Marijuana can be a helpful form of treatment for a variety of mental health conditions. Although the topic of medical marijuana doesn’t come without controversy, the drug has been proven to be an effective soothing method.
Stress itself may not be a medical condition, but excessive, chronic, and high levels of stress lead to severe health complications. When we feel anxious and stressed, our bodies physically react in significant ways, such as panic attacks, sweating, jitters, and elevated blood pressure.
Everyone’s comfort levels vary when it comes to cannabis, but here is a beginner’s breakdown to understanding the effects of cannabis on stress past the hype and stereotype.
What is stress?
Stress is defined as the state of being overwhelmed due to mental or emotional factors. Having stress is not always negative. Some stress is normal to have, but when it starts taking over your life, it is time to address it head-on.
Stress can manifest and show itself in many ways. You may be experiencing excessive stress that needs treatment if you begin to notice any of these symptoms:
- Acne and skin problems
- Brain fog
- Chest pain
- Digestive issues
- Frequent headaches
- Too much or too little sleep
- Low sex drive
- Memory loss
- Muscle soreness
The business of wellness is expected to become over a $4 billion industry within the next five years because of these commonly experienced symptoms. With many desperate for relief, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) have grown, but for many, the side effects of antidepressants make them less than ideal.
Cannabis use is an alternative way to care for yourself that can reduce stress levels and treat symptoms caused by stress-induced physical and mental illnesses.
How does medical marijuana reduce stress?
If you’ve been curious about the de-stressing claims of cannabis users but are finding spotty research, here is where you can uncomplicate your search.
It’s important to keep in mind that licensing for and access to cannabis research is difficult to obtain overall. However, despite the obstacles that surround the medical research on cannabis, there have been proven results that support the use of cannabis for anxiety, depression, and stress.
The main components within marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and aromatic chemical compounds called terpenoids. You may already be familiar with THC and CBD, but a good strain of marijuana isn’t only about the potency of getting you high.
Unlike the typical high effect of THC, terpenoids are organic compounds that create the unique smell and taste of a plant and in this case cannabis strains. Along with giving a plant a distinct taste such as mangos or sage, terpenoids regulate how much of the reactive compounds, known as cannabinoids, gets absorbed in the body.
A helpful list of terpenoid types and a brief description of how they work to combat stress includes several different compounds.
Strains with high levels of caryophyllene are popular for their calming effects and comforting smell. The anxiety-reducing effects of these strains begin before any kind of ingestion by their smell alone. Caryophyllene gives off a peppery, spicy, cinnamon scent that will open your sinuses and make you feel warm.
Although an easy way to remember the effects of caryophyllene would be to associate it with coziness, this terpenoid is exceptionally complex and unique from a scientific perspective. The caryophyllene terpenoid is the only organic compound in cannabis that has a cyclobutane ring molecular structure.
Because of caryophyllene’s rare structure, it is able to bind with receptors within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for your mood, appetite, sleep, memory, stress level, and even fertility. This creates many beneficial treatment opportunities.
ECS is an active cell-signaling system in your body regardless if you currently or have ever used cannabis products. Having been discovered in the 1990s, research on this system is still very new, but what we do know is that there are two types of receptors which are:
- CB1 – found in the central nervous system
- CB2 – found in the peripheral nervous system and immune system
So far, caryophyllene has shown to be a useful compound in treating a variety of physical and mental diseases and discomforts such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic pain. It also helps motor functions and eases symptoms related to anxiety and depression.
Humulene is another great terpenoid to look for when searching for cannabis to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. This option is especially great for those who tend to overeat when stressed because of its natural appetite-suppressing properties.
Medically, humulene terpenoids have shown to be effective treatments as anti-inflammatories,
reducing alcohol, anti-bacterial, and food cravings and serve as an antidepressant.
Humulene has a naturally woody and earthy aroma and is naturally found in plants and herbs such as black pepper, sage, and ginseng.
If you’ve ever indulged in cannabis, you’ve likely experienced myrcene. Myrcene is what causes a sedative effect for users.
Myrcene could be called the grounding terpenoid because of its tranquilizing effect and its grass-like smell. When in cannabis this terpenoid has an earthy, musky, and sometimes fruity aroma. This mixture of smells can come from herbs and plants such as basil, ylang-ylang, hops, thyme, lemongrass, mangos, and parsley.
One reason why cannabis strains that contain myrcene terpenes are so common is because of their anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Myrcene strains are often prescribed for chronic pain and for easing the adverse side effects of cancer treatments.
Expert tip: Mackenzie Beck, marketing director of Hana Dispensaries, says that when buying cannabis, it’s important to make sure weed is lab-tested for safety purposes. “Generally, cannabis is like coffee where there are general effects, but what terpenoids affect you in what way is unique to the individual. Terpenoids are like hops in beer, meaning how it’s ‘brewed’ will affect a strain’s flavor and overall experience.”
How do I get rid of stress?
Stress can severely hinder your overall quality of life and have extreme effects on your health. Any form of healthy stress relief that will improve your sleep, release muscle tension, and allow emotional release is worth exploring.
Medical studies for cannabis and all of its properties like THC, CBD, and terpenoids may be relatively new, but cannabis and its compounds have been used for medical practice for centuries. Only you can determine your comfortability with any form of treatment, but it’s unrealistic to expect a quick fix with any method.
If you are able to give medical marijuana a try, give it time and practice before concluding if it’s a good fit.