What You Need to Know about Using Cannabis for Depression

Health Kat Dino 6/14/2018
sad depressed woman sitting alone
Struggling with depression? You're not alone.

Here’s a depressing statistic: nearly 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

Roughly half of these people are also being diagnosed with anxiety.

All human beings feel sadness, worry, and stress, and at some point in life most of us feel a 'case of the blues'. 

However chronic depression goes beyond a momentary lapse of well-being.

Challenges with depression and anxiety can be compounded by the fact that there is no outward physical sign; rather it’s an internal struggle. It can be described as feeling trapped within one’s own body.

Along with halting normal activities and participation in life, depression and anxiety can cause physical pain, sleep changes, anger, appetite and weight changes, loss of energy, and more.

As a holistic nutritionist and avid believer in the power of nature, I can tell you one herb in particular, cannabis, can help with all of these things.

Studies have shown that cannabis may be used as a natural alternative or to augment the most popular depression and anti-anxiety medications.

Plus, there are ways you can use cannabis without even getting high if you need to avoid that.

But what’s really going on between cannabis and depression?

Let’s take a look at WHY cannabis is such an effective solution along with a few other holistic alternatives.

Understanding How Cannabis Impacts Depression & Anxiety

young woman smelling cannabis
More people are turning to cannabis for depression because it works.

Here’s the big question:

Is it possible to hack your mental state naturally with cannabis?

If so, how does that work exactly?

The direct link between cannabis, depression and anxiety lies within our Endocannabinoid System.

Believe it or not, we are still discovering how the human body works.

In the late 1980s it was first discovered that each human being is born already wired with an Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

So what does the ECS actually do?

The ECS, among other things, helps to regulate metabolic processes such as:

  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Inflammation
  • Immunity
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • And much more!

Basically, all things negatively affected by depression and anxiety.

Essentially, this system produces chemicals called endocannabinoids, which bind to specific receptors throughout our body to create and maintain a happy healthy human.

The compounds in cannabis just happen to mimic endocannabinoids, working directly and indirectly on our ECS.

So, whenever the ECS isn’t functioning properly, any number of things can go wrong with your health.

Cannabis can be used as a supplement to help restore balance.

Depression Isn’t Just Tied to Your Brain

cannabis effect on depression
Depression shows us why taking care of the whole body matters.

The ECS runs throughout our entire nervous system head to toe, helping to regulate almost every single metabolic process – including the release of other neurotransmitters.

The ECS also has an abundance of receptors throughout our digestive and gastrointestinal system.

This is particularly significant due to the fact that at least 90% of your body’s serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is produced in our gastrointestinal tract as well. 

It was once believed low serotonin levels were the lead culprit involved in depression.

Therefore, most of the pharmaceuticals, specifically SSRI’s such as Prozac, were geared toward targeting serotonin levels.

These anti-depressants have certainly helped a lot of people, although how effective are these medications, really?

After all, it is difficult to measure levels of serotonin in the body.

And instead of attempting to target serotonin levels, wouldn’t we be better off targeting the very system (the ECS) which helps regulate serotonin levels to begin with?

The ECS is a great place to start because Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency is a very real thing.

Learning how to target the ECS in healthy ways is an essential component to a more holistic approach once we accept the fact that our bodies and brains work synergistically and not in isolation.

Instead of just targeting one thing – in this case serotonin levels – we are learning to address the true root of the issue.

Other Ways to Target and Maintain Balance in Your ECS

Remember the ECS oversees so many metabolic processes. When there is some sort of dysfunction or deficiency, a lot of different things can go wrong, resulting in illness.

The ECS can be thrown off by lack of proper nutrition, lack of exercise, poor sleep, traumatic experiences, and many other things in our environment.

Although cannabis can be very effective in targeting the ECS, it is not a panacea or a cure-all.

You can use other healthy methods to target the ECS as well, especially for depression.

The ECS Requires Vigorous, Daily Exercise

sporty young man tying shoe
Are you getting enough exercise each day?

Recent studies have found that the natural “high” humans feel during and after exercise is more likely from the ECS rather than the traditional notion that it is merely a release of endorphins.

