Multiple sclerosis (MS) is recognized as an autoimmune condition that harms the neurons within the central nervous system . It is identified by prevalent symptoms such as spasticity, muscle spasms, neuropathic pain, tremors, bladder dysfunction, dysarthria, and cognitive issues, including memory disturbances. Medical cannabis for MS has been a hot topic of research recently. Numerous clinical studies have been carried out to explore the impact of cannabis on alleviating these symptoms in individuals with MS, and results are hopeful.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune and neurological disease where the immune system degrades the protective coating (myelin) that surrounds nerves. This leads to impaired nerve signaling between the brian and spinal cord . As a result, MS patients suffer from spasticity and persistent neuropathic pain . As the disease advances, these symptoms intensify, resulting in deteriorating disability, compromised daily activities, and a diminished quality of life. Conventional anti-spasticity medications and analgesics often provide limited relief but may be poorly tolerated. About 2.3 million people worldwide suffer from MS and suffer day-to-day symptoms such as :
- Spasticity/muscle spasms
- Ataxia (loss of coordination and balance)
- Bladder dysfunction
- Neuropathic pain
- Dysarthria (difficulty speaking)
- Memory disturbances
Medical Marijuana for Multiple Sclerosis
Cannabis cannabinoids like 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) show promise in mitigating spasticity and pain for people with MS because they bind to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 . These receptors are distributed in the central and peripheral nervous systems and immune systems. CB1 is known to block pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord, and CB1 and CB2 also offer anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties that may benefit MS symptoms. In addition to CB1 and CB2 in the central and peripheral nervous system, cannabinoids can also act on opioid and serotonin receptors. Altogether, this means that cannabinoids are able to target a wider range of the nervous system than most individual drugs.
Clinical research on the benefits of cannabinoids for MS most often utilizes nabiximols (Sativex) which has equal parts THC and CBD . Some studies have also prescribed dronabinol (synthetic THC, FDA-approved), but very few use inhaled marijuana because its potency, cannabinoid profile, and terpene profile create variables in data that are difficult to account for. The inclusion of CBD may be very beneficial since studies have observed that it may increase mobility in MS patients by reducing stiffness, discomfort, inflammation, exhaustion, and depression . Nabiximols, the 1:1 THC :CBD preparation, has demonstrated the ability to alleviate spasticity, pain, tremors, ataxia, bladder functions, sleep, and improve overall quality of life [1,2]. It also has few side effects.
Best Cannabis Strains for Multiple Sclerosis
If you are an MS patient who is interested in using medical marijuana, it is important to consult with a medical marijuana doctor. They can help you obtain your med card and guide you in choosing the best cannabis products for your specific health concerns. With that in mind, here are some cannabis strains for MS patients to consider trying.
Cannatonic, a hemp strain with a high CBD content, was meticulously developed through the crossbreeding of MK Ultra and G13 Haze genetics. Upon consumption, users may initially encounter a mild and peaceful buzz, creating a foundation for relaxation. This strain has gained recognition for its exceptional ability to alleviate stress, earning acclaim from medical marijuana patients who find it effective in addressing conditions such as migraines, pain, muscle spasms, and anxiety.
The scent of Cannatonic introduces an earthy aroma, gradually revealing a woody citrus flavor when smoked. The strain’s distinct terpene composition, prominently featuring myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, contributes to the nuanced interplay of flavors and effects that characterize it. Cannatonic stands out as a notable choice for individuals seeking the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the overpowering psychoactive impact, thanks to its unique profile and calming effects. Whether sought for medical relief or a subtler and enjoyable experience, Cannatonic offers a versatile and inviting option for a diverse range of users.
- Larry OG
Larry OG originated as a medical marijuana strain that was created by crossing OG Kush and San Fernando Valley OG (SFV OG). It is an indica-dominant hybrid with a potent body high that offers deep relaxation for the body and mind. The average THC potency is around 20%. While this is on the high end, Larry OG is not typically overwhelming. The Larry OG terpene profile is dominated by myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene. Its sensory profile is tangy and a little pungent with bright notes of citrus and pine. Among medical marijuana patients, Larry OG is popular for those suffering symptoms of appetite loss, stress, pain, and depression. Larry OG is a newer cannabis strain, but it has already given rise to an even newer variation called “Legendary Larry” (Larry OG x Legend OG).
