There are many different strains of medical cannabis, each can have its own effects and possibly different therapeutic uses. Every strain can provide a different experience which can vary from person to person. To ensure you get the most out of your treatment, it is important to find a strain that best meets your medical needs.
The type of condition being treated may affect whether an Indica or a Sativa strain is more appropriate. Assessing the type of symptoms you seek to relieve is generally the best starting point for selecting the most suitable type of medicinal cannabis for your individual condition.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA STRAINS:
There are two species of cannabis used for medical cannabis, Indica and Sativa. Medical cannabis strains belong to one of the two or a hybrid of both:
Indica strains are known for their calming benefits, and generally create a sedative feeling. This sensation tends to be centered in the body, which relaxes as muscle tension is reduced. For this reason, Indica strains are commonly used to promote a good night’s sleep. It is commonly used to relieve inflammation, glaucoma, arthritis, chronic pain, and muscle tension. Side effects reported by some users include lethargy and difficulty concentrating.
This strain is known for its stimulating properties by providing a cerebral, energetic ‘high’ effect which is experienced in the mind as well as in the body. For this reason, it is generally considered good for daytime use. Sativa strains are used most commonly in treating migraines, pain, and nausea, as well as helping to stimulate appetite. Side effects reported by some users include anxiety and hyperactivity.
Many professionally bred cannabis strains contain both Indica and Sativa genes, with one or the other dominant. Hybrid strains exhibit characteristics from both genes, which allow patients to benefit from a combination of medical uses and effects.
Cannabis contains over 80 active compounds known as cannabinoids. In terms of measurable effects on the body, and research into those effects, the two main cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC makes up the majority of active ingredients in most medical cannabis strains. Produce most of the psychoactive effects of cannabis. It is also generally considered to have analgesic, anti-nausea and appetite stimulant effects.
Does not cause psychoactive effects. It is considered to have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic and anti-psychotic properties.
Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized or ingested for medicinal purposes. Effects and dosage may vary depending on the method used. It is recommended that you consult your healthcare practitioner to determine the best dose and method of use for you.
Cannabis can be smoked with devices such as a bong or pipe, or by rolling into a cigarette. Smoking produces an almost instantaneous effect and, concurrently, a quick symptom relief. Health Canada does not recommend smoking cannabis. Research indicates that smoking cannabis results in significantly higher risk of cancer and respiratory disease compared to other methods of consumption.
Vaporizing involves heating the dried cannabis until the medicinally active cannabinoids (THC and CBD) are released in the form of a vapor. The product is not heated to a point where combustion occurs and smoke is released, eliminating a lot of the harmful chemicals and effects of smoking. As a result, vaporization is the recommended consumption method by most professionals as it produces a quick effect without the risks associated with smoking.
Cannabis can be consumed through edible goods and drinks that have been infused with cannabis extracts. They include commonly-baked goods such as cookies and brownies but can also include teas, breads, candies and more. Oral consumption has a slower effect than other delivery methods, since the cannabinoids must be first absorbed through the digestive system. To account for the slower absorption, start with a small quantity and monitor the effects prior to taking more.
FIRST TIME USERS:
If you have not consumed cannabis before, or are trying a consumption method for the first time, many experts recommend having someone with you.
More information on medical cannabis consumption and information for first time users can be found here.
Information for Healthcare Professionals
The most complete information on cannabis for medical purposes for Canadian doctors and nurse practitioners is Information for Health Care Professionals - Cannabis (marihuana, cannabis) and the cannabinoids, a document prepared by Health Canada:
Health Care Professionals FAQ
Cannabis & Addiction
Research has shown the overall addiction potential of cannabis to be less than for caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. However, frequent use or long-term abuse can lead to increased tolerance, dependence, and/or withdrawal during discontinued use. Young users and individuals suffering from mental health have been shown to be at a higher risk for cannabis addiction.
Information from Health Canada is available here
Information from the Public Health Agency of Canada is available here