Cannabis and relaxation tend to go hand-in-hand. 22% or 55 million adults in the U.S.A report using cannabis to achieve a relaxed state, while in Canada, 14% or 4.2 million people are using cannabis for the same effects.
Many cannabis consumers prefer to pair cannabis with their favourite relaxing activity, such as yoga or taking a bath. Whatever a consumer’s preferences may be, cannabis can certainly help individuals achieve a Zen state of mind and body.
How Does It Work?
Stress affects a constellation of physiological systems in the body and evokes a rapid shift in many neurobehavioral processes. A growing body of work indicates that the endocannabinoid system is an integral regulator of the stress response. Additionally, in almost every brain region examined, exposure to chronic stress reliably causes a downregulation or loss of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors.
Cannabidiols, or the active compounds in cannabis such as THC and CBD, act on the body’s endocannabinoid system, including CB1 receptors. The endocannabinoid system is found in all mammals and is partially responsible for regulating numerous functions in the body, including stress reactions. Endocannabinoid receptors can be found on almost all organs in the body and receive both naturally produced cannabinoids and those introduced into the body.
When cannabidiols act on receptors, they may aid in relaxing muscles and tension throughout the body, decrease inflammation, and cause stress to melt away. These effects make the consumer feel relaxed, less stressed, and generally cause a feeling of happiness. Physiologically, ingested cannabinoids may balance an unbalanced endocannabinoid system, and decrease the body’s stress response.
Indica, Hybrid or Sativa?
In general, indica strains of cannabis tend to be the most relaxing. They often cause drowsiness, muscle relaxation and a sense of calm. Indica strains are well known for their “couch lock” effects on the body. An indica strain may not be the best choice for those looking to pair consumption with an activity, such as yoga.
Hybrid strains can be a great choice if a consumer is looking to relax, but not necessarily wanting to sleep. They harness the relaxing effects of an indica strain and pair the genetics with uplifting sativa strains. This creates a strain with a good balance of relaxing and energetic effects.
Sativa strains are not the best choice for those who to relax on the couch, although they may be more appropriate paired with a yoga session or reading a good book. Sativas produce uplifting effects, and are typically associated with a more cerebral, energetic high.
Cannabis and Yoga
Cannabis and Yoga have been paired together since the early days of Buddhism. Monks would use cannabis in their ceremonies, hoping to expand their minds and enhance mindfulness practices.
Cannabis yoga studios are popping up all over Canada, as there is a growing trend in individuals looking to combine the two elements. Many yogis feel that cannabis is a contributor to yoga practice because it relaxes the mind and body and allows for a more awakening experience.
Other individuals are turning to cannabis during yoga to reduce chronic pain and allow them to fully engage in their practice. Yoga is an incredible tool for musculoskeletal rehabilitation and management, although it can be tough for an individual to practice if they are in pain.
Cannabis and PTSD
The stress response is a biological cascade of events that occurs in response to a real or perceived threat to homeostasis. It requires the coordinated activation of a constellation of physiological systems that act to promote the survival of the organism.
When a soldier experiences a life or death situation associated with a specific event (i.e. a noise) the brain begins to “re-wire” itself, forming new pathways in response to stressors. When the affected individual hears that specific noise in a neutral environment it will trigger the same stress response and the body will feel as though it is in danger. This can cause a lasting and diverse set of consequences for an individual with PTSD.
Cannabis has shown to be effective in treating more severe cases of stress, such as PTSD, as it minimizes the body’s stress response to stimulus. For individuals with PTSD this can be critical in their ongoing treatment. The first FDA-approved study for PTSD in veterans is underway in the United States, and more research is sure to follow.
Cannabis and Stress
One of the biggest reason’s individuals chose to consume cannabis is to reduce stress.
Another study examined how people’s self-reported levels of stress, anxiety and depression were affected by smoking different strains and quantity of cannabis. The study found that “one puff of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC was optimal for reducing symptoms of depression, two puffs of any type of cannabis was sufficient to reduce symptoms of anxiety, while 10 or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC produced the largest reduction in stress”. The study also found that women experienced much greater anxiety relief, after consuming cannabis, as compared to men.
Most experts agree that cannabis consumption should be limited to small amounts, containing CBD and THC, to manage stress. Studies show that cannabis does relieve stress at low doses.
How Much Relaxation is Too Much?
It is possible to overindulge in cannabis and produce significant effects on the body. As with all medicine, cannabis should be dosed correctly. Cannabis is dose-dependent, meaning that the more an individual uses, the stronger the effects will be.
Dosing cannabis is tricky as the effects vary in every individual. For new consumers, it can be a trial and error process to find out how much is too much. Users are advised to always choose a strain that is going provide desired effects and start slow. Begin by consuming a small amount of cannabis and wait 10 minutes. If users have not achieved the desired effects, then consume more. Over time, cannabis consumers will learn how cannabinoids affect their individual body, and what results different strains produce.