According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect up to 40 million American adults. Although these disorders are mainly treatable, just 37% of people receive any form of treatment. Common anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.
Medications such as SSRIs and Benzodiazepines are often prescribed, and while they may have some positive impact, the list of side effects is lengthy and include insomnia, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.
In recent years, marijuana has been cited as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Although most people associate any healing benefits with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, it could be weed’s terpenes that are doing the heavy lifting. Certainly, terpenes work in conjunction with cannabinoids and flavonoids to help you. The ‘entourage effect’ refers to the theory that marijuana’s compounds work better together than in isolation.
What Are Terpenes?
Let’s say you have a marijuana strain such as Mango Kush. Terpenes are primarily responsible for the delightful tropical scent. They are essential oils that can actually enhance your high and are also linked with a variety of medical benefits. These aromatic organic compounds are actually found in all plant life and in some insects.
Plants evolved terpenes to keep herbivores away, while also attracting predators that feast on common plant pests. Marijuana has high levels of terpenes which contribute to the entourage effect. One of the most commonly cited scientific papers for terpenes’ medical benefits was by Ethan Russo. It was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in August 2011 and found that terpenes and cannabinoids worked together to modulate and boost the effects of one another in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
There are hundreds of terpenes; each of which has unique effects on the human body and mind. For instance, myrcene could increase the effects of THC, provide anti-inflammatory and pain-killing effects, and make a person sleepy. According to Russo’s paper, the difference between a sedated high and an energetic one is mainly due to the terpenes in the strain, rather than whether it is an indica or a sativa.
Best Terpenes for Anxiety
The answer to the title question can’t be narrowed down to one single terpene. There are well over a hundred terpenes in the average marijuana strain, so it is effectively impossible to determine the single best one for anxiety, or any medical condition for that matter. The truth is, we have barely scratched the surface in terms of terpene research.
What we do know is that essential oils have been a major part of holistic medicine for millennia. This is significant because terpenes typically comprise up to 80% of an essential oil’s content. In any case, here is a shortlist of terpenes known to help alleviate anxiety.
This monoterpene is actually called beta-myrcene and is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. In liquid form, it is yellow and oily. Myrcene provides sedative and anti-inflammatory effects, and it is synergistic with THC. In other words, the more myrcene in a strain, the greater the effect caused by THC.
The trouble with smoking marijuana is that combustion heats the weed to hundreds of degrees and burns away the terpenes and cannabinoids. Vaping your weed is more likely to provide the anti-anxiety effect you are looking for. Myrcene’s boiling point is between 331- and 334-degrees Fahrenheit.
This terpene is commonly found in citrus fruits, which means it is likely to be abundant in any strain with an orange or lemon scent. It is the second most abundant terpene in weed, and as well as relieving anxiety and depression, it fights bacterial infections and treats ulcers. Limonene’s boiling point is 348.8 degrees.
This terpene is known for its black pepper scent and is a CB2 receptor agonist. A 2014 study by Bahi et al., published in the Physiology & Behavior journal, found that beta-caryophyllene reduced the anxiety levels in rodents forced to go through a maze. It is a terpene that works particularly well with CBD and is found in hops, black pepper, and rosemary essential oils. Beta-caryophyllene’s boiling point is 266 degrees.
This is a popular addition to perfume due to its floral scent. A study by Linck et al., published in the July 2010 edition of Phytomedicine, found that linalool decreased aggressive behavior in mice. A dab of lavender oil on the wrist can reduce your anxiety because it is filled with linalool. This terpene is said to make SSRIs more effective, and its boiling point is 388.4 degrees.
You will find this compound in pine trees and other coniferous plants. It is believed to help reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, increase cognitive function, and reduce anxiety. Alpha-Pinene’s boiling point is 311 degrees.
Which Marijuana Strains Should I Choose for Anxiety?
Now that we know some of the best terpenes for anxiety, it becomes far easier to determine the right cannabis strains.
Harlequin is widely regarded as one of the best medicinal marijuana strains on the planet. It has a CBD:THC ratio of 5:2 in general, and it contains a significant amount of Myrcene, along with some beta-caryophyllene and alpha-pinene.
This is another high-CBD strain, which means you can relax and feel better without a psychoactive high. Cannatonic is rich in myrcene and also contains linalool, limonene, beta-caryophyllene, and alpha-pinene.
This is a delicious strain that smells as good as it tastes. It is loaded with beta-caryophyllene and myrcene, and also contains humulene and a little bit of limonene. Users say that this strain not only relaxes them, but it also gives them a hankering for a slice of blueberry cheesecake!
This is yet another popular high-CBD strain that is ideal if you need a stress buster. Remedy is also said to be an effective analgesic due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is filled with myrcene, alpha-pinene, and beta-caryophyllene.
Unlike other strains on this list, Bubba Kush allows you to get stoned because it has a THC content of 22%. The high you experience will melt all your stresses away. It includes large amounts of myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene, along with linalool, alpha-pinene, and a host of other terpenes.
White Widow is a popular marijuana strain bred in the Netherlands by Green House Seeds. It was brought to the United States from the Amsterdam coffee shops, and it is a strain known for causing euphoria and eliminating stressful thoughts. It contains large amounts of myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, limonene, and alpha-pinene.
Which Terpene is Best for Anxiety? Final Thoughts
If you have genuine anxiety, hopefully, you will find relief from one of the marijuana strains mentioned above. Although we have mentioned five anti-anxiety terpenes above, there are many more than can help you relax and de-stress. Essential oils have long been linked with relaxation, and since they are mainly comprised of terpenes, it makes perfect sense that these aroma-filled compounds in marijuana are the primary reason for the therapeutic effects of the oils.
The method of ingestion is also very important when using weed for medicinal purposes. Combustion can eliminate a significant proportion of cannabinoids and terpenes, an action that reduces their positive effects. When you use a vaporizer, you not only feel the effects quickly, the practice of turning the weed into vapor retains most of the terpenes because it heats the cannabis at a temperature below the boiling point of a majority of terpenes.
Marijuana is potentially a genuine alternative to anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax which can be addictive and make it hard to live a productive life. As our knowledge of the herb becomes greater, perhaps it will finally be freed from the yolk of illegality and become legal for use all over the United States.