Research suggests that chronic stress can lead to depression due to a shift in neurological processes. Those who often feel stressed experience a drop in endocannabinoid production which directly relates to things like emotion, cognition and behavior. Interestingly, when supplemental cannabinoids are reintroduced into the system – perhaps via doobie or an edible – the symptoms of depression are reduced. In other words, cannabis can, in fact, help treat depression – but only if it’s the right strain.
How Cannabis Can Help Treat Depression
Depression can manifest itself in many ways – lethargy, aggression, lack of motivation, overwhelming sadness or helplessness – and its impact reaches far beyond the individual. Partners and children of a depressed individual may begin adopting some of the same characteristics of depression as a result of their loved one’s mental illness making depression a contagious disease.
Fortunately, many different strains of cannabis can help treat depression. Depending on the specific symptoms being treated, there is likely an ideal strain for the intended outcome and the secret to finding them lies in the terpene profile of the plant.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic essential oils produced by plants. Though certainly not exclusive to the cannabis plant, they play a vital role in each strain’s flavor and overall effect on the body. Terpenes are so important to a strain’s flavor and effects, in fact, that there are whole classes designed to help people learn about them!
A strain’s terpene profile plays an important role in its effectiveness as a treatment for depression due to the different effects they cause. Strains containing limonene (citrus flavor), for example, tend to be very uplifting whereas strains high in myrcene (musky flavor) tend to be very sedating. Likewise, pinene terpenes (woody, piney flavors) have been shown to promote focus and help combat fatigue while linalool (sweet and flowery) helps fight anxiety.
Best Strains for Depression
When treating depression with cannabis, it’s important to remember that high doses of THC seem to exacerbate depressive symptoms often causing paranoia and hyper-activity. Those wishing to treat their depression with cannabis should therefore seek out strains with low to moderate levels of THC, or at least have a CBD back-up to help tame a THC high in the event of discomfort. These strains are a great place to start.
- Blue Dream: This sweet Blueberry cross is among the most popular strains nation-wide thanks to its uplifting, cerebral high followed by a gentle body high. Blue Dream is recommended for depression because of its ability to melt away the blues and replace pain and stress with creativity and socialization.
- Sour Grape: Sour Grape is a 50/50 hybrid that combines pain relief and a calm mind without impeding productivity. Though initially acting as an indica by calming the body and relaxing the mind, its sativa qualities subtly come through by allowing clear thought and a pain-free body. It’s especially good for relieving symptoms of depression like stress, anxiety, nausea and a lack of appetite.
- AK Cherry Lime: This sativa-dominant hybrid provides a powerful cerebral high alongside a calming body high. AK Cherry Lime is a very potent strain with a high that lasts three hours or more depending on the tolerance of the user. By stimulating appetite while easing pain and discomfort, this sweet-and-spicy strain is great for relieving some of the most common causes and symptoms of depression.
- Lemon Skunk: This favorite is great for easing anxiety and promoting sociability. Though sativa-dominant, it can take a quick indica turn within the first hour or so making this strain ideal for low-key activities or evenings at home with a few close friends. Lemon Skunk is especially beneficial with appetite promotion, pain reduction and overall mind and body relaxation.
- Glass Slipper: This potent, sativa-dominant hybrid is not for the faint of heart! Glass Slipper comes on fast and sticks around for hours by promoting deep and a relaxed mind minus the anxiety caused by many other potent sativa strains. Though primarily a cerebral high, this Netherlands original can flatten-out users when doses are too high so be careful and only take the recommended dose of this one.
The relationship between cannabis and depression is complex; sometimes it exacerbates the issue while other times it may actually help. Though research on cannabis as a treatment for depression is limited, some studies suggest that cannabinoids play a vital role in determining a person’s over-all sense of well-being which happens to be a major contributing factor to depression.
Have you used cannabis to help treat depression? Tell us about your experience.
Photo Credit: Eutah Mizushima