February 23, 2021

Cannabis and Anxiety: Exploring the Science and Strains

Many people find that cannabis relieves symptoms of anxiety, but unlocking these benefits requires careful navigation so that you don’t take a wrong turn.

When it comes to anxiety, cannabis has the potential to be quite beneficial, but there are a lot of variables at play. Many consumers find that a smoke sesh, tincture, or well-timed edible is just the ticket for keeping symptoms of anxiety at bay. For others, weed can temporarily send them into spiraling worries or paranoia.

However, treating “cannabis” as a monolith either way is problematic. Delving into ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes, and exploring the qualities of various strains can pay dividends for those wondering if cannabis is good for anxiety, including people who have had negative experiences with cannabis products in the past. 

It’s all about being self-aware and recognizing what works for you and what doesn’t, whether it’s the strain or the setting—or both. 

Is Cannabis Good for Anxiety? Here’s the Research

While cannabis can have a range of effects when it comes to anxiety, it makes for an effective chill pill for many people. There’s no shortage of anecdotal reports of people utilizing cannabis to combat anxiety, particularly social anxiety.

Research published in 2020 hints at the neurological basis for how cannabis can provide mental relief effects. Scientists identified a certain molecule, 2-AG, that temporarily blocks the connection between the frontal cortex, associated with conscious processing, and the amygdala, a brain area highly associated with anxiety and stress responses. Researchers have found that this connection is stronger in people with clinical anxiety, and the neural receptors that respond to 2-AG are also activated by cannabis. 

While speculative, the finding points to a neurological explanation of how cannabis can relieve anxiety by keeping the amygdala’s signals from disrupting the frontal cortex.

A study out of the University of Washington found that THC lowered anxiety at low doses and raised it at higher doses, while CBD lowered anxiety at any associated dose. But there’s a lot going on in cannabis beyond THC and CBD. The study authors acknowledge: “As a plant, marijuana is composed of more than 500 chemical substances. Only a fraction of these have been studied.”

In-depth clinical study of the interplay between these myriad compounds and how the human body interacts with them, known as the entourage effect, is still in the early stages. But scientists are laying the groundwork for further study of the mechanisms of cannabis and anxiety.

What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Anxiety?

Cannabis affects different people in different ways, and that’s doubly true when it comes to anxiety. 

As you consider aiding your anxiety management with cannabis, consider what amplifies or quells your symptoms. Are they activated by spiraling thoughts? Physical discomfort? Certain social situations? Also consider what alleviates those anxious thoughts. Feelings of wellbeing? A meditative state? Physical relaxation? Answering these questions will help steer you in finding cannabis strains that improve your mindset.

Because high-THC sativa strains are more likely to spark anxious thoughts in some people, at Veritas we recommend indica or indica-forward hybrids in our Alleviate and Rejuvenate categories, as these tend to have a nice mellowing effect, and starting with modest doses. If you find that’s the type of feeling you want, try different doses and strains in that same category. 

Here are a few of our personal favorite strains in the Alleviate and Rejuvenate categories, and why we like them: Sunset Animal promotes feelings of tranquility, as do other indica-dominant strains like Sundae Float and La Kush Cake. If you’re looking for more of a boost of positive energy and sunshine, try Animal Mints or Papaya Cake. The First Cut exclusive Old Family Purple features the parent strain Purple Urkle, which many have found to be helpful for anxiety relief. 

When it Comes to Cannabis and Anxiety, Stay Mellow

Experienced cannabis consumers can often navigate based on their own past experiences, but for people who are less practiced, or who have recently developed anxiety issues, the key is to take it slow. 

Start with low-THC strains at modest dosages, and change course as needed and desired. When you're in new mental territory, take it one step at a time. That gives you the best chance of finding where you want to go.
Learn more about Veritas strains and cannabinoids on our blog.