Depression is a sneaky little condition than can come crashing into your life like a wrecking ball at any age. In general, depression is a mental illness that affects the way you feel. It can be triggered by virtually anything, and it comes with some ugly sidekicks; among some of which are eating disorders, anxiety, body dysmorphia and more.
The major difficulty in treating depression lies in the fact that it’s an overwhelmingly complex disease – countless factors come into play regarding its onset and intensity, and response to treatment can differ wildly from individual to individual.
Whereas ‘simpler’ physiological conditions like high cholesterol or anemia can be routinely treated with medicine, depression is another beast. According to a Harvard Health publication, billions of interacting chemical reactions and complex pathways come into play to fabricate the overwhelmingly dynamic mesh of each individual’s feelings and emotions.
What is Depression
Depression is one of those illnesses that is extremely hard to define. According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
- A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
- Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
- Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
- A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
Other institutes define depression slightly differently. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health defines it as people who experience difference symptoms, irrespective of the amount of time the patient has been suffering.
Can Depression be Treated Successfully by Traditional Medicine or is Cannabis the Best Alternative?
Unfortunately, this has been an age old question for decades. What’s certain, however, is that depression is far more than the result of a simple chemical imbalance. Do “depression medicines” like Zoloft and Cymbalta work?
For some individuals, certainly. However, the dangerous depression medication side effects and horror stories of reliance and addiction to prescription drugs like these have been well documented; countless thousands have been left desperately searching for a safer, more natural form of depression medication.
In the last several years, new research has rather alarmingly pointed to the role of an innate system of cannabinoid receptors in our brains and nervous systems that seem to govern pretty much everything in our bodies – from routine physiological mechanisms like digestion and inflammation, to complex mental processes like cognition and emotion.
Could this mean that cannabis truly is the divine, 100% natural miracle drug that some people believe it to be?
Well, for now we’ll leave that one for the philosophers to think about. In the meantime, it may be wise to keep a keen eye on the progression of medical marijuana research, and its potentially vital role in how to treat depression.
Can Cannabis act as a Medicine and Treat Depression?
We’ll stop short of turning this into a pseudo-academic journal article; those are boring to read, and, more importantly, we’re not that smart. However, here at WayofLeaf we want to touch on the phenomenal aspect of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which was only discovered in detail several decades ago in the 1970’s.
Essentially, every living soul on earth has innate cells that produce cannabinoids in their bodies; these cannabinoids are in our brains as well as throughout our peripheral and central nervous systems – essentially in every nook and cranny of our bodies.
Some of the key things the ECS regulates is: memory, appetite, pain, and – important for sufferers of depression – mood. Disorders or ailments in any one of these facets may very well be due to the deficiency or inactivity of cannabinoid levels produced by the ECS, and perhaps may be subsequently treated with medical cannabis.
We’ll stop far short of claiming that cannabinoid deficiency is the sole culprit for depression, as far more research has got to be done and more conclusive evidence must be obtained before anyone could make that particular assertion.
However, so far the research has been promising and truly fascinating, and the viability of cannabis as a well-founded way for treating depression should not be overlooked – especially for chronic depression sufferers who may be looking for “depression medicine” alternatives to their standard prescription pharmaceuticals.
But where should you begin? Are we implying you go down to the street corner, score an eighth of cannabis, get stoned, and voila, your depression will be gone? Not quite.
How to Treat Depression with Cannabis
There are a lot of deficiencies and misconceptions within contemporary medical cannabis use regarding dosing, THC/CBD levels, chemical profiling, and which cannabis strains are most effective for which ailments. Also, it’s common knowledge that high-THC marijuana can even promote anxiety/paranoia/depression in some individuals.
Think of it this way: we know that Xanax is an effective medication for depression and anxiety, but does this mean that we should go to the pharmacy, pick up a bottle, and pour the whole thing down our throat?
No. Your doctor prescribes you an exact dosage of which they have determined will be most effective for your specific condition; too little may be ineffective, and too much may be disastrous, counterproductive, or even fatal. It’s all about finding the right medium.
The same exact thing goes for medical cannabis; if you live in a state where it’s possible, set yourself up with a good marijuana doctor who can guide you through proper dosing and marijuana treatment options. Even budtenders and caregivers at most quality dispensaries will be extremely knowledgeable and helpful regarding various cannabis strains for depression, specific concentrates (like CBD oil and capsules) that are available, and so on.
Right now, it looks like a couple of key factors in treating depression with cannabis are in ultra low dosing, otherwise known as microdosing. Also, specific THC to CBD ratios seem to be incredibly important for positive results, as strains that are higher in CBD seem to be the most effective.
Best Marijuana Strains for Treating Depression
Like we said, most good marijuana dispensaries will have a team of knowledgeable staff that will be more than happy to help you pick out some quality depression-combating, mood-enhancing marijuana strains.
In general, Sativa-dominant marijuana strains have consistently proven to be more successful in treating depression than Indica varieties, which are known to be better suited for stimulating appetite and alleviating physical ailments.
Here are several marijuana strains for depression that dispensaries all over the country commonly recommend:
Jack Herer (The Powerhouse Cannabis Strain)
Jack Herer is probably the most popular, well-known Sativa marijuana strain for depression treatment. Used in low doses, its ability to boost mood and feelings of well-being are just about second to none. In regard to flavor and aroma, it has an earthy pine look-and-feel, and it tastes a bit lemony. Some even say that it’s got a sweet and spicy taste to it.
Girl Scout Cookies (The Famous Cannabis Strain)
Although Girl Scout Cookies is classed as an Indica dominant variety, its relatively high Sativa content is perfect for easing tension, anxiety, and promoting relaxation – everything you need when you are depressed. This strain originates from a crossbreed of OG Kush, Durban Poison and Cherry Kush, and it provides patients with a creative and euphoric effect that helps to combat depressive symptoms.
Pineapple Express (The Hollywood Cannabis Strain)
Pineapple Express is another popular Sativa-dominant marijuana stain that is well-known for providing a euphoric state of mind, and helping elevate your spirit to that joyous, contented, all-desirable mental Valhalla which we should all be striving to reach. Originating from Trainwreck and Hawaiian, this cannabis strain provides an energetic, euphoric high that will keep you focused and clear-headed.
Cannabis Strains for Depression: A WayofLeaf Tip
As a general rule of thumb, if your dispensary (or, ahem, supplier) isn’t too sure of the specific variety of bud they’ve got, for depression treatment try and find something that’s got a strong citrusy scent – these flowers will have the specific cannabinoids that are thought to be depleted by the onset of stress and depression. Also, if your supplier doesn’t know what strain they’re selling you, you might want to think about looking for a new one.
Final Thoughts About Cannabis and Depression
Although we can’t yet come to any definitive conclusions that cannabis is a wonder-treatment for depression, early signs have been auspicious and have shown that, if used correctly, consistent results can be achievable.
As we mentioned, one of the key factors appears to be in proper dosing: very low daily doses of Sativa-dominant strains with measurable CBD content seem to be most effective, while high doses and high levels of THC can be entirely counterproductive.