Can Cannabis Help with Stress and Anxiety?

Woman with an anxiety-induced headache

Can Cannabis Help with Stress and Anxiety?

There is widespread and growing interest in cannabis’s potential to ease anxiety and stress. Anxiety problems are among the most common reasons cannabis users get a medical card, according to a 2017 study from Whistler Therapeutics. Despite the growing popularity of cannabis as a treatment for anxiety, it is important to note that the effects of cannabis vary greatly user by user. For some, cannabis may in fact cause feelings of anxiety, instead of alleviating them.

Cannabis has a complex relationship with human biology, and it’s important to look to the emerging science on the topic to explore the link between anxiety and cannabis.

Does Cannabis “Cure” Anxiety?

Calling cannabis a “cure” for anxiety is overly simplistic, and fails to demonstrate the full scope of the science of cannabis. Cannabis is effective for reducing anxiety for some users, but actually causes anxiety for others. A 2018 study from Front Neurosci found that pure THC can cause more anxiety than whole plant cannabis. The same study found evidence that CBD counteracts the anxiety. For this reason, it’s important for anxiety sufferers to approach cannabis use with caution.

In recent decades, scientists have investigated how cannabis interacts with human biology to influence a wide range of physical and mental conditions. This led to the discovery of a physiologic system known as the endocannabinoid system, which plays a vital role in human homeostasis.

Different Cultivars Affect Users Differently

Why is it that two different individuals can sample the same cannabis cultivar and have two vastly differing experiences? Because each of our endocannabinoid systems is unique, and each cultivar is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all anxiety solution with cannabis.

Each cannabis cultivar has different amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes, which all interact and contribute to the cannabis experience through the “entourage effect.” Terpenes are fragrant oils found in all living plants (not just cannabis), and contribute to the distinctive character of each cultivar. Cannabis terpenes vary widely in aroma, from the “skunky” scents to pine and pepper. These oils interact with the human body, which contributes to the body’s regulation of mood, pain, pleasure, sleep, and appetite.

In recent decades, scientists have investigated how cannabis interacts with human biology to influence a wide range of physical and mental conditions. This led to the discovery of a physiologic system known as the endocannabinoid system, which plays a vital role in human homeostasis.

The Endocannabinoid System: A Brief Overview

The endogenous cannabinoid system is shared among mammals and functions primarily to maintain homeostasis, a stable internal environment despite external fluctuations. This system creates chemicals called endocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids and their receptors exist throughout our bodies and perform a variety of biological tasks, always with the goal of maintaining homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system helps coordinate bodily functions in response to stress, connecting the immune system, hormonal system, nervous system, and almost all organs in the body.

The NCBI found evidence to show that cannabis influences the activity of the endocannabinoid system, which holds therapeutic promise for a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders. The science is groundbreaking, but relatively new. We can expect more developments in this field as scientists take a closer look at the endocannabinoid system as it relates to anxiety.

Anxiety and the Endocannabinoid System

A fascinating aspect of endocannabinoids is that they are found at intersections of the body’s various systems, acting as communication between different kinds of cells. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids work to decrease the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, while preventing the nerve cell from excess firing. Additionally, cannabinoids work to soothe immune cells to prevent the release of pro-inflammatory substances. These simultaneous actions take place to reduce the pain and mitigate the extent of the injury.

These breakthroughs have led the NCBI to refer to endocannabinoids as “a bridge between body and mind.” When we apply this science to stress and anxiety, conditions that affect both the body and mind, it seems as though the two may be naturally suited to one another.

When the body releases endocannabinoid chemicals or when they are ingested in a tincture, the body is also stimulated to create serotonin, which can act as a mood-stabilizing chemical and neurotransmitter.

The Future of Cannabis Research

Cannabis as an anxiety treatment has been legal in most states for years, but cannabis science is relatively young. The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in 1992, and scientists have only begun to unlock the potential benefits of cannabis as it relates to the endocannabinoid system. There is also an enormous amount of research going into cannabis and anxiety, but it is still a young field. Thankfully, it shows promise thus far, and we can surely expect exciting developments in coming years.

High-Quality Cannabis for the Best Experiences

It is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to cannabis and anxiety. If you’re considering cannabis as a potential treatment for your anxiety concerns, we would encourage you to get a medical marijuana card and consult with a professional. As mentioned before, no two cannabis experiences are alike, and there is a wide variety of cannabis products to choose from. For the best experiences, we recommend going “slow and low,” consuming small amounts of quality cannabis incrementally. If you’re new to cannabis, be sure to read our guide, “Cannabis for Absolute Beginners: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started.

Additionally, the Happy Valley Insider app can be a great resource to help you find cannabis products to fit your needs.

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