According to the American Psychological Association’s 2020 Stress in America Survey, the US is in the midst of a national mental health crisis. From an intractable pandemic to economic uncertainty and political turmoil, a long list of unprecedented events is adding new stressors to an already stressed-out world.
To cope with a near-constant barrage of stressors large and small, mental health professionals and wellness advocates recommend a variety of strategies including exercise, meditation, better sleep and a healthy diet. Severe stress, anxiety and depression can also be helped with medications that calm anxiety and boost the uptake of the brain’s natural “feel good” chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
But a growing body of research suggests that cannabis can relieve stress and anxiety without the side effects of many medications – and pairing it with stress-relieving supplements like valerian and kava kava might amplify its stress-busting powers. Below we list 5 stress-busting killer combos of popular cannabis strains paired with vitamins and herbs.
5 Popular Marijuana Strains Combined with Herbs & Vitamins
Along with cannabis, a number of herbs and vitamins contain ingredients that can help to relieve symptoms of stress, and many of these supplements can be combined with cannabis for an extra boost of calming chemicals during stressful times. Here’s a list of five cannabis and supplement combinations that can calm stress and relieve anxiety. Mix and match them as you like, since there are no known negative interactions between cannabis and any of these natural substances.
1. ACDC and Kava Kava
ACDC is a very high CBD strain that has virtually no THC. It’s evenly balanced between indica and sativa, and it’s often used to “take the edge off” experiences that can cause stress or anxiety. Kava Kava derives from the root of the Kava (piper methysticum) plant and contains kavalactone, a substance that interferes with the breakdown of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a chemical that calms activity in the central nervous system and promotes feelings of relaxation and comfort.
2. Grandaddy Purple and Rhodolia
Grandaddy Purple promotes a relaxed, happy feeling along with relieving insomnia and pain. This high-indica strain is regularly used for easing the symptoms of stress and anxiety. It can be paired with rhodolia (rhodolia rosea), an herb whose roots work as an adaptogen – a substance that boosts the body’s natural responses to \stress. Wellness advocates say that rhodolia can also help with insomnia, chronic fatigue and stress-related burnout.
3. OG Kush and Melatonin
The venerable OG Kush ranks among the best cannabis strains for stress relief. This high-THC strain causes relaxation and an uplifting euphoria, and it may also help with insomnia, anxiety and migraines. Melatonin is a hormone made naturally in the pineal gland, and it’s typically released after dark to prepare the body for sleep. But melatonin may also relieve symptoms of stress. A recent study found that melatonin could reduce stress and anxiety before surgery as well as the prescription sedative midazolam.
4. Girl Scout Cookies and Valerian
Girl Scout Cookies is a potent indica dominant hybrid strain that may relieve stress, reduce pain and combat symptoms of depression. Valerian (from the root of the Valeriana officinalis plant) has been called “nature’s Valium” for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, and it also supports sleep. Research indicates that, like Kava Kava, it helps to inhibit the breakdown of GABA in the brain. Valerian also contains compounds that seem to inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with fear and other strong emotional responses.
5. Jack Herer and B-Complex Vitamins
Jack Herer is a classic combination of indica and sativa strains that’s known for its ability to boost concentration and focus, but users also say it helps to reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety. B-Complex vitamins include the full range of 8 B vitamins, which are essential for transforming food into energy and keeping the brain and heart healthy. But B vitamins can also lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with stress that also plays a role in the development of blood clots and artery damage.
Stress is often described as the natural “fight or flight” response to a perceived threat of some kind. It’s a protective response that keeps us energized, alert and aware of our surroundings during a crisis, a dangerous situation – or even an exciting, pleasant event like getting married or moving to a new city. The stress response can also help people rise to meet challenges like making a speech, playing a competitive game or studying for a difficult exam.
When the brain perceives a threat or recognizes a new challenge, the nervous system releases excitatory hormones including adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones act on multiple systems throughout the body to prepare it for meeting the threat. The heart beats faster, pumping blood to the muscles, blood pressure rises, and sensory systems become hyper-acute.
Under normal circumstances, once the stressful event is past, stress levels would decrease and the body would relax and return to a more normal state. But in this modern world, especially one affected by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and multiple other crises, the body’s stress responses may remain in high gear virtually all the time. When stress responses are always “on,” the flood of excitatory hormones can disrupt health in a variety of ways.
Chronic stress can exacerbate existing health problems or create new ones such as insomnia, weight loss or gain, digestive problems and “brain fog” or trouble with concentration and memory. High stress levels can accelerate the aging process and raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. Stress can also contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
A variety of self-care options can help to reduce stress, such as exercising more or trying relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. Prescription medications such as Prozac, Xanax or Celexa can also help to manage symptoms of stress and anxiety.
But some research indicates that the relaxing properties of cannabis or cannabis compounds combined with calming herbal and vitamin supplements can offer relief for many people struggling with chronic stress.
Cannabis Relieves Stress and Anxiety
One reason for the enduring popularity of cannabis is its calming, relaxing and lightly euphoric effect. Compounds in the cannabis sativa plant, mainly cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, act on the brain’s neurological pathways to promote the expression of mood-boosting chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and the body’s natural calming cannabinoid anandamide.
A recent study from Washington State University found that inhaling cannabis could lower stress levels. That’s a key change from previous studies, which used cannabis in pill form in a laboratory setting, rather than exploring the effects of cannabis as it’s normally consumed.
In this study, researchers found that the largest reduction in stress came from 10 or more puffs of cannabis strains high in both CBD and THC, while just two puffs of any kind of cannabis could reduce symptoms of anxiety.
It’s important to note that for some people, cannabis can also cause feelings of paranoia and anxiety, particularly when it’s high in THC, the chemical responsible for the euphoric high. But the Washington State study provides solid scientific support for the stress relieving benefits of certain kinds of cannabis.
Stress affects just about everyone, although in very different ways. But the “killer combo” of the most relaxing cannabis strains and supplements can give stressed-out people a new and natural way to cope.