Depression can mean different things to different people—it can be something folks struggle with for years, it can be felt strongest during the dark and cold winter months, it can be present only after a woman gives birth, it can be part of a person’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. The numbers around depression are staggering: it’s estimated that 16 million Americans and 350 million people around the world suffer from some form of depression.
Can Cannabis Help With Depression Symptoms?
Yes, for some people marijuana can help alleviate some symptoms of depression. Marijuana stimulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a network of receptors found throughout the body. The ECS can speed up the growth and development of the nervous system tissue to help people battle depression. Marijuana also can positively enhance the mood of people with depression and benefit them by adding stimulation, relaxing them or helping them sleep.
A 2007 study from McGill University in Montreal, Canada found that tetrahydrocannbinol (THC) can serve as an anti-depressant. Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University was encouraged to conduct the study after she had seen anecdotal evidence that cannabis could help reduce depressive symptoms.
“As a psychiatrist, I noticed that several of my patients suffering from depression used to smoke cannabis," Dr. Gobbi said. "And in the scientific literature, we had some evidence that people treated with cannabis for multiple sclerosis or AIDS showed a big improvement in mood disorders. But there were no laboratory studies demonstrating the anti-depressant mechanism of action of cannabis.”
The study, which gave rat models a synthetic form of THC, found that THC stimulated the production of serotonin. Serotonin helps reduce depression naturally, which means that medical marijuana could help reduce peoples’ need for anti-depressants. The study, however, did find that cannabis could have adverse effects and worsen depression symptoms at higher doses.
Another study conducted by the University Medical Center, Utrecht in the Netherlands also found that THC could alter a person’s response to negative images or emotions. This response was due to how the ECS activates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Marijuana Terpenes Are Key
Terpenes are oils produced by some plants, including cannabis. Terpenes are used to flavor and scent products like aromatherapy oils and cleaning solutions. Terpenes in marijuana are responsible for giving different strains of cannabis their smell and flavor. There are about 120 terpenes that are found across all of the varieties of cannabis, though some are more present than others. Besides just smell and taste, terpenes work together with cannabinoids to boost their effects. Now, people are paying attention not only to the strain but also the terpene profile in their cannabis to figure out which marijuana helps ease depression symptoms.
Limonene, which is the second most common terpene found in cannabis, is known for its citrus scent and flavor. Limonene is known to relieve both depression and anxiety, though it can also help stimulate the immune system, alleviate gastrointestinal issues, and fight tumors and infections.
Linalool, which is a terpene known for its floral aroma, is known to be especially helpful with mental conditions. Linalool, which is also found in plants like mint and cinnamon, can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Choosing the Right Marijuana Strain to Help Treat Depression
Finding the right strain for your depression is a process of discovery to see what will work best for you. Sativa strains of cannabis are known to be uplifting, which can be helpful for many people with depression. Sometimes different strains are needed depending on the time of day or type of symptoms a person is experiencing. Dosage is also extremely important when it comes to medical marijuana for depression. It’s important to start low and slow, because too strong of a dose could cause an adverse effect. Here’s our round up of top marijuana strains for depression.
AK-47 Is a Hybrid Cannabis Strain That Can Help Combat Depression
AK-47 is a 80% sativa-dominant hybrid cannabis strain that’s known for steady and long lasting effects. It has 14-20% THC and is known to help with depression, stress and anxiety. AK-47 can help stimulate mental alertness and keep people going throughout the day.
Blue Dream Marijuana Contains Limonene & Linalool
Blue Dream is a 60% sativa-dominant marijuana hybrid. It has levels of THC that range from 17-24% and is known for its ability to relieve tension while still providing uplifting effects. Blue Dream also contains linalool and limonene, both which are terpenes that are known to help alleviate symptoms of depression. Blue Dream is also known to provide mental alertness.
Amnesia Haze Is an Uplifting Cannabis Strain
Amnesia Haze) is a cannabis sativa strain known for its uplifting and energy-creating effects. It’s known to reduce stress and relax the mind. Amnesia Haze has a citrusy sent, which is associated with the presence of limonene, which helps add to its anti-depressant qualities. Amnesia Haze also helps with fatigue and migraines.
Energizing Jilly Bean Is a Great Marijuana Strain for Daytime
Jilly Bean is a 60% sativa-dominant hybrid cannabis strain that’s known to create an uplifting and positive mood. It is perfect for daytime use because of its energizing effects. Jilly Bean has about 18% THC and can also help with focus. It is also known for its floral aromas, which are associated with linalool. Jilly Bean helps to alleviate depression through a stimulating effect.
Lemon Haze Cannabis Is High in Limonene
Lemon Haze is a marijuana strain that has a THC content of between 15% to 20% and a cannabidiol (CBD) content below 1%. Lemon Haze is known for its uplifting and joyous effects and depending on the person, Lemon Haze can produce relaxed or energetic feelings. Lemon Haze has a prominent lemon flavor and smell, which is associated with the presence of limonene. The presence of limonene, associated with its uplifting attributes, makes Lemon Haze a great choice for people with depression.
If you're new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's 100% online, private and efficient.