Medical marijuana has received much publicity in recent years. This natural remedy can relieve the symptoms of a variety of medical conditions ranging from chronic pain to anxiety. In this article, we will explore whether cannabis could help with the symptoms of muscular dystrophy, and which strains you should try if you suffer from this debilitating condition.
What is Muscular Dystrophy?
Muscular dystrophy is not a single condition, but rather a group of disorders which have a similar mechanism and symptoms.
Muscular dystrophy is caused by an inherited genetic mutation which affects the way the muscles work. The condition is degenerative, meaning that it gets progressively worse over time. Eventually, muscular dystrophy can affect the muscles that help you to breathe and even the heart, making this a potentially life-threatening disease.
The most common, and the most serious, form of muscular dystrophy is called Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. This condition mainly affects boys in early childhood, with the first signs being difficulty in standing and walking. Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy can severely limit the sufferer’s life expectancy, and it is unusual for people with this disorder to live beyond their 30s. Fortunately, this condition is quite rare. It is estimated to affect around 1 in 5000 newborn males worldwide.
Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy
Because muscular dystrophy is actually a group of several conditions, the symptoms can vary significantly between individuals.
Some of the most common symptoms of muscular dystrophy include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps and pain
- Loss of muscle mass
- Drooping eyelids
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Developmental delays or learning disabilities in children
- Insomnia and daytime drowsiness
People with muscular dystrophy may also be more prone to suffer from issues such as depression. This fact is hardly surprising when you consider the impact that being diagnosed with such a severe condition can have on a person’s mental health, not to mention losing the ability to perform everyday tasks and activities.
Treatments for Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is currently incurable, and treatments are aimed at managing symptoms and improving quality of life for people with this condition. Regular physical therapy is crucial to help keep muscular dystrophy patients mobile, and occupational therapy can help them to function better in everyday life. Surgery may also be necessary to correct any structural deformities which develop over time.
Drugs such as corticosteroids can be used to help increase muscle strength, but these carry a high risk of side effects including weight gain, high blood pressure, brittle bones, diabetes, reduced immunity, eye problems, and mood changes, to name just a few.
Taking into account all of these possible side effects, it is no wonder that some people with muscular dystrophy would prefer to avoid these potent medications and opt for something safer and more natural instead. And that is where cannabis comes into the equation.
Cannabis for Muscular Dystrophy
Cannabis has the potential to help with the symptoms of muscular dystrophy in several ways. First off, the active compounds in marijuana are renowned for their ability to relieve inflammation and chronic pain. These compounds include cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive component of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Secondly, marijuana can induce physical relaxation to relieve symptoms such as muscle spasticity or stiffness, one of the key problems for people with muscular dystrophy. Many strains of cannabis also promote mental relaxation, and as such could help with issues such as insomnia and depression.
Finally, cannabinoids could help people with muscular dystrophy on a cellular level. Researchers have found that the active compounds CBD, cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) have a positive effect on mice bred with a mild form of muscular dystrophy. The results of this 2018 study on cannabinoids for muscular dystrophy indicate that these compounds can reduce inflammation, prevent loss of mobility, and promote the formation of myotubes, a type of muscle fiber.
Although there is not much other evidence currently available on cannabis for muscular dystrophy, the results of this initial study suggest that it has great therapeutic potential and is worthy of further investigation.
5 Best Cannabis Strains for Muscular Dystrophy
1. Blue Dream
Our number one cannabis strain for muscular dystrophy is Blue Dream. This strain is a 60% sativa-dominant hybrid known for its mellow and long-lasting effects. With a high THC content of up to 21% and CBD levels of around 2–3%, Blue Dream provides full body relaxation without being overly sedating.
Often used in the treatment of stress, depression, and pain, this strain is not too heavy and is great for newbies and experienced users alike. Adverse effects from this strain could include dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness.
Blue Dream has a sweet flavor reminiscent of berries and cherries, inherited from its indica Blueberry parent. However, you needn’t worry about this strain knocking you out, as its sativa Haze ancestry ensures an uplifting high which is perfect for daytime use.
2. Afghan Kush
This pure indica strain originating from the mountains of the Afghan/Pakistani border is one of the best for muscular dystrophy. With a THC content up to a staggering 25%, Afghan Kush packs a real punch. Couple this with CBD levels of up to 4%, and you have a cannabis strain which is excellent for relieving symptoms like chronic pain, muscle spasms, stress, depression, and insomnia. Possible side effects of this strain include dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness.
Afghan Kush is characterized by its high resin content, which makes it one of the best strains for making hash. It has an earthy, woody flavor and provides a powerful full-body high.
The only thing keeping Afghan Kush off the top spot is the fact that it is highly sedating, making it less suitable for daytime use. However, if you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, this could be the perfect strain for you.
3. Super Silver Haze
Super Silver Haze is a hybrid with a 70% sativa to 30% indica ratio. A cross between the famous Northern Lights, Haze, and Skunk No.1, this strain provides a euphoric, relaxing high. Super Silver Haze is quite unique in that it has equal levels of THC and CBD, 8–14% of each. This high CBD content makes it a fantastic medicinal strain, which may help reduce inflammation and relieve stress, depression, and pain. Some of the less desirable effects of this strain include dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness.
Super Silver Haze has a spicy, citrus flavor and is famed for its shiny, silver appearance. This strain is well balanced and ideal for both daytime and evening use.
4. Blackberry Kush
This strain is a hybrid which combines the profoundly relaxing effects of Afghan Kush with the more uplifting high of Blackberry. Although this strain provides a sedating, full-body high, you are less likely to suffer from couch-lock as you are with pure Afghan.
Containing THC levels of around 16% and CBD levels up to 0.4%, Blackberry Kush is often used to relieve stress, muscle spasms, pain, and insomnia. Some possible adverse effects of this strain include dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness.
Easily recognizable by its dark, purple buds, Blackberry Kush has a complex flavor combining sweet, berry notes with more spicy, earthy undertones. This strain may be too chilled out for some people to use during the day, but if you are looking for a potent cannabis strain to help you relax in the evening and sleep soundly, Blackberry Kush is a great choice.
5. Maui Wowie
Maui Wowie is a strain that first originated in the fertile, volcanic soil of Hawaii. It is an 80% sativa-dominant hybrid with a THC content of up to 20% and CBD levels of around 0.2%. This combination means that it provides a happy, energetic high perfect for relieving stress, depression, and fatigue. This particular strain can also be used to alleviate pain, meaning that it one of the best cannabis strains out there for muscular dystrophy. Some possible side effects include a dry mouth, dry eyes, and headaches.
As you might expect from its Hawaiian roots, this weed has a tropical flavor with hints of pineapple, citrus, and banana. If you are searching for a strain to relieve muscular dystrophy symptoms during the day without causing drowsiness, Maui Wowie could be the one for you.
5 Best Cannabis Strains for Muscular Dystrophy: Final Thoughts
Cannabis cannot cure muscular dystrophy, but it can provide much-needed relief from some of the symptoms of this debilitating disease. One word of caution though: Because muscular dystrophy can cause breathing problems, smoking may not be the most suitable method of administration for people with this condition, so you may want to try vaping, edibles, oral drops or sprays, or topical creams instead.
Cannabis may provide symptomatic relief, but it is not a substitute for proper medical care. If you are suffering from muscular dystrophy or any chronic medical condition, you should consult your physician regarding the most suitable strains and dosage for you. Never stop taking any prescribed medication unless you are instructed to do so by a qualified healthcare professional.