ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a rare but severe nervous system disease that affects various body parts. As a complication with no known cures, those who have it can often feel helpless in terms of their discomfort levels. Of course, there are treatment options, but many are unnatural, expensive, and difficult to obtain. But what about medical marijuana and ALS? Is there a connection there?

Though the science is still a bit new, it appears as though ALS and marijuana have quite a positive relationship, creating natural relief and relaxation methods. That’s why, today, we’re taking a look into medical marijuana treatment for ALS and whether or not this may be effective for you. Let’s get right into it. 

medical marijuana and ALS

What is ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) & What Causes It?

ALS is short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it is a neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting the brain and spinal cord. The disease causes the deterioration of motor neurons in the body, which are directly responsible for helping to control our muscle movements. As ALS progresses, more motor neurons degenerate, and you’ll notice clear atrophy in muscles. Over time, ALS may cause someone to lose the ability to move, speak, eat, and even breathe. 

There are two main types of ALS. The first and most common type of ALS is called sporadic ALS. As the name suggests, this kind occurs without a real known cause. Around 90 to 95% of all ALS cases in the US are sporadic. Unfortunately, this means that many people don’t know what causes ALS — they just know they have to treat it. 

The other type of ALS is familial (FALS) and only occurs when someone inherits the complication from a family member. It’s considered familial once there are two or more family members with the disease. Affecting only 5-10% of all cases, FALS is significantly less common than sporadic ALS, but the chance is there. To ease some anxieties, you can take a look into your family history and see if this is a possibility for your future. 

While we aren’t sure exactly what causes ALS, some scientists believe certain environmental factors may trigger or exacerbate ALS symptoms. Things like smoking, serving in the military, and exposure to certain toxins may play a hand in prompting sporadic Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

Alternative & Natural Treatments for ALS

When talking about this complication, a lot of people want to know about natural treatments for ALS. Natural remedies tend to be more appealing to patients, as many have already had their fair share of manufactured medications and painful treatments. So, what are some of these natural treatments for ALS, and do they work?

Real quick, it’s important to stress that these treatments cannot and will not cure ALS, but they may help make your symptoms lessen. 

One popular alternative treatment for ALS is herbal medicines. Civilizations have utilized Chinese herbs for centuries, relying on their organic properties to relieve pain and promote comfort naturally. These, along with other vitamins and supplements, have the potential to function beautifully within the body, reducing overall discomfort levels. This can help make your ALS feel much more manageable. 

You can also turn to more unique therapies like acupuncture to find some pain relief. A lot of people find that the pressure point relief that acupuncture brings can do wonders for their muscle stiffness, muscle spasms, and even overactive reflexes. On this same note, you may also try some sort of physical or massage therapy to help work out particular deep-seated pains or reduced movements. 

But, of course, our favorite natural treatment for ALS has got to be medical marijuana

How Medical Marijuana Can Help Patients With ALS

Over the years, we’ve learned more and more about how medical marijuana can help patients with ALS. Again, we must stress that cannabis cannot cure the nervous system disease; instead, it can help remedy some of the severe symptoms it causes. 

Medical marijuana and ALS work well together because of the holistic characteristics the plant provides. We’ll talk about the specific ALS symptoms in a moment, but it’s essential to recognize how widespread and severe the effects can be. Marijuana, then, works throughout the body — alongside your endocannabinoid system — to regulate these symptoms and mediate discomfort. While pain levels won’t disappear, they’re likely to become much more manageable with medical cannabis for ALS. 

What Symptoms of ALS Can Marijuana Treat?

ALS creates various uncomfortable, hard-to-manage symptoms throughout the body. From muscle spasms to weight loss, muscle weakness, and deep-seated pains, the nervous system disease unfairly attacks it all. While medical cannabis cannot remedy all symptoms of ALS, studies demonstrate it is doing wonders for those with tremors, pain, and trouble maintaining weight. 

Medical Marijuana and Muscle Spasms

It’s pretty common for those with ALS to experience uncontrollable muscle spasms throughout the body. This is not only inconvenient, but it can also be uncomfortable, making it challenging to achieve everyday tasks. Thankfully, medical cannabis and ALS work together so well primarily because of MMJ’s effects on muscle spasms.

Muscle spasms from ALS tend to be triggered due to inflammation. The cannabinoids within medical cannabis fight inflammation to reduce levels, creating relief in more ways than one. While this reduces pain, it also tends to reduce the number (and strength) of muscle spasms you may experience. 

Medical cannabis may also influence the areas in the brain that control movement. If these areas are constantly firing without regulation, it will likely cause increased tremors and spasms. MMJ works to cause these overactive receptors, modulating the brain’s response to these reactions and calming the body overall. 

Medical Marijuana and Stiffness

Those with ALS may also experience extreme muscle stiffness. This is due to the muscles’ degeneration, as they lose strength and you lose control. Muscle stiffness isn’t easy to deal with, as it significantly hinders your range of motion. Products like cannabis topicals, however, are designed to combat these symptoms specifically. 

