When reading about medical marijuana, you’ll often see multiple sclerosis described as one of the many serious diseases for which weed can be helpful.
But even people who are somewhat familiar with the heartbreakingly debilitating effects that MS can have may skip right past that section. After all, how many people have multiple sclerosis, anyway?
Actually, a lot more than you’d think. Nearly half a million Americans, and five times that number worldwide, suffer from this cruel, unpredictable and incurable autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system.
There are several different forms of MS, all with similar or identical symptoms. They’re defined primarily by whether a patient has intermittent or continual periods of attacks and remissions, and whether their disease is progressing.
Research has been ongoing for decades, but there’s still no cure. So far, the only tangible breakthroughs have been to create medical treatments that lessen the disabling effects of MS.
Enter medical marijuana.
Weed and MS
A number of studies have found that cannabis can be effective at treating many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, without the serious side effects associated with many medications. Muscle stiffness, spasms, and tremors have all decreased in trials with marijuana. And obviously, the right strains of pot would be helpful in treating the debilitating pain and depression that often accompany MS.
Just as with medical treatments, there are no signs that smoking, vaping or using edibles, tinctures or oils can reverse or cure the disease. Relieving the symptoms, however, can make life much more manageable for patients as medical treatments hopefully slow its progression, and researchers search for a permanent solution.
The most famous “face” of weed’s ability to help MS sufferers is undoubtedly TV personality Montel Williams, who’s admitted that after his MS diagnosis he considered suicide before trying – and becoming a believer in – the power of pot to help deal with the serious effects of multiple sclerosis.
Choosing Cannabis Strains For Multiple Sclerosis
There are many suggestions on the “right strain” for MS treatment. Most are based either on anecdotal reports or analysis of the way the strain hits most users. For example, you may see an energizing Sativa like Sojay Haze recommended for MS patients who suffer severe fatigue, a high-CBD/low THC hybrid like Cannatonic recommended for those who have to deal with severe muscle spasms or a sledgehammer packed with THC that lets patients simply forget about their disease.
Those suggestions make sense, and can undoubtedly help many patients. However, there’s a better roadmap to follow.
For nearly ten years, the drug company GW Pharmaceuticals has been selling a patented, marijuana-based mouth spray called Sativex. It’s specifically aimed at treating the severe muscular symptoms suffered by multiple sclerosis patients – and it works.
Unlike synthetic drugs like Marinol, Sativex is made from the actual cannabis plant and is formulated to contain all of the THC and CBD you’d normally find in a 1:1 weed strain. The experience isn’t quite the same as smoking a similar strain since you spray it into your mouth and it works slowly. But it’s become extremely popular among MS patients, particularly since it’s covered under health insurance.
Just not in America.
Sativex is approved for sale and uses in Great Britain and 27 other countries, but as you’d expect in a country where pot is still technically illegal under federal law, you can’t buy Sativex in the U.S.
But Sativex is a proven treatment for the symptoms of MS, so here’s what you can do: choose strains with similar content and profiles. There are a number of them, and they provide somewhat different highs and user experiences so you can pick the one that suits you – and your symptoms – best.
The Best Medical Marijuana Strains For Multiple Sclerosis
One to One
This is the closest strain to Sativex that you can find – and it’s worth finding. We don’t particularly like quoting other websites, but the best one-sentence summary of One to One we’ve seen is on Wikileaf: “Imagine being high without being high.” That’s possible because of the strain’s perfect 1-to-1 THC-to-CBD and Sativa-to-Indica ratios, exactly the ratios that Sativex is formulated to contain.
That maximizes the medicinal impact of CBD while limiting the psychoactive effects of THC in One to One. This strain is particularly effective at easing the muscle pain, strain and cramping inherent to multiple sclerosis. It also works to limit seizures, general body pain and the stress and anxiety brought on by the daily challenges of dealing with MS. Meanwhile, there’s no intense high; any mental effect will be cerebral, with added focus. This strain may be the best tool allowing patients to minimize the symptoms of MS while still being able to function on a daily basis.
The THC/CBD ratio in this Sativa-dominant strain isn’t always 1:1. It can vary considerably, sometimes hitting 5:2 in favor of CBD. But it’s not going to blow you away with its THC content or the resultant high; instead, you’ll experience a mellow mood elevation and noticeable pain relief – just the right mix for MS patients trying to get through the day and evening without suffering.
Harlequin is very good at alleviating the joint stiffness and pain which are a hallmark of multiple sclerosis, and it is also excellent at relieving anxiety without the danger of THC exacerbating it. This strain is often recommended for the whole-body pain of fibromyalgia and it works just as well for MS, fighting pain without the strong high or fatigue that can prevent work or productive relaxation.
Here’s another good choice with a THC/CBD ratio that’s usually close to 1:1, with a THC content that hovers right around 10%. However, you’ll sometimes see some this flower with much higher CBD content, in the 20-30% range. Those CBD-heavy buds might be more suitable for those who react badly to high THC levels because of severe anxiety caused by their MS.
The strain was actually bred by someone who suffered from debilitating back pain, and it works just as well on the muscle pain and stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis. It’s also effective for seizures, stress, and insomnia, making Sour Tsunami a great, mellow choice without inducing couch lock or an inability to perform daily functions.
Our last two recommendations are aimed at those who prefer a stronger but not disabling high, combined with pain relief. Indica-dominant Critical Mass averages around 20% THC with lower but significant CBD content, providing a clear-minded but body-slowing experience which can noticeably ease the muscle pain of MS.
You won’t be able to fully function in the workplace or clean your house from top-to-bottom while using this strain. You may even feel a little lethargic. But it’s a very good choice for nighttime use for patients with multiple sclerosis or other severe pain issues.
This Sativa-heavy strain is high in THC and relatively low in CBD, so it’s the least similar to Sativex’s 1:1 ratio. However, it’s a good choice for MS patients who want a stronger, euphoric hit to boost their spirits and productivity. Why Permafrost instead of so many other possibilities? Primarily because of its extremely potent ability to help patients overcome the stress and depression brought on by diseases like multiple sclerosis.
You won’t experience massive pain relief from Permafrost, but it does relax the body and as a result, can loosen the joints and muscles crippled by MS. Watch out, though – its high THC content can make anxiety worse, and it also has a tendency to bring on the munchies.