Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Cannabis may be an effective supplemental treatment for some people who suffer from mild to moderate depression. Depression is the most common of the mental health disorders, affecting approximately 280 million people worldwide. Research has shown that some people utilize medical cannabis as a substitute for prescription antidepressants.
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How Cannabis Affects Depression
The science behind cannabis and depression suggests that the plant can help boost critical hormone levels in the brain. Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, may help increase levels of serotonin, often dubbed the “happy hormone.” Serotonin deficiency is frequently implicated in episodes of chronic depression.
The other most prominent cannabinoid in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to help people whose depression is linked to pain. Even hard-to-manage pain may be eased through the therapeutic effects of THC, thus potentially leading to lower levels of depression.
Clinical depression aside, millions of people use cannabis and cannabinoids like CBD simply to feel good. Therefore, even if you haven’t been officially diagnosed with depression, you may experience uplifting feelings when consuming cannabis.
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Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Depression
Cannabis could be directly beneficial for alleviating the persistent low mood associated with depression, although some research has indicated otherwise. The plant may also help treat related conditions like anxiety and insomnia, depending on the strain that you use.
Some consumption methods may be better than others for people with depression. For those with accompanying anxiety, avoid edibles with high doses of THC, as they are more likely to cause negative mental side effects due to dosing challenges.
For some people, the best way to use cannabis for depression is topically. Cannabis products applied directly to the skin may have instantly soothing effects. For example, cooling CBD gels or heated CBD oils may naturally increase feelings of well-being. In addition, many topical cannabis products are scented, and aromatherapy may also help with depression.
Best Marijuana Strains for Depression
Different strains may help manage your mild to moderate depression. People with severe depression or who have been diagnosed with a major psychiatric disorder should refrain from trying medical marijuana before consulting with a physician.
Uplifting terpenes of caryophyllene and pinene contribute to this THC-dominant strain’s antidepressant effects. Jack Herer invigorates the senses with aromas of a northern pine forest and freshly chopped firewood. Some people say this strain eases their blues and wraps them in a comforting feeling.
This CBD-rich strain is a favorite among people seeking to manage symptoms of depression. A balance of relaxing myrcene and energizing pinene to neutralize myrcene’s sedative effects, while low levels of THC help ward off the anxiety that often accompanies depression.
While Cannatonic is rich in CBD, Harlequin strikes a good balance between CBD and the other primary cannabinoid found in cannabis, THC. Some people report feeling clear-headed when consuming Harlequin, perhaps due to the equal or near-equal ratio of CBD:THC.
A burst of citrus-scented limonene in Cinex can not only refresh the senses but also lift your mood. Dense concentrations of THC also rekindle creativity in some people and inspire them to partake in the passions that depression can hinder.
This CBD-dominant strain is a perennial favorite with people seeking to ease depression symptoms. Low in THC, Charlotte’s Web is a solid choice for people who are prone to anxiety and panic attacks.
As the name implies, Laughing Buddha may make you feel euphoric and downright giggly. People report sensations of relaxation with this strain, along with increased productivity and social interaction.
One of the most soothing strains, the pure indica Northern Lights draws some people into a state of total relaxation. The mellow vibes that Northern Lights inspires also reportedly help some people sleep better – an added benefit as insomnia has been linked to depression.
Girl Scout Cookies (GSC)
Tasting like the baked treat it’s named for, Girl Scout Cookies helps some cannabis consumers relieve depression. GSC is a dynamic strain, also reportedly beneficial for treating headaches, appetite loss and pain.
Infused with an abundance of therapeutic terpenes, including myrcene, humulene and linalool, Cherry Punch is a potent strain. This hybrid is a cross between AK 47 and Purple Punch, and has been said to have cheerful effects with its cherry vanilla flavor profile.
Remember that these nine strains are not “one size fits all,” and you may have better results for depression with a strain that didn’t make our list. The best way to understand which cannabis strain works best for you is to try a variety and see how your body and brain respond.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are indicas or sativas better for depression?
Most cannabis strains are hybrids, meaning that they are a combination of indica strains and sativa strains. Therefore, you likely will encounter a hybrid strain that is either predominantly sativa or indica. People with comorbid anxiety tend to prefer indica-dominant strains that are known for their calming effects as they tend to be higher in relaxing terpenes like myrcene and linalool. Others who have depression without anxiety may favor a sativa-dominant strain that boosts energy levels, as such varieties tend to contain less myrcene and more uplifting terpenes like limonene.
Is CBD or THC better for depression?
Both CBD and THC may have beneficial effects on the symptoms of depression. THC is often favored for its euphoric effects. However, people with anxiety should avoid THC-dominant strains, as they may increase anxious feelings and lead to paranoia and panic in rare cases. For many people, a balanced 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC works well for combating mild to moderate depression.