Anxiety is one of the most widespread and pervasive mental health issues in the world, and it is consistently one of the top reasons people medicate with cannabis. Yet just as anxiety exists on a spectrum — from mild social stress to disabling panic attacks — cannabis also produces a wide range of effects on anxiety symptoms, from total relief to exacerbating the problem. What gives?
In areas concerning mental health, scientists are actively investigating how cannabis affects anxiety. Though researchers have yet to produce decisive conclusions, some studies have identified a few important trends that can help point cannabis consumers to the best strains for treating anxiety.
From these studies, we know that pure THC decreases anxiety in low doses, but can increase it at higher quantities, while pure CBD appears to decrease anxiety at any dose. We also know that cannabinoids like CBD and THC aren’t the whole story. Compounds like terpenes also appear to play a significant role in determining whether or not a strain is effective at reducing anxiety.
Below, our guide considers a strain’s entire profile: its chemical fingerprint of cannabinoids and terpenes. Most of the following nine strains have high-CBD-to-low-THC ratios, with a couple of important exceptions. All score high marks for myrcene, b-caryophyllene and limonene terpenes which are associated with calming, soothing effects that contribute to mental well-being. Check our favorite picks for reducing stress and anxiety.
Critical Mass: CBD-Dominant with Myrcene and Caryophyllene
Critical Mass draws its relaxing and uplifting effects from the strong indica-like traits. Modern variants have been bred to accentuate its CBD expression, and cannabinoid ratios range from 5-8% THC to 8-12% CBD. Critical Mass doesn’t have the limonene found in other excellent strains for treating anxiety, but its quotient of myrcene and caryophyllene pick up the slack. Reviewers say this strain excels at producing relaxed, happy and euphoric effects. If anxiety symptoms are affecting your body with tension and tightness, this is a strain to check out.
Royal Highness: Balanced THC:CBD Ratio
Royal Highness is a strain that typically expresses a 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio, with THC just a touch ahead. It’s an anxiety-relieving strain that puts away the idea that only heavy, sedating strains work to treat mental stress. With its sativa-focused effects and llight, energizing high, Royal Highness is a great strain for staying active and social. Royal Highness’ CBD and its rich complement of anxiety-reducing terpenes help to ease a worried mind.
Kosher Kush: Exception to the THC Rule
From its stat-sheet alone, Kosher Kush might not seem like it belongs anywhere near a list of anti-anxiety strains. Averaging 20% THC with minimal amounts of CBD, it’s a strain that flouts our low-THC, high-CBD rule. But Kosher Kush breaks the mold, and one recent study suggests why: Because of their genetics, many Kush strains share a pattern of high-THC and significant quantities of the terpene trans-nerolidol. Trans-nerolidol shows up in lots of strong aromatic compounds frequently used to treat anxiety and stress, such as jasmine and lemongrass.
Kosher Kush shares those traits and adds a rich array of myrcene, b-caryophyllene, and limonene. These qualities make it a perfect strain for people who still want a strong THC buzz, but one that won’t tip over into anxiousness.
AC/DC: Exceptionally High CBD:THC Ratio
If you’re a cannabis consumer who’s sensitive to THC or you’re looking for an anti-anxiety strain with virtually no intoxicating effects, check out AC/DC. AC/DC is a branch of the Cannatonic family, and it’s a strain that’s extremely popular among medical cannabis patients for its ability to treat everything from pain to epilepsy and anxiety. A powerful inflammation reducer, ACDC can help soothe anxiety’s symptoms while its terpenes and oils combine synergistically to calm mental agitation.
Cannatonic: Anti-Anxiety Standby
While we’re on the subject, let’s take a closer look at Cannatonic. Typically expressing a 1:1 or 1:2 THC-to-CBD ratio, Cannatonic is a very mellowing strain with a mild, functional high. Anxiousness can lead to headaches, and Cannatonic excels at relieving migraines. It also contains a balanced complement of anxiety-reducing terpenes, with myrcene at the forefront. Because of Cannatonic’s balanced and relatively brief high, it performs best as a daily or “throughout-the-day” strain for tackling work-related anxiety and stress.
Pennywise: Dissipate Anxiety-Related Panic
Setting aside the potentially anxiety-inducing reference to the killer clown, this strain’s name is really an homage to the two strains Pennywise is crossed with, Jack the Ripper and Harlequin. And it’s the latter strain that imbues Pennywise with its signature ability to provide mental clarity and a sense of relaxation. Like other balanced CBD:THC strains on this list, Pennywise produces mild and uplifting psychoactive effects that reviewers say invigorate their sense of mental wellness.
Lemon Garlic OG: The Total Package
Lemon Garlic OG boasts a chemotype that’s well suited to reduce stress and anxiety and replace them with a revitalized sense of calm. This strain checks every box on our cannabinoid and terpene checklist: a rich, balanced blend of limonene (as the name suggests), b-caryophyllene and myrcene, along with an even-tempered ratio of CBD and THC. And if the act of smoking cannabis itself brings you relief from your anxiety, Lemon Garlic OG delivers. Dense, bright green buds and a lush trichome coat make Lemon Garlic OG a joy to behold and handle. Bonus: the heady blend of citrusy, garlic and earthy pine notes offer some excellent aromatherapy.
Elektra: CBD-Heavy Strain for Socialites
Elektra continues the line of descent from Cannatonic to ACDC with a phenotype that minimizes THC expression and maximizes CBD. Weighing in at an average 15.5% CBD (more CBD than the average CBD-dominant phenotype) Elektra folds in notable quantities of b-caryophyllene and myrcene with a dash of limonene to up its anxiety-ameliorating credentials. What distinguishes Elektra form similar strains, however, is its strong flavor notes of red wine and dark chocolate. Great at reducing different types of anxiety, Elektra pairs just as well with a quiet night at home as it does with a night out with your friends.
Blue OG: Euphoria and Relaxation
Blueberry and Kush phenotypes may not have the CBD quantities commonly associated with anti-anxiety strains, but their overall cannabinoid and terpene profiles more than make up for it. Blue OG is a hybrid that descends from Blueberry, Blue Moonshine and OG Kush, giving it a healthy portion of limonene and b-caryophyllene. THC levels for this strain hover right in the median range—nothing overpowering or anxiety-inducing. For consumers who find anxiety relief from THC and seek euphoric, relaxed highs for both mind and body, Blue OG is an ideal strain.
Looking to find potent cannabis strains with info from the breeders themselves? Search from more than 750 strain profiles on Weedmaps Strains.