While many factors contribute to a strain’s effects, anxiety-relieving strains tend to have a high content of CBD and myrcene.
Many people who struggle with anxiety use marijuana to help treat their symptoms. However, finding the right strain can feel like a game of Russian roulette.
Anxiety can actually be a side effect of THC, the active compound in marijuana that gets you high. With cannabinoids, terpenes, and strain type to consider, choosing the right strain can be a challenge.
Current research suggests that it’s best to focus on the cannabinoid and terpene content of a strain, rather than its Indica or Sativa name. While many people believe that Indica strains are anxiety-relieving, some experts disagree.
Let’s take a look at what types of strains are best for treating anxiety.
Marijuana for Anxiety Relief
While marijuana can often be prescribed for anxiety relief, there hasn’t been a lot of formal research on which strains are best for anxiety. But through a process of trial and error, many users have found strains that relieve their anxiety symptoms.
A 2017 study found that 40% of patients prescribed medical marijuana were able to quit the use of benzodiazepine anxiety medications. The researchers believe that marijuana helped treat patients’ anxiety, allowing them to taper off the drugs.
Unfortunately, researchers did not collect data on which strains the patients were using. Future research should be able to show what properties of marijuana make it good for treating anxiety.
Marijuana strains come in two subtypes known as Indica and Sativa. Indica strains are known for being relaxing and calming, with a body buzz. On the other hand, Sativa strains are thought to be uplifting, energetic, and produce more of a head high.
Indicas are most often recommended for anxiety because they tend to be more calming, while Sativas can be too “cerebral”.
While many users report a difference between the effects of Indica and Sativa, some researchers are not convinced. It can often be better to look for specific attributes than to focus too much on these labels, according to some experts.
In a 2016 interview, cannabis researcher and expert Dr. Ethan Russo said that most people’s use of the Indica-Sativa distinction is “total nonsense”.
This is because high levels of interbreeding have made it so that Indica and Sativa are not easy to tell apart. There is also a very high level of variability within each strain.
Dr. Russo suggests that it’s more important to pay attention to the terpene and cannabinoid content of a given strain, rather than its name.
Dr. Kymron deCesare, a researcher with Steep Hill Labs, agrees: “The terms sativa and indica are only really valid for describing the physical characteristics of the cannabis strain in a given environment.”
High CBD Strains
When it comes to anxiety, both THC and CBD can have benefits. However, CBD is most likely to be beneficial.
THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, known for creating relaxation, pain relief, and a euphoric high. However, THC also has side effects including dizziness, confusion, and altered thinking, all of which can worsen anxiety.
In a 2015 study of 121 individuals, researchers gave pure THC to participants and found it made them experience paranoia, an extreme form of anxious thinking.
CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive. It has been shown to counteract social anxiety disorder, and researchers believe it holds promise as a treatment for other anxiety disorders. CBD is also thought to reduce the psychoactive side effects of THC.
Many strains recommended for anxiety have a high CBD to THC ratio. Some high-CBD strains, such as Charlotte’s Web and Avidekel, contain so little THC that they don’t even get the user high. This could be useful for people who are sensitive to THC’s paranoia-inducing effects.
But THC has some anxiety-relieving benefits of its own, including relaxation and sedation. A high level of CBD with some THC seems to be a winning combination, as CBD can help balance out the mind-altering effects of THC and maximize anxiety-relieving potential.
High Myrcene Strains
Terpenes are a group of compounds that lend flavour and aroma to the cannabis plant. Aside from smelling good, these compounds can actually contribute to marijuana’s anxiety-relieving effects.
When it comes to terpenes, myrcene seems the most likely to relieve anxiety. Myrcene is known for its sedative, “couch lock” properties which can be helpful for anxiety.
Dr. Russo claims the couch lock effect attributed to Indicas has more to do with myrcene content than the strain type itself.
Dr. deCesare, with Steep Hill Labs, also believes the effects of THC depend on whether the strain contains myrcene. “Myrcene is the major ingredient responsible for ‘flipping’ the normal energetic effect of THC into a couch lock effect,” he says.
According to Steep Hill Labs, Indica strains tend to have a myrcene content higher than 0.5%, while Sativa strains usually contain less. This could explain why some people believe Indica strains are better suited to anxiety treatment.
Aside from myrcene, there are other terpenes thought to relieve anxiety, including linalool, beta-caryophyllene, and terpinolene. Each of these terpenes has been found to have anti-anxiety or sedative effects in scientific research.
Currently, not much information is available about the terpene content of most strains. But in the future, terpene profiling could help users choose the strains that work best for them.
At the end of the day, there are many factors that contribute to whether a strain can help relieve anxiety. The fine-tuned balance between THC and CBD, the terpene content, and possibly the strain type all contribute to a strain’s anxiety-relieving properties.
While many users believe Indica strains are helpful for anxiety, experts recommend looking at a strain’s cannabinoid and terpene content before considering its name.
If you’re looking for a strain to treat anxiety, it’s best to choose a strain that contains high levels of CBD or myrcene.