Understanding Medical Marijuana Strains: Essential Guide
Marijuana may be the oldest medicine on Earth. The earliest use of medical cannabis dates back to 494 BC, in Xinjiang, China. Even then, people experimented by breeding different cannabis strains to treat different illnesses.
Since then, botanists and horticulturalists learned how to develop increasingly distinct subspecies. Their work has been astonishingly successful in its breadth. There are now over 700 recreational and medical marijuana strains grown worldwide.
But how do growers create new cannabis strains? What distinguishes one strain from the next? And if you use marijuana to treat a medical condition, which strains should you try?
Read on to answer those questions—and more—in this need-to-know guide to marijuana strains.
Marijuana Classification: Overview
Marijuana is an informal name for the Cannabis plant. Scientifically speaking, Cannabis is a genus, “Cannabacae.” A genus is a taxonomical grouping that includes many species.
Members of a species can produce viable offspring when they mate with other members.
Plants reproduce through pollination. The stamen of one plant pollinates the pistils of another plant in the same species. Then, the resulting seeds will differ, genetically, from either parent plant..
What is a Marijuana Strain?
Growers derive different marijuana strains from Cannabis plants with diverse genes. The plant’s genetic makeup affects its traits, including:
- What compounds it produces
- Whether it’s auto-flowering
- How quickly it grows
- How much light, water, and soil it needs
Growers classify marijuana strains based on these traits. The trait classification helps growers predict the results of breeding experiments.
It also indicates the likely ratio of different cannabinoids in a given plant. The major cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Minor cannabinoids include:
So, a marijuana strain is a specific breed and subspecies of Cannabis. Each strain has established physical traits. Growers typically name the strain they’ve developed.
Sativa - Indica - CBD
Cannabis Species: Phylogenetic Types
Phylogenetics categorizes species by genetic closeness. There are three phylogenetic categories of marijuana plants.
Each category has a known set of traits. But, growers can interbreed Cannabis plants in different categories.
Cannabis sativa is the most popular marijuana species. It contains over 500 compounds. Roughly 113 of C. sativa’s compounds are cannabinoids.
Botanists note that C. sativa plants can have an energizing effect. C. sativa strains can mitigate extreme immune responses (inflammation) better than other options. Their chemical composition can cause increased psychoactivity.
- sativa has a higher THC to CBD ratio than other species.
The ratios of THC and CBD vary in C. Indica plants. Biomedical botanists note C. Indica strains have more potent sedative and pain-relieving effects.
They also have a greater diversity of effects on patients. C. Indica plants have more unique cannabinoids and terpenes per gram than C. sativa plants do.
Cannabis ruderalis plants do not produce enough CBD to harvest. But, they do contain high concentrations of CBD.
- ruderalis plants are also auto-flowering. This means they can generate offspring without pollination from other plants. Thus, C ruderalis is useful for growers who want to create new hybrids.
Hybrid Marijuana Strains
Hybrid marijuana strains contain genetic information from two or more cannabis subspecies. Growers create hybrids to draw out desirable traits. Hybrids have traits from more than one of their “parent” or “ancestor” plants.
Medical Marijuana Symptom Treatment
Different conditions qualify for legal medical marijuana treatment in each U.S. state. There are over 100 conditions that doctors may legally treat with medical marijuana.
A single guide can’t address the best marijuana strain for every medical condition. But, this guide can make general strain recommendations by symptom category. Typically, the associated strains can relieve symptoms regardless of their underlying medical causes.
Symptoms Doctors Have Treated With Medical Marijuana Strains
Symptoms that respond well to MMJ treatment have something in common. All stem from processes inherent to the aforementioned systems. Symptom sets that physicians may treat with medical marijuana include:
- Seizures, neurological and nervous system condition symptoms
- Anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares
- Depression, mania, hypomania, and emotional dysregulation
- Insomnia, fatigue, and brain fog
- Appetite suppression, nausea, and malnourishment
- Chronic pain, migraines, and inflammation
Medical marijuana strains can contain hundreds of cannabinoids. But, most research to date focuses on the effects of CBD and THC.
Scientists can trace the impact of these two compounds on the endocannabinoid system. Then, they observe the subsequent effects of the impacted endocannabinoid system. Scientists observe subsequent effects on hormonal, neurological, and immunological symptoms.
