It’s not just a minor eye condition.
Glaucoma is a degenerative nerve disorder which can lead, if not treated, to serious consequences like loss of vision and even permanent blindness. Not to mention that reversing this condition is next to impossible.
Luckily, it looks like marijuana can help. Again.
According to the statistics, over 60 million people around the world are suffering from glaucoma caused by high eye pressure. (1)
Although it usually affects people over 60, everyone is at risk from glaucoma.
Unfortunately, even 10% of patients who receive all treatment available today are still at risk of losing their vision down the road.
Glaucoma is not curable. There are a few ways to slow down its progress, but there is still no permanent solution.
One of the most common natural remedies for glaucoma is medical marijuana.
Although some experts still doubt it, cannabis is proven to have great medical potential in treating glaucoma. The clinical research has changed its course from badmouthing it, to discovering more and more benefits of this sort of natural treatment.
So, if you are suffering from high eye pressure and glaucoma, this article will help you understand your disease and how you can treat it with cannabis.
What is glaucoma and how can it be treated?
The simplest explanation:
Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by increased pressure in the front of an eye, which gradually damages the optic nerve.
This intraocular pressure (IOP) or commonly known as high eye pressure is one of the main causes of glaucoma.
The damage to the optic nerve impairs vision, including loss of eyesight and even complete blindness. Each eye has only one eye nerve, so we need to keep it safe.
Glaucoma is the second cause of blindness, especially for people over 60 years old.
There are, of course, other factors that can cause glaucoma, like genetics (if someone from the family has a history of the condition), migraines, high blood pressure and obesity.
Next, there are three most common types of Glaucoma:
- Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, with gradual vision loss and no symptoms
- Closed-angle glaucoma is less common, but with quick pressure changes with several symptoms
- Normal-tension glaucoma appears in patients who have a family history of glaucoma or cardiovascular diseases
As is the case in all diseases, if it’s diagnosed early, there is hope and it can be slowed down significantly.
However, diagnosing glaucoma early is very difficult, as it usually shows symptoms in the late stages of the disease.
Some symptoms which could occur are:
- blurred vision
- severe headaches
- seeing rainbow-colored circles when looking into the bright lights
- nausea and blindness (in the advanced stage)
Unfortunately, most people get checked up by an eye doctor when it’s too late, so their treatment is only focused on slowing down their total eye loss.
There are three types of treatment available today:
- Pharmaceuticals — eye drops, which can have numerous side effects
- Laser — only a temporary solution
- Surgery — still not a permanent cure
Usually, ophthalmologists recommend combined treatment, since neither one by itself can provide wanted and needed relief.
Recently, thousands and thousands of people have found their new hope in this increasingly popular natural remedy.
The new hope: science on marijuana and glaucoma
The research on marijuana and glaucoma began back in the 1970s when it was first noticed how cannabis administration decreases eye pressure by 25-30%. (2)
This triggered the attention of the science community, so the US National Eye Institute immediately funded the 6-year research.
They discovered that some marijuana derivatives are very effective in lowering the optic pressure when smoked or ingested orally (Greencamp Fudgebuds, anyone?)
Also, multiple studies over the years have found that THC, when applied directly to the eye shows positive outcome on dropping the IOP. In these cases, the eye pressure would start dropping after 30 minutes, reaching its maximum effect just after 60 minutes.
There have been more recent studies as well…
The IOP was well controlled by the substance, and it is important to point out that the further loss of vision was not seen.
How does marijuana lower eye pressure?
Up until just recently, science was unable to give us the answer to this question.
With the discovery of endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the past few years, things have changed.
As it turns out, humans (actually all mammals) have a network of cellular receptors and activators that regulate different physiological processes and keeps the body balanced. Compounds from cannabis actually have the ability to replace our own endocannabinoids and sort of supplement this system.
Just recently, primary ESC receptors were also discovered in the eye tissue, implying a direct involvement of cannabinoid receptors on ocular pressure.
The good news?
Cannabinoids seem to protect the optic nerve from further damage.
So far, science has proven that marijuana not only lowers high blood pressure, but it also lowers intraocular pressure. Two are very related when we talk about glaucoma.
