Maybe you’re already aware that compounds from the cannabis plant can help treat – and in some cases, cure – breast cancer. In fact, these compounds are so useful that pharmaceutical companies have actually begun to synthesize them (read: make the same exact thing in a lab), package them up, and sell them to us as medicine. Dronabinol, for example, is a lab-engineered version of the compound THC, which is prescribed to patients who are suffering from nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatments. But why get the knock-off version if you can have the real thing?
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the 30 states that offer access to medical marijuana (or one of the eight states that allow recreational use), not only do you have the ability to get your hands on the real thing, but your options are probably pretty limitless. From tinctures to oils to topical creams and patches, products on the shelves of online and local dispensaries seem to expand every single day. But it doesn’t stop there: marijuana plants themselves are being hybridized and bred to contain specific compounds to treat specific conditions. That’s right, buying little baggies of mystery bud off your cousin’s friend is a thing of the past: nowadays, personalized cocktails of your favorite flavors, terpenes, and cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) are not only real but totally accessible. On top of all that, they each have slightly different effects, which comes in handy especially when treating the painful and debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
When you set out to find the right strain to help you along with breast cancer recovery, take note of your most obvious complaints: is it pain, nausea, lowered libido, loss of appetite? When it comes to cancer recovery, people will typically want to point straight to strains with high painkilling effects and completely ignore other symptoms. Remember that any one type of weed is going to offer a handful of different benefits and results, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find the right one for your specific needs that can also take the edge off the pain. Another important factor to remember when using marijuana for medical purposes is that both THC and CBD (compounds found in marijuana) are beneficial and have medicinal properties. You can almost always feel the physical effects of THC (so you feel like it’s ‘working’), but CBD affects the system in a much more incognito fashion, so many times its importance is overlooked. Don’t make that mistake: while these compounds work wonderfully when isolated, researchers believe that they work better together.
To help you find exactly what you are looking for, here is a list of strains that are known to combat some of the most common complaints of chemotherapy, radiation, and cancer, while also offering to take the edge off the pain.
Weed Strains for Anemia
Chemotherapy works by attacking and destroying cancer cells in the body. The problem? It also eliminates healthy, helpful cells. The destruction of and inability to create healthy red blood cells is common in chemotherapy patients, and this can lead to something called anemia. When you’re anemic, your heart has to work extra hard to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood, which can overwork the heart and lead to other, more severe problems. Cannabis is the only plant in the world that has a chemical compound called cannabidiol, or CBD. This compound was found to have no adverse effect on red blood cell volume, in fact, in many cases, it’s quite the opposite: marijuana can actually raise red blood cell count in women with breast cancer. Smoking weed probably won’t cure anemia by itself, so make sure you are taking other measures to stay on top of it. Treating anemia will also combat other symptoms associated with the condition, like bruising, fatigue, and leg cramps. To find a strain that will help, look for the cannabis varieties that have higher levels of CBD.
Harlequin is a popular Sativa strain with a 5:2 CBD: THC ratio, and because the THC is so low, it probably won’t get you stoned. But it will offer powerful pain relief and relaxation without any sedative effects. A good strain to try any time of day, Harlequin will give you a steady, sustained mental focus and can even help stimulate appetite.
Valentine X is a Hybrid that has been applauded for its treatment of cancer and cancer recovery. Coming in at a whopping CBD: THC ratio of 25:1, this variety scores extremely high in enhancing focus, relaxation, creative thinking, happiness, and well-being. Valentine X won’t get you high, so it’s safe to try morning or evening.
Weed Strains for Weight Changes and Appetite
Many chemotherapy patients experience a significant loss of both fat and muscle, usually due to the fact that they can’t or don’t want to eat. The National Cancer Institute stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and weight throughout treatment and recovery: it will not only help patients feel and look better, it will help the body more adequately absorb nutrients which speeds recovery time and lowers the risk of relapse and infection. Not everyone responds well to conventional drugs for appetite stimulation, and this is where marijuana comes in. You probably already know about the “munchies” associated with smoking quality weed, but now this side effect is playing a huge role in cancer recovery: for cancer patients, it can be life-saving. If you are struggling with weight loss and appetite in your recovery process, two things can help: a strain that is high in THC, or a weed that is from an Indica variety plant. Here are some suggestions:
With 27% THC, Y Griega is no joke. If you are new to cannabis, proceed with caution and take just a little puff or two to start. This Sativa strain is great for morning use to give your appetite a kick start, increase your energy, and combat pain.
