5 Cannabis Strains That Can Help Combat Anxiety
by Kat Helgeson
The anti-nausea and vomiting effects of cannabis have been known for several centuries. The evidence eventually became so compelling in clinical trials that Delta 9 THC was actually replicated in a lab and then FDA-approved in the 80s for cancer patients receiving chemo. Nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy when other medications haven’t worked represent one of two FDA-approved indications for synthetic THC.
Dronabinol and nabilone are synthetic delta-9-THC medications that have been licensed and approved for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting since 1986 (Integrative Cancer Therapies). Looking back, this was an important advancement but still short-sighted because lab-synthesized THC misses out on the entourage effect between all the cannabinoids and terpenes present in whole plant medicine.
Fast forward to 2017, when the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics and that some of the strongest clinical evidence was in adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (NASEM). New data shows that it likely has more to do with THC’s direct effect on CB1 receptors and somewhat with CBD’s interaction with serotonin receptors, TRPV1 receptors, and the FAAH enzyme.
While the rest of the plant was left behind for a time, new research is shining light on “minor” or rare cannabinoids that may help with nausea. The nausea-relieving evidence is still limited at this time, but the list currently includes:
While newcomers to cannabis use may think of the plant as a monolith, the truth is that different strains of the cannabis plant can help you achieve vastly different results. In part, this is due to differences in cannabinoid profile, and in larger part, it lies in their terpene profile, according to researchers. While terpenes have not been directly studied in the context of nausea, they are still believed to contribute to the entourage effect.
If you’re using cannabis for medicinal purposes related to nausea or vomiting, it is most likely due to receiving chemotherapy or a gut health condition. You should talk to your oncologist or gastroenterologist about medical cannabis first before deciding to self-medicate.
People with gut health issues like IBD or IBS commonly use medical cannabis for nausea, vomiting, and digestive issues. After talking to your doctor or specialist, it’s fine to do your research or consult with someone in the know to find a strain that’s going to best suit your needs.
At this stage, it is not advisable or known to be safe for pregnant women to use cannabis for nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness. If pregnant, you should always ask your OB/GYN about those concerns.
Even recreational users would be well served by reading up on what’s available and choosing a strain that’s going to deliver the experience they want to have. An important caveat for recreational consumers is the paradoxical cannabis hyperemesis syndrome.
Just as long as you’re careful not to ingest too many edibles or smoke too much concentrate at once, this dilemma should be easily avoidable. If you do develop nausea and vomiting after too much cannabis, you should seek local medical treatment to prevent dehydration complications.
Research also supports the notion that inhaling cannabis may be better for people with nausea because they simply can’t tolerate things by mouth, and inhaling is easier to self-titrate with less of a risk of overdoing it (British Journal of Pharmacology). Here are some cannabis strains that may work well for combatting nausea.
Blueberry Diesel is an indica-dominant strain made by crossing two other strains—Blueberry and Sour Diesel. It’s known for its relaxing qualities, making it a perfect choice for those looking to let go of a little tension. That same tension relief is what makes it so perfect for both appetite stimulation and nausea abatement. The terpenes from its parent strain, Sour Diesel, are known to include limonene, humulene, nerolidol, pinene, ocimene, and borneol and are likely passed off to some degree.
Lavender just sounds chill, and that’s because it is. Named for its lavender scent, it provides a powerful body high, making it the perfect tool to relieve anxiety and nausea. Be mindful before you use Lavender that it has a very high THC level—about 27%. It’s not the right choice if you’re looking to get a lot done, but if you’re ready to lose yourself in restful sleep, Lavender will send you on your way. The characteristic scent of lavender is most likely due to the abundance of the floral terpene linalool.
For a different experience from what Lavender can provide, check out White Fire OG #2. It’s a hybrid, but in this strain, sativa is dominant, so it’ll let you go about your day without getting worn out or slowed down. The blend of The White and Fire OG Kush is a great choice for those who need help with nausea earlier in the day or who prefer sativa experiences generally. Coincidentally with the strain above, linalool is also known to be present in high amounts in this strain.
Headband is named for a common feeling of pressure on the forehead that users report after taking a few hits. But that’s not the only thing you’ll feel. Choose Headband for nighttime use or use during the day at home—it’s got a cerebral, trippy effect that can leave users feeling spaced out. This is a good one if your nausea is caused by migraines, and it’s also great for those who enjoy vegging out in front of the TV after a smoke.
Interestingly, Headband is known to be high in a terpene called geraniol, which carries a fragrance of roses and, according to a human pilot study, may be gastroprotective against gut dysbiosis and IBS symptoms (BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies)
Also known as Grand Daddy Purple, this strain is a real heavy hitter that’ll leave you with feelings of euphoria and a relaxing body high. This strain is often used by and recommended for chemotherapy patients because it’s been shown to help with not just nausea but depression as well.
If you’re in consultation with a medical professional about cannabis for nausea, be sure to ask them for their recommendations first. And if you have a favorite strain for nausea that we didn’t mention here, please let us know in the comments. We’d love to know what else is working for you!
Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
This article was originally published on 12/21/20. Updated on 5/24/23.
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