Nothing lowers your quality of life quite like chronic pain. Overwhelmed in a storm of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, many patients are deciding to go the natural route: smoking cannabis for pain management. Yet, when it comes to using cannabis for pain relief, not all strains are created equal. Some cannabis strains are wonderful for daytime, but will leave you tossing and turning at night. Others will ease away nerve pain and muscle tension, but quickly knock you out. To help you find the right relief for your pain, here are the best cannabis strains for chronic pain relief.
Using cannabis for pain relief
If there’s one thing that cannabis is good for, it’s pain. Studies have shown that the herb is effective against pain caused by chemotherapy and HIV/ AIDS-related discomfort. Yet, you don’t have to have a serious disease to benefit from the plant’s pain-fighting properties.
A 2011 review of the clinical literature found cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for non-cancer related pain. In recent years, politicians and progressive doctors alike have argued that cannabis is a safer alternative to opioid pain medications.
Additional research shows that compounds in the herb engage with pain-signaling cells in the body. Several cannabinoids turn off pain signals and reduce systemic inflammation. These properties make the herb a novel treatment for both neuropathic and chronic pain, which are difficult to treat with pharmaceutical alternatives.
Both psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD are effective in managing pain. For more information on the benefits of these two cannabinoids, check out these articles:
- THC: Everything You Need To Know About Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol
- CBD: Everything You Need To Know About Cannabidiol
Taste the pain away
It’s not only THC and CBD that are valuable for relief. The flavor and aroma molecules in your plant are also potent natural medicines.
Yep, that’s right. That famous skunky weed aroma is a sign of an incredibly nutritious plant. Flavor molecules are called terpenes, and they’re found in all plants. Every fruit, vegetable, and herb that you eat are flavored by terpenes. Some terpenes are vitamins. Vitamin K, for example, is actually a terpene.
Cannabis is not only loaded with powerful pain-fighting cannabinoids but is full of healthy terpenes. Turns out, some of these terpenes are potent analgesics. Terpenes are different from strain to strain. In fact, each strain has its own specific terpene profile. This is the reason why flavors and scents are so different from strain to strain.
Unfortunately, these flavor molecules are also a bit tricky. Environmental conditions like soil, light exposure, and temperature all affect terpene development. While different strains tend to produce different terpenes, it takes a lot of TLC to get plants to express their flavor profiles to the fullest.
If possible, opt for organic cannabis when you can. Organic cannabis has greater terpene variety than plants grown with synthetic fertilizers or in synthetic environments.
Strains for arthritis and inflammatory pain relief
Though this section centers on arthritis, all of the conditions in this article are worsened by inflammation. Inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal. However, inflammation easily gets out of hand.
Whether you’ve been in an accident, are going through chemotherapy, or have an autoimmune condition, excess inflammation is going to make you feel a lot worse. Inflammation and pain often go hand-in-hand. By alleviating inflammation, you also ease pain.
The two most common cannabinoids, THC and CBD, have potent anti-inflammatory properties. The best strains for generalized pain relief contain both CBD and THC. When these to cannabinoids are combined, they amplify each other’s effects. These powerful inflammation-fighting compounds do wonders for relieving pain from arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
A 1988 study conducted in London found that CBD was up to 4 times more effective than aspirin at relieving inflammatory pain. This is great news, as aspirin and other over-the-counter pain medications are the most common treatments for arthritis and inflammatory pain.
Believe it or not, about 16,500 arthritis patients die each year thanks to over-the-counter painkillers. To this day, there still has not been a single death from a cannabis overdose.
The following strains are high-CBD strains that are especially potent against inflammatory pain. Though, the pain-fighting abilities of these strains are not limited to arthritis or autoimmune conditions.
Harlequin is a truly must-try strain for anyone experiencing pain. This sativa-dominant hybrid gives its users a highly unique experience. Harlequin always has a 5-to-2 ratio of CBD to THC. CBD is a known antipsychotic.
The cannabinoid reduces the psychoactive, anxious and paranoid side effects of THC. This makes high-CBD strains great for daytime use, and amazing for those who don’t like the mental effects of THC.
Harlequin is a truly exceptional medical cannabis strain. Not only is this herb a pain-fighting champion, but it is full of antioxidants and neuroprotective compounds. While amazing for arthritis pain, those with neurodegenerative diseases, traumatic brain injury, and other forms of debilitation pain will find relief with Harlequin. The result of this well-balanced combo is a mellow, uplifting, and painless high. At its best, Harlequin will have a musty, forest aroma.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in Harlequin:
- Pain: Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine) caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC, CBC
- Inflammation: Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine) caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC, CBG
- Antioxidants: pinene (pine) caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC, CBG
- Neuroprotectants: pinene (pine) caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC
Cannatonic is another amazingly therapeutic strain. Terpene and cannabinoid-rich, this is a high-CBD strain that almost always contains less than 6% THC. A popular choice for patients suffering from chronic pain, Cannatonic has very smooth and mellow effects. Thanks to the CBD, this strain will not give you a mind-melting, psychoactive experience.
