What Is Medicinal Cannabis, and How to Choose a Medicinal Cannabis Strain?

Medicinal cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, refers to cannabis when it is used to treat or relieve a complaint or condition, rather than for recreational or spiritual purposes. Any type of cannabis which contains an effective amount of cannabinoids can be considered medicinal cannabis if it is used for that purpose.

Choosing to use medicinal cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) can be a very easy decision to make. Choosing which variety can be more complicated. Many patients, and many of our customers, had never grown or even tried cannabis before discovering it as a medicine.

Even for people who have, it’s not that simple. Although any type of cannabis can be medicinal or recreational, knowing what works for recreational and social purposes does not mean knowing the best variety of cannabis for different medical needs.

Pots of Dutch Bedrocan medicinal cannabis; members of the Dutch medicinal cannabis association Stichting Mediwiet Pots of Dutch Bedrocan medicinal cannabis; members of the Dutch medicinal cannabis association Stichting Mediwiet

What is medicinal cannabis prescribed for?

In the Netherlands, which has had a medicinal cannabis program since 2003, cannabis is prescribed for the following symptoms (among others):

  • Muscular cramps and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury
  • Nausea, reduced appetite, weight-loss and weakness caused by cancer or AIDS
  • Nausea and vomiting as a result of medication, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy for cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, or AIDS
  • Chronic pain, especially when related to the nervous system or caused by nerve damage
  • Therapy-resistant glaucoma
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

In the rest of Europe, many countries now have some form of medicinal cannabis program. These range from only permitting products containing cannabinoids (such as Sativex) to being able to obtain cannabis flowers with a prescription. In the latter case, cannabis can be prescribed for people suffering from:

Some countries, such as Germany, do not restrict the conditions for which medicinal cannabis can be prescribed. There are numerous other medicinal benefits to cannabis, and research into this area continues to expand.

Is indica or sativa best for medicinal use?

When asking yourself ‘how do I choose a medicinal cannabis strain?’ it is useful to have a basic understanding of the differences between indica strains and sativa strains in terms of their medical applications.

As a very simple guide, here are the most common medicinal uses for indica and sativa cannabis:

Indica-dominant cannabis is commonly used medicinally for:

  • sedative, ‘stoned’ feeling
  • sensation centred in the body, which relaxes as muscle tension is reduced
  • muscle spasms and tremors (for example caused by multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease),
  • chronic pain
  • arthritic and rheumatic stiffness and swelling
  • insomnia, anxiety and related conditions
5 large buds of indica medicinal cannabis. Master Kush, Shiva Skunk, Big Bud, Sensi Skunk, and Super Skunk.5 large buds of indica medicinal cannabis. Master Kush, Shiva Skunk, Big Bud, Sensi Skunk, and Super Skunk.

Our top five indica cannabis strains are:

  1. Master Kush (90 – 100% indica) – regular seeds; feminized seeds; automatic seeds
  2. Shiva Skunk (85% indica) – regular seeds; feminized seeds; automatic seeds
  3. Big Bud (85% indica) – regular seeds; feminized seeds; automatic seeds
  4. Sensi Skunk (80% indica) – regular seeds; feminized seeds; automatic seeds
  5. Super Skunk (80% indica) – regular seeds; feminized seeds; automatic seeds

Sativa-dominant cannabis is commonly used medicinally for:

  • cerebral, energetic ‘high’ effect experienced in the mind as well as in the body
  • treatment of nausea (for example caused by chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS medications)
  • appetite stimulation
  • migraine headaches
  • depression
  • chronic pain and similar symptoms
5 large buds of sativa medicinal cannabis. Jamaican Pearl, Michka, Northern Lights #5 x Haze, White Diesel Haze, and X Haze.5 large buds of sativa medicinal cannabis. Jamaican Pearl, Michka, Northern Lights #5 x Haze, White Diesel Haze, and X Haze.

Our top five sativa cannabis strains are:

  1. Jamaican Pearl (85% sativa) – regular seeds; feminized seeds
  2. Michka (80% sativa) – regular seeds; feminized seeds
  3. Northern Lights 5 x Haze (70% sativa) – regular seeds; feminized seeds
  4. White Diesel Haze (70% sativa) – automatic seeds
  5. X Haze (60% sativa) – feminized seeds

Can hybrid cannabis be used medicinally?

When indica is crossed with sativa, the result is a hybrid (or ‘cross-bred’) cannabis strain. Most commercially available cannabis seed strains are hybrids. The examples above are, strictly speaking, also hybrids. However, when the make-up of the strain heavily favours one type of cannabis over the other, they are described simply as indica or sativa (or indica-dominant and sativa-dominant).

