Anxiety is a condition that affects an estimated 19.1 percent of American adults, many of whom turn to medical marijuana to help manage their symptoms. But considering how many varieties of cannabis exist, it’s necessary to do a little research in order to figure out which strains are likely to produce the effects you’re looking for. After all, no two cannabis strains are exactly alike.
The first distinction to be made here is indica vs sativa—the two main classes of weed. Broadly speaking, indica strains are known for their sedative properties, while sativa dominant strains are known for their ability to generate a more intense, cerebral high. Both can be used for treating anxiety, certain strains more so than others.
Below we highlight the key differences between indica and sativa strains and identify some of the best strains for anxiety.
Does cannabis cause or reduce anxiety?
The relationship between medical marijuana and anxiety is an interesting one. Many users swear by weed’s anti-anxiety properties, whereas others report feeling more anxious (or even suffer a panic attack) while high. At first glance, it seems that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile these conflicting experiences. But in fact, it’s rather simple.
That’s because a cannabis strain’s effects largely depend on the ratio of CBD to THC, plus its terpene profile. CBD and THC fall into the category of cannabinoid—meaning they’re both naturally occurring compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant—but they’re very different in the way they function. Most notably, THC is psychoactive (i.e. it makes you high or “stoned”) while CBD is not.
CBD and THC interact with one another in what’s known as the entourage effect; among other things, CBD acts to moderate and temper the effects of THC. Without the presence of CBD, THC may be difficult for some people to tolerate.
The indica vs sativa anxiety debate
So, indica or sativa? The majority of users will tell you that indica strains like OG Kush are a superior remedy for anxiety. Indica is associated with a soothing high that permeates the entire body, leading to feelings of deep relaxation and comfort. This full-body tranquility is oftentimes matched by a pleasant clarity of mind.
Conversely, sativa strains are known to offer up a headier experience characterized by energy, euphoria, sociability, and enhanced concentration. These effects, while favorable in many circumstances, typically aren’t desired by people looking to take it easy and relax.
Keep in mind that these are only general traits: there is plenty of variance within each category. Just because one sativa strain makes you feel a certain way, that doesn’t mean another sativa strain won’t make you feel completely different. The same, of course, is true of indica. That’s why it’s a good idea to test as many strains as you can.
The CBD to THC ratio in Indica and Sativa
A 2018 study suggests that medical cannabis with high concentrations of both CBD and THC may be best for alleviating anxiety symptoms. Meanwhile, a 2015 review of previous CBD studies concluded that available scientific evidence “strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
On the other hand, some research indicates that, at high doses, THC is associated with higher levels of anxiety.
Therefore, when using cannabis for anxiety, many people prefer a strain with high CBD and modest levels of THC. Generally speaking, Indica strains are higher in CBD so make the best choice in this situation.
What about terpenes?
When discussing marijuana and anxiety, it’s important not to overlook the role of terpenes. Several studies demonstrate that, even on their own, some terpenes may act as potent anti-anxiety agents. Examples include myrcene, beta-caryophyllene and limonene—three of the primary terpenes in marijuana.
Furthermore, we know that terpenes contribute to the entourage effect by positively interacting with cannabinoids. A 2011 paper found that CBD and THC may be better at treating a wide range of conditions—including chronic pain, depression, and anxiety—when supplemented by terpenes.
So in addition to CBD and THC levels, terpene profile is another factor to consider when selecting cannabis strains for anti-anxiety purposes.
Indica strains for anxiety
Below are three indica strains that warrant a close look from individuals who want help chilling out and decompressing.
This is among the most famous and most celebrated indica strains. Northern Lights has a THC content of 16 percent and plenty of myrcene. It’s said to work wonders on an anxious mind.
Like Northern Lights, Granddaddy Purple has modest THC levels and a terpene profile dominated by myrcene. Users report experiencing a mental sharpness complemented by an overall feeling of calm.
Technically a hybrid, Forbidden Fruit is an indica-dominant strain noted for its rich fruity aromas, as well as its potential to rid the body and mind of tension and stress. Beta-caryophyllene is the presiding terpene here.
Customizing your effect with True Blue
Finding anxiety relief with cannabis is a matter of choosing a strain that delivers that ideal blend of physical comfort and mental relaxation. As we’ve seen, CBD and THC have a lot to do with this, and so do terpenes.