A Guide to Beating Pandemic Stress and Anxiety With Cannabis in 2021
There’s no denying it. The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 one of the worst years in recent memory.
From job losses and economic disasters to the real threat of severe illness to yourself and loved ones around you, last year was a rocky ride.
But with disaster comes learning — and what have we learned from the past 12 months?
Well, apart from realizing how shit a pandemic really is, cannabis use soared despite an economic downfall, reaching $19.7 billion in sales (a 38% increase from 2019).
Out of this $19.7 billion, cannabis products designed for stress, anxiety, and sleep were the most successful. According to Brightfield Group, 81% of users the company surveyed used cannabis to deal with the many hardships caused by the pandemic.
No surprise there, to be perfectly honest. So, with this in mind, how do we now deal with the pandemic in 2021 with cannabis by our side?
Hemp-derived CBD products are a go-to for 2021 — subtle relaxation and relief
Cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBN, CBC, CBG, and CBDV are the most useful, as are terpenes (myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene) and flavonoids (orientin, apigenin)
Live in a state with legalized marijuana? Take advantage of it. THC may help with pandemic-related anxiety and stress, as well as lockdown cabin fever and isolation
Smoking or vaporizing marijuana is the most effective and immediate but other delivery methods are sufficient for pandemic anxiety and stress
Certain cannabis strains (Blueberry Lambsbread, Harlequin, etc) are useful for energy, focus, happiness, euphoria, and sleep
CBD products should be your go-to in 2021
Hemp-derived CBD products are famous for their anxiety and stress-relieving properties without intoxication. No wild “high”, no overwhelming euphoria, and no cognitive impairment. You get all the goodness of cannabis minus an abundance of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
All you need to concern yourself with is the delivery method, how much to take, and extract type.
How you deliver CBD into your body matters (above all else)
CBD edibles travel through your digestive tract to be broken down and metabolized by your liver, extending the time it takes to fully enter your bloodstream. Edibles take roughly 45 minutes to two hours for effects to really kick in and last anywhere between 6-8 hours depending on dose and strength. They are great if you have a busy work or life schedule.
CBD oils are also worthwhile for a gradual CBD hit. Oils are best taken sublingually (under your tongue). Place a couple of drops sublingually and hold for 15-20 seconds before swallowing. The CBD (and other valuable plant compounds) will absorb through the thin tissue and into the bloodstream directly, boosting bioavailability and quickening the time it takes for effects to begin.
We recommend smoking hemp flower or vaporizing CBD concentrates instead as these provide immediate relief. They enter into the bloodstream via your lung’s alveoli (microscopic air sacs) without needing to travel through your digestive system. Less CBD and other valuable plant compounds lost. Higher bioavailability equalling more enhanced benefits which begin within 10 minutes (approx.)
Dosing: how much CBD should you take?
Everyone’s CBD dosing requirements are different. What works for you might not work for someone else (and vice versa). Primarily it comes down to:
Experience using CBD products
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body fat percentage
Strength and potency
As a general rule, any less than 15mg of CBD per day is borderline useless. You might as well be consuming air. If you’re a beginner, we recommend 20-25mg of CBD per day. CBD capsules are best for accurate dosing but less effective and immediate as, say, CBD flower or CBD concentrates.
Which extract type is best for anxiety and sleep?
Not all CBD extracts are equally beneficial or effective.
A CBD isolate extract, for example, carries only CBD and nothing else. Isolates are good for general health and wellness but not for moderate-to-severe anxiety and stress symptoms. We suggest a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD hemp extract, preferably CO2 extracted for higher plant compound content.
Full-spectrum hemp extracts are often viewed as the most effective (even more so than broad-spectrum). Full-spectrum oils carry a full range of stress and anxiety-busting phytocompounds including:
Major and minor cannabinoids = CBD, THC, CBN, CBG, CBC, CBDV
Terpenes = myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene
Flavonoids = Orientin and apigenin
All of these hemp-derived phytocompounds work together in synergy, providing you with more enhanced physiological benefits (in theory). This synergistic phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
To find out if your chosen CBD product carries a broad or full-spectrum hemp extract, simply look at the packaging or Certificate of Analysis (COA).
Effective cannabinoids for stress and anxiety
CBD is the most well-known cannabinoid in varieties of hemp (alongside THC). Cannabidiol is abundant in hemp strains (18-20% on average) and useful for mild anxiety and stress-related symptoms, but with other cannabis phytocompounds (THC, CBG, CBN) it’s more potent and effective.