Only coming in at about 14% THC, Rock Bud is an Indica variety and is best smoked at night because of its ability to bring on full relaxation to both mind and body. It’s most commonly used for treating eating disorders but also packs a powerful punch against pain and nausea, making it a popular strain for cancer recovery as well.
Weed Strains for Nausea
Unfortunately, side effects of conventional cancer treatments don’t just affect your ability to eat, they often affect your ability to keep food down once you have eaten. THC from marijuana can help suppress nausea, and this comes in handy particularly when dealing with cancer treatment or recovery. Many patients are required to take a handful of pills a few times a day, which can make nausea and vomiting even worse. Finding a strain that helps with these symptoms is usually pretty easy because most popular strains have high levels of THC, your little nausea-fighting molecule. Most of these strains will also bring effective pain relief.
Because pain and loss of appetite can contribute to nausea just as much as medication can, a strain like Rainbow Kush is an excellent option for breast cancer recovery. With 17% THC, you’ll get stoned but not too stoned. This strain is considered to be a “social” variety, meaning your brain won’t turn to mush and you may even enjoy having company around. Smoke this in the morning or afternoon: Rainbow Kush offers a solid cerebral clarity, powerful pain relief, and yes – it will help with appetite and nausea.
If you have difficulty with nausea at night, Lavender Kush may be the strain for you. A potent Indica variety, you won’t want to make any plans or do much of anything after you smoke this, especially if you are newer to cannabis use. With an average of 15% THC, Lavender is exceptionally effective against nausea while also having pleasant painkilling side effects.
Weed Strains for Lowered Libido
Sex drive changes may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to chemotherapy side effects, however, it is one of the most common complaints. Cancer itself won’t typically lower your libido, but many cancer treatments will. The good news is, studies on marijuana and sex have been going since the 1970’s, and most of them point in the same direction: weed is good for your love life. The key, it seems, is all in how much you use: THC, when administered in low doses, has been found to be a good treatment option for sexual dysfunction and can actually have an effect similar to an aphrodisiac. In some cases, too much THC can actually have adverse effects. When looking for a strain to help boost libido and combat pain, try to aim for the ones that have equal ratios of CBD to THC or strains with THC under 12%.
Sour Tsunami is considered a 1:1 strain, with THC and CBD coming in at about 10% each. Definitely a favorite Sativa strain in the medical world, it brings a happy, cerebral high and a full body relaxation without making you foggy. Best used in the afternoon or evening, this strain will also pitch in to help treat depression and loss of appetite.
With only about 5% CBD and THC, Stephen Hawking Kush is another 1:1 strain that offers long-lasting pain relief and a boost to your mood. In many cases, equal ratios of CBD can actually negate THCs psychotropic high, making this strain awesome for a clear-headed, relaxing, happy “high.” Best for afternoon or evening use, SHK is also used to treat depression, migraines, and anxiety.
Weed Strains for Depression
Having cancer doesn’t just alter your physical health, it affects your emotional and mental health, too. From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, the roller coaster of cancer is not an easy one, and the National Cancer Institute reports that up to 25% of cancer patients are diagnosed with depression after diagnosis. One of marijuana’s best traits is its ability to elevate mood and bring feelings of well-being in a matter of minutes.
One of the most popular strains in the world, OG Kush has about 22% THC and brings on a high that is more in mind than body. But it won’t make you stupid: this Sativa sprouts happy creativity and euphoria without the mind-race that some high THC strains can have. OG Kush is a good strain for afternoon or evening use and is effective in treating depression, anxiety, and pain.
Blue Dream is a happy strain you’ll want to wake up to. Smoke this Hybrid in the morning for a creative, euphoric head high and a muscle relaxing body high. At 22% THC, this shouldn’t inhibit any of your activities. In fact, it’s known for enhancing even the most mundane tasks and making the day-to-day more enjoyable. Blue Dream is commonly used medicinally to treat anxiety, depression, pain, and nausea.
Finding the right strains or products that work for you may take some time. If you are buying from a local dispensary, your budtender should be able to help you find what you’re looking for: they are well trained and super passionate about what they do. If you are purchasing products online, make sure you are buying from a reputable company who can answer all your questions. Of course, talk to your doctor before you start medicating with marijuana, especially if you are already on other medications, and never stop taking a doctor-prescribed drug without consultation.