EducationThe terpenes to avoid for anxiety reduction

The terpenes to avoid for anxiety reduction

6 min read

Sam North

The terpenes to avoid for anxiety reduction

While you may have not heard of terpenes, you have definitely experienced the impact they have on the world around us. Terpenes are natural compounds that are produced by many plants (and some animals), cannabis included. They are what give cannabis its distinctive aroma and flavour. But, recent research into the exact role they play is showing that they may also have an impact on the medicinal qualities of each specific cannabis strain.

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In the last few years, we have seen a rise in the application of particular terpenes for the reduction of mental health issues, and in particular, anxiety symptoms. However, some cannabis terpenes may not be suited for those seeking relief from anxiety, and understanding which ones to avoid is an important if you are dealing with anxiety.

In this article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at which terpenes sufferers of anxiety disorders should avoid, and we will also have a look at which terpenes may be able to offer some relief. 

The worst terpenes for anxiety

Before we go any further, it is essential to point out that this area of medicinal cannabis research is still very much in its infancy. That said, the following terpenes have been identified as having potentially negative effects on anxiety levels.

Guaiol

Guaiol is a terpene found in many plants, including cypress and guaiac wood, but it has also been identified as possibly one of the least effective cannabis terpenes for anxiety reduction.

A study published in 2018, titled “Cannabis and the Anxiety of Fragmentation—A Systems Approach for Finding an Anxiolytic Cannabis Chemotype” looked at how participants ranked different strains for anxiety reduction and then matched up the terpene profiles of those strains.

Guaiol was the only terpene found in three of the four strains with the lowest score for anxiety reduction, and in none of the top four strain options.

Terpinolene

The same study showed that strains that contained higher concentrations of Terpinolene were not ranked as highly for anxiety reduction in the participants of the study. The study looked at a wide range of strain types, with Chocolope receiving the lowest score. Chocolope was the only terpinolene dominant cultivar out of the whole group, which lends credence to the idea that this terpene may not be effective at reducing anxiety levels.

The study states that “we suspect terpinolene may have a stimulating activity”, which is one of the reasons why this terpene could be problematic for those looking to reduce anxiety. 

Sufferers of anxiety disorders are more likely to possibly find cultivars with terpenes that correlate with relaxation, rather than stimulation, to be most effective.

Alternative terpene options for anxiety reduction

OK, so while the science surrounding the least effective terpene options for anxiety is still lacking, there has been more research conducted into the terpenes that may help reduce anxiety levels.

The three terpenes that stand out are as follows:

Beta-caryophyllene

Beta-Caryophyllene is the single terpene that has so far been proven to have a strong interaction with one of the cannabinoid receptors (CB2) in the endocannabinoid system. A study from way back in 2014, while only looking at mice behaviour in solving mazes, did show the potential for this terpene to act as an anxiolytic (a catalyst for antianxiety). Mice were more likely to stay in the mazes for longer periods, with higher rates of maze completion.

Limonene 

Limonene is one of the dominant terpenes in many cannabis strains, as well as many citrus fruits, hence the name. It has a very lemony aroma, and a few studies have shown this terpene could be helpful in the reduction of anxiety levels.

Again, the leading study pushing this idea involved mice and mazes, with limonene being shown to potentially have a strong antianxiety effect when administered by inhalation.

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most commonly seen terpene within the cannabis world, and a few studies have shown this terpene may have strong sedative effects. More often found in Indica dominant strains (but by no means exclusively), myrcene may be an effective treatment option – not only for people suffering from anxiety symptoms but also those looking for a natural sedative option. It may be the best terpene option for those looking for a strain that is sedating, that lowers rates of inflammation, and possibly acts as a mild pain reliever.

Cannabinoids and anxiety

It is not only the terpene profile that you should consider when looking for a good strain for anxiety reduction. Cannabis contains a vast array of natural compounds, with cannabinoids being the most present. THC and CBD are usually found in the highest concentrations, but there are many other minor cannabinoids that could also play a role in reducing the severity of anxiety.

THC is known to have a psychoactive effect when taken, whereas CBD is totally non-intoxicating. The current thinking is that THC may offer anxiety relief at low doses, but this decreases as the dose gets bigger. CBD has shown promise to possibly decrease anxiety at all dose sizes that have been tested, but in slightly different ways depending on the dose size.

The study referenced in the paragraph above points to the fact that for controlling anxiety symptoms, the best options may be the strains that are low in THC with higher CBD profiles.

Factors to Consider

Just like all therapeutic options for anxiety, there are a few key factors that you must consider before trying to utilise cannabis as a way of reducing your anxious feelings.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that everyone will react differently to different strains, so it is vital to speak with your specialist prescribing doctor about your anxiety levels and medicinal cannabis options before starting any treatment. 

It’s also essential to remember that cannabis is not a magic cure-all medication. Anxiety disorders are complex in nature, and as such the current thinking is that the best approach is to use a range of treatment options with the support of trained experts. 

Understanding that cannabis consumption can come with some less-than-ideal side effects is also essential. While the severity and danger of these side effects are much lower than some conventional pharmaceuticals (benzodiazepines and opioids in particular) administered to reduce anxiety, you should still understand the possibility of associated symptoms.

But, by far the biggest factor when considering medicinal cannabis is to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes at all to your current treatment plan. Here in the UK, only specialised doctors have the authority to prescribe cannabis.

Conclusion

Navigating the range of symptoms that can be brought on by anxiety conditions can be a tricky task, and it is important to understand that cannabis isn’t the answer for everyone. Some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of medicating with a plant-based product, and for those individuals, other therapies can be explored.

For those who are keen to see if medical cannabis can be added to their current treatment regime to help reduce their anxiety symptoms, at Releaf, we believe that access to medical cannabis is a basic right. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

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Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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