Balanced hybrids exhibit characteristics from both types of cannabis. This can be an advantage, for example when medicinal cannabis has been prescribed to relieve chronic pain, something for which both indica and sativa strains are suitable. Adding sativa genes to an indica strain can aid mental clarity and decrease sedative effects; introducing indica to sativa strains can lower the tendency of pure sativas to occasionally stimulate anxiety.

The entourage effect

The different medicinal effects of indica and sativa strains were previously thought to be determined by the levels of the two best-known cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Indica strains were believed to contain more CBD (cannabidiol) and less THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Sativa varieties were believed to have the opposite, greater amounts of THC and less CBD.

Both cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which acts as a kind of ‘caretaker’ for many of the body’s functions. The ECS includes cannabinoid receptors which are found throughout the brain and body. This is why cannabis has so many different medicinal applications.

In the last few years, new research indicates that within large sample sizes of indica and sativa strains, THC and CBD levels are roughly the same. However, the same research showed that levels of terpenes and terpenoids (the elements responsible for scent and flavour, among other things) do vary from indica to sativa strains. Terpenes are also thought to affect the type of effect that cannabis can have, from sedative to stimulating.

Together, cannabinoids and terpenes make up a whole greater than the sum of their parts. This synergy is known as the entourage effect. Research into the entourage effect is still in its early stages. A study from 2019 suggests it is likely that terpenes and terpenoids act upon the brain pathways involved with the effects of cannabis, or perhaps affect how THC is metabolised.

2 packs of cannabis seeds with 3 large buds of cannabis. The seeds are Skunk Dream CBD and Afghan Pearl CBD. The buds are Black Lights, Himalayan CBD, and Alpine Delight. 2 packs of cannabis seeds with 3 large buds of cannabis. The seeds are Skunk Dream CBD and Afghan Pearl CBD. The buds are Black Lights, Himalayan CBD, and Alpine Delight.

Is THC or CBD better for medicinal cannabis use?

Although the effects of their levels in indica and sativa strains are still in question, it is fact that these two cannabinoids have very different effects. Most important for medicinal users is often the psychedelic aspect. THC is very much a psychoactive substance, providing the mind-altering effects that cannabis is both praised and pilloried for. CBD is more effective on the body, providing relaxation. CBD also mediates the effects of THC, counteracting potential unwanted effects such as anxiety.

As the popularity of cannabis as a medicine grows, so too does the number of patients who prefer to consume their medicine with little to no psychoactive effects. Sensi Seeds has responded to this demand with the introduction of several strains that are high in CBD and low in THC.

Our top CBD strains are:

  1. Skunk Dream CBD (THC/CBD – 26:1)
  2. Black Lights CBD (THC/CBD – 1:1)
  3. Himalayan CBD (THC/CBD – 1:2)
  4. Alpine Delight (THC/CBD – 1:30)
  5. Afghan Pearl (THC/CBD – 1:1)

Was cannabis the first medicine?

Cannabis is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, medicines used by humankind. The oldest written reference to it is found in a Chinese medical text dating from 200 – 300 BCE. There are claims that the text, and therefore the established medicinal uses of cannabis, date back to 2800 BCE. This is based upon when the supposed author, Emperor Shen Nong, was reportedly ruling China.

Closer investigation reveals he was a semi-mythical figure. It is more likely that the text was the work of a group of scholars who wanted to promote their work by giving it a divine and ancient provenance.

Since this discovery, cannabis has been explored as a medicine by almost every civilization around the world, and its potential benefits for humankind continue to evolve.

Medicinal cannabis expert Dr Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Medicinal cannabis expert Dr Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Consult your medical practitioner first

Sensi Seeds is not a medical practice (as you’ve probably noticed). We do not and cannot give medical advice. We have had all of the articles on our blog checked and reviewed for accuracy by a qualified MD, and we regularly update them.

Nevertheless, information provided anywhere on this website is for purposes of interest only, and should not be taken as a diagnosis or prescription, or in any way seen as a substitute for a qualified medical practitioner.

It is also important to remember that just as every person’s physiological make-up is slightly different, the subjective experience of using cannabis medicinally is also different for everyone.

Sensi Seeds varieties offer a wide range of choice for medicinal growers to select the best types of cannabis for their requirements. Our unparalleled collection of strains was selected by the Dutch government as the basis for their medicinal cannabis program, and has been described by the late Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry Lester Grinspoon M.D. as ‘the most comprehensive cannabis gene-bank in the world.’

Please leave your feedback

Has one of our strains really helped you? Do you think there should be a (legal) difference between medicinal and recreational cannabis use? Are there any medicinal uses of cannabis that you’d like to see covered on the blog? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Disclaimer:

    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.

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