Contrary to common belief, CBD doesn’t have an affinity with cannabinoid 1 (CB1) or cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors. Instead, it targets other receptor sites, most notably serotonin (5-HT) receptors. 5-HT receptor interaction is said to promote anti-depressant, anti-stress, and anti-anxiety qualities and may also reduce THC-induced fear and anxiety.
CBG is arguably the most important cannabinoid in the entire family of cannabis phytocompounds. Without CBG (and its precursor acid), you wouldn’t have CBD, THC, or CBC. The way it works in the human body is impressive.
CBG can help calm and soothe your central nervous system by inhibiting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) re-uptake, resulting in decreased anxiety symptoms and reduced muscle tension.
THC is the main psychotropic cannabinoid found in hemp and other varieties of cannabis. THC produces a euphoric “high” in high doses. Too much THC and it can be an uncomfortable experience; too little and it might not produce the desired results. Striking a balance is essential. Hemp-derived CBD products carry trace amounts of THC (<0.3%).
CBN is the result of THC degradation via light, heat, and air. CBN is mildly intoxicating (approx. one-fourth the potency of THC). Aged and mature hemp plants carry the most CBN but still not enough for it to be a hugely abundant cannabinoid.
Known as one of the “big six” cannabinoids alongside CBD, THC, CBN, CBG, and THCV. CBC is found in younger, less mature hemp plants. Similar to CBD, CBC doesn’t have much of an affinity with CB1 or CB2 receptors but does target transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) receptors as a full agonist, promoting pain-relief and anti-inflammation. CBC is also said to produce antidepressant effects in rodent test subjects.
CBDV continues to be a relatively unstudied cannabinoid. Effects on the brain are somewhat unknown. Typically found in landrace Asian and African Indica strains with percentages of CBD. Said to have anti-anxiety effects when paired with CBD.
Which terpenes are best for anxiety and stress?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in varieties of cannabis. Also found in essential oils, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Each terpene carries its own distinct aroma and physiological benefits. There are three main anxiety and stress-busting terpenes present in both hemp and marijuana.
Combined with cannabinoids and other phytocompounds, they’re powerhouses. To get the most terpene-rich CBD product, make sure the extract is either broad or full-spectrum. CBD isolate extracts carry no terpenes whatsoever.
The most common terpene in varieties of cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Earthy, clove-like aroma. Quite pungent. Some cannabis strains carry 60-65% myrcene (per terpene profile). Also found in mango, lemongrass, and basil.
Anecdotally, myrcene-rich marijuana can cause over-sedation when mixed with THC in high quantities, also known as “couch-lock”. Myrcene-rich hemp and hemp-derived products may cause milder sedation when combined with smaller percentages of THC (<0.3%). Potentially good for mild-to-moderate relaxation and sleep.
Beta-caryophyllene (often shortened to caryophyllene) is a common terpene in varieties of cannabis. Also present in a broad range of herbs and spices (black pepper, oregano, rosemary, and basil). Famous for its spicy flavor and wood-like aroma. Studies show caryophyllene produces anti-anxiety and depression effects in rodent test subjects, as well as pain-relief and anti-inflammation qualities via CB2 activation.
Limonene is one of, if not the most common terpenes in nature. Commonly found in citrus fruits (lemon, lime), herbs (dill, sage, mint, rosemary), spices (nutmeg), red peppers, chamomile, and lavender.
Flavonoids aren’t widely-recognized as anxiety and stress-relievers. Most users focus solely on cannabinoids and terpenes. Out of around a dozen flavonoids present in varieties of cannabis, two stand out among the crowd as useful for tackling anxiety, stress, and depression.
Orientin is a valuable flavonoid, not only for general physiological wellness but also for pandemic-specific issues. While studies are sadly limited, researchers found it reduced depression symptoms in chronically-stressed mice test subjects.
The best CBD products to choose for stress-relief, relaxation, and calm
There are thousands of hemp-derived CBD products on the market. Some amazing, some average, and some downright awful (and probably harmful). Knowing exactly what to look for can be a frustrating, borderline impossible task.
But don’t panic. We’ve done the grunt work and picked our favorite CBD products to help you deal with pandemic-related stress and anxiety. Thank us later.
