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Medical Marijuana and Stress: Is Indica or Sativa Better?

  • Certain sativa and indica strains may reduce or eliminate symptoms of stress for certain patients.
  • Because patients can react to cannabis differently, experimentation with various strains is key to finding what will work best for you.
  • While some patients may respond well to sativa strains for stress relief, indica strains are generally known as an ideal option for relieving stress.

Like taxes and the changing seasons, stress is an inescapable part of modern life. While your sources of stress may look different from your neighbor’s, the impact is the same. Sleepless nights, stomach aches, exhaustion, and lethargy throughout the day—even actual sickness can spring from an overabundance of stress.

Fortunately, medical cannabis can help. 

But between sativa and indica leaf, which is better for stress relief? Each strain has its own benefits and drawbacks; ultimately, they both offer a potential for stress reduction that can radically change your quality of life.

In this guide, you’ll learn more about cannabis strains and what to look for in stress-relief formulas.

How Stress Affects the Body

Not every stressor becomes a vacuum of your time and attention. In fact, most people don’t even realize they’re dealing with little daily stressors until symptoms of stress appear.

Physically, stress can manifest as:

  • Weight changes
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Body aches and pains
  • Chest pains

Long-term stress exposure may lead to serious problems like heart conditions or a weakened immune system.

Many people also experience mental health challenges related to stress, like: 

  • Trouble focusing
  • Memory problems
  • Constant worry
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feeling overwhelmed

When you’re going through a period of high stress, you may not feel like yourself. You could unintentionally push loved ones away and self-isolate, exacerbating your symptoms.

So, what’s the best way to cope with stress? Adjusting how you handle stressful situations.

Medical marijuana is a healing tool with thousands of years of history and countless anecdotal success stories. Adding it to your toolbox can change your approach to stress forever.

Why Marijuana Is an Effective Stress Reliever?

So, let’s ask the big question: can marijuana help anxiety and relieve stress? The answer is a resounding yes.

Scientific data on marijuana as a medical tool is lacking; state laws have only recently changed, finally opening up more research avenues for cannabis. But there’s no shortage of first-hand testimonials that vouch for marijuana as a stress and anxiety reducer.

Many patients attest that cannabis formulas allow them to feel calm in periods of high stress and anxiety.

However, every cannabis product is different—and every patient is different. Your response to a specific formula will depend on the cannabinoids and terpenes at play.

Cannabinoids in Action

Cannabinoids are, essentially, the “active ingredients” in the cannabis plant. Researchers have identified hundreds, but you’ve likely heard of a few common compounds, like:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – THC produces a cerebral high, but it can also relieve stress for some patients. Since it often stimulates feelings of creativity and energy, patients using THC might feel more motivated to tackle stressful to-do list items.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – Unlike THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive—you won’t get high using CBD. CBD is well-known for its pain relief and relaxation properties.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA)THCA is a precursor to THC; while it doesn’t produce psychoactive effects, some patients use it to relieve chronic pain and stress. These effects are best achieved via non-smoking methods like tinctures, oils, and edibles.
  • Cannabinol (CBN)CBN has been recently studied for its chronic pain, glaucoma, and skin condition applications. Since it’s found in some full-spectrum CBD products and some raw cannabis flower strains, some patients use it as a supplement to their stress relief efforts.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) – Patients tout CBG’s effectiveness against the symptoms of anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and a wide variety of other conditions. Like CBN, it’s found in small quantities in numerous full-spectrum cannabis formulas.

The effects of your marijuana product depend on its cannabinoid components, and these differ from strain to strain and plant to plant. Indica and sativa strains, for instance, contain different profiles of cannabinoids. Knowing this, should you opt for sativa or indica when choosing your stress relief products?

Sativa vs. Indica Leaf: A Closer Look

When breaking down sativa vs indica leaf, you must first understand the difference in chemical composition and how that changes the user experience.

The Hidden Power of Sativa for Stress

Sativa is typically associated with clarity of thought and energy. It can:

  • Leave you feeling revitalized
  • Encourage creativity
  • Stimulate the brain

While sativas aren’t a stress relief go-to for every patient, some patients struggling with executive dysfunction or analysis paralysis (i.e., difficulty making decisions and taking action) choose sativas to boost energy and harness the motivation they need to complete stressful tasks.

