Updated on August 16, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of compounds that work together to create its medicinal properties. You may know about cannabinoids, the main components studied in marijuana. But, what about terpenes? These compounds also have a role to play in the healing powers of marijuana. Some terpenes have anxiety-relieving properties that improve cannabis’ ability to calm you down. In this blog post, we’ll explain how terpenes can help you reduce your anxiety disorder symptoms.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes give marijuana strains their distinctive properties, tastes, and smells. They appear in a wide range of herbs and plants, and natural health specialists use them in aromatherapy. The terpenes in cannabis enhance the healing effects of cannabinoids and provide their own benefits. As part of the entourage effect, they work together with the rest of marijuana’s compounds to provide symptom relief.
How Do Terpenes Relieve Anxiety?
Marijuana terpenes have different mechanisms of action, or ways they interact with your system. Some of them activate the cannabinoid receptors, the receptors in our bodies with the primary purpose of activation through cannabinoids. They can also bind to other receptors in your body or impact your neurotransmitters. Like cannabinoids, terpenes help your body regulate its functions.
Which Marijuana Terpenes Help Anxiety Symptoms?
You can find more than 200 terpenes in the marijuana plant. Some of the anxiety-relieving compounds among those 200 terpenes include:
Linalool: Linalool contributes to lavender’s relaxing scent. Research demonstrates its calming properties on mice, indicating its potential to reduce anxiety in humans. It also helps marijuana relieve psychosis, depression and seizures.
Caryophyllene: You can find caryophyllene in black pepper, lending the seasoning its spicy scent and taste. Caryophyllene interacts with the CB2 cannabinoid receptor, which affects the nervous system. Multiple studies show its ability to lower anxiety levels in mice undergoing stress.
Myrcene: Some patients know myrcene for its ability to enhance the effects of THC. Its taste and smell have notes of citrus, cloves, musk and earth. Myrcene has anti-anxiety benefits and makes it easier for other marijuana compounds to travel through the blood-brain barrier.
Limonene: Limonene gives plants like marijuana a citrusy taste and smell. The digestive tract absorbs it and lets it travel to fatty tissues like the brain, where it activates the adenosine receptor. Activated adenosine receptors help your brain transmit dopamine and regulate anxiety.
Alpha-Bisabolol: Found in chamomile, alpha-bisabolol has a sweet, floral scent. In addition to calming you down, it relieves pain, soothes inflammation and helps antibiotics fight bacteria.
Pulegone: Pulegone gives mint and rosemary their distinct and pungent scents. Research suggests that inhaling pulegone has strong calming and sedative benefits.
Most marijuana plants don’t have a high enough concentration of a terpene for the terpene to provide benefits on its own. However, the terpenes can enhance the cannabinoids’ effects or provide relief when concentrated into an extract.
What Strains Have Anxiety-Reducing Terpenes?
Every strain has a different terpene profile that gives it its unique traits. The following strains feature calming terpenes and cannabinoids:
Harlequin: Harlequin works as an excellent source of myrcene and features some caryophyllene. Its CBD:THC ratio of 5:2 keeps it mellow for patients who find themselves sensitive to THC-related anxiety. This strain also relieves fatigue, so you can keep your energy levels as you reduce your stress.
Remedy: Remedy has less than one percent of THC, with its CBD level going as high as 15 percent. The myrcene in Remedy enhances the strain’s calming effects. Its indica heritage makes it suitable for full-body pain and inflammation.
Charlotte’s Web: Favored by patients looking for the lowest THC levels possible, Charlotte’s Web also has a rich terpene profile. It contains alpha-bisabolol, caryophyllene and myrcene that increase its healing powers. Charlotte’s Web also relieves depression symptoms and seizures.
Many more strains feature cannabinoid and terpene profiles suited to patients with anxiety. In this list, we featured varieties with high CBD content and low THC content since THC can increase anxiety for some patients. However, other patients find that strains with THC can enhance cannabis’ calming effects. We recommend trying different types of marijuana with a doctor and dispensary’s supervision. They can assist you in making informed decisions and monitor your side effects.
How Do I Use Cannabis Terpenes for My Anxiety?
Anxiety affects your daily life in multiple ways. You can find medical marijuana in a variety of formulas and products that let you design a custom treatment plan. Combining different strains, products and formulations produces effects suited for specific situations.
Try these approaches when anxiety poses the following issues:
Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks: Sometimes, you can experience anxiety in a sudden episode or have a full-blown panic attack. When this happens, you want medicine that provides fast relief. Inhaled medications like smoked marijuana, vaporizers and inhalers take only minutes to provide benefits.
General Anxiety and Unease: Some patients who have anxiety disorders experience general feelings of dread or apprehension. Slow-release medications like patches and edibles offer prolonged relief that helps you get through the day.
Insomnia: When you have an anxiety disorder, you need a good night’s rest. If your condition makes it difficult to sleep, you can add cannabis oil to a warm drink like tea or hot cocoa. The warmth, terpenes and cannabinoids will relax you and help you get to bed.
Your treatment team can work with you to develop more strategies for symptom relief. Everyone has a unique experience with anxiety, and your doctor and dispensary staff will help you adjust your treatment. You may have to try more than one product before finding something that works for your symptoms. We all have a different body chemistry and lifestyle needs.