CBD oils should be in everyone’s arsenal. Easy-to-use and convenient. Effective in higher potencies (1000+ mg preferably). Broad or full-spectrum with other stress-reducing ingredients or botanicals will help reduce symptoms. Isolate extracts aren’t powerful enough. Consume sublingually for best results.
LiftMode’s Hemp Extract Oil For Sleep comes complete with a sleep-enhancing formula. Phytocannabinoid-rich full-spectrum hemp extract featuring 65%+ CBD alongside medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) carrier oil and melatonin. Terpene-heavy and flavorsome. Great as a potent dose right before bed. 1500 mg of CBD in total.
As a hemp-derived broad-spectrum oil focusing primarily on sleep, CBD American Shaman’s offering is recommended. Harnessing the power of CBN, as well as other sleep-promoting cannabinoids and terpenes, this oil is a solid addition to your arsenal. Water-soluble for improved absorption and bioavailability. Best-used 30-45 minutes before bed.
Fully equipped with a full-spectrum hemp extract inside a water-soluble formula for better absorption and bioavailability. Carries a full range of beneficial cannabinoids, as well as other valuable plant compounds, to boost your endocannabinoid system back to life. Also contains vital superfoods such as moringa and acerola cherry. The former may promote mood-enhancement, while the latter is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Recommended if you require an easy-to-use oil throughout the day.
CBD capsules are slow-releasing, providing you with a gradual dose of CBD all throughout the day. They’re also premeasured for accurate dosing in-line with your daily CBD intake requirements.
Best-used if you have a busy work schedule or you simply want a long-lasting CBD hit over the course of 6-8 hours. Easy-to-use. Just pop one or two capsules in your mouth and swallow with water.
For better absorption in your body, consume capsules with fatty foods such as salmon, eggs, meat, and cheese along with black pepper or turmeric. Below are a few picks from the best CBD capsules on the market.
Infuses ashwagandha with a proprietary Whole Food Hemp Complex carrying terpene and omega-rich black pepper, hemp seed oil, clove, and sunflower oil. Each botanical nourishes and reinvigorates your endocannabinoid system, especially in combination with its broad-spectrum hemp extract sourced from DNA-verified European hemp. Great choice for stressful days.
CBDfx blends two sleep-promoting cannabinoids into one formula: CBD and CBN. As a pair, they provide your body with sleep-inducing effects and benefits. Carries only 15 mg of CBD, so we recommend taking two an hour before bed for best results. Vegan-friendly and gluten-free
Utilizing a full-spectrum CBD hemp extract diluted in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) carrier oil, CBDistillery’s softgel capsule offering is simple and effective. No additional botanicals or ingredients. Just good old fashioned hemp-derived goodness for everyday use. Best-consumed alongside CBD hemp flower for stronger effects and benefits. 30 mg of CBD per capsule.
CBD concentrates provide potent, immediate relief from stress and anxiety, boosting relaxation and serenity at the same time. Most carry up to 90% CBD, so be careful if you’re a beginner. Might be a little too overwhelming on the first try, particularly if you vaporize or dab them. Try consuming orally or sublingually first. We have a list for all the best CBD concentrates and you can find a few recommendations below here.
CBD live resin is arguably the most effective concentrate product currently on the market. Extracted directly from freshly harvested cannabis plants using specialized, state-of-the-art extraction equipment. Yields a huge range of beneficial plant compounds not commonly found in many other CBD products (concentrates or otherwise).
Secret Nature’s offering is a “true-to-plant” concentrate product. Quite literally the closest to the natural plant you can get. Carries 786 mg of CBD, 806 mg of total cannabinoids, and 20 mg of minor cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, CBDV, and THCA. Combined, this product is essential for energizing your depleted endocannabinoid system, helping your central nervous system bring itself back to life.
A broad-spectrum distillate with additional terpenes infused back into the mix. Made primarily for dabbing and vaporizing but can consume orally as well. Created from a Hybrid strain known for its euphoric, energizing, and cerebral effects. Excellent choice for a morning vape or smoke to refresh your mind and energize your body. Contains 800 mg of CBD + 200 mg of minor cannabinoids.
A forward-thinking, innovative hemp-derived concentrate product. Pushes CBD aside and let’s CBG take over. Contains 81% CBG alongside a large spectrum of terpenes (caryophyllene, guaiol, humulene, etc) known to reduce anxiety and fear symptoms, as well as soothe inflammation and pain. Some mild euphoric effects.
