In 2020, we've all felt anxious about something. Anxiety is a normal part of everyday life, but you may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If it’s an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can be disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
For quick relief of anxiety and stress, reaching for cannabis is hardly out of the question for many. Nearly all strains are loaded with a variety of fragrant terpenes that work through the entourage effect to take you to a state of cool, calm, and collected bliss. However, for others cannabis often creates a sense paranoia, anxiety, and other negative emotions and feelings.
Experts believe your endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a part in cannabis-related paranoia.
When you use cannabis, certain compounds in it, including THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, bind to endocannabinoid receptors in various parts of your brain, including the amygdala.
Your amygdala helps regulate your response to fear and related emotions, like anxiety, stress, and — wait for it — paranoia. When you use cannabis that’s rich in THC, your brain suddenly receives more cannabinoids than usual. Research suggests this excess of cannabinoids may overstimulate the amygdala, making you feel fear and anxiety.
This would also explain why products rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that doesn’t directly bind to endocannabinoid receptors, don’t seem to cause paranoia.
Luckily, the components in cannabis often associated for tranquility, sedation, relaxation, and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects are terpenes. And terpenes can be enjoyed individually from THC, CBD, and are entirely non-psychoactive, meaning you will not get high.
Terpenes For Anxiety
Found in cloves and black pepper, you’ll want to pair this anti-inflammatory terpene with something rich and cozy. Beta-Caryophyllene reduces stress through its pain-relieving properties, leaving relaxation in the wake of a smoked joint or vape. Playing on the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, strains rich in this terpene may also diminish the effects of colitis, pain, and Alzheimer’s from mice model studies.
Popular for its abundance in aromatic plants such as ylang-ylang and wild thyme, myrcene offers sedative and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also conveniently synergistic with THC, which means some may feel a more powerful high with large amounts of myrcene in their chosen strains. Fortunately for you, this terpene is one of the most popular found in cannabis, so you won’t have to search high and low to feel myrcene’s anxiety-reducing traits.
Breathe easy when you inhale a limonene-rich strain and anxiety will melt right off your back. This citrusy terpene is commonly associated with tart lemons and delivers a wave of calm and euphoria on the exhale. Studies suggest limonene may be a potential anti-depressant, as well as a means to boost serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
Strains & Strains Blends for Anxiety
If you'd prefer to not smoke cannabis, consider diffusing a strain blend into an air diffuser when anxiety begins to kick in! Or you can take a warm bath and drop 10 or so drops into the water and unwind. Strain blends are hyperlinked.
Indica vs Sativa for Anxiety
Marijuana dispensaries often define strains as either “indica” or “sativa” or a “hybrid” of both. These terms are intended to help consumers identify the potential effects of any given strain. As mentioned earlier, strains with a lower THC content are preferable for treating anxiety.
Indica strains are generally low in THC and are believed to have a sedative effect that calms and relaxes the body.
Sativa strains, on the other hand, are typically higher in THC and are believed to have a stimulating, energizing effect.
However, we do not recommend that you rely on the indica vs sativa distinction. It’s much safer to choose a marijuana strain based on the THC/CBD concentration and terpene profile, as we all using your personal tolerance as a guide. THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the drug’s mind-altering effects, whereas CBD is the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid. CBD does not trigger a “high” or alter consciousness and has been shown to reduce anxiety.
Harlequin - Myrcene
Perfect for starting your morning on the right foot, Harlequin is one of those strains offering both relief and major staying power. Along with myrcene, Harlequin contains a rich profile of CBD, and usually expresses a CBD:THC ratio of 5:2. You can relax and stamp out THC’s paranoia all in one pull.
Bubba Kush - Myrcene, Limonene, Beta-Caryophyllene
Bubba Kush is the ultimate strain bringing on tranquilizing effects and mood-boosting qualities. It’s no mystery why this particular strain blend is highly prized: it’s a powerhouse of anti-anxiety terpenes including all three of the top stress-reducing compounds. Myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene collide with Bubba Kush’s incredible anxiety-reducing traits to provide relief to an restless mind.
Cannatonic - Myrcene
Cannatonic brings balance to the universe with its high myrcene content and calming terpene profile. If you’re searching for something to infuse throughout the day (and won’t leave you couchlocked and slumped), reach for this migraine crushing, anxiety-reducing strain blend.
White Widow - Myrcene, Beta-Caryophyllene
White Widow has been a staple in the cannabis world for its powerful terpene profile. With a high dose of caryophyllene and myrcene among its myriad of terpenes, this creative strain boosts euphoria, mowing down any stressful thoughts you just can’t shake. Load up a bowl or drip a few drops in the bathtub, White Widow is sure to be your new go-to.
Granddaddy Purple - Myrcene, Beta-Caryophyllene
One of the most commonly recommended strains for anxiety, Granddaddy Purple is a hybrid made from two indica strains: Purple Urkle and Big Bud. Its flowers bloom in deep shades of purple, a trait inherited from Big Bud, while it also possesses a sweet aroma reminiscent of blueberries and grapes due to an abundance of terpenes (notably, caryophyllene and myrcene) passed on through Purple Urkle.
Northern Lights - Myrcene, Pinene
Known for its potent effects—particularly euphoria—Northern Lights is one of the most widely-used strains for reducing anxiety, pain, and insomnia. It’s an indica-dominant strain consisting of approximately 90% indica and 10% sativa.
In addition to offering a blissful effect, Northern Lights appears to have a tranquilizing “couch lock” effect, which temporarily inhibits synaptic transmissions throughout the brain and body, helping to relax muscles and slow down racing thoughts. According to recent lab tests, Northern Lights also has an abundance of myrcene (0.97%) and pinene (0.35%). These terpenes are responsible for the strain’s woodsy, pine-needle scent, but also help to counteract the potentially adverse psychological impact and contribute to the calming, soothing effect. According to patient reviews, the overall effect is calming, with the sensation of being pleasantly high without racing thoughts.
Essential Oils for Anxiety
Another great way to inhale terpenes in order to combat anxious or paranoid feelings is with essential oils. There's a plethora of ways terpene isolates, strain blends, and essential oils, but the most effective and convenient way is through aromatherapy and direct inhalation. Consider experimenting with the following terpene-packed essential oils if you're looking for a holistic, natural, side-effect free and safe way to combat anxiety.
Lavender - Linalool
Lavender Oil is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils for its effects and wonderful scent. According to 2012 research, lavender aromatherapy is thought to calm anxiety by impacting the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions. More about Lavender here.
Bergamot - Limonene, Linalool
Bergamot Oil comes from bergamot oranges and has an invigorating citrus scent. According to a 2015 study, both animal and human trials have found that bergamot helps relieve anxiety and improve mood.
Rose - Geraniol
Rose Oil is extracted from rose petals. Roses have an enchanting floral scent known to relax the senses. Try dripping a few drops into a warm foot bath and watching a funny movie or show when anxious feelings arise.
Frankincense - Alpha-Pinene
Frankincense oil is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It has a musky, sweet aroma that’s thought to ease anxiety. According to a 2008 study, an aromatherapy hand massage using a blend of frankincense, lavender, and bergamot improved anxiety, depression, and pain in people with terminal cancer.
Other practices for combating anxiety include seeing a therapist, mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and diet changes. Consider the aforementioned if anxious feelings continue with persistence.
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