Great for daytime pain relief, try this strain before heading off to work or doing something sociable. High levels of a lavender-scented terpene called linalool supplement this strain’s calm, relaxed effect. Expect a musky, floral aroma with hints of spice.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in Cannatonic:
- Pain: Linalool (lavender), myrcene (mango), caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC
- Inflammation: Linalool (lavender), myrcene (mango), caryophyllene (pepper), CBD, THC, CBG
- Antioxidants: THC, CBD, CBG
- Neuroprotectants: Caryophyllene (pepper), THC, CBD
Additional strains for arthritis and inflammatory pain relief
- One to One
- Charlotte’s Web
- Sour Tsunami
Strains for general body pain, headache, and back pain
Cannabis is a safe, effective option for treating chronic muscular strain, tension headaches, back pain, and general malaise. The herb eases muscle, joint, and injury-related pain. There are many strains that can help ease the inflammatory pain associated with musculoskeletal issues.
Consuming these strains in an edible or a vapor will give you the safest pain relief. Combining oral cannabis with a cannabis topical will give you better overall pain relief. A topical is an infused cream, lotion, or salve that you apply directly to the skin.
The activated compounds in this cannabis cream will relieve pain, inflammation, and muscle tightness in a localized area. These strains below work well for the following conditions:
- General body pain
- Tension headache
- Tendon and ligament strain
- Back pain (slipped disks, strained muscles, post-surgery)
- Muscle strain
If you’re looking for a powerful general pain reliever, Afghan Kush is the strain for you. Nearly 100% indica, this strain is native to the Kush Mountain Region in the Middle East. Featuring a strong, pungent aroma, the vapor of this flower will numb away body pain and keep you locked on the couch.
Because this strain is a potent indica, the effects will be felt mostly in the body. In fact, this is what makes it so great for those seeking relief from muscular and back pain. Not only is this little lady loaded with pain-fighting THC, but it’s also chock full of analgesic and anti-inflammatory terpenes. Particularly, the terpenes humulene and caryophyllene.
Their names may be hard to pronounce, but these potent flavors are the culprits behind the pungent and spicy hop aroma of Afghan Kush. Terpenes add to the strong body-numbing sensation Afghan Kush creates. As a bonus, caryophyllene also has anti-cancer effects. This makes Afghan Kush a good choice for patients hoping to manage cancer pain. Other strains high in caryophyllene include Hash Plant, Maui Waui, and Super Sour Diesel.
Afghan Kush also features potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage and prevent damage from stress. So, while you may have turned to the herb solely for pain management, you’re getting a lot more than that thanks to powerful cannabinoids and terpenes.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in Afghan Kush:
- Pain: Humulene (hops), caryophyllene (pepper), CBG, THC
- Inflammation: humulene (hops), caryophyllene (pepper), CBG, THC
- Antioxidant: caryophyllene (pepper), terpinolene (floral), THC
A true White Widow is a 50/50 cross between a pure sativa and a pure indica. The result is an extremely well-balanced and potent hybrid. Inheriting the best of both worlds, this strain creates an uplifting and euphoric buzz while still easing away pain.
Unlike Afghan Kush, White Widow’s powerful high is accompanied by several calming aroma molecules. Specifically, Linalool. Linalool is the terpene that gives lavender its famous therapeutic scent. It also happens to be a powerful pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
When tissue inflammation builds up in your muscles or along the spine, White Widow will kick painful swelling to the curb. This protects your tissue from scarring, which will only cause increased tightness and damage over time.
If you need daytime pain relief, White Widow is your strain. As a heavy indica, Afghan Kush will quickly put you to sleep. White Widow, however, still provides a relaxing, heavy-bodied sensation with plenty of mental clarity. If you have to stand for long periods or sit for several hours at an uncomfortable desk, this strain allows you to stay present while eliminating serious discomfort.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in White Widow:
- Pain: Linalool (lavender), myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), THC
- Inflammation: Linalool (lavender), myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), THC
Additional strains for muscle injury and back pain
- Juicy Fruit
- Platinum OG
- Green Crack
- Blue Dream
Neuropathic pain relief
Neuropathic pain, also known as nerve pain, affects more than 3 million Americans every year. There are two primary causes of chronic, neuropathic pain: tissue damage and damage to the central nervous system. Basically, migraine sufferers and fibromyalgia patients alike are familiar with this life-changing symptom.
