Dear Morgan: Is Cannabis a Good Pain Relief Alternative for my Mum?

Hi, my mum is 91 years old, and in constant pain due to arthritis and a post severe bout of shingles. I have talked to her about alternative pain relief and she said she will give anything a go, as she is utterly miserable from daily pain. Please can you advise me.

Thanks Jo

Hi Jo!

I’m so sorry to hear that your mother is suffering. Managing pain at that age is often a struggle, as you probably know. Fortunately, marijuana might be able to offer a solution.

As the spread of marijuana legalization continues, researchers have been able to study the plant with more freedom, and they are finding increasing evidence that cannabis can provide a wide spectrum of pain relief, including pain from shingles and arthritis. 

The primary pain relieving agent in cannabis is CBD, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid that interacts with receptors in your brain to, among other things, induce anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Unlike other medications your mother may have tried, CBD doesn’t negatively impact the stomach like Aspirin or Advil, or become habit forming like opiates.

So what kind of cannabis should she use, and how should she consume it? 

The best strains for pain relief are typically low in THC and high in CBD, meaning they provide soothing, analgesic effects without much of a psychoactive side-effect. The following three strains have been lauded by researchers and users alike for their pain relieving qualities. While their THC and CBD ratios differ slightly depending on who is growing them, this is generally what you can expect.

ACDC – 20% CBD, 1-6% THC 

Cannatonic – 9-17% CBD, >7% THC 

Harlequin – 8-10% CBD, 5-7% THC

As far as how to consume these strains, you can always use flower by smoking it. However, that can be harsh on the lungs. Here are some alternative methods.

Topicals and Transdermals

These are cannabis-infused products that are absorbed through the skin. They offer no psychoactive effects, just physiological benefits.

Topicals include lotions, balms, and ointments, and are often used to treat skin rashes and joint pain. They begin working quickly and last for 1 to 2 hours, affecting only the application site.

Transdermal patches, on the other hand, affect the area underneath the application site. They begin working after about an hour, and can last up to 12 hours.


These refer to basically any cannabis-infused product that is taken orally, and includes food and candy, beverages, tinctures, sprays, and capsules. The cannabis in edibles is absorbed through either the digestive system or blood vessels in the mouth. 

While food and candy can take 30-60 minutes to kick in and last between 4 to 10 hours, beverages start working a little quicker, and also last between 4 to 10 hours. Capsules start working between 30 minutes to 2 hours, and can last up to 8 hours, and tinctures and sprays (just cannabis oil in different forms) kick in between 15 minutes to 1 hour, with a duration of 4 to 6 hours.

I hope one of these products works for your mother. If she tries something and it doesn’t work, I’d encourage her to keep trying other products and strains. Everyone responds differently to cannabis, so it may take some trial and error. But don’t give up hope.

How you obtain these products depends on where you live. I’m assuming you live in a state where cannabis is at least legal for medical use. If so, your mother must first obtain a medical marijuana card. Then she’ll be able to shop at a dispensary. If recreational marijuana is legal in your state, then she doesn’t need a card to shop, although having a card can provide additional benefits. For example, with a card, you may be able to go to a dispensary and make a purchase in her place.

If she can’t find any of the above strains or products at a dispensary, she should ask someone working there for a recommendation based on her symptoms. You can even mention the strains I’ve listed, and they may have something similar.

Good luck!

Do you have a question about cannabis you’ve been dying to get answered? Send it over and let our resident advice columnist, Morgan, help you out.

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