Discover the Right Treatment for You
As the specific ratio of compounds varies from strain to strain, so too do the effects of MMJ on the body. This guide is a good starting point for those learning about strain differences.
That said, it’s not a stopping point. It’s wise to explore the known impact of medical marijuana on your specific condition. So, if you have CRPS, learn how marijuana has affected CRPS patients in particular.
First, understand the typical pharmacological effects of different medical marijuana strains. Then, build on that knowledge with more detailed information.
Best Marijuana Strains for Seizures, Neurological Symptoms, and Nervous System Conditions
Dysfunctions in the central nervous system can cause:
The brain’s neurons, or nerve cells throughout the body, misfire. Or, they get their wires crossed.
Marijuana strains with high CBD content can treat these disorders in some patients. The minor cannabinoid CBN can strengthen a strain’s anti-seizure effect.
Another minor cannabinoid, CBC, has a notable neurogenesis effect. That is, it can stimulate the growth of new neurons in adult brains. Experts often recommend strains with CBD, CBN, and CBC compounds to treat neuro-nervous system symptoms:
Talk to your neurologist before treating these systems with any medication.
Best Medical Marijuana Strains for Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Flashbacks, and Nightmares
To treat these symptoms, seek out strains with sedating or mood-stabilizing effects. Marijuana strains frequently prescribed for anxiety include:
Stay aware of all contraindications between medical marijuana and other anxiety medications. Always consult with your doctor first.
Best Marijuana Strains for Depression, Mania, Hypomania, and Emotional Dysregulation
The best strains to treat mood disorders vary, as some effective treatments for mania can worsen depression (and vice-versa). Medical botanists often recommend these strains to relieve mood disorder symptoms:
Emotional dysregulation and dissociation can also be symptoms of ADHD. This may explain the relief some people with ADHD feel when using medical marijuana.
Best Marijuana Strains for Insomnia, Fatigue, and Brain Fog
Conversely, some patients sleep through the night, yet don’t feel rested when they wake. If you still feel fatigued after sleeping, consider energizing strains that are low in THC. Botanists often recommend the following strains to treat tiredness or sleep disorders:
Don’t confuse the sedating strains with the energizing ones. Consult with MMJ specialists to verify the differences.
Best Marijuana Strains for Appetite Suppression, Nausea, and Malnourishment
One of the best-known medicinal effects of marijuana is acute appetite. Marijuana users sometimes call cannabis-induced hunger and nausea-relief “the munchies.” Recently, scientists isolated the cannabinoids causing this effect.
CBD alone can treat nausea and poor appetite in some patients. But, THC has a more significant anti-nausea effect. And, it can treat more severe cases than CBD.
The minor cannabinoid CBN can enhance a strain’s capacity to boost appetite and decrease nausea. Conversely, CBG can “block” the anti-nausea effect of CBD.
Thus, the best strains to treat malnourishment balance CBD and THC, and incorporate some CBN. But, they do not include any CBG compounds. Examples include:
Some patients use these strains to counteract the appetite-suppressing effects of stimulant medications.
Best Marijuana Strains for Chronic Pain, Migraines, and Inflammation
In high enough concentrations, THC can modulate the neurons responsible for our sense of pain—to the point that patients can feel numb.
Studies indicate that CBD relieves pain in some circumstances. Its analgesic effect is not as extreme as THC, but it does not cause sleepiness as THC does.
Certain minor cannabinoids increase how effectively different strains relieve pain caused by inflammation. CBC can modulate the TRPV1 receptor. This adjusts the immune system response.
Thus, CBC can treat painful inflammation due to an overactive immune system. In the same vein, CBG also has notable anti-inflammatory properties. Consider marijuana strains that include all pain-relieving cannabinoids relevant to your condition. This may include:
Find Answers to Your Medical Marijuana Questions Today
If you’re still wondering how different medical marijuana strains might affect you, we can help. Patients with many conditions have found symptom relief with medical marijuana. To find out if it’s right for you, book an appointment with an MMJ doctor today.
Telemedicine appointments give you our medical expertise in the comfort of your home. If you have a qualifying condition, we can connect you to a prescriber online, or refer you to an in-person physician near you