Medicinal Cannabis for Pain and Anxiety
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE, OR AS THE SUBSTITUTE FOR THE MEDICAL ADVICE OF A PHYSICIAN.
Medicinal cannabis has been legalized in 55 countries around the world to treat a range of symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and epilepsy.
Patients around the world—including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and some states in the US—can now ask their physician for a medicinal cannabis or non-psychoactive CBD prescription. While the rules vary in different regions, legalization creates the option to treat a number of diseases, ranging from Crohn’s Disease to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Today we’re going to examine how medicinal marijuana combats three common symptoms of chronic disease—pain, anxiety, and depression—plus examine how to use the best cannabis vaporizers for smoke-free inhalation.
Medicinal Cannabis for Chronic Pain
Pain is usually your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. The ideal solution is to cure the source of the pain.
But what if your condition is untreatable, like severe back injury? Or what if your condition is caused by dysfunctional pain processing, like fibromyalgia?
In such cases, curing the cause of the pain is simply not an option. So you have to treat the symptom of pain itself.
You’ve probably already tried a raft of pain killing medications, some which come with debilitating side effects. Post-surgical pain is one example. Opioids can cause nausea and vomiting, which is not what you want when you’ve just had part of your bowel removed.
Cannabis is an alternative analgesic medication which can reduce pain while providing anti-nausea effects at the same time.
How? Marijuana affects the brain stem, which is responsible for regulating automatic functions like breathing, heart rate, and nausea. What’s more, there are abundant cannabinoid receptors in your peripheral pain-detecting nerves, allowing cannabis to block peripheral nerve pain.
There is also data to show the anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties of THC and CBD in Multiple Sclerosis (Pryce et al., 2014). Another literature review highlighted its therapeutic potential for spinal cord injuries, Tourette’s Syndrome, epilepsy, and glaucoma (Amar, 2006).
If you want to read up in more detail, Mack & Joy (2000) explain how medicinal cannabis can be used to treat the painful symptoms of headaches, migraines, AIDS, cancer, and other chronic conditions.
Medicinal Cannabis for Anxiety and Depression
Animal studies have shown that low doses of cannabinoids have anti-anxiety effects (Rey et al., 2012). This paves the way for the development of new cannabis-based medicines to treat mental disorders associated with anxiety, ranging from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to clinical depression (which in itself is a common side-effect of suffering from chronic illness).
It’s worth noting that very high doses of cannabinoids can increase anxiety—hence the paranoia reported by heavy recreational users. So it’s important to get the dosage right; your physician can work with you to ensure this, and we have some very useful tips below.
Low doses of medicinal cannabis have also been shown to deliver anti-depressant effects by stimulating the serotonergic system (Bambico et al., 2007).
Though often triggered by a psychological inability to cope with chronic distress, clinical depression is propagated by faulty neurochemistry. It mainly involves insufficient norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain.
Drugs which stimulate the production (or slow the reuptake) of these neurotransmitters can help regulate your brain chemistry. They are usually prescribed long-term (at least nine months) while you tackle the psychological causes of your depression with therapy.
For a comprehensive overview, read The Biology of Depression, based on Dr Robert Sapolski’s lectures into the psychology, neurochemistry and genetics of depression.
What Are Cannabis Vaporizers?
Inhaling cannabis through vaporization is a promising mode of delivery for medical patients (Lanz et al., 2016).
While smoking cannabis involves combusting (burning) the plant material, vaporizing involves either conduction or convection heating to extract the cannabinoids and convert them into vapor. It’s a smoke-free alternative that’s much easier on the lungs.
Notably, vaporizing dry leaf cannabis is not linked with EVALI or “popcorn lung”, which is caused by the largely abandoned practice of adding Vitamin E acetate to THC-containing liquid products.
There are two broad types of vaporizers compatible with medicinal cannabis:
- Conduction vaporizers, like the Fury Edge Portable Vaporizer, are more common and easier to use. The dry cannabis leaves make direct contact with the heated metal plate to transfer heat directly from solid to solid. Conduction vaporizers are popular because they’re more affordable, highly portable, and easy to use. However, in some models, the vapor can be drier, and the smaller chamber requires more frequent cleaning.
