sativa or indica for depression

Natural Care

“I’ve suffered from bipolar depression since my teens, but I was only formally diagnosed in my 40s,” says Kelly, a 50 year-old pensioner from Edmonton, Alberta, who requested that we not share her last name. “I suffered in private for years.”

Kelly has been using cannabis to self-treat her depression since her teens, and has used it every day since quitting alcohol in 1998. Kelly says consuming cannabis reduces the physical pain associated with depression. “That’s the big part for me. It gives me energy and I can get going,” she explains.

What the research says

Many people like Kelly credit cannabis with helping them cope with symptoms of depression. Anecdotal evidence for the herb’s ability to help abounds, but when it comes to studies and hard evidence, it’s hard to get the whole story.

That’s because human studies on cannabis and depression are observational and not experimental, meaning researchers can’t decide who takes cannabis and who doesn’t. They can only observe people who choose to use and people who don’t, and compare the results. But this study design runs into the age-old problem of correlation vs. causation.

For example, a 2003 review found that cannabis use was actually associated with increased depression in humans. However, since the studies were observational, it’s impossible to tell if the cannabis was causing depression or if people with depression were simply more likely to use cannabis to self-treat.

Recent studies on animals may also help shed some light on the matter. Experiments on animals — which are designed to prove a causal role — have shown that both the cannabinoids THC and CBD have antidepressant effects. THC is the chemical responsible for the cannabis high, while CBD has more subtle, non-intoxicating effects.

A 2014 review of animal studies concluded that CBD showed antidepressant effects. More recently, a 2016 study on a mouse model of depression showed that CBD seemed to have fast-acting antidepressant effects, particularly on symptoms of anhedonia (loss of pleasure).

A 2007 study found that a synthetic cannabinoid mimicking the effects of THC had a strong antidepressant-like effect in rats, and another 2012 study reported antidepressant effects of THC.

These results can help explain why many people find relief from depression in cannabis.

Strain types

Kelly finds certain strains work better for her symptoms than others. “I [prefer to] smoke sativas or hybrid strains. I find indica makes me tired,” she explains.

Although the terms ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ are scientifically contentious, they have become shorthand for different effects. So-called sativa strains are described as euphoric and energetic, with a “head high”, while so-called indicas are described as more sedative, with a “body buzz”.

Many scientists believe that these differences are not due to genetic variations – as was previously believed – but due to differences in terpene composition. The terpene myrcene, in particular, is believed to be responsible for “flipping” the energetic effects of THC into more of a couch-lock effect. Thus, so-called indica strains, associated with a sedative, body buzz or “couch lock” experience, may actually be high-myrcene strains.

Regardless, both strains we call sativa and strains we call indica may be helpful for depression. Energetic, euphoric sativa strains may help with motivation, anhedonia, and fatigue symptoms. Relaxing, sleepy indica strains may help with restlessness, stress, and insomnia. Each may play a role in a person’s individual treatment plan.

Cannabis for depression in older adults

Now that Kelly is getting older, she has found cannabis to be “even more helpful.” “I’ve developed arthritis [in recent years] and it’s great for the pain,” she says.

Kelly also finds that cannabis mixes well with her other prescriptions, and even helps her deal with side effects.

“Since [being] diagnosed, I’m now on a combination of medications. I take a mood stabilizer, three antidepressants and approximately three grams of weed per day. [It] took four years with my psychiatrist to get the right combination but weed was always the constant,” she explains.

“The weed helps [with the] nausea and other side-effects from my prescribed medications. It was the only thing that could relax me and help me sleep. I’ve been on this combination for five years now and it seems to be working well. I haven’t had a manic episode or a panic attack in years.”

Older adults tend to have higher rates of depression than their younger counterparts. They’re also more likely to take other medications which may interact with their antidepressants, and may experience a number of side-effects as a result. If cannabis can address some of these issues, it may be a helpful adjunct to traditional therapies for older adults in particular.

What the experts say

Natural Care nurse practitioner Lynn Haslam says that treating depression can be challenging.

“Many patients may be unsure of the feelings that they are experiencing. They may question whether they [really] have depression, or if their feelings are normal. Because of this, some patients are hesitant to ask for help. In addition to this, many patients experience side effects from conventional medications.”

Haslam emphasized the lack of human research on cannabis and depression, but has a theory of her own:

“There [are not very many] human studies that look at cannabis for treatment of depression. We do know that chronic stress may suppress the production of endocannabinoids, which can lead to depression symptoms. Theoretically, an introduction of cannabis into the system may help to restore normal levels of the body’s natural endocannabinoids, and ease symptoms of depression.”

If someone uses cannabis as part of their depression treatment plan, it’s extremely important important to inform their healthcare provider, Haslam says, adding that cannabis is often best used as an adjunct to other therapies.

“I think careful and slow titration of cannabis in someone with depression may be a [beneficial] adjunct to conventional treatments,” she says.

The takeaway

Many people report that cannabis is a useful part of their depression treatment plan. For some, it may help with the side-effects of other pharmaceuticals, or it may treat a number of conditions at once. While human studies are challenging to design and control, animal studies have shown promising results for both THC and CBD. Cannabis is often best used as an add-on to other treatments. If you decide to use cannabis for depression, it’s important to always let your healthcare provider know.

The answer depends on who you ask. Here we look to patient stories, research and medical advice for answers.

Indica vs Sativa for Anxiety – Marijuana Strains for Anxiety

As one of the most common mental health illnesses in the United States, anxiety affects millions of people. The most recent statistics suggest that 18.1% of people suffer from anxiety, although that doesn’t account for those who go without a diagnosis. Although talking therapies and beta blockers can help to treat the condition, some patients find they’re not quite enough. That’s why many are now looking into whether marijuana and anxiety are a good mix.

