Chronic stress is connected to 6 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, cirrhosis of liver, accidents, and suicide. So how do you beat stress?
It’s a rough day after a long week of stress. You stayed late at work. Both your supervisors and your peers made the day unbearable, but you got through it. Then you crawled through bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way home. You checked the mail after you parked the car, only to find a stack of overdue bills and debt collection notices. When you finally enter your home and fall back on your couch, you pull out some buds, pack a bowl, and exhale your worries away. You’ve just beat stress.
Beat Stress With Cannabis
What you’ve just done is self-medicate with cannabis. And so long as you correctly titrated your dose, you may have just done more to preserve your health than any conventional pharmaceutical ever could.
Heart disease, cancer, accidents, respiratory diseases, suicide, and liver cirrhosis are six of the leading causes of death in the US. All six conditions are closely correlated to chronic levels of stress. Over half of all Americans report suffering from some stress-related condition, yet we rarely discuss this issue in public or media discourse.
What is stress?
Stress, according to modern medicine, is a “physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” A little bit of stress is good for us – it keeps us alert, and it gives us drive to complete tasks and reach goals. However, stress becomes a medical problem if we experience too much at a high frequency. Initially, stress can cause muscle pains, muscle tightness, headaches, stomach aches, ulcers, or insomnia. Over time, it can trigger a slew of chronic, even lethal, maladies, like cancer or a heart attack.
Is cannabis the cure-all for stress? Not entirely. Every doctor will recommend regular exercise, disciplined sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and relaxation/meditation to combat the daily assaults of stress. These are relatively simple and easy treatments for something that kills more Americans than homicide.
How Cannabis May Combat Stress
Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety – but only in moderately small amounts. However, what constitutes a “small amount” will depend on the individual, as some people have higher tolerances to cannabis than others. For some patients, a “small amount” may be a 7mg THC edible, such as those used in a 2017 University of Chicago Study. For others, a whopping 1g dab of live resin may do the trick.
This isn’t just pure anecdote, either. Although there haven’t been any double-blind, controlled clinical trials conducted on human subjects in regards to cannabis and stress, modern medicine has taken note. Last year, Forbes reported that several pharmaceutical companies were investigating cannabis as a potential replacement for popular anti-anxiety meds, as many conventional drugs (benzodiazepines, GABA inhibitors, SSRIs, etc.) can be addictive or cause other long-term complications.
Why does cannabis relieve stress? The human endocannabinoid system, which regulates cell signaling and homeostasis in our bodies, is sensitive to stress. When stressed, we tend to produce lower amounts of endocannabinoids. These are our brain’s “natural cannabis.” This throws our bodies (and minds) out of whack. According to the hypothesis, if we can supplement our endocannabinoids with phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids that come from the plant), our body responds as if we were healthy and not stressed.
Additionally, stress can wreak havoc on the immune system. THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are known to regulate our immune responses, and they can clear our bodies of toxic free radicals generated by immune cells. Free radicals are responsible for cellular and DNA degradation, and can contribute to autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.
Beat Stress with Cannabis as a Supplement?
It’s important to note that cannabis alone should not be the only treatment for stress. The greatest contributor to anxiety is living a sedentary lifestyle. That means, sitting on your butt doing nothing is the worst way to deal with stress. Luckily, cannabis can assist with the other methods for living a healthier life: exercise, diet, sleep and relaxation.
For exercise, cannabis can work well before, during, or after a workout, depending on the type of cannabis product used. Try products packed with the terpenes pinene and limonene (which give cannabis its piney or lemony qualities, respectively). These can provide a jolt of energy to motivate exercise or stave off exhaustion afterward. Cannabis high in CBD can relieve inflammation, swelling, and minor pain after a workout as well.
For diet, we’re all aware cannabis can stimulate appetite, a little phenomenon known as “the munchies.” Although the munchies can run us the risk of gorging ourselves on unhealthy snacks, cannabis chef Robyn Griggs Lawrence explains how to prepare yourself for the munchies by stocking up on healthy foods beforehand. Cannabis itself can also act as a nutritional supplement and a kitchen ingredient if incorporated into one’s daily diet.
For sleep, cannabis products containing ample amounts of the terpenes myrcene and linalool can facilitate good sleep. The cannabinoids CBD, CBG, and CBN are also known to produce knock-out effects. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you do, you may sleep too hard, too long, and show up late to an appointment (more stress).
If you practice yoga or meditation, cannabis can be a useful tool. Anecdotally, some patients include a little cannabis in their yoga or meditation regimens to help clear the head and build discipline in focus. In fact, there are entire yoga classes devoted to the inclusion of cannabis during sessions. Check Google to find a sativa-positive studio near you.
All Good Things in Moderation
Cannabis can be a powerful ally to beat stress and claim control of your life. However, cannabis should not be a stand alone in your overall treatment; you should use it in conjunction with regular, low-impact exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep, and mindful relaxation. Staying active and positive are sure-fire methods for keeping stress at bay.
Keep in mind that too much cannabis can have the opposite effect. High doses of sativa, in particular, may cause panic or increased anxiety if you are already prone. Some cannabis strains may not be ideal for certain patients, so experimenting with products and dosage is important, too.