain relief, a condition that traditionally relies on opioid drugs for relief. During past decades, however, the overuse and misuse of opioids has led to the well-publicized “opioid epidemic” that’s occurring across America. Each month an unacceptable and increasing number of Americans die from overusing opioids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Millions of Americans suffer from pain and are often prescribed opioids to treat their conditions. However, the dangers of prescription misuse, opioid use disorder, and overdose have been a growing problem throughout the United States. Since the 1990s, when the amount of opioids prescribed to patients began to grow, the number of overdoses and deaths from prescription opioids has also increased.
Even as the number of opioids prescribed and sold for pain has increased, the amount of pain that Americans report has not similarly changed. From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.”
Could cannabis become the solution for the unacceptable number of deaths that occurs in our country? Many cannabis users and an increasing number of researchers and physicians believe that it may hold the answer to pain management without the risk of overdose—or at the very least serve as a valuable tool for pain relief. Medical marijuana patients nationwide swear that they benefit from the benefits marijuana provides for pain.
Unlike opioid drugs, humans cannot die from a cannabis overdose. It is physiologically impossible. Even the staunchest cannabis naysayer must concede this fact when presented with the science. The human body actually produces its own endogenous cannabinoids, which is quite amazing when you consider that these compounds are otherwise unique to the cannabis plant.
Whether the human body makes them itself or ingests them when consuming cannabis, cannabinoids fit precisely into unique receptors found throughout the human body. These receptors can affect a broad range of human faculties and conditions, including memory, emotion, appetite, coordination, and a number of other things—including, it seems apparent, pain.
How Cannabis Treats Pain
Some cannabis strains are more noteworthy for pain relief than others. The reason for this is the specific compounds—primarily cannabinoids and terpenes—that interact in a variety of complex ways. This interaction and synergy, known as the “entourage effect” has direct applications for determining which cannabis strains are the best for pain relief and management. Although many of these strains are indica or indica-dominant, not all indica strains are created equally when it comes to treating pain, and some sativa strains work well, too. Let’s take a look at some of the best terpenes found in certain cannabis strains that are useful for treating pain. These terpenes are found in a number of plants and are responsible for the various aromas and flavors found in plants—including cannabis.
The terpene linalool is found in lilac, and the aroma has a floral, spicy, woody quality to it. Linalool has a number of medical applications and benefits and is known to be an effective analgesic that block pain, and treats anxiety, depression, and stress. It also is effective as an anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant.
Possessing peppery, spicy aromas and flavors, Caryophyllene is found in a variety of plants, including cinnamon, oregano, hops, cloves, rosemary, and cannabis. As well as being an analgesic that provides strong pain relief, caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety properties.
One of the most common terpenes in cannabis, myrcene is known for its earthy, balsamic- and clove-like aromas. The presence of this terpene also is thought to determine whether a cannabis strain exhibits sativa or indica characteristics. Besides cannabis, myrcene is also found in mango, lemongrass, and basil.
The terpene pinene is most often found in sativa strains. Known an analgesic, pinene also has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it effect for pain relief and related swelling. It is known to promote alertness and focus, and work as a bronchodilator. Research also indicates it helps fight cancer. Pinene smalls like pine needles and rosemary, and is found in conifer trees, dill, parsley, and orange peels.
These terpenes, along with the primary cannabinoids THC and CBD, work together to provide effective pain relief. While both THC and CBD can work to fight pain, CBD is thought to be particularly useful. The interaction between terpenes and cannabinoids requires a great deal of additional research. No doubt our understanding of the complex relationships between various cannabis compounds will only increase with time and provide clearer understanding of the health benefits they can provide, including applications for pain management. The entourage effect has received a lot of attention in recent years, as cannabis researchers continue to recognize the various synergies between cannabinoids and terpenes and their combined impact on human endocannabinoid systems.
Top Strains for Pain Relief
When it comes to cannabis for pain relief, not all strains are created equally. The various compounds found in the following strains make them particularly useful for treating pain. The list of strains that work well for fighting pain go far beyond those listed here, but since the following strains are well-known and widely available, they make a good starting point for those who wish to try cannabis as an option for pain rather than synthetic and opioid drugs.
This strain enjoys widespread use as a medical strain. A sativa-dominant strain that came from a phenotype of Cannatonic, ACDC is known for its high CBD content. While its recreational use may be limited, the high CBD presence makes it powerful for those suffering from a range of afflictions, including pain. ACDC’s most prominent flavors are earth, wood, and pine.
Primarily consisting of sativa, AK-47 was created by Serious Seeds from a wide range of landrace strains hailing from Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Thailand. It has aromas and flavors that range from peppery sandalwood to caramel and coffee. Its uplifting qualities allow for clear-headed functionality rather than sedation, while simultaneously fighting pain.
A sweet-tasting indica strain, Blackberry Kush is thought to consist of Afghani and strains known for their berry aromas and flavors. Much of the time, it develops pleasing purple colors to compliment the unique flavors of sweet berries with earthy and hashy undertones. This hard-hitting indica is a great medical strain for relaxation and pain relief.
An industry favorite, Bubba Kush is another strain that serves as great medicine for a wide range of conditions like insomnia and pain relief. As well as its medical applications, Bubba Kush is highly regarded for its outstanding flavor, which contains hints of skunk, coffee, and sweet chocolate. Although its genetics remain unclear, its bulky plant structure indicates that Afghani is one of the primary strains used in its creation.
A hard-hitting sativa-dominant strain from Sensi Seeds in Amsterdam, Jack Herer is one of the most popular hybrids in both the medical and recreational cannabis markets. Although it’s a fairly balanced hybrid as far as genetics go, Jack Herer expresses itself like sativa and has multiple phenotypes—some of which that work well for pain. The upbeat high is good for clear-headed and creative endeavors.
Another Amsterdam favorite that’s found in numerous coffee chops there, White Widow is an indica-dominant strain that has a balanced effect. What begins as a soaring sativa high that allows for clear-headed creativity, White Widow eventually transitions to a relaxing indica effect. The genetics remain unclear, but it’s thought to contain Brazilian sativa and South Indian indica. It has a number of uses as powerful medicine, including pain relief.
For those who suffer from chronic or even occasional pain, these strains are worth trying as alternatives to conventional pharmaceutical medicine, manty of which, as opiates, often have inherent dangers. A safer, more effective way to fight pain, may be found on the shelves of your local dispensary or adult-use cannabis store.