Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that attacks the brain’s and spinal chord’s nerve cells. ALS is a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects voluntary muscle movement1.
ALS derived its more widely known name from Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig, the Yankees baseball star who retired in 1939 from the game when difficulties performing ordinary tasks like tying shoelaces and more challenging ones involving playing baseball caused him increasing difficulties.
The progression of the disease leads to the degeneration and death of motor neurons in the brain. Because the muscles that connect to the neurons start wasting away, muscle spasms, inflammation, pain, and rigidity start taking over normal voluntary muscles in the body. What’s affected is typically movements like chewing, breathing, walking and talking2. The symptoms get worse over time, and can ultimately lead to death due the failure of the respiratory system.
There are different forms of ALS, some less or more severe than the other. Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist and author contracted ALS at 21. Now in his 70’s and severely limited in movement, he’s still making waves in science and the cultural world.
Of the many debilitating health conditions that medicinal cannabis has been shown to help in easing symptoms, there has been a lot of attention focused on therapies that incorporate the use of cannabis. And ALS is poised to be a highly anticipated target for research. Several sufferers of ALS have even managed to keep the disease from progressing too rapidly by incorporating a managed administration of cannabis oil into their symptom management treatments3.
ALS Symptoms Treated by Cannabis Strains
- Pain – The cannabis strain White Fire OG (Indica-dominant hybrid) has been used to help treat patients with chronic pain. White Fire is a strong hybrid strain with a potent amount of THC, between 22 and 30 percent. It helps patients achieve some relief from pain without clouding up their mental acuity. Mental energy is derived from a strain similar to Sativa. White Fire is good for daytime use and helps maintain alertness4.
- Spasticity – Animal Cookies (Indica-dominant hybrid) is a strain high in THC with a portion of CBD; 20% THC and almost 4% CBD. For muscle spasms as well as pain, anxiety and migraines, it’s a good form of treatment for ALS patients5.
- Wasting – Candyland is a hybrid strain that has a similar potency to pure sativa. Candyland can help you feel energized and awake as well as give you more stimulation to eat. You’ll begin feeling like you have the energy to handle all of your tasks and routines, but also have enough of an appetite that enjoying a cup of coffee with a big, hearty breakfast would not be out of the question6.
- Dyspnea – Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is a common symptom that affects ALS patients. There are a number of Indica dominant hybrid (Indica x Sativa) medicinal cannabis strains that offer some relief through bronchodilation (the expansion of the bronchial air passages)7,8, and are among some very potent varieties. They include TX, Dynamite, Lavender Kush, Northern Lights #1, Pineapple, and Blueberry to name a few9.
- Depression – Battling the depression that’s a byproduct of coping with a major illness like ALS is something that patients seek treatment for. The cannabis strain Casey Jones (Sativa), is a compound that combines over 18% THC and 0.2% of CBD. Upon taking this strain of cannabis, euphoric feelings can be felt primarily in the head. The mental energy that’s derived from Casey Jones is a mood lifter, and designed to stimulate more than sedate, so it’s a good choice to help you stay upbeat throughout the day10.
These are just a few examples of the symptoms associated with ALS that can be treated with medical cannabis. Cannabis has long been respected as a treatment alternative that can help slow the advancement of ALS, and even play a part in prolonging the lives of patients11.
The qualities that are in many of the medications that treat ALS are also found in cannabis, which was substantiated in a 2001 study and outlined in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care12. And, as ALS is one of the many qualifying conditions that can be treated legally with medical marijuana, you or a loved one should seek out the expertise and support from a registered cannabis doctor who can help explain and prescribe a medical cannabis treatment plan that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.