Crescendo is a sativa-dominant hybrid strain created by crossing I-95 with Chemdawg and Mandarin Cookies. The name “Crescendo” comes from a musical term that echoes the way this strain’s effects build up to a peak. The Crescendo high creeps and builds until you hit the point of euphoria. A relaxing body high accompanies this lifted cerebral state. Crescendo often has insanely high THC potency, averaging 30-35%. Its dominant terpenes are caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene which give it a sensory profile that is woody with sweet berry notes. Among the medical marijuana community, this strain is favored for symptoms of chronic pain, depression, chronic stress or anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings.
SinMint (AKA SinMint Cookies) is a slightly indica-dominant hybrid that was created by crossing Girl Scout Cookies and Blue Power. Its dominant terpenes caryophyllene, limonene, and humulene combine with minor terpenes to create flavors that are minty, nutty, and sweet. The SinMint strain has a moderate average THC potency of 15-16% but offers a high that creeps on slowly and lasts for hours. The effects are primarily felt in the body, with a wave of euphoria and relaxation that imparts a calming experience. Medical marijuana patients value this strain for its ability to alleviate symptoms of pain, cramps, glaucoma, muscle spasms, and depression.
- MAC #1
MAC #1, short for Miracle Alien Cookies #1, is a hybrid cannabis strain resulting from the crossbreeding of Alien Cookies and Miracle 15 (a combination of Colombian Landrace and Starfighter). The flowers of MAC #1 exhibit an aesthetically pleasing appearance, featuring buds with a purple hue and covered in trichome crystals. This strain is notably rich in the terpenes limonene, pinene, and caryophyllene, offering a flavor profile that combines sweetness and brightness with floral, citrus, and earthy undertones.
When consumed, the creamy smoke from MAC #1 initially delivers a potent hit, but the profound stony sensation gradually gives way to feelings of euphoria, upliftment, and stress relief. Medical marijuana patients have found this strain helpful for symptoms of chronic pain, mood swings, chronic fatigue, depression, and chronic stress. While MAC #1 maintains a balanced overall effect, its high potency may be overwhelming for those new to cannabis consumption. It’s worth noting that MAC #1 has various phenotypes, including MAC #4, which shares similarities with #1, and MAC #9 and #10, boasting significantly lower potency at 12% compared to #1’s 22%. Additionally, MAC has served as a parent strain for a diverse range of offspring like Orange MAC.
- Star Killer
Star Killer (AKA StarKiller or Star Killer OG) is an indica-dominant hybrid. This strain is either a crossing of Skywalker OG and Rare Dankness #2 or a three-way cross of Mazar, Blueberry OG, and Rare Dankness #2. Star Killer is infamous for its extremely high THC potency which averages over 25%. It has classic indica effects with a deeply stony body high that can be accompanied by red-eye and mental fog. The heavy effects of Star Killer creep on slowly and culminate in heavy sedation. While these narcotic-like effects are very intense, this strain can offer medical marijuana patients a potent option for alleviating symptoms of chronic pain, insomnia, and PTSD. Dominant terpenes caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene give Star Killer a sweet and citrus sensory profile with more subtle notes of spice, earth, and skunk.
Jager, also recognized as “Jagermeister,” “Jager Kush,” and “JGR,” is an indica marijuana strain. Although some sources suggest it is a cross between LA Confidential and Blue Dream, it is more likely a descendant of Hindu Kush that originated in Southern Oregon. The name “Jager” is derived from its distinctive sensory characteristics, dominated by notes of licorice, spice, and earth, complemented by sweet undertones. The distinctive flavors, aromas, and effects of Jager are attributed to its unique terpene profile, notably rich in limonene, caryophyllene, and linalool.
The effects of the Jager strain manifest gradually, inducing a full-body sensation that leaves users in a profound state of relaxation. Known for its potentially sedative qualities and typically high THC levels, Jager is often recommended for evening use. In the realm of medical marijuana, patients have reported finding relief from chronic pain, inflammation, tremors, and muscle spasms through the use of this strain.
- Filippini, G., Minozzi, S., Borrelli, F., Cinquini, M., & Dwan, K. (2022). Cannabis and cannabinoids for symptomatic treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9069991/
Haddad, F., Dokmak, G., & Karaman, R. (2022). The efficacy of cannabis on multiple sclerosis-related symptoms. Life, 12(5), 682.https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/12/5/682