How Can Cannabis Help With The Management Of Stress? – Organic Genetics

Organic Genetics

How Can Cannabis Help With The Management Of Stress?

Did you know that 25% of New Zealanders have poor mental well-being? A study commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) last year shows that a quarter of New Zealanders currently has poor levels of mental and emotional wellbeing, including nearly a third of women.

Finding a way to calm yourself down and relax when you are feeling overwhelmed is essential when it comes to stress and anxiety. Many fall into relying on alcohol or prescription medication, but there are natural alternatives out there that can be better for you. Medicinal cannabis is one natural alternative that has quickly gained notoriety for its several stress-busting properties. CBD in particular offers a non-harmful and non-addictive solution to relieve stress and anxiety symptoms.

Symptoms of Stress

There are many physical symptoms related to stress. Research shows that 2 in 5 people who suffer from stress and anxiety experience headaches and low energy, whilst 3 in 5 of people also suffer from an upset stomach. Although physical symptoms of stress can be extremely hard to navigate, emotional symptoms can be the hardest to shake off, with mental health suffering dramatically. Over 50% of people feel moodiness, 40% get angry at the smallest of things, 40% have trouble sleeping because of their thoughts, and over a third say they feel so down in their thoughts they don’t want to speak to anyone.

Pharmacist, Sultan ‘Sid’ Dajani, who has a special interest in CBD, says: “The impact of stress can have a disastrous effect on our day-to-day lives in all manner of areas. When seeking remedies for stress and anxiety, these can typically be time-intensive and often involve long treatment waiting times, whereas there are solutions available over the counter, such as cannabis oils, which appear to reduce negative effects associated with stress.

What emotional symptoms can cannabis help with?

  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • Becoming easily frustrated, moody, and agitated
  • Finding it hard to relax and switch off/quiet your mind
  • Feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness, loneliness, and depression

What physical symptoms can cannabis help relieve?

  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Sleep interruptions and insomnia
  • Tense muscles and aches and pains
  • Headaches

The Science

Anxiety and depression can set in easily with prolonged exposure to stress and constant pressure. Although a chemical brain imbalance can cause depression, a rigorous daily workload can also cultivate it. Cannabis has certain compounds, CBD and THC, which mirror your own endocannabinoid system’s chemical responses. These compounds replace your endocannabinoid system’s missing chemicals and act as a mood stabilizer. CBD also appears to reduce the cardiovascular response to models of stress. In blood, CBD influences the survival and death of white blood cells, white blood cell migration and platelet aggregation, all of which can be linked with stress. A double-blind randomised controlled cross-over study in healthy male volunteers found that acute administration of CBD, reduces resting blood pressure and the blood pressure increase to stress in humans, associated with increased heart rate.

In other laboratory studies, CBD has been shown to reduce conditioned fear and anxiety. Reductions in anxiety appear to be mediated by the interaction of CBD with the 5HT1-A and not dependent on the benzodiazepine receptors used by medication such as diazepam. Another double-blind placebo-controlled study, with social anxiety disorder found that treatment with CBD before simulated public speaking significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly reduced alert levels in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group. The Negative Self-Assessment Scale (SSPS-N) scores revealed significant increases during the testing of placebo group that was almost eliminated in the CBD group.

CBD has also shown benefits for anxiety in a clinical trial involving 103 adult patients. This was a retrospective study in a psychiatric clinic involving clinical application of CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints as an adjunct to usual treatment. The final sample consisted of 72 adults presenting with primary concerns of anxiety (n = 47) or poor sleep (n = 25). Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration and sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%). 

Note the Terpenes

Like most flowers, cannabis plants have aromatic oils in them called terpenes. Terpenes are what gives different plants and cannabis strains their flavor and aroma. They live in the same glands as the cannabinoids (THC and CBD) called trichomes. As well as giving cannabis it’s flavour, terpenes are also directly responsible for the unique feeling associated with each strain of cannabis. Two plants could have similar cannabinoid structures, but completely different terpene structures. The terpene structures would result in two vastly differing experiences. Different combinations of terpenes at different dosages also determine the effect a particular cannabis strain or product can have.  Among the vast amount of terpenes that can be found in cannabis, there are three that come to mind when we are talking about reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Caryophellene: A terpene that’s also found in cloves and black pepper. Caryophyllene reduces stress through its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Playing on the CB2 receptors in the bodies endocannabinoid system, strains rich in this terpene have been shown to diminish the effects of colitis, pain, and Alzheimer’s from mice model studies. 

Myrcene: A terpene found in abundance in aromatic plants such as ylang-ylang and wild thyme, myrcene offers sedative and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also conveniently synergistic with THC, which means some may feel a more powerful high with large amounts of myrcene in their chosen strains. This terpene is also one of the most commonly found terpenes in cannabis, so there’s no need to search high and low to uncover myrcene’s anxiety-reducing traits.

Limonene: This citrus terpene is most distinctively found in lemons. It delivers a wave of calm and euphoria on the exhale. Studies suggest limonene may be a potential anti-depressant, as well as a means to boost serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Keep a Cannabis Journal

If you’re experimenting with cannabis as part of your stress management plan, you may find it helpful to keep a journal. You can track what you’re using, the time of use and how you feel. Write down what strain combinations you are trialling, what amount you’re using, and record the kind of physical amd emotional feelings you experience. This practice will help with mindfulness as well which can also be a great tool to help gather and centre your thoughts when you are going through an anxious period.

Take the Next Step 

Now that you’ve become more aware of the benefits medicinal cannabis can have on stress, you should feel more equipped to decide whether its right for you. If you’ve decided you’d like to explore further, make an appointment to consult with your doctor for a recommendation. If your primary care physician is not comfortable with a prescription, talk to them about referring you on to a doctor who is more specialized in this area. New Zealand is now home to several cannabis clinics and professionals across the country who are armed with the right knowledge to help.


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