The effect of marijuana on IOP and blood pressure lasts for about 3-4 hours, so the patient would need to readminister a few times during the day.
There are some other concerns when it comes to marijuana treatment of glaucoma so ophthalmologists avoid recommending it, especially in the early stages.
As it turns out, the best way to treat glaucoma is to keep the IOP constantly low. That means that marijuana should be taken constantly (or every 4 hours).
However, if the pressure is not kept at the same level, changes and unstable IOP can do more damage and thus worsen the condition.
Patients who are constantly medicated with marijuana are not allowed to drive or operate heavy machinery and probably most of them would have difficulties with performing everyday activities, such as work.
But, when it comes to the later stages of glaucoma, even ophthalmologists like to turn to marijuana as a solution.
THC or CBD for glaucoma?
Cannabinoids are chemical substances in marijuana, absorbed by receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
Different cannabinoids have different effects on medical conditions. So, the question is which are the best for glaucoma?
As it turns out, cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabigerol (CBG) all have great potential to relieve IOP.
But, first, let’s start with THC.
There was one important study conducted with glaucoma and non-glaucoma patients who were asked to either smoke the herb or ingest a THC extract orally. (4)
The results were mind-blowing:
The large majority of patients had a 25% reduction in intraocular pressure.
To be precise, 65% of patients (both with and without glaucoma) who took a dose of THC found a significant drop in their eye pressure.
In that same research, the relation between THC dosage and IOP was also noticed. When the higher dose of the cannabinoid was given to the subjects, their eye pressure decreased more.
There were a number of animal studies conducted on THC and glaucoma, all of them proving the weed’s slight effect on lowering IOP. However, animal studies, particularly on this subject, can not be taken for granted and referred to humans completely, mostly because our nervous system is not exactly the same as in our four-legged friends.
When it comes to CBD, the most commonly used cannabinoid in medicine, its impact on glaucoma seems to be minute.
While some minor studies suggest several possible benefits, most of the research suggests that CBD has been inefficient in lowering IOP. (5)
Other cannabinoids, such as CBG, could have great potential in glaucoma treatment, especially when applied directly to the eye. This next big promising cannabinoid has proven to reduce eye pressure and raise the fluid drainage from the eye.
Still, we can only wait and hope for further research to support marijuana as a conventional way of treating glaucoma.
15 best marijuana strains for glaucoma
It is never easy to choose the right strain for any type of medical condition.
Every strain affects people differently, so know that it will take some time until you hit the right one.
However, in general, higher THC strains have proven to be the most effective in lowering eye pressure and relieving symptoms of glaucoma.
If the conventional treatments do not work for you, and you are looking for a more natural way to treat your condition here are some guidelines to help.
Here’s a list of strains that have shown to have a positive impact on headaches, migraines and eye pressure. These breeds could help you with treating glaucoma by keeping your IOP on a steady-low level.
East Coast Sour Diesel (THC 19 – 22%)
This Sativa strain has quick uplifting effects, so new users are recommended to start with small dosages. East Coast Sour Diesel has multiple health benefits, including lowering eye pressure. The effects last for hours which is why ECSD is a good strain for glaucoma patients.
Maui Wawie (THC 15 – 20%)
One of the most common strains used among glaucoma patients, Maui Wawie (with its tropical flavor) produces an active euphoria which will make you want to enjoy the outdoors. This Sativa strain is great for beginners and glaucoma patients who haven’t had an experience with marijuana before.
Jack the Ripper (THC 17%)
Dominant sativa, Jack the Ripper has a euphoric effect with many medical benefits, including fighting glaucoma. It is recommended for daytime use, considering its cerebral effects are stimulating but not as calming. Also, it relieves migraine pain which is usually another symptom of high eye pressure.
Grape Kush (THC 13 – 18%)
The sativa-dominant hybrid (60% indica and 40% sativa), Grape Kush is a strain to be consumed in smaller doses, since it produces both a head and a body high. However, when the dose is taken right, it is a productive breed, great for getting you through the regular 9-to-5 day.
Purple Kush (THC 17 – 22%)
One of the most common strains used for pain relief has also been among the favorites in treating glaucoma. Purple Kush is best recommended for nighttime use after you have finished all your work since the strain is very potent. This one, in general, is not recommended for first-time users.
