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Living: Five strains for fighting stress

By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record

Using cannabis to fight stress and anxiety can be a tricky business.

While some strains can help you relax and move your mind into the present moment, others can leave you reeling from paranoia and make the problem worse.

Adding to that complexity is the fact that different strains of cannabis affect each individual in different ways.

But with a little trial and error – preferably when you’re not stressed out – you can figure out what varieties will help you the most when the walls start closing in.

(Suzanne Sisley)

(Suzanne Sisley)

Dr. Suzanne Sisley, an Arizona researcher who has been studying whole plant cannabis as a treatment for military veterans with PTSD, is working with a strain that’s about 50 percent CBD (cannabidiol, a cannabinoid known for pain relief, neuroprotective and anti-psychotic properties) and 50 percent THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive component in cannabis most well known for getting you high).

The theory is that the two components in even ratios would be more effective at suppressing PTSD. But in getting feedback from veterans she said she’s also heard that high THC strains can be extremely beneficial.

Veterans have also told her that indica strains – which can be more sedative – frequently work better than sativas.

But there’s even more to it than that. One expert grower in Washington’s recreational market – who asked that his name not be used because recreational growers aren’t allowed to talk about medical properties of cannabis under Washington law – said that CBG (Cannabigerol – another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that’s often used to treat glaucoma) is one of the best cannabinoids for fighting anxiety.

Sadly, in the recreational market, labs are only required to test amounts of THC and CBD, so finding high CBG strains can be extremely difficult.

And beyond that there are hundreds of cannabinoids and other beneficial components of the plant that interplay and can be helpful, Sisley said.

("Anxiety" by Edvard Munch)

(“Anxiety” by Edvard Munch)

“We really need to study whole plant medicine,” Sisley said. “And we need to look at veterans’ personal experience with marijuana and listen to them.”

Top Five

So how do you figure out which strains might work best for you? Try a variety when you’re not stressed out and take notes on which ones seem to make you feel the most relaxed and at peace.

Generally, indicas seem to work best for me, but because strains can affect individuals so differently, you may find that a sativa or hybrid works best for you.

I’m no doctor, but I do have PTSD – so my list below is based on personal experience rather than a larger scientific study. Cannabis science in the United States is new enough that serious studies like Sisley’s have been hard to come by, although as legalization spreads hopefully we’ll see many more of them.

And I’m looking forward to seeing her results and trying any strains she recommends in the future.

In the meantime, here are five strains that work best for me:

  1. Granddaddy Purple (Indica cross between Purple Urkle and Big Bud) – The mix of couch-lock body relaxation and foggy head high make this strain a great one for turning off a churning mind. GDP is one of my favorite all-purpose indicas. It’s nice before bed, it relaxes the muscles and it puts you in a quiet state of calm. Good one with a hot bath, candles and maybe some herbal tea.
  2. Ogre Kush (Indica cross between Master Kush and Bubba Kush) – This heavy hitting body strain is possibly my favorite for fighting anxiety. When I’m most wound up it really helps to calm me down and bring me back to a state of balance. It’s a relatively clear-headed high that seems to always put me in a happy, upbeat mood. And it’s also a good strain for playing geometric video games like Tetris or Bejeweled – games that have been shown in some studies to help stop the cyclical thoughts often associated with PTSD.
  3. Lavender (Indica cross between Super Skunk, Afghani, Hawaiian and South Asian Indica) – This smooth, relaxing indica melts over you – with a full body buzz that fights off aches and pains while also creating a happy, if somewhat fuzzy, mental state. It’s also a decent strain for socializing, compared to other indicas that can sometimes leave you too spaced out to function. It’s not sleepy so much as it is smooth and soothing.
  4. Hindu Kush (Indica landrace strain from an area around Pakistan and Afghanistan) – This is the clearest-headed indica I’ve tried. It washes over your body with deep relaxation while your head remains relatively light and focused. It’s a bit of a slow-builder, increasing in strength over the first 20 minutes or so. It’s a nice balance when you’re stressed out, but you still need to focus on tasks or be able to think.
  5. White Widow (Hybrid cross of South American and South Indian landrace sativas) – This strain, which was developed in the Netherlands and is popular in Amsterdam coffee houses, is, for me, the best overall strain for my personal biology. I find it to be a perfect blend of body and euphoric mental high that’s great for a variety of purposes. I also seem to like pretty much any strain that has White Widow as a parent. It’s very calming and keeps me from overthinking things. While it’s probably not the first strain I’d grab during a panic attack (that would most likely be the Ogre Kush), it is a soothing all-purpose happy hybrid.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for stress relieving strains that you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments section!


Sue Vorenberg is the founder of Cannabis Daily Record. She has 20 years of experience as a journalist covering a wide array of topics, including cannabis legalization and consumer markets. She also founded The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog and spent about three months working in the industry. You can reach her at

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