Studies show that low doses of vaporized cannabis can significantly help neuropathic pain. In fact, research has shown that cannabis is far better at controlling neuropathic pain than prescription pain-killers. THC was shown to be effective against diabetic neuropathy without seriously impairing cognitive function.
Though cannabinoids are the primary pain and inflammation fighters in the herb, all of the below strains have high levels of neuroprotective terpenes. Some of these terpenes may amplify the natural protective properties of THC and CBD. Both terpenes and cannabinoids are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants help repair damaged nerve and brain cells. These qualities again make the herb strain great for those with pain from neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Both terpenes and cannabinoids are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants help repair damaged nerve and brain cells. These qualities again make the herb strain great for those with pain from neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Here is a brief list of neuropathic conditions that benefit from cannabis treatment:
- Accident and serious injury
- Multiple sclerosis and related conditions
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Phantom limb
- Undefined neuropathy
Named after the famous activist and author, Jack Herer is a sativa-dominant hybrid truly deserving of the title. A favorite across the globe, this happy flower has uplifting and energizing effects. This makes it great for daytime use. A little Jack Herer is equivalent to a strong cup of coffee.
While indicas and high CBD strains are typical go-to choices for chronic pain, this strain has a few pain-fighting tricks up its sleeve. A well-grown Jack H. is full of natural painkillers.
THC is just one of the analgesics in this strain. The others? You guessed it. Terpenoid nutrients. One of the primary terpenes in Jack Herer is Pinene. Pinene is responsible for this strain’s woody, Pine-Sol taste. In recent studies, pinene has been proven to have antitumor effects. In fact, a 2013 study showed that pinene was effective in preventing cancer cell proliferation in the brain.
This strain has soaring levels of other neuroprotective terpenes as well. These flavor compounds help reduce stress and tissue inflammation. When you smoke or eat some Jack Herer, you’re consuming these medicinal terpenes along with it. These powerful nutrients help keep your brain healthy and ease pain.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in Jack Herer:
- Pain: Pinene (pine), myrcene (mango), caryophyllene (pepper), humulene (hops), THC
- Inflammation: Pinene (pine), myrcene (mango), caryophyllene (pepper), humulene (hops), THC
- Neuroprotection: Pinene (pine), caryophyllene (pepper), THC
Another aptly named strain, this flower is like the superfood of the cannabis world. Just take a look at the terpene levels listed above. Impressive, right? Especially considering that many strains may only produce 2-6% of these aromatic compounds.
All of these flavor molecules make this one pungent indica-dominant hybrid. High levels of myrcene give this strain a musky, dried-mango aroma. Also expect a bit of spice, and hints of wood and hops. First bred by Green House Seeds, this Super Bud is said to have “almost narcotic” effects.
You can thank fairly high THC levels for the strong pain-fighting and brain-boosting effects of this strain. Great for nighttime, the THC content typically hovers between 17 and 18%, giving users a strong high that isn’t overwhelming. Super Bud also contains a little cannabinol (CBN). CBN is a lesser known cannabinoid with strong pain-relieving effects.
In 2002, Sweedish researchers found that CBN and THC both combat pain by triggering the release of endorphins and relaxing tense blood vessels.
Here are a few of the beneficial flavors and cannabinoids in SuperBud:
- Pain: myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), caryophyllene (pepper), THC, CBN
- Inflammation: myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), caryophyllene (pepper), THC, CBN
- Neuroprotection: pinene (pine), caryophyllene (pepper), THC, CBN
Additional strains for neuropathic pain:
- Obama Kush
- Sour Grape
- Lemon Thai
- One-to-One (high-CBD)
- Sour Haze
Strains for pain-free sleep
- Granddaddy Purple
- Hindu Kush
- LA Confidential
- Critical Mass
- Bubba Kush
Strains to combat pain-related depression
If you or a loved one need pain relief, then you’re familiar with the way pain seems to creep into every facet of your life. Depression is a side effect of pain that can be just as debilitating.
Cannabis is an anti-depressant and it can help improve your quality of life. Studies have looked at the ways cannabis helps people cope with illnesses and conditions of all different kinds. Regardless of whether or not the herb was effective at treating the condition itself, patients around the world have improved the quality of their lives with the herb.
To combat the depression and stress associated with chronic strains, you might want to give these strains a try:
- Amnesia Haze
- Sour Diesel
- Pineapple Express
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Strawberry Cough
Do you use cannabis for pain relief? What are your favorite strains? Please share them with us on social media or in the comments below.