The Black (THC 18%)
A 90% indica, The Black is commonly used as a painkiller, which makes it also suitable for glaucoma and migraines. Patients that use it, often feel its heavy, relaxed and sleepy effect, which is why it is best to use it just before bed.
Santa Maria (THC 12 – 14%)
This is a strain with long-lasting, but constant and stable high. It is a perfect choice for uplifting your mood and getting more energy. It is gentle on the throat which makes it good for beginners and non-smoker glaucoma patients.
Cherry Kola (THC 17%)
One of the most popular sweet tasting strains in the world, Cherry Kola provides calming but energetic high with little-to-no “couch-lock” effects. This breed has great medical potential, making it suitable for patients looking for glaucoma relief.
Headband (THC 20 – 27%)
A great stress and pain reliever, its long-lasting effects are great for patients suffering from high eye pressure. Users feel happy and relaxed after taking Headband, but often experience dry mouth and the slight pressure around the head, which is how this strain got its name. Headband is known to be one of the strongest strains, so whether you are an experienced user or a beginner, take it easy.
Buddha Tahoe (THC 16 – 22%)
When the high from Buddha starts, it makes you happy and leaves your body relaxed afterwards. It has a high level of cerebral euphoria, so take it gradually, especially if you are a beginner. Buddha Tahoe is also used for relieving pain which can be a win-win when you have high eye pressure.
B-52 (THC 8 – 15%)
Very valued strain among experienced users, B-52 makes you feel like you’re floating on clouds. It’s great for relieving stress and headaches from high eye pressure, but just make sure to use it at night as it is very relaxing.
Blueberry (THC 15 – 23%)
Blueberry has been one of the world’s most favorite strains ever since it made its appearance, back in the ’70s. Blueberry’s high is a combination of relaxation and euphoria. Its painkilling properties make it a good choice for relieving symptoms of glaucoma, such as headaches.
A-Train (THC 22%, CBD 1%, CBN 1%)
This 50:50 Indica-Sativa hybrid is a typical stoner marijuana breed. A-Train relieves glaucoma patients from pain by lowering ocular pressure. Remember to prepare the snacks since it really increases appetite.
XXX 420 (THC 16 – 19%)
This strain makes users social, talkative, uplifted but focused. XXX 420 has proved to be very effective in treating patients suffering from conditions such as eye pressure and glaucoma, migraines or tension headaches.
Lions Gate (THC 12 – 16%)
A pure 100% Indica, Lions Gate has a long-lasting, pain-relieving, body high, making it an excellent therapeutic choice. Even more so for glaucoma sufferers because of its benefits on migraines and headaches.
Note: keep in mind that cannabinoid content in strains may vary.
As I’ve said earlier, marijuana is not a definitive, long-term cure for glaucoma, although it IS an effective, natural treatment both in the short-term and for patients whose glaucoma has advanced.
The only downside is that you need to be medicated constantly in order to keep your ocular pressure low and steady.
My advice is to use this information and figure out whether marijuana is the right path for you.
The best bet is your cannabis friendly doctor — an experienced ophthalmologist who also knows his medical cannabis will give you the best advice on choosing the best strain, especially considering your medical history.
- Quigley HA, Broman AT; The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020; British Journal of Ophthalmology; March 2006; 90(3):262-7.
- Robert S. Hepler, Ira R. Frank; Marihuana Smoking and Intraocular Pressure; JAMA; 1971; 217(10):1392.
- Zhan, Gui-Lin; Camras, Carl B; Palmberg, Paul F MD, Toris, Carol B; Effects of Marijuana on Aqueous Humor Dynamics in a Glaucoma Patient; Journal of Glaucoma; April 2005; 14(2):175-177.
- Green K. Marijuana smoking vs cannabinoids for glaucoma therapy. Archives of Ophthalmology; November 1998; 116(11):1433-7.
- Tomida I, Azuara-Blanco A, House H, Flint M, Pertwee RG, Robson PJ; Effect of sublingual application of cannabinoids on intraocular pressure: a pilot study; Journal of Glaucoma; October 2006; 15(5):349-53.