Getting a cancer diagnosis is many people’s worst nightmare. And, unfortunately, the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy are equally difficult to handle. So, if you find yourself in this distressing situation, you might be wondering what you can do to help.
Luckily, over two-thirds of American states now have medical marijuana programs, with cancer frequently listed as a qualifying condition. While cannabis may not be able to cure cancer, it can potentially make coping with this diagnosis much easier.
In this article, we focus on some of the best marijuana strains for chemotherapy side effects. Read on to find out more about how they could help.
How Does Cannabis Help Chemotherapy Side Effects?
Doctors use chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells, slow their growth, and stop them from spreading through the body.
However, chemotherapy can also damage healthy cells, causing a long list of uncomfortable side effects.
The side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Appetite loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Sleep problems
- Flu-like symptoms
- Increased risk of infections
- Bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fertility problems
- Hair loss
Dealing with these issues, combined with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis, can also cause increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
Fortunately, the cannabinoids that marijuana produces, such as THC and CBD, may help. For example, THC may help to suppress nausea and stimulate appetite, improve sleep, and relieve pain. CBD can also help to reduce pain and inflammation while reducing anxiety and aiding sleep.
Cannabis also contains a variety of other helpful compounds. There are over 100 other cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD, and they all have their own potential benefits.
Terpenes are another group of compounds that cannabis produces. These aromatic oils affect the smell and taste of particular strains. They also influence whether a strain is primarily relaxing or uplifting in its effects.
The FDA has already approved two cannabinoid-based medicines to treat chemotherapy side effects, Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet). However, these drugs are manufactured in a laboratory and do not contain this full range of compounds.
Therefore, many people prefer to use natural marijuana to treat chemotherapy side effects. But with so many different strains available, it can be hard to know which is best.
So, if you’re wondering which cannabis strains to use for chemotherapy side effects, this list is for you. Read on to learn our top 5 marijuana strains for chemotherapy.
5 Best Cannabis Strains for Chemotherapy Side Effects
Chemotherapy produces a range of different side effects and affects every patient slightly differently. Therefore, choosing the best cannabis strains to treat chemotherapy side effects is not a straightforward process.
Some strains are sativa-dominant, meaning that they tend to have more uplifting, energizing effects. The medical benefits of sativa strains include relieving fatigue and improving mood. However, when taken in excess, they can cause increased anxiety or even paranoia in susceptible people.
Other strains are indica-dominant, and these tend to produce a more physical, sedating high. Common medical uses of indica strains include relieving pain and promoting sleep. But due to their ability to induce extreme relaxation, they may not be suitable for using early in the day.
Both sativas and indicas can help with symptoms such as nausea and appetite loss. How effective a particular strain is for these symptoms mainly depends on its THC content.
However, strains with high levels of THC cause potent psychoactive effects. While many users enjoy the sensation of being high, it is certainly not for everyone. As you can see, choosing the best cannabis strain for chemotherapy can be pretty confusing!
Fortunately, if you live in a legal state, the budtender at your local dispensary can help. They should be able to offer you helpful advice based on your unique symptoms.
But before you head to the dispensary, what do you need to know? To get you started, here are our top 5 cannabis strains for chemotherapy side effects:
Northern Lights is a classic marijuana strain and one which has a range of medicinal benefits. It is an indica-dominant strain (around 90%) which breeders created by crossing Afghani and Thai landrace strains.
This strain has a THC content of around 15–22% and its CBD content is usually under 1%. Therefore, patients often use Northern Lights to relieve symptoms such as nausea, appetite loss, insomnia, and depression.
To learn more, check out our complete Northern Lights Strain Review.
Sometimes known as Granddaddy Purps, this is another good strain for relieving chemotherapy side effects. It is indica-dominant (around 80%) and is a cross between the Big Bud and Purple Urkle strains.
It has a generous THC content of 17–24%, and less than 1% CBD. One of the most common reasons people choose Granddaddy Purple is to increase appetite as it is well-known for causing ‘the munchies.’
It may also help with pain, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. However, if you do suffer from anxiety, stick to a low dose to avoid making your issues worse.
For more information, read our full Granddaddy Purple Strain Review.
ACDC differs significantly from the other strains on this list. It has a high CBD content (16–24%) and very little in the way of THC (0.5–1.2%). This means that it is ideal for people who want to experience the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive high.
This strain is actually a sativa-dominant phenotype of another popular medical strain, Cannatonic. Patients often use it to relieve symptoms such as pain (including nerve pain), stress, depression, and insomnia.
Thanks to its high CBD content, ACDC is unlikely to increase anxiety or cause other side effects.
Want to know more? Here’s our complete ACDC Strain Review.
Blue Dream is a well-known medicinal strain that is a cross between Blueberry and Haze. It is a reasonably balanced hybrid with a 60% sativa/40% indica split. This means that patients can enjoy the best of both worlds, coupled with a delicious, blueberry flavor.
This strain contains approximately 17–25% THC and minimal CBD (around 0.1–0.2%). Users report that it helps with fatigue, stress, depression, and pain.
To find out more, read our full Blue Dream Strain Review.
Chocolope is a popular strain which won the High Times Strain of the Year award back in 2007. It is strongly sativa-dominant at 95%, and breeders created it by crossing Chocolate Thai with Cannalope.
It has a THC content of 18–23% and minimal CBD content. Patients frequently use Chocolope to deal with fatigue, low mood, and pain.
However, due to its energizing effects, you will want to avoid using this strain close to bedtime. Reserve it for when you need a pick-me-up early in the day instead.
Learn more by reading our in-depth Chocolope Strain Review.
Bonus Strain: Chemo
We promised you the 5 best strains for chemotherapy side effects, but couldn’t wrap up without mentioning Chemo.
As the name suggests, this strain’s breeder created it specifically to help cancer patients. Its exact origins are unclear, but Chemo has been around since the 1970s and is sometimes known as UBC Chemo.
This strain has an extremely high THC content of up to 29%. This means that it may not be the best choice for patients who are new to marijuana. However, if you have a high THC tolerance, Chemo could provide you with the relief you need.
Patients frequently use it to ease nausea and increase appetite. It may also be useful in the treatment of pain, sleep disorders, and depression.
Does this sound like the strain for you? Read more in our Chemo Strain Review.
5 Best Cannabis Strains for Chemotherapy Side Effects: Final Thoughts
Cancer is often listed as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana and with good reason. Not only have studies found that cannabinoids may help to slow the growth and spread of cancer cells, but it can also relieve many of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Therefore, if you are undergoing cancer treatment, cannabis could offer you some relief. However, we should make it clear that marijuana is not a substitute for proper medical treatment.
You should consult your physician before using marijuana for chemotherapy side effects, and continue with any medication they prescribe.
And finally, please note that this is not an exhaustive list of cannabis strains for chemotherapy. There are many more out there which may help. Discuss your symptoms with staff at your local dispensary, and they should be able to offer you personalized advice.