The legalization of medical marijuana has made its sale and consumption increasingly sophisticated. Stop by any dispensary today and there are many well-known varieties under different names, including Northern Lights, Girl Scout Cookies, Trainwreck, and Purple Urkle. Marijuana is also sold in edible forms (marijuana cakes, candy, crackers, and beverages), oils, and tinctures.
For a while, scientists have wondered if the various herbal marijuana strains really differ from pure (pharmacological) cannabinoids like marinol or nabilone. More recent research suggests that, on a molecular level, many indica, sativas, and hybrids are actually different from pharmaceuticals. However, at this time, the precise physiological and psychotropic effects of different types of marijuana appear to be more subjective.
In other words, although different, we don't know the exact effects of different types of marijuana, including indica and sativa strains, the two main subspecies.
Although there are several hybrids, in a very broad sense, medical marijuana can be divided into two categories or subspecies: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa . (There is also a third category called Cannabis ruderalis . Ruderalis contains low levels of psychoactive cannabinoids and is rarely cultivated as a drug.)
The two main psychoactive components of marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol ( CBD ). It should be noted that metabolic fingerprint analysis (gas chromatography) has identified several other cannabinoids and minor terpenes that may further contribute to euphoria. The effects of these other compounds remain to be seen. That said, ultimately the CBD / THC ratio in sativa is higher than indica.
Aside from chemical differences, sativas and indicas also differ in appearance. Sativa plants are taller and more branched; while indica plants are shorter and have wider leaves. It should be noted that marijuana users often smoke the "bud" or flower of marijuana. Interestingly, marijuana plants grow in different shades of green.
In part, research on cannabis is limited (in other words, no large randomized controlled trials have been conducted) because the US government does not approve such research and poorly funds such initiatives. Instead, people tend to rely on the Internet, friends, or medical personnel. Equally important, several marijuana pharmacies are testing products for quality and reproducibility, specifically the CBD / THC ratio.
The subjective results of a recent low-energy internet survey (95 study participants) conducted by the Western University of Medical Sciences shed some light on the clinical differences between indica and sativa. Here are some notable results from an online marijuana user survey:
- In terms of specific medical conditions , respondents found it helpful for cases other than migraine, neuropathy, spasticity, seizures, joint pain, and glaucoma.
- In terms of medical conditions, respondents expressed a preference for sativa only for weight loss treatment.
- Online marijuana users have not noticed a difference between indica and sativa in the treatment of HIV , migraine, multiple sclerosis, cancer, muscle pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, trauma, orthopedic problems, or other medical conditions.
- In terms of symptoms, respondents indicated a preference for pain relief, sleep relief , sedation, and a "good high."
- Regarding symptoms, respondents preferred sativa as an energy source.
- The researchers concluded that indica is preferred in the treatment of diseases; while sativa was preferred for recreational use (a discovery that is widespread).
Please note that the findings presented in this article are only intended to provide food for thought. The science behind treating diseases and symptoms with marijuana in general needs more research and is in its infancy.
Also, the science behind species-specific treatment (indica versus sativa) requires even more research and is only in the conception stage.
From what I can tell, from a physiological point of view, no one has yet studied how hybrids (strains predominantly indica or sativa) differ. However, marijuana sellers generally recommend different types of marijuana for different medical conditions. Therefore, any such advice should be taken with caution.
In general, when people give advice about the effects of different types of marijuana, the advice is likely to be subjective and based on anecdotes. No one knows exactly how different types of marijuana interact with the body and mind. What's more, marijuana sellers themselves are often unaware of just how potent a strain really is.