Medical marijuana, specifically the cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as cannabidiol (CBD), has shown promise in providing relief for some symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, it’s important to note that the use of medical marijuana for rheumatoid arthritis should be discussed with a healthcare professional, and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. In general, medical marijuana is thought to benefit rheumatoid arthritis patients in three main ways:
Both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD have demonstrated analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. They can help alleviate the chronic pain associated with RA.
Cannabinoids, particularly CBD, have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial in reducing the inflammation that causes joint damage in RA.
Reduced Muscle Spasms
Marijuana can help relax muscles and reduce muscle spasms, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with RA who experience muscle stiffness and pain.
Medical Cannabis for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid derived from cannabis sativa, has exhibited anti-inflammatory properties in various inflammatory conditions, including arthritis. Despite this, CBD’s mechanism of action has remained somewhat enigmatic due to its interactions with multiple receptors and enzymes. A 2020 study shed some light on CBD’s effects, revealing that it elevates intracellular calcium levels, diminishes cell viability, and curtails the production of the inflammatory factors IL-6, IL-8, and MMP-3 in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) .
Overall, the 2020 study suggested that CBD preferentially targets activated, pro-inflammatory RASF and concluded that CBD possesses anti-arthritic activity and might ameliorate arthritis via targeting synovial fibroblasts under inflammatory conditions . However, a 2022 review cautions that evidence is very uncertain about the effect of cannabis on rheumatoid arthritis . They note that cannabis and cannabinoid products may slightly reduce disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis but do not always help with pain reduction.
Best Strains for Rheumatoid Arthritis
It’s important to approach medical marijuana with caution and guidance from a healthcare professional. Different strains and methods of consumption may have varying effects, and individual responses can differ significantly. Medical marijuana is typically just one aspect of a comprehensive treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis, which may also include medications, physical therapy, and other interventions.
With that in mind, and the consideration of current research, medical marijuana patients with RA will likely want to try high CBD cannabis strains before utilizing THC varieties. These high CBD strains are also called hemp flower because they are non-psychoactive and have very low THC content. In addition to hemp flower with less than 0.3% THC, there are also marijuana varieties (more than 0.3% THC) that are high in CBD and less psychoactive that can provide great benefits.
For new users, be aware that these are not the same as a “50/50” hybrid. That term means that indica and sativa genetics are balanced and does not imply an equal cannabinoid content. An equal cannabinoid content is communicated as a “1:1 THC to CBD ratio.” This 1:1 ratio is also found in the prescription cannabinoid drug Sativex . Sativex (nabiximols) has demonstrated significant improvement in clinical cases of rheumatoid arthritis and may be an option your doctor recommends over medical cannabis. If your doctor does recommend cannabis flower, here are some strains you might consider.
- Sour Tsunami (CBD Hemp)
Sour Tsunami, a sativa-dominant strain, earned its distinction for being among the pioneering varieties specifically cultivated for its elevated CBD content, rather than a focus on THC. The result is a strain that has captured the attention of the medical marijuana community for its ability to alleviate pain and inflammation without inducing the pronounced “high” typically associated with THC-rich strains. Lawrence Ringo, a dedicated breeder from the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective, invested four years of dedicated effort to develop this strain. His method involved the crossbreeding of Sour Diesel plants with NYC Diesel, culminating in the creation of Sour Tsunami. This strain delights the senses with the familiar sour diesel aromas, leading to a flavor profile characterized by hints of pine and citrus. These flavors emanate from the dominant terpenes, namely myrcene, terpinolene, and pinene.
- Lifter (CBD Hemp)
Lifter is a CBD-rich hemp strain that emerged from the crossbreeding of Suver Haze and Early Resin Bud. It presents an aromatic profile with hints of cheese and fuel, which gracefully transition into a flavor spectrum encompassing spiced earth, woody notes, tea, and a touch of citrus. Lifter’s terpene composition is led by myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, complemented by minor terpenes such as limonene, ocimene, linalool, and humulene. These terpenes play a dual role, shaping both the strain’s flavor profile and the calming, uplifting effects it bestows. This high CBD strain holds appeal due to its non-intoxicating nature while being rich in cannabinoids and terpenes that contribute to the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, including relief from inflammation and anxiety.
- Royal Highness (1:1 THC:CBD)
Royal Highness, a hybrid marijuana strain with a sativa-dominant profile, was cultivated through the careful fusion of Dancehall and Respect strains. This strain strikes a nearly even balance between THC and CBD content, resulting in effects that are notably less psychoactive compared to THC-dominant counterparts. The Royal Highness experience commences with a cerebral surge, brimming with motivation and focused energy, coaxing you to spring into action. It is characterized by a clear-headed and functional cerebral euphoria that is complemented by a gentle, soothing body sensation. Royal Highness captivates the senses with its smooth and pleasing flavor, marked by fruity, spicy, and subtly skunky notes. Medical marijuana patients often opt for this strain to alleviate symptoms linked to anxiety and pain. The dominant terpenes myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene contribute to both the strain’s flavors and its therapeutic effects.
- Pennywise (1:1 THC:CBD)
Pennywise, a hybrid cannabis strain with a high CBD content, is the offspring of a cross between Harlequin and Jack the Ripper. Notably, Pennywise displays four distinct phenotype variations, with varying bud shapes, ranging from elongated to rounded. This strain maintains an equilibrium with a CBD-to-THC ratio of 1:1, making it particularly attractive to medical marijuana patients seeking relief from conditions such as arthritis, PTSD, epilepsy, neurological disorders, and cancer. The harmonious blend of these cannabinoids results in a milder, more relaxed psychoactive experience, delivering a cerebral and focused high accompanied by a refreshing sense of invigoration. The Pennywise strain’s terpene profile predominantly features myrcene, terpinolene, and pinene, contributing to its flavor profile characterized by woody and herbal notes, complemented by subtle hints of citrus and spice.
- Sherbert (High THC)
Sherbert, alternatively recognized as “Sherbet,” “Sherbert OG,” “Sunset Sherbet,” and “Sunset Sherbert,” stands as an indica-dominant hybrid cannabis strain, crafted through the crossbreeding of Girl Scout Cookies and Pink Panties. This strain boasts potent, all-encompassing effects, complemented by a burst of cerebral vitality and a carefree state of mind. With its high potency, Sherbert proves to be an excellent choice for medical marijuana patients seeking respite from symptoms related to stress, tension, and mood disorders. The strain entices with a flavor profile reminiscent of delectable desserts, offering notes of skunky citrus, sweet berry, and candy. Sherbert’s terpene profile shines with elevated levels of caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene. These terpenes not only contribute to the strain’s flavor but are also believed to provide support for pain relief and the reduction of inflammation.
- Lowin, T., Tingting, R., Zurmahr, J., Classen, T., Schneider, M., & Pongratz, G. (2020). Cannabidiol (CBD): A killer for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. Cell death & disease, 11(8), 714. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41419-020-02892-1
- Schulze-Schiappacasse, C., Durán, J., Bravo-Jeria, R., Verdugo-Paiva, F., Morel, M., & Rada, G. (2022). Are cannabis, cannabis-derived products, and synthetic cannabinoids a therapeutic tool for rheumatoid arthritis? A friendly summary of the body of evidence. JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 28(2), e563-e567.https://journals.lww.com/jclinrheum/fulltext/2022/03000/Are_Cannabis,_Cannabis_Derived_Products,_and.50.aspx
- Wright, S., Ware, M., & Guy, G. (2006). The use of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology, 45(6), 781-781. https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article-pdf/45/6/781/5048667/kel117.pdf