Best Marijuana for Pain Relief: CBD or THC Strains?

weedsmart_image_Best Marijuana for Pain Relief

It is no secret that many people turn to marijuana to get pain relief. Research on the ability of cannabis to relieve pain is still in its infancy, but this is one of the reasons that made medical marijuana legal and is one of the main drivers of its popularity. When searching for a marijuana strain to help you relieve pain, what features should you focus on? Specifically, should you look for a strain high in CBD, one high in THC, or one with both in high levels? 

Why People Use Marijuana for Pain Relief

As of 2018, a survey of medical cannabis patients within Colorado showed that 94 percent of them used cannabis as a way to fight the pain. There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence showing marijuana’s ability to reduce a range of pain types, from arthritis to migraines to injury-related pain. 

Many people who choose to use marijuana for pain relief do so as an alternative to other substances. Many pain medications that are prescription strength come with side effects or carry a risk of addiction. You only need to look at the opioid epidemic to get an idea of the extent of the problem. In contrast, marijuana is associated with minimal side effects and is not typically addictive. 

People Have Used Marijuana for Pain Relief for Thousands of Years

There is evidence that people have cultivated marijuana for more than 12,000 years. Throughout time, marijuana was used to treat a range of conditions, including pain relief. In fact, Emperor Shen Nung of China documented the medicinal uses of cannabis in 2700 B.C. 

The Difference Between THC and CBD

The Difference Between THC and CBD

Both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are cannabinoids that naturally occur within cannabis. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate a range of functions, from pain to sleep to the immune system. As such, the interactions of these cannabinoids with the endocannabinoid system can impact the functions of the body, including in a positive way. 

The most important difference between CBD and THC is their psychoactive effect. CBD will not get you high, and it will not show up on a drug test. On the other hand, THC does produce psychoactive effects, and it is actually the compound that most drug tests look for. 

So which one should you opt for if your goal is pain relief? 

The Entourage Effect Says to Use Both

When it comes down to it, you are most likely to experience the best results from consuming cannabis or cannabis-based products if you opt for a full-spectrum or whole-plant product. This is due to something known as the entourage effect, which essentially is the way that the various chemical compounds in cannabis enhance the benefits of each other. Essentially, the various cannabis compounds work synergistically, and you get more benefit from taking them together compared to just taking one or two. 

For the best results with the entourage effect, you want more than just CBD and THC in your cannabis-related products. The other compounds, like flavonoids, terpenes, and phytocannabinoids, can also influence your neurochemistry and contribute to the entourage effect. 

CBD and THC Work Together

There has also been research into how CBD and THC work together. Some of those studies indicate that taking the two cannabinoids together reduces the risk of side effects. Specifically, THC is associated with a rapid heartbeat, anxiety, sedative effects, and feeling high. Some research shows that consuming it with CBD can minimize those effects. Additionally, researchers believe that adding CBD to your THC will extend THC’s half-life, giving you longer-lasting results. 

Choosing Which to Focus On

Even if you want to choose a cannabis strain that has both CBD and THC, you will need to think about the ideal ratios. Ideally, you want a cannabis strain that has high levels of both cannabinoids, as this will maximize the relief you experience and minimize the negative effects of THC. 

In some cases, however, you may want to choose a strain that has more CBD or more THC. For example, if you want to be able to function normally and concentrate on important tasks while experiencing relief, you would want a strain with high CBD concentrations and low THC. On the other hand, if you want to be distracted from the pain with a bit of a high, then you may prefer a high THC strain with lower CBD. 

Pay Attention to Terpenes As Well

Pay Attention to Terpenes As Well

When choosing a marijuana strain for pain relief, you should pay attention to the terpenes in addition to the CBD and THC content. Terpenes are natural compounds that occur in most plants, and they are responsible for aromas as well as certain effects. As such, some terpenes tend to be associated with pain relief. To increase your chance of relief from your chosen cannabis strain, consider a strain that includes at least one of the following terpenes: 


Alpha-pinene smells piney and is also found in pine trees and other coniferous plants. It works to fight inflammation, and given the link between inflammation and pain, this produces the pain-reducing results people want. It is also associated with killing harmful bacteria, increasing cognitive function, and dilating the bronchial tubes. 


Beta-caryophyllene is one of the more common terpenes found in cannabis. Researchers have found that it can activate endocannabinoid receptors in a similar way that cannabinoids do. This ability to activate those receptors can influence the body’s ability to reduce inflammation, which then reduces pain. 


Beta-myrcene is the terpene that you are most likely to find in cannabis, although it also occurs in mangos, hops, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and bay leaves. It is known for reducing pain as well as inflammation while also relaxing muscles. It also has a nice aroma that is earthy and spicy. 


Limonene has a citrus scent, hence the name, and it is commonly found in not only in cannabis but also in citrus-based cleaning solutions. Limonene can stimulate your immune system, which helps fight tumors and infections. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory substance, a property that helps with pain relief. Additionally, limonene is associated with relief from anxiety and depression. 


