Updated on June 4, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Clinically depressed people lose the ability to enjoy and engage in life, making even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming. Thankfully, certain strains of cannabis medicine can be very effective in treating both depression and anxiety, an associated condition. Even for people who are not clinically depressed, marijuana can help lift and regulate mood.
The mechanism for marijuana’s mood-stabilizing effects isn’t fully understood. What we do know is that marijuana is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, which offer myriad health benefits ranging from relaxation, to focus, to tension relief, all which can improve mood and affect.
The terpenes caryophyllene and limonene, for example, boost mood and have specific antidepressant properties. Caryophyllene (beta-caryophyllene, or BCP) lifts mood by targeting the endocannabinoid system’s CB 2 receptor.
Limonene’s sweet citrus smell, found in strains like Harlequin, Jack Herer, and Dirty Girl, stimulates the olfactory and endocannabinoid systems, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in regions of the brain associated with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as shown in lab rats. In a small human study, 9 out of 12 depressed patients treated with limonene showed improved stress hormone levels and immune function, and were able to reduce their antidepressant medication use.
Strains high in CBD–a ratio of 1:1 with THC is generally considered beneficial–are less likely to cause anxiety. There are even specialty strains focused on individual symptoms of depression, such as a loss of appetite, insomnia, or a lack of motivation and interest in hobbies and activities.
Overall though, to treat anxiety and depression, the following famously mood-altering strains are a great place to start:
Jack Herer: Cherished for inspiring happiness, creativity, and focus, this sativa is a classic choice for easing anxiety and depression.
Harlequin: Features a 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio, widely viewed as having a calming and therapeutic effect.
Girl Scout Cookies (GSC): This numerous Cannabis Cup-winning hybrid offers a strong dose of pain and nausea relief, appetite-boosting powers, and positive vibes.
Granddaddy Purple: Like most indicas, this strain can combat pain, stress, insomnia, appetite loss, and tension.
Sour Diesel: This sativa is noted for its ability to improve mood, boost energy, and heighten creativity.
Lamb’s Bread: Known for its happy, creative, and uplifting effects, this strain can help ease depression by boosting energy and promoting positive introspection.
Pineapple Express: This hybrid takes you to your “happy” place with a fruity profile that inspires energy and bliss.
Northern Lights: This pure indica strain relieves pain and sleeplessness with a blissful, comfortable euphoria, relaxing muscles and pacifying the mind.
Harlequin: This sativa-dominant strain’s high CBD content counteracts THC’s anxiety-producing effects while amplifying its painkilling power.
XJ-13: With its uplifting citrusy aroma, this lightweight sativa-dominant hybrid leaves users clear-headed enough for daytime use, while relieving stress and anxiety.
Lavender: An indica with a calming, lavender aroma, this strain balances cerebral bliss and physical relaxation.
Cannatonic: A sativa that offers a blissed-out feel, without the anxiety associated with THC, alongside CBD to heighten mood and mental clarity.
Sour Tsunami: A hybrid with a high CBD content, this strain is a great option for anxiety-prone individuals and those who are particularly sensitive to THC.
All of these strains can help lift the fog of depression by improving mood, easing anxiety, and boosting energy. To try cannabis for depression, seek professional medical advice to ensure you’re using the right strain, and ingestion method, for you.
About the Author
Sarah A Lybrand is a writer specializing in lifestyle, health, finance, cannabis—and fun. She’s written for Bust, Juno, Yahoo, MarketSmiths and Toast Media, among many others.