Endocannabinoid release during and after exercise is now the main character thought to be responsible for why exercise makes us feel good.

Movement of the body is beneficial for a multitude of reasons and knowing what we know now about the ECS, a straight line can be drawn between exercise and feelings of well-being.

The Critical Role of Nutrition

The mind-body connection between depression and anxiety and the nutritional health of one's body is indisputable.

Poor nutrition circulating throughout your system affects the body's ability to produce what is needed for homeostatic balance.

Structurally sound food (unprocessed whole foods) can augment the body’s ability to produce a happy chemical/hormonal balance that can help with mood, depression and anxiety.

Our present reality is that many people are severely undereducated on the value and intense impact of proper nutrition.

The result of this has been a world riddled with disease, stress, depression and anxiety.

Learning more about nutrition and fueling the human body properly can make a huge difference by itself or as an adjunct to other depression and anxiety therapies.

Hemp as a Nutritional Source

cannabis flour bowl grain spoon
Hemp may just be the ultimate superfood.

When talking about excellent nutrition sources, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention hemp protein.

Basically, hemp is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis which can be used for all sorts of things from clothes to building materials.

Hemp seeds just happen to be one of the most complete food sources found on our planet.

They provide all the building blocks for amino acid/protein synthesis as well as the essential fatty acids that are crucial to endocannabinoid health.

Hemp seeds and hemp protein powder have become mainstream in the past few years so they are available at most grocery stores. Pick up a bag and add a spoonful to your smoothie, cereal, edibles or just eat a spoonful a day.

Different Ways to Utilize Cannabis for Depression

types of cannabis flowers
You can utilize cannabis in more ways than one.

Now for the fun part; hacking our happiness from the inside out.

There are multiple routes that can used to supplement the ECS with cannabis.

If you need immediate relief:

Vaporizing or even smoking cannabis are both fast-acting delivery methods. A few puffs can result in a quick energy shift away from the depressive state.

A lot of depression patients can get by with just a few inhalations every 24 hours.

Longer-lasting effects:

Tinctures and edibles can also be helpful if you’re looking for longer-lasting effects. This could be especially helpful with pain management or insomnia, for example.

Be careful with edibles, however.

They can take a long time before any effects set in, and it can be easy to consume way more than you need, resulting in an uncomfortable experience.

If you want to play it safe, avoid re-dosing too quickly and consider waiting until the next day before trying a larger dose.

Consider Micro-Dosing Cannabis for Depression

We talked about using cannabis to help restore balance to a malfunctioning ECS.

Too much cannabis can swing that balance too far in the other direction, which is where you start to see more side effects and less benefits over time.

In other words, too much cannabis may exacerbate depression.

Micro-dosing can actually bring more benefits than you might realize, without getting in the way of daytime functioning. It is an effective way to keep the body in a state of relief throughout the day.

What is it exactly?

Micro-dosing is the administration of cannabis via small doses in an attempt to get that just right amount to help relieve symptoms without exceeding your psychoactive threshold.

“By using a micro-dose of cannabinoids, you can find great relief without SSRI’s,” says Mara Gordon of Aunt Zelda’s, a California non-profit that has worked with 1,000+ cannabis patients.

“We have found that when people use cannabis effectively along with a modified diet they are able to manage their depression very effectively without the pharmaceuticals that are often prescribed that have all the terrible side effects.”

Happiness Is An Inside Job

Now that you have an inside peek into our internal cannabis connection, the expression, “Happiness is an inside job” takes on a whole new meaning.

The ECS is a direct route literally connecting our body and mind. It is essential to utilize this path in any depression or anxiety therapy.

Consider the following as a part of a therapeutic daily routine:

  • Eat a rainbow of whole-plant based foods
  • Exercise to clear out your digestive tract and allow serotonin to be synthesized in our digestive tract/gut
  • Give someone a tight hug to release dopamine
  • Utilize the wonderful herb cannabis to supplement and provide our bodies with plant cannabinoids
  • Take time to listen to your body and trust your “gut” instinct
  • Do your own research to figure out what works best for your body

Depression and anxiety are conquerable with the right combination of support externally and internally.


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