Statistics show that nearly 20% of all Americans suffer from anxiety, and those are just the ones who’ve seen doctors and been diagnosed. The real number is impossible to guess, but it’s undoubtedly much higher.
Self-medicating to cope with anxiety is nothing new; just watch one episode of Mad Men and you’ll get a good idea of how it was done in the 60s. Even easier, just think about family, friends and perhaps even yourself – and you’ll realize just how many people try to treat their own anxiety with booze, weed, or a pint of Chunky Monkey.
The stress relief provided by ice cream or alcohol is a short-lived illusion, of course. Pot, on the other hand, has been shown to be effective for many people suffering from the often-crippling effects of anxiety.
Not just any strain will do, however. Some have the potential to increase anxiety rather than ease it.
So before you spark up, here’s what you need to know.
Indica, Sativa, THC, and CBD
Unless you’re a novice or a very occasional user, you certainly know the general distinction between Sativa and Indica strains, and the basic difference between the cannabinoids THC and CBD.
In oversimplified terms, THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis, while CBD is the non-psychoactive one with more medicinal benefits. Sativa strains contain more THC and are more invigorating; indica contains less THC and more CBD and therefore is more relaxing.
Still sticking with generalities for the moment:
- A psychoactive high would seem to increase the risk of inducing paranoia or other harmful feelings in those with anxiety. Advantage: CBD/Indica.
- “Relaxing” would seem to be a better approach than “invigorating” for anxiety sufferers. Advantage: CBD/Indica.
- Those with anxiety often exhibit symptoms like heart palpitations or panic attacks which could be made worse by THC. Advantage: CBD/Indica.
The easy conclusion is that indica strains high in CBD are a better choice for anxiety. However, we’ve emphasized that these are an oversimplification, for an important reason.
There’s research showing that the higher THC content in Sativa allows it to fight depression and anxiety in much the same way as an SSRI like Lexapro, Zoloft or Paxil – but just like SSRIs, those effects can take weeks or longer to work.
So smoking a J made from most THC-dominant Sativa strains isn’t likely to ease stress or symptoms of anxiety right away. Over the long term, though, it might be a very good approach – as long as you’re not so stressed that the THC will immediately make things worse.
Our list of the best weed strains for anxiety contains hybrids that are predominantly Indica and can provide fast-acting relief. It also includes choices that are Sativa-dominant, whose higher THC content may be better for the longer-term treatment of stress.
The Best Weed Strains for Anxiety
This is widely viewed as the best strain for anxiety and stress, even though it was originally developed for use in cooking (its initials stand for the slightly-tortured name “alternative cannabinoid dietary cannabis”). It’s related to the Cannatonic and Canna-Tsu strains that we’ll look at shortly.
ACDC’s primary users are medicinal and not recreational, because of its unusual, extremely tilted THC to CBD ratio – it typically contains between 1 and 5% THC, an extremely low level, but an astronomically-high 20% CBD. Those are crazy numbers for a 50/50 Sativa/Indica hybrid; they indicate that the strain is an outstanding choice for medical patients (it’s often used to deal with pain, seizures and even cancer) and is very unlikely to get you stoned.
Users will find that ACDC leaves them peaceful, happy and more focused, as its terpenes like myrcene and pinene are an outstanding combination to ease anxiety and relieve stress.
Many people use granddaddy purple at night to fall asleep. But the same properties which make this Indica strain, a product of merging Big Bud with Purple Urkle, effective for treating insomnia make it perfect for dealing with anxiety.
GDP is THC-dominant. In fact, it has a higher THC content than almost any other Indica, averaging around 20%. In other words, it can give you a major buzz pretty quickly. But that initial effect fades almost as fast, leaving your mind and body relaxed, peaceful and somewhat detached. It’s often used for pain relief for the same reasons.
This strain isn’t the right choice for those who want to relieve stress so they can deal with important situations, but it’s perfect for kicking back (or falling asleep) and shaking the effects of anxiety.
In cases when Granddaddy Purple is definitely the wrong strain, Strawberry Cough could be the one to use instead. This Sativa hybrid has about 15% THC content so there’s a strong high that’s often described as “cerebral” or “social.” The reason: it provides an energetic feeling and a sense of control and motivation – and a lack of energy, control, and motivation is what often leads to anxiety and depression.
The effects of Strawberry Cough can last for hours, so it’s perfect for those paralyzed by thought blockages and the stress that often follows. In fact, it can actually stimulate the creativity and intensity users need to accomplish the unaccomplished tasks which have been staring them in the face and making them anxious. The pleasant strawberry flavor? Just an added benefit.
Lemon Garlic OG
One of the terpenes best known for its ability to relieve stress is limonene. Its presence, along with other terpenes like myrcene and caryophyllene, is why Lemon Garlic OG is extremely effective for treating anxiety.
This strain is Indica-dominant with a nice balance of THC and CBD, so you experience both a strong, fast-acting high and a sedative effect which eases the symptoms of anxiety. It’s a calming buzz that may not let you focus enough to get much accomplished. But it will relax your muscles and your brain, and let you get some rest after you’ve finished enjoying the high.
Cannatonic is a strain that’s rich in CBD and low in THC. Canna-Tsu is a hybrid of Cannatonic and Sour Tsunami, another strain bred specifically to have high CBD/low THC levels. That means that both Cannatonic and Canna-Tsu are designed to provide maximum therapeutic benefit with only a mellow high.
If you’re looking for a decent sense of euphoria along with the benefits of these strains, Canna-Tsu is a slightly better choice. Cannatonic will make you happier (without the euphoria) while remaining more focused. But they’re both very good for relieving anxiety and stress without greatly inhibiting your ability to socialize or work.