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7 Best Strains for Autism

cannabis in prescription bottle over a prescription pad

Autism spectrum disorder — or ASD — is a neurological and developmental disability that ranges in severity. People with autism may experience symptoms such as engaging in repetitive behaviors, difficulty with fine motor skills, having obsessive interests, and finding social situations difficult.

Fortunately, thanks to its many therapeutic properties, cannabis has the potential to help manage issues faced by those on the spectrum. Some potentially beneficial cannabis strains include:

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How Cannabis Affects Autism

Initial studies into how cannabis affects autism show that marijuana can be highly effective at managing symptoms like sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, and more. There are also several commonly associated conditions people with autism are more likely to develop, such as epilepsy, ADHD, or digestive issues, which medical marijuana may help manage.

There is no cure for autism, but many experts and people on the spectrum do not want one. Neurodiversity is increasingly viewed as a valuable trait worthy of celebration, with many experts asserting that much of the disabling nature of autism comes from an unaccommodating world as opposed to anything inherent within autism. As a result, the goal of using cannabis for those on the spectrum should be to manage specific autism symptoms — not to treat autism itself.

Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Autism

Because autism is so specific to the individual, there is no particular best method for using cannabis to treat autism symptoms. Some people with autism may struggle with fine motor skills. Those individuals may find rolling a joint difficult and might opt to consume cannabis through edibles or a tincture instead. Similarly, some people with ASD are affected by odors more significantly than others and may opt for using a vape cartridge instead of cannabis’s more pungent flower form.

Ultimately, the best way to use cannabis for autism is to start slowly and with low doses, gradually increasing the dosage until you or a loved one experiences a positive reduction in symptoms.

7 Best Strains for Autism

The best cannabis strains (cultivars) for autism depend not only on where an individual falls on the autism spectrum but also on a user’s familiarity with cannabis. With a mix of low and high-THC options and a variety of terpenes and cannabinoids, these cannabis strains may assist in managing various symptoms and conditions related to ASD.

Charlotte’s Web

Recommended for those dipping their toes into using medical cannabis, Charlotte’s Web should not get you high, as the strain contains little THC, which is responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The strain is high in CBD and was specifically designed to help manage epilepsy, which often co-occurs in those with autism. If you’re interested in trying out cannabis products but prone to seizures or overstimulation, Charlotte’s Web could be the best strain for you.

Those with epilepsy may also want to ask their doctor about Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD oral solution used to treat certain kinds of seizures. Unlike many other high CBD products, you need a prescription for Epidiolex. However, the quality of Epidiolex is arguably much greater, as it is a pharmaceutical preparation that contains high levels of CBD and very little-to-no THC.

White Sumo

White Sumo is a hybrid sativa-dominant strain, one of the more potent strains recommended, containing between 20% to 25% THC. More experienced cannabis users with ASD may find White Sumo beneficial for managing emotional regulation, mood swings, social interactions, or even depression, which are all common in people with autism.

Suzy Q

Another high-CBD, low-THC strain, Suzy Q is unlikely to get you high. The strain is often used to alleviate physical pain and contains high levels of myrcene, a terpene commonly associated with anxiety and insomnia relief. While most research has been focused on chronic pain in children with autism, studies show a noted link between those with ASD and an increased likelihood of experiencing chronic pain.

Northern Lights

Experienced cannabis users will likely need no introduction to Northern Lights. Northern Lights is a vintage indica-dominant strain full of earthy terpenes and known for inducing the classic indica “couchlock” effect. Those with autism may find pain and sleep relief from the strain, but some users have reported dry mouth and dizziness. As rare as those effects may be, less experienced users may want to start with something containing high CBD and a small amount of THC.

OG Kush

OG Kush is a potent hybrid strain. Also referred to as Premium OG Kush, many users report feeling an elevated mood boost from this lemony strain, which might help with social interactions. Another commonly reported feeling is hunger, which could be helpful for those with autism who sometimes struggle with maintaining a regular meal schedule.

Wedding Cake

Novice cannabis users may want to steer clear of Wedding Cake until they have built up their tolerance levels. Still, experienced marijuana users seeking relief from pain, anxiety, or insomnia may want to try this high-in-THC, indica-dominant hybrid.

It should be noted, however, that due to the psychoactive effects of THC and some of the concerns surrounding THC’s impact on brain development, high-THC products may be best avoided for younger patients with autism. CBD-rich products like CBD oils may be better for such patients. CBD may help modulate the immune system and act as an anti-inflammatory, especially as those with autism have been found to have a dysregulated immune system and are often prone to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to shifts in their gut microbiota.

Super Lemon Haze

Super Lemon Haze is a sativa-dominant hybrid rich in CBD and moderate in THC that users have reported as a helpful strain for focus and inspiration. Due to an increasing amount of information suggesting a high level of overlap between autism and ADHD, it is possible that Super Lemon Haze could be beneficial for those on the spectrum who find themselves struggling to focus.

Other Cannabis-Based Products for Autism

Autism is a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in several U.S. states, including Louisiana, where two products — Hope 1 and Hope 2 — co-developed by Ilera and Hope Grows for Autism are available in dispensaries. Hope 1 is a 1:1 THC:CBD tincture, and Hope 2 is a powerful 5:1 THC:CBD tincture.

The Bottom Line

Because the autism spectrum is so vast and we are always learning more about neurodiversity, there is no one best strain (cultivar) for managing autism. We know medical marijuana has unlocked plenty of potentially powerful healing properties inside the cannabis plant, but we also know autism spectrum disorder is as complex as the people it affects.

The early signs are promising, but if you are considering using cannabis to treat autism symptoms, you can connect with a Leafwell physician today to learn more.

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