Premium CBD creams and lotions are a great way of relieving stress and tension in your body. CBD massage oils are a go-to here. Works into the muscles and joints, relieving tension and stress from your entire body. Transdermal CBD patches are also a great alternative, though we recommend using them both together for more enhanced benefits.
Created with whole-body relaxation in mind, Sagely Naturals’ Drift & Dream Body Oil is a lightweight CBD-based topical utilizing a broad-spectrum, terpene-heavy hemp extract for skin nourishment. Also carries aromatic lavender and clary sage oil for added relaxation. Useful at nighttime, especially combined with a CBD capsule or oil product designed for sleep.
Massages are a sure-fire way of relieving some tension from your stressed-out muscles. Lazarus Naturals’ CBD massage oil, complete with 50 mg of high-quality CBD hemp extract and soothing essential oils, is perfect for an afternoon or evening massage session. All you need to do is lather it into the affected muscles/skin, let it sit there for a few minutes, and gently massage. The cannabinoids and other plant compounds won’t enter into the bloodstream but will hit the CB1 receptors to maximize relief.
Live in a US state with legalized marijuana use? The added THC may help you out.
Since 2012, 15 US states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana and a further 36 states have legalized medical marijuana. Roughly two-thirds of people above the age of 21 can access it in some form or another.
If you’re one of these lucky individuals with access to marijuana (medical or otherwise), we suggest taking advantage of it. THC is a fantastic cannabinoid praised for its therapeutic, stress-relieving qualities when used correctly.
Why use THC for pandemic anxiety and stress?
Many people believe THC produces anxiety, fear, paranoia, and elevated stress levels every time it’s consumed. This isn’t true. If you’re smart with THC, it’ll help you out big time. Just don’t go overboard with it, particularly if you’re inexperienced.
Researchers believe THC interacts with the nucleus accumbens, the front portion of your brain responsible for mediating reward behaviors. For some, this interaction is positive, resulting in happiness, comfort, energy, and other reward-related feelings.
We recommend the age-old saying “start low, go slow, and wait” when it comes to THC. If it’s your first marijuana rodeo, you don’t want to smoke 20% THC flower for pandemic stress and anxiety. Nothing good will come of it. You’ll most likely experience increased anxiety and stress.
Marijuana euphoria may help if you’re struggling under lockdown (or working from home)
For some, working from home is a blessing. Roll out of bed earlier, stay in your PJs all day, and take a few more “breaks” than usual. Perfect.
However, not everyone agrees.
According to a research survey conducted by Statista in 2020, 51.6% of US adults felt more stressed working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, while only 27% said their stress levels remained roughly the same.
This percentage is alarming. While the survey doesn’t say why the stress occurs, we imagine it’s to do with being stuck indoors with very little socializing, which leads to cabin fever.
Cabin fever is a real thing and should be taken seriously. Isolation from the outside world without socialization plays havoc on the mind, leading to depression, anxiety, or worse.
Signs and symptoms of cabin fever and isolation:
Poor sleep pattern
Lack of patience
Sadness and depressive episodes
Marijuana may help with these feelings. THC’s ability to produce euphoric effects may enhance your mood, motivation, and focus, as well as relax, soothe, and calm you. You just have to know which strains work the best for each.
Euphoric, mood-enhancing marijuana strains for cabin fever
Certain marijuana strains provide euphoria. Euphoria effects can sometimes induce happiness, comfort, energy, focus, and concentration, though this entirely depends on the strain.
For immediate effects, we recommend smoking or vaporizing decent marijuana flower. Beginners should purchase a lower-THC strain, while more experienced users should go for a higher-THC strain (generally).
Euphoric lower-THC strains for cabin fever and isolation
If smoking or vaporizing isn’t your thing, maybe try high-quality marijuana edibles. They’re slow-releasing, causing a more gradual euphoric high, so be careful not to eat too many. Quarter or half a brownie, for example, is more than enough. Wait an hour or two before you have more.
REMEMBER: THC can cause anxiety, fear, and paranoia. Always microdose. If you’re smoking marijuana flower, take one or two pulls and see how you feel. Don’t smoke the whole thing. Avoid bongs and vaporizing if you’re a beginner. The high is way more intense.