Just take care; sativas (especially those high in THC) can overstimulate some people. If your heart rate increases while using a sativa product, you might also experience increased anxiety.

All of the above said you might not respond to sativa strains the same way most patients do. You might encounter a sativa strain that’s more relaxing than stimulating; conversely, you might try an indica strain that energizes you more than you expected. Keep an open mind as you evaluate your product options.

Using Indica for Stress Reduction

Renowned for its relaxing effects, indica is often the go-to choice for many people living with stress. It can:

  • Help you get to—and stay—asleep at night
  • Reduce physical aches and pains in the body
  • Combat other physical symptoms of stress, like headaches

Many patients report that indica strains soothe and relax their bodies—but as we noted above, this may not be the case for you. Experimentation is the key to finding your ideal cannabis product.

Hybrid: The Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid strains are exactly what they sound like they’re crossbred from both indica and sativa strains to create a combination of both.

Hybrids can contain either:

  • A relatively even split of indica and sativa genetic material
  • A majority of one strain over another

In other words, hybrids can be balanced, sativa-forward, or indica-forward.

Hybrids open up a world of opportunity for cannabis patients looking to combat stress. Since they combine material from both major strains, patients can experiment to find a hybrid that offers the best of both.

Stress Relief Strains: Additional Factors to Consider

Strain isn’t the only characteristic you should consider as you search for cannabis products for stress relief.

The following factors can strongly influence how your body will respond to a specific product:

  • Cannabinoid concentrations – Listed as percentages on product labels, pay close attention to the total concentration of cannabinoids in a product. You’ll likely respond very differently to products with vastly different THC concentrations, for instance.
  • Flavonoids and terpenes – Many products will highlight specific terpenes and flavonoids present in the formula. Flavonoids and terpenes are naturally occurring compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant, and they can significantly impact your response to a product. For instance, linalool (one of many cannabis terpenes) is widely recognized for its soothing properties.

With strain, concentration, and other impactful compounds to consider, how can you choose the best strain on the first try? In all likelihood, you won’t—most patients experiment with many different strains before they find their perfect match.

This is one of the advantages of using cannabis for stress. The sheer variety of products on the market makes it easy to curate a routine that meets your exact needs.

Strains to Try

If you’re looking for a starting point, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of some fan-favorite strains for stress relief:

  • Grandaddy Purple
  • Northern Lights
  • Blueberry Kush
  • Purple Urkle
  • Super Silver Haze

While these are certainly staple strains, don’t be afraid to try something new—your budtender and your medical marijuana doctor can help you refine your product selection to achieve your desired results.

Build a Bridge to Better Health with TeleLeaf

Whether you use sativa or indica leaf for stress is a matter of personal preference. But as you shop for the perfect strain, don’t forget about the other critical factors that can affect your response: cannabinoid concentrations and terpene and flavonoid profiles.

Ultimately, experimenting is about so much more than choosing between indica and sativa—it’s about finding a strain that resonates with you.

To access a dispensary (where your experimentation will begin), you’ll need a medical cannabis card—and TeleLeaf can help. We’ll connect you with a healthcare provider who will work with you to curate a holistic, stress-fighting treatment regimen and guide you through the card application process. Our providers are cannabis-informed, open-minded, and ready to help you heal.

Reach out to TeleLeaf today.


Cleveland Clinic. Stress.

Healthline. 6 Health Benefits of CBD Oil—And a Look at Side Effects.

Cresco Labs. THCA.

Forbes. What Is CBN? Benefits, Risks, and Where to Buy.

VeryWell Mind. What Is Cannabigerol (CBG)?

Pure Oasis. Indica Vs. Sativa Cannabis Strains for Anxiety.

Healthline. Sativa vs. Indica: What to Expect Across Cannabis Types and Strains.

Snoozy. Indica vs Hybrid vs Sativa for Anxiety.

Healthline. Cannabis 101: What’s the Deal with Terpenes?

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