- Convection vaporizers, like the Arizer Extreme Q Desktop Vaporizer, transfer heat more evenly via a liquid or gas. They’re usually desktop models and require an accessory like a whip or balloon for inhalation. Convection vaporizers give optimal quality and flavor of vapor, and more even heat distribution so you can vape at lower temperatures. On the downside, they are much larger set-ups, and are generally more expensive.
Both conduction and convection vaporization methods are very efficient and pose virtually no risk of combustion. You can see this when you empty the herb chamber afterwards: the leftover cannabis is a dull brown color (if it had burned, it would be charred and black).
What is The Best Vaporizer for Medicinal Cannabis?
We recommend novice medicinal users start with a portable vaporizer (which generally provide conduction heating) simply because they are easier to understand and use.
The Fury Edge Portable Vaporizer by Healthy Rips is a mid-price portable vape that won our Vaporizer of The Year in 2018. It’s tough, with a fast-charging battery (USB-C connection), and fits in your hand so you can take it anywhere. The three-button operation (power, temp up, and temp down) make it very easy to use and the temperature is adjustable between 320°F and 430°F.
The chamber holds up to 0.2g of medicinal cannabis and it comes with a free grinder to prepare your herb into a fine leaf for even heating. The Fury Edge warms up in around 20 seconds to provide a smooth vapor that’s superior to the output of many other portable vaporizers.
To further enhance the vapor quality, we recommend using it with the compatible Jazz Stem accessory for inhalation, which cools the vapor before you inhale and makes it much cleaner on the throat.
Healthy Rips also make compatible dosing capsules, which is a great benefit for medicinal cannabis users. The set of four stainless steel capsules enables you to pre-load a precise dose, while keeping the internal herb chamber clean which saves you on maintenance.
What’s The Best Temperature for Medicinal Cannabis Vaporization?
Once you receive your vaporizer, you’ll probably wonder why it has custom temperature control. All cannabis vaporizers have this setting, and the best temperature for medicinal cannabis depends on the quality of your vaporizer and your herb. It also helps you control the amount of THC or CBD you release during a vape session, thereby controlling your dosage. The temperature you vaporize your cannabis affects the extent to which the active compounds are released. In general, higher temperatures create much more noticeable cognitive effects. With a little experimentation you can learn:
- How different temperatures create anti-anxiety and pain relief
- How higher temperatures feel on your throat (longer stems can help)
- How higher temperatures affect your memory and cognition
Make sure you’re using fully dried herb and then choose a heat setting to these guidelines:
- Lower temperatures (320°F to 350°F) release some THC and other cannabinoids like CBD and CDC, providing anti-anxiety effects, while being easy on the throat and providing better flavor. This is better suited to morning and day-time use.
- Higher temperatures (350°F to 430°F) release lots of THC and CBD, the latter boiling at a slightly higher temperature. This produces thicker vapor, and often relaxation and euphoria, but it can irritate your throat if you’re a novice. Higher temperatures are better for night-time use as the higher dose of THC can make you drowsy.
Experiment with the best temperatures for your needs by starting low at 320°F and gradually working upwards. If you can get the desired results from a lower temperature, stick with that.
Research suggests the sweet spot for medicinal cannabis is 410°F for “the best balance between efficient evaporation of terpenes and cannabinoids and smoothness of vapor” (Lanz et al., 2016).
However, it’s worth noting that vaping at lower temperatures leaves sufficient cannabinoids in the leftover herb to be used in teas and edibles. Consuming medicinal cannabis this way provides different and longer lasting effects, so you may want to experiment with this as well.
Medicinal cannabis is a powerful tool in our medical cabinet, the cultivation of which dates back 6,000 years to Neolithic times where it was used therapeutically.
Beyond providing relief from chronic pain, anxiety, and depression, scientific studies are finding a growing number of applications for medicinal marijuana. Its legalization to treat an increasing number of diseases in 55 countries worldwide underpins the value of cannabis as a therapeutic drug.
If you’re interested in trying medicinal cannabis, speak to your physician and browse our range of cannabis vaporizers for the healthiest way to inhale your herb.