With these products, you simply apply them to areas of pain or stiffness. Once applied, the cannabinoids will seep into your pores, targeting muscle tissue and skin cells. However, cannabinoids don’t move any further than that. Instead of traveling into the bloodstream, medical marijuana focuses on the area you’ve applied it to, creating profound relief and helping you regain just a little bit of movement. 

Medical Marijuana and Weight

Those with ALS may struggle to gain or maintain weight. As the disease eats away at your muscles, you’ll find yourself dropping in weight and becoming weaker than before. You likely won’t have the same strength levels as you did prior to ALS, so preserving the bone density and muscle you do have becomes critical. Thankfully, that’s where medical marijuana can help.

Many patients turn to medical cannabis to help stimulate their appetite and even gain weight. (We see this frequently within those overcoming eating disorders.) The cannabinoids within the plant work beautifully to activate CB receptors in the brain, triggering hunger. Along with this, cannabinoids like THC also work to enhance sensory stimuli, making food taste even better than before. These properties make it so much easier to enjoy the foods you once did without worries of nausea or an upset stomach. With this, you may be able to gain back some weight and relieve a bit of pain from your ALS. 

Best Strains for ALS Treatment

When looking for a medical marijuana strain for ALS treatment, you want to find strains that help with the following:

  • Stimulating appetite
  • Relieving pain
  • Reducing anxiety 
  • Boosts energy

Some cannabis strains are ideal for getting you locked to the couch and feeling lazy throughout the day. While these may sound relaxing, they might not be the best option for those with ALS. Instead, you want to look for something more stimulating to help you get up and moving. (Unless you’re smoking before bed, that is.) Here are some of our favorite choices.

Jack Herer 

Jack Herer is a beautifully uplifting strain that’s perfect for motivating you into some self-care. If you’ve found yourself feeling depressed or lethargic because of your ALS, a strain like Jack Herer is ideal for pulling you out of this slump. This sativa-dominant powerhouse helps clear the mind while providing boosts of euphoria and comfort. (Just be wary of the strain’s super-skunky smells when consuming.)

Stephen Hawking Kush 

Named after the famous scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking — who also suffered from Lou Gherig’s disease — this high-CBD strain is ideal for ALS patients. Stephen Hawking Kush is an indica-hybrid strain that helps you relax without keeping you glued to your bed. With ALS patients in mind, SHK works wonderfully to relieve pain, suppress nausea, and stimulate appetite. You’ll find yourself enjoying the fruity yet minty notes of this high-CBD strain. 

Greek Crack

Don’t let the name of this strain fool you: it’s just some good ol’ potent cannabis. Green Crack was named after its uplifting, high-energy properties that are common with sativa strains. This strain is perfect for boosting your mood and providing waves of bliss with every hit. For those with ALS struggling to find motivation or ways to keep you busy, puffing on some Green Crack may give you the inspiration — and drive — you need. 

Side Effects of Medical Marijuana

In general, everybody’s reaction to MMJ will be different. However, some of the most common side effects of medical marijuana include:

  • High or low blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea 
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Dry eyes

If you begin to notice any of these side effects, or any uncomfortable effects, stop consuming medical cannabis immediately and contact your doctor. The best way to avoid any uncomfortable side effects is to consume slowly and at very low doses. Take your time, see how one hit or bite of an edible affects you, and be patient! Never consume more than your body’s comfortable with. 

Overall, Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment for ALS?

So, is medical marijuana treatment for ALS effective? At first glance, we do hesitate with the word “treatment,” as the US has only cleared MMJ as a treatment for severe epileptic disorders. However, medical cannabis does have highly effective benefits for those with ALS. 

In general, medical marijuana and ALS have a positive relationship that we’re just now beginning to understand. The potential for help here is absolutely incredible and may be life-changing for those suffering from Lou Gherig’s disease. As we continue to learn more about the connection between ALS and marijuana, we’ll keep updating our patients about the efficacious effects medical cannabis has on ALS. 

How to Get a Medical Card for ALS

The benefits of medical cannabis for ALS are undeniable — and many states throughout the US acknowledge this. You can obtain your medical marijuana card for ALS in 13 states, with the remaining states having qualifying conditions related to ALS symptoms (chronic pain, nausea, etc.). But, hey, if you’re worried you won’t qualify — or if you don’t know where to start — that’s precisely why Elevate Holistics is here. 

Elevate Holistics specializes in helping our patients get the recommendations they need for a medical marijuana card. Our services are 100% online, allowing you to regain control of your health right from the comfort of your home. The professionals here at Elevate will do everything we can to ensure you get the help you need and at an affordable price, too. In just three simple steps and one 30-minute appointment, you’ll be on your way to seeing how medical marijuana and ALS intermingle in your health and wellness journey.