Linalool is yet another terpene with anti-inflammatory properties that can also help reduce pain. It is also sought by those with anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. Linalool has a pleasant smell that is floral in nature, making it a common ingredient in perfumes. It also occurs naturally in lavender, citrus, mint, cinnamon, and birch. 

Commonly Used Marijuana Strains for Pain Relief

Commonly Used Marijuana Strains for Pain Relief

With all of that information in mind, it is time to take a look at some of the cannabis strains that are most commonly used to relieve pain. Remember that everyone has a unique reaction to a given strain, but the following strains tend to produce the results that smokers are in search of: 


ACDC is a hybrid strain with high CBD content and low THC content. The extremely low THC content means that most people who consume it do not experience any high. ACDC is popular for relieving stress as well as reducing pain. 


AK-47 is a cannabis strain that has parentage from Afghanistan, Mexico, South America, and Thailand. It is a sativa-dominant strain that is associated with general pain relief as well as the reduction of depression and stress management. It tends to be uplifting and has an earthy, spicy scent with a taste that is sweet, floral, and hardwood. 

Blueberry Kush

Those who use Blueberry Kush praise the full-body relaxation feeling that it delivers. This is an indica strain that most users suggest you make use of before bed. The flavor has hints of earthy herbs along with blueberry, hence the name. It is common for treating headaches and managing pain in general. It is also popularly used as a medical marijuana strain to help with nausea, mood disorders, ADHD, and insomnia. 

Blue Widow

Blue Widow is also known as White Berry, Blue Venom, or Berry White. The common theme among these names is that the strain is known for its potency. It is a cross of White Widow and Blue and has a strong resin production. It also contains high levels of THC. This high THC content contributes to its good reputation in soothing arthritis pain and providing anti-inflammatory properties. 


Cannatonic is one of the cannabis strains with the highest content of CBD, and it also contains plenty of terpenes. Those who suffer from pain appreciate its therapeutic and smooth effects, especially when treating chronic pain. The strain is also aromatic, with a floral smell that includes a dash of spice. Cannatonic is a strong choice for those who want a strain high in CBD but low in THC as it typically has less than 6 percent of the latter. As such, it is unlikely to produce psychoactive effects. This makes it useful for daytime use, including when you need to be productive or plan to engage in social activities. 



Canna-Tsu is a sativa-dominant hybrid that features Cannatonic as one of its parent strains. Like the parent, this strain has high CBD content, helping it appeal to those who want pain relief. The strain’s low THC levels also mean that psychoactive effects will typically be minimal, so users do not have to worry too much about interference with their daily life. 


Harlequin is a sativa-dominant strain that has high concentrations of both THC and CBD. It gives the user mild psychoactive effects. It tends to be popular for pain relief, especially for pain associated with arthritis, menstrual cramps, brain injuries, and neurodegenerative diseases. Users of Harlequin also claim that this strain is filled with neuroprotective compounds and antioxidants. 

Headband Hybrids

The term Headband Hybrids refers to a group of hybrid strains that have “Headband” in their name, such as Blueberry Headband. These strains appeal to those dealing with migraine pain since the strain’s effects typically go right to your crown. Blueberry Headband, for example, contains myrcene and limonene in high concentrations. 

Jack Herer

Jack Herer is a strain named after the marijuana activist of the same name. Those who use this strain for medicinal purposes say that it does a great job at fighting pain. This sativa is energizing as well, making it a great choice for use during the day. In addition to its popularity for pain relief, Jack Herer is also a popular medical marijuana strain for PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. 

Purple Arrow

Purple Arrow is particularly for those in search of pain relief from headaches and migraines. It is a hybrid that lets the user experience relief while still remaining fairly functional to complete their responsibilities and daily activities. It has a high CBD content and contains terpenes like limonene, pinene, caryophyllene, and humulene. 

Purple Kush

Purple Kush

Purple Kush is an indica-dominant hybrid with high THC and low CBD. It gives the user a strong body high in addition to pain reduction. The high associated with this strain tends to make the user sleepy and extremely relaxed. 

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel is also sometimes called Sour D. This cannabis strain is a sativa with a pungent flavor. It is known for the diesel-like smell. This particular strain has high THC concentrations along with low CBD concentrations, appealing to those with chronic pain who want to prioritize THC. Users of this strain say that it is good for daytime use. It produces psychoactive effects, which should be unsurprising given the THC content. That being said, users say that the high is energizing and invigorating. As such, users appreciate its ability to relieve pain without feeling sedated or too heavy. 


Many people choose to consume marijuana as a way to relieve their pain, whether it is migraine, chronic pain, arthritic pain, pain from an injury, or another type of discomfort. Both CBD and THC play a crucial role in the pain-reductive properties of cannabis, and they tend to provide the best results when used in harmony. Depending on the high you want to get, however, you can increase or decrease the concentration of THC that you search for. 

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