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Understanding the differences between Indica or Sativa for stress

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If we could vote on the official theme of 2020, we think “Dumpster Fire” makes the top of the list. With that in mind, this year has been nothing short of exhausting. It has many of us looking to cannabis and whether or not an Indica or Sativa strain would better help with stress.

In fact, the American Psychological Association surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. adults about their current level of stress in 2020 and nearly 70% of respondents said they’re experiencing heightened stress because of the current economy and job market, as well as the government’s handle on the pandemic.

We get it. So, what type of cannabis is preferred when they’re trying to help manage their stress? A lot of folks will immediately choose based on the strain, and often pick Indica.

Generally, Indica strains are more commonly associated with sedative and calming experiences compared to Sativa, which is often characterized to invigorate the mind. This cerebral experience from Sativa strains has been described to potentially heighten thoughts, which is probably not what someone would want to reduce stress.

However, it’s not always cut and dry with Sativa and Indica strains when it comes to stress. To understand what cannabis strain works best for stress, it’s important to consider the plant’s cannabinoids instead, which consists of two major natural compounds.

Understanding the natural cannabis compounds and stress

Cannabinoids are one of the most important components of the cannabis plant, which is why so many have turned to it for its potent qualities for centuries. The two of the primary active compounds you’ll find in cannabis are CBD and THC.

In fact, researchers from the University of Chicago found that THC in smaller doses can help relieve stress, while larger doses tend to do the opposite. As for CBD, some studies show that it has potentially promising effects on handling stress.

And between the two cannabinoids, there are numerous strains of cannabis with various levels of THC and CBD–some much higher than others. This means there are several options out there, but it’s important to understand what works best for you.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound primarily known for its deep, body-calming qualities. CBD has far less psychoactive qualities compared to THC and does not produce the same euphoric experiences commonly associated with its counterpart. This is why CBD is often described to better help with stress, anxiety, depression, and seizures.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is typically associated as the main purveyor to euphoric experiences with cannabis. This natural compound is known to have a much wider spectrum of psychoactive properties compared to CBD. THC is described as potentially increasing sensations around euphoria, amusement, hunger, relaxation, or humor.

The role of terpenes in stress

While most make their decision between an Indica and Sativa strain to help with stress, it’s also important to consider the terpenes or terpenoids. Essentially, terpenes are the compounds responsible for the aromatic components of the oils found in cannabis.

And with over 200 known terpenes in cannabis, it’s no wonder why there are so many different variations of strains. However, new research explains that terpenes may play a bigger role in stress management.

The report Cannabis and the Anxiety of Fragmentation, which is one of the few studies on terpenes and stress, found Nerolidol and Beta-Caryophyllene to be the two most effective terpenes to help relieve stress. Even though this data is still anecdotal, more people are describing certain terpenes like Nerolidol, B-Caryophyllene, Myrcene, and Limonene to have calming and soothing sensations.

That’s why it’s smart to not only consider the strain, but also the terpene profile of your cannabis if you’re seeking stress relief. Just remember that everyone reacts differently to cannabis and it’s best to have a discussion with your physician, nurse practitioner, or medical marijuana pharmacist when choosing a strain.

If you’re new to terpenes and want to learn more, check out our Talk About Terpenes blog.

Other best practices to help manage stress

Cannabis should never be your sole solution to manage stress. There are several proactive ways to help you improve stress levels that could be used at the same time as your cannabis regimen.

Some of the best avenues you can take to limit stress include:

  • Having a sufficient sleep schedule: Tiredness and unrest can further increase stress levels, which is why the National Sleep Foundation recommends healthy adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Introducing mind-calming activities: Taking part in yoga or meditation can significantly help you clear your mind of the various stressors you encounter each day.
  • Engaging in routine exercise: In nearly every fashion, exercise can be an effective stress reliever. The Mayo Clinic recommends that being active can increase endorphins that make you feel good and forget daily stressors.
  • Relying on social support: Your support network is critical to stress relief, especially during a pandemic. Make sure to rely on your friends, family, or a mental health provider for support on a regular basis.

Please note that State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. So, not every type of product or potency mentioned here will be available at all Verilife locations. Seek the advice of a medical professional when choosing the types of legal cannabis in your jurisdiction.

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