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The cannabis plant is packed with over a hundred plant compounds known as cannabinoids. These interact with the complex system of chemical signals and receptors known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to provide a range of potentially positive health outcomes. Because the gastrointestinal system is full of such receptors, these cannabinoid compounds and associated terpenes have been linked to improved digestive function, a more balanced gut and relief from inflammatory gut disorders.
What digestive issues can be treated with cannabinoids?
The cannabinoids found in certain cannabis strains can provide relief from a variety of inflammatory gut disorders including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Leaky gut disorder
As well as being naturally anti-inflammatory, studies have shown that cannabinoids play a role in managing gastric acid levels and ensuring that food is moved through the gut more efficiently (intestinal motility). Moreover, cannabinoids have also been linked to a more balanced gut microbiome and reduced gut permeability, improving digestive function as it alleviates the pain, bloating and discomfort often associated with these conditions.
What should I look for in a strain for gastrointestinal issues?
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of cannabinoid compounds, and different strains have been bred to incorporate different ratios of certain compounds, most notably cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
A good balance of both is integral to ensuring a combination of anti-inflammatory and pain relief benefits. Stress can both trigger and exacerbate inflammatory gut disorders, so it’s important to look for a strain with a robust CBD presence to reduce the risk of anxiety and paranoia that can come with concentrated levels of THC.
As well as cannabinoids, terpenes are important in ensuring an ‘entourage effect’ that increases the function and potency of cannabinoids. Look for terpenes that increase the entourage effect, such as myrcene, humulene, caryophyllene and pinene.
So, what strain is best for stomach problems?
Every individual will experience different predispositions and tolerances for different cannabinoids. As such, it may take some experimentation to find the right strain for your unique needs.
However, the following strains have all proven effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders:
One of the most famous cannabis strains, Northern Lights is a potent Indica strain with powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Its sedative properties can help to relieve anxiety and stress while its balance of terpenes (myrcene, beta-caryophyllene and pinene) ensures a potent entourage effect.
However, at around 20% THC it may not be suitable for those new to medicinal cannabis.
Like Northern Lights, LA Confidential is often prescribed by medical practitioners for the treatment of chronic pain as it balances pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. As well as alleviating inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders, it may also prove effective in relieving joint pain. It is also often prescribed to those who have trouble sleeping.
LA Confidential has a good CBD:THC ratio and abundant terpenes like pinene, myrcene and caryophyllene provide a powerful entourage effect.
Cannatonic is often prescribed to people with inflammatory gut disorders such as IBS. This strain has fairly low THC levels that will range from 3-6%. CBD levels, however, are typically much higher ranging from 6% at the lower end to 17% at the higher end. This makes it good for those who want pain relief without any pronounced psychotropic effects. Nonetheless, it has a robust terpene profile, including myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene.
ACDC is another high CBD, low THC strain that is an excellent choice for those who want relief from the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders without compromising their busy and active lifestyles.
Made from a phenotype of Cannatonic, ACDC has the same terpene profile with even fewer intoxicating effects. It is commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory gut disorders as well as neurological conditions like epilepsy as well as mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy.
Harlequin is another CBD-dominant, low-THC strain that is used to treat chronic pain and inflammatory conditions without any discernible psychotropic effects. Despite its name, Harlequin does not tend to give users the giggles nor promote ‘couch lock’. On the contrary, Harlequin users often report increased focus and concentration levels without elevated levels of stress or anxiety.
With THC levels of around 20% and a characteristically bitter taste, Sour Diesel may not be the first choice for new users. However, it is noted not only for its energising effects but its robust mix of terpenes including myrcene, humulene, limonene and caryophyllene which may help to reduce gut inflammation.
Another THC-heavy strain, Blue Dream is a sativa-dominant hybrid that is commonly used to promote relaxation and reduce inflammation throughout the body without feelings of lethargy or drowsiness. This makes it perfect for those whose gastrointestinal issues are exacerbated by stress.
Named after the American activist, Jack Herer is one of the most potent cannabis strains available and is sometimes prescribed for chronic pain and inflammatory conditions. This sativa-dominant strain has THC levels approaching 20% but is known for its energising effects and stress-relieving properties. Its primary terpene is terpinolene which is also found in apples, nutmeg and lilacs. Its terpene profile is rounded out by caryophyllene and pinene.
Gorilla Glue, also known as GG4 and Original Glue, is an extremely calming and relaxing strain for those who suffer from gastric pain and irritation that may be exacerbated by stress. Its terpene profile includes caryophyllene, myrcene and limonene, making it a potentially potent anti-inflammatory. Although it may not be the best strain for focus and productivity, it is a good choice for those who have trouble winding down due to a stressful job or lifestyle.
What’s the best strain for you?
While these are all strains with qualities conducive to aiding digestive health, this list is not definitive. Those with gastrointestinal conditions need to decide which strain and dosage best fit their unique needs, symptoms and lifestyle.