If you’re interested in the best marijuana strains for anxiety, you need to learn more about Indica and Sativa. Both have their place in treating the condition, but the type you use will depend on several factors. Fortunately, it only takes a little education to make the right decision.

Do marijuana and anxiety mix?

Although the media is sometimes awash with reports that cannabis can have harmful psychoactive effects, this isn’t always the case. One study from Washington State University reveals that marijuana and anxiety have a positive relationship. Using a self-reported study, the research team found that anxious feelings reduce in the short-term, resulting in temporary relief for patients. This could prevent panic attacks, which are often the most disabling elements of anxiety.

At the same time, some forms of medical marijuana can make a few of the symptoms of anxiety worse. For example, Indica may cause orthostatic hypotension, which is a form of low blood pressure that’s worse when you stand up. For those who suffer from anxiety, the feeling of disconnect and wooziness that comes with orthostatic hypotension could worsen their anxiety symptoms.

Understanding Indica vs Sativa for anxiety

Understanding the differences between Indica vs Sativa is the best way to choose the right type to tackle your anxiety. For now, it’s probably useful to learn more about the primary differences of Indica vs Sativa.

While Indica is excellent for generating a calm and serene effect, Sativa can cause your mind to become more active. Depending on how your anxiety operates, increased activity throughout your brain could make your anxiety worse rather than better. However, some believe that the differences between the two have little to do with the actual type and more to do with the CBD to THC ratio. While CBD is able to tackle conditions such as anxiety and depression, THC has more psychoactive properties. On occasion, THC’s psychoactive properties can induce some of the feelings that make anxiety more pronounced, such as paranoia.

As Sativa features more THC and has a lower CBD to THC ratio, there’s an argument to state that this means Indica is the better strain for anxiety. Although this is probably true in most cases, it’s important not to write Sativa off altogether. It still has a place in anxiety treatment, it’s just a bit more limited than that of Indica.

Is Indica or Sativa better for anxiety?

When it comes to figuring out “Is Indica or Sativa better for anxiety?” the quick answer is that it depends. If you’re going to take a generalist approach, the lower THC content of Indica may make it a better universal treatment. As THC is the psychoactive component of medical marijuana, it’s the same component that can make your mind overly active. This means having a higher CBD to THC ratio means you’ll experience the soothing effects of your anxiety treatment, but with a decreased risk of paranoia.

There is research to suggest that Sativa has the same effects on depression as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are used to treat mild to moderate forms of depression and their mechanism of action is preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed too quickly in the brain. Depending on the nature of your anxiety and whether it co-exists alongside depression, this could mean that Sativa is useful. As research from the pharmaceutical world shows, SSRIs can treat OCD and generalized anxiety disorder. However, they also take a few weeks to act. If Sativa is similar in terms of time to act, you may find that it doesn’t deliver immediate relief.

As Indica-dominant strains of cannabis can result in a less mentally active high, they could alleviate some of the symptoms that make anxiety so pronounced. For example, many people who suffer from anxiety experience palpitations. As palpitations also arise when someone is feeling a sense of panic, their presence can make the condition feel worse. If you suffer from anxiety and you allow your palpitations to further induce panicking sensations, this can lead to a panic attack.

Overall, when considering “Is Indica or Sativa best for anxiety?” you need to consider whether you want immediate relief or not. If immediate relief is necessary and you’re treating your medical marijuana in the same way you’d treat a beta blocker, try Indica. Otherwise, you may want to consider either Sativa or a hybrid.

The best Indica strains for anxiety

If you’ve decided this is the right type of medical cannabis for you, it’s time to learn more about the best Indica strains for anxiety. Discovering different types is empowering and will help you make effective decisions.

Blackberry Kush

As a form of medical marijuana that stems from an Afghani parent plant, Blackberry Kush has an almost sweet flavor. It’s an Indica-dominant strain, making it an excellent form of immediate relief from anxiety symptoms. If your anxiety comes with a large dose of insomnia, consider using Blackberry Kush to make sleep easier.

Northern Lights

As one of the best Indica strains for anxiety, Northern Lights has a rapid tranquilizing-type effect. Because of this, it’s best to only use it when you don’t need to go anywhere. You may find that it works well for overly anxious thoughts that are spiraling out of control.

Granddaddy Purple

Granddaddy Purple is a form of Indica marijuana that will promote relaxation throughout your mind and body. This means it could work well if your anxiety is coupled with a chronic pain condition.

The best Sativa strains for anxiety

Finding the best Sativa strains for anxiety isn’t difficult. You may find that Sativa works better during the day when you need your mind to remain more active.

Jack Herer

Exercise caution when using Jack Herer as one of the best Sativa strains for anxiety. It does act as a mind stimulant, so it may not work well when your brain is flooded with anxious thoughts. However, if you’re having a good day that’s teetering on the edge and you need to boost concentration, it’s handy.

Strawberry Cough

If you’re interested in marijuana and anxiety but you don’t want to lose your sense of energy, try Strawberry Cough. It’s energizing, without sending your mind racing.

Overall, doing a little research and seeking advice is always advisable when you’re trying to treat anxiety with medical marijuana. Although Indica proves to be the best when delivering calming effects, you may want to try Sativa for making sure your mind remains slightly alert. If you find that the strain you try isn’t helping, consider stopping it and opting for something else.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, always speak to a medical professional before self-medicating.

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