The Best Medical Marijuana Strain for Pain and Anxiety

Many patients want to know what the best medical marijuana strain for pain and anxiety is. The truth is, there’s no magic bullet! Let’s explain.

First, everyone’s physiology is unique. What works for Suzy may not work for Sam. Secondly, cannabis is a highly complex plant. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which may contain just one — or, at most, a few — active components, the cannabis plant contains dozens. The active components include both cannabinoids and terpenes. And every strain consists of numerous different ratios and levels of various cannabinoids and terpenes that can vary not only from strain to strain but from grower to grower, and even within harvests.

Interestingly, cannabis’ greatest qualities — it’s therapeutic versatility and entourage effect based on its diverse chemical composition — presents both immense benefits along with some challenges.

While this may seem confusing, it doesn’t have to be if you understand some fundamental principles. Rather than simply thinking in terms of “strains,” think in terms of which strains are rich in certain cannabinoids and terpenes.

To better understand, let’s learn more about cannabinoids and terpenes.

The Best Medical Marijuana Strain for Pain and Anxiety: Understanding Cannabinoids

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What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are a classification of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plants. While we don’t know the exact number of cannabinoids in existence, there’s likely more than 100. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Natural Products identifies 113 and notes that there are probably more. However, most cannabinoids are found in very small levels, and most research we have focuses on fewer than 10 cannabinoids.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most prominent cannabinoid in most strains of cannabis (except, of course, in high-CBD strains). Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most prominent cannabinoid in most strains. Both of these cannabinoids have robust therapeutic properties, including analgesic (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory effects.

While both THC and CBD can relieve pain and inflammation, if you’re looking for relief from anxiety, strains with a high CBD content are going to be better than THC. CBD is considered an anxiolytic, which means it’s an anxiety-reducing agent. THC can actually heighten anxiety.

THC and CBD aren’t the only cannabinoids that may be useful for treating pain. Preliminary research suggests CBC, CBN, and THCv may also produce pain relief. In addition, early research suggests CBC, CBDa, CBG, CBN, and THCa may be anti-inflammatory agents. CBG may also help relieve anxiety. However, you need not concern yourself with the minor cannabinoids.

When you look for strains to treat pain or anxiety, focus more on the ratio of THC to CBD. You can experiment with strains and products with different ratios and find your sweet spot through trial-and-error.

The Best Medical Marijuana Strain for Pain and Anxiety: Understanding Terpenes

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What Is a Terpene?

The other class of chemical compounds in cannabis that has therapeutic properties is terpenes. Terpenes are a vast and diverse type of organic compounds that are not only prominent in cannabis but can be found in numerous plants. In layperson’s terms, terpenes are the aromatic oils that give cannabis and other plants distinctive scents and flavors, from eucalyptus and pine to citrus and berry.

Many terpenes are not only aromatic — they can be highly therapeutic, too. That includes treating pain and anxiety. Keep in mind, however, that most research which suggests terpenes have therapeutic properties are early studies, often having been conducted only in a lab on animal models. With the rapid increase in acceptance of cannabis as medicine, research is rapidly expanding.

Here are the best terpenes for pain relief and/or anxiety:

ALPHA-PINENE

Potential Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Anxiety

  • Pain

May Also Help:

  • Asthma

  • Ulcers

Aroma:

  • Pine

Potential Ancillary Effects:

  • Boosts alertness

  • Boosts memory retention

  • May counteract some of the less desirable effects of THC (like elevated anxiety)

Also Found In:

  • Basil

  • Dill

  • Parsley

  • Pine

  • Rosemary

BETA-CARYOPHYLLENE

Beta-Caryophyllene is one of the better-studied terpenes and also one of the more prominent terpenes found in cannabis. In at least one animal study, researchers found β-caryophyllene not only produces pain relief but it may also boost the pain-reducing strength of low-dose opioids. This is significant because it may be one of the explanations for why patients using prescription opioids are able to reduce their reliance on opioids after incorporating medical cannabis into their pain relief plan.

Potential Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Anxiety

  • Pain

May Also Help:

  • Depression

  • Digestion

  • Ulcers

Aroma:

  • Pepper

  • Spicy

  • Woody

  • Cloves

Potential Ancillary Effects:

  • Antibacterial and antiseptic

  • Eases nerve pain

  • Relieves depression

Also Found In:

  • Black Pepper

  • Cloves

  • Cinnamon

LIMONENE

Limonene is one of the most common and prominent terpenes found in cannabis. Limonene is responsible for the lemony and citrusy scent of many strains.

Potential Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Anxiety

  • Inflammation

  • Pain

May Also Help:

  • Depression

Aroma:

  • Citrus

Potential Ancillary Effects:

  • Improved mood and sense of well being

  • Calming

  • Stress relief

Also Found In:

  • Fruit rinds

  • Juniper

  • Peppermint

  • Rosemary

LINALOOL

Potential Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Anxiety

  • Pain

  • Inflammation

May Also Help:

  • Depression

  • Epileptic convulsions

  • Insomnia

  • Neuroprotective (protects brain cells)

Aroma:

  • Floral

Potential Ancillary Effects:

  • Elevates mood

  • Promotes relaxation and sedation

Also Found In:

  • Birch

  • Cinnamon

  • Citrus

  • Lavender

  • Mint

MYRCENE

Myrcene can be found most abundantly in indica-dominant strains. In fact, more than any other active ingredient found in cannabis, it’s myrcene that’s likely responsible for producing the sedative (e.g. “couchlock effect”) that indica-dominant strains are known for.

Potential Therapeutic Benefits:

  • Pain

  • Inflammation

May Also Help:

  • Insomnia

Aroma:

  • Cardamom

  • Cloves

  • Earthy

  • Herbal

Potential Ancillary Effects:

  • Antioxidant

  • Sedative effects

  • Produces "couchlock"

  • Promotes relaxation

Also Found In:

  • Hops

  • Lemongrass

  • Mango

  • Thyme

Closing Advice

Cannabis is an incredibly therapeutically versatile plant that can treat a wide array of conditions and ailments. It’s important to keep in mind that what distinguishes strains from each other is their unique chemical profile. Because everyone’s physiology is unique, finding the strain with the optimal chemical profile to treat your condition may take some trial-and-error, so be patient.

Your first consideration when selecting a strain should be the THC to CBD ratio. If you’re treating pain, you may want to try strains or products that are close to a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio. From there, if you’re not finding enough pain relief, you can increase the THC. On the other hand, if you’re primarily treating anxiety, you may want to start out with a High-CBD strain or product. Secondarily, you can consider terpene content, but your primary focus should be the cannabinoid ratios.

Finally, keep in mind that at Remedy, we’re here to help. Our team will enthusiastically provide recommendations for your condition.

You can visit our menu on Leafly or Weedmaps to get an idea of the various medical cannabis products we offer. Then schedule a visit at Remedy, or just drop on by!

Sources:

Daiichi College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Fukuoka, Japan: Involvement of Peripheral Cannabinoid and Opioid Receptors in β-Caryophyllene-Induced Antinociception

Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London: Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals

Journal of Natural Products: Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content During the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes

Russo, Ethan, MD: Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain