Are Indica Or Sativa Weed Strains Better For PTSD? | CAC
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Are Indica Or Sativa Weed Strains Better For PTSD?

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In the wake of a traumatic event, around 20% of us will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Key Takeaways

  • Indica and Sativa strains have different appearances, chemical compositions and potential effects.
  • Indica strains tend to be more sedative, while Sativa strains can provide energy and focus.
  • The right strain for an individual’s PTSD symptoms may vary, and it is important to find the best match through experimentation with different strains.
  • It is important to consult with a medical professional before choosing a medicinal marijuana strain for treating PTSD.

Statistics show that PTSD affects 1 in 5 of us who have experienced trauma, equating to around 10% of the overall UK population. This condition is often characterised by states of extreme anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares – as well as a raft of physical symptoms and other unfavourable health outcomes, including social withdrawal and depression.   

There is, as we will explore shortly, a sizeable body of evidence to suggest that cannabis therapy can help mitigate the symptoms associated with PTSD and aid trauma survivors on the path to healing via other therapies, such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

However, with so many different strains to choose from, those who are new to medicinal cannabis may struggle to identify the right strains for their needs and symptoms. 

The Symptoms Of PTSD And How Cannabis Therapy May Help

Every individual’s experience with PTSD is unique. The scope and severity of symptoms may vary from one person to the next, as can the timeframe in which people experience these symptoms.

However, the NHS website outlines a number of common symptoms experienced, to varying degrees, by those with PTSD. These include:

  • Intrusive and upsetting thoughts and images
  • Reliving traumatic events through flashbacks and nightmares
  • Hyperarousal, irritability and mood swings
  • Insomnia and troubled sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Self-harm or self-destructive behaviours
  • Physical symptoms such as trembling, nausea, headaches or chest pains

Like many anxiety disorders, PTSD is often accompanied by bouts of serious depression. A 2015 US study asserts that around half of all people affected by PTSD also experience severe depression. 

How Can Medicinal Cannabis Help Relieve Symptoms Of PTSD?

While the symptoms of PTSD are wide-ranging, they broadly stem from anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in regulating mood and sleep, as well as other key bodily functions such as reproductive and immune functions.

The cannabis plant is full of compounds called cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabigerol (CBG) which studies have shownThe cannabis plant is full of compounds called cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabigerol (CBG), which studies have shown to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to create positive health outcomes. 

Weed plants also contains a wide range of terpenes. In addition to giving the plant its distinctive taste and smell, these terpenes can also increase the efficacy of cannabinoids by creating an ‘entourage effect’ that can help mitigate entourage effectunwanted side effects. 

Multiple studies have demonstrated a link between medicinal cannabis use and a significant abatement of PTSD symptoms in the majority of participants. 

What Are Indica And Sativa?

Individual cannabis strains generally fall into three varieties:

  • Cannabis sativa
  • Cannabis indica
  • Hybrid strains made from a combination of the two

While these strains share many common characteristics, they also have several key differences in appearance and chemical composition. Hybrid strains may be either indica-dominant or sativa-dominant and will have characteristics of both to varying degrees. 

Cannabis sativa is a tall and slender plant with thin, lightly-coloured leaves. Cannabis indica, on the other hand, is shorter and bushier with broader, darker leaves. 

Is Indica Or Sativa Better For PTSD?

That’s a tricky question to answer. As countries around the world shed the stigma of medicinal cannabis use, we gain a greater scientific understanding of the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes on our bodies. This science-based approach gives rise to the purposeful breeding of cannabis plants to produce strains with predetermined medicinal effects.

Therefore, it’s easier for individuals to experiment with different strains (be they Indica, Sativa or hybrid) and make informed decisions as to which is best for their symptoms. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the properties of indica and sativa strains to get to know their characteristics and potential effects a little better. 

Properties Of Indica Cannabis Strains

Indica and Indica-dominant strains generally contain higher concentrations of CBD as well as terpenes such as myrcene, linalool, limonene, humulene and beta-caryophyllene.

As such, these strains tend to have a subtly sedative effect and may also stimulate appetite in those with trauma-related undereating disorders. Some (but not all) indica strains have a low THC content, giving them very mild (if any) intoxicating effects, making them a good fit for busy professionals. That said, there are some indica strains that have high concentrations of both CBD and THC, which can result in ‘couch lock’.

Popular Indica-Dominant Strains For PTSD

  • OG Kush
  • Pennywise
  • Lavender Kush
  • LA Confidential
  • Northern lights

Properties Of Sativa Weed Strains

Sativa and Sativa-dominant strains tend to have higher concentrations of THC. As such, those who are new to medicinal cannabis use or who experience pronounced anxiety may benefit from a hybrid strain that mitigates the potential side effects of THC. 

Sativa strains generally have a more intoxicating effect, inducing a sense of calm or even euphoria. However, there are some strains like harlequin which have very low levels of THC and virtually no intoxicating effects. Some strains can also enhance concentration and creativity. Studies show that many of the terpenes in Sativa weed strains have analgesic properties, making them well suited to relieving painful physical symptoms of PTSD like headaches or chest and stomach pain.   

Popular Sativa-Dominant Strains For PTSD

  • Harlequin 
  • Blue Dream
  • Mimosa
  • Legendary Lemon

Should I Choose Indica Or Sativa For PTSD?

Broadly speaking, Indica-dominant strains are most commonly used to aid anxiety disorders such as PTSD. However, the right strain for you depends entirely on your individual experience with PTSD and the ways in which your symptoms impede your everyday life.

Some, for instance, find themselves unable to concentrate and focus at work or hobbled by a depression which saps them of their energy. These people may benefit from a sativa-dominant strain like Blue Dream or a hybrid strain like ACDC. These can help to energise the mind and restore cognitive function.

On the other hand, those who find themselves in frequent states of hyperarousal or who find it difficult to sleep may benefit more from an indica or indica-dominant strain like LA Confidential or Lavender Kush. 

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Can cannabis worsen PTSD symptoms?

While there is ongoing research on the effects of cannabis on PTSD symptoms, anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals with PTSD have found relief from their symptoms through the use of medicinal marijuana.

With that said, yes, high THC strains can potentially exacerbate anxiety and panic attacks in certain individuals. This is why it’s important to work with a specialist doctor when choosing the right strains and research before trying new strains.

What is the difference between Indica and Sativa?

Morphologically, Sativa plants are taller and have thinner leaves than Indica plants. In terms of chemical composition, Sativas tend to have higher levels of THC while Indicas have higher levels of CBD. However, these differences are not always absolute, as many strains now contain a combination of both cannabinoids.

Are there any risks associated with using medicinal marijuana for PTSD?

As with any medication, there are potential risks associated with using medicinal cannabis for PTSD. These may include interactions with other medications or pre-existing health conditions. Working with a trusted doctor and starting with low doses is important to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.


While there are some obvious risks associated with using medicinal cannabis for PTSD, there is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that it can be an effective treatment option for many individuals.

Whether you choose an Indica-dominant, Sativa-dominant or hybrid strain depends entirely on your individual experience and symptoms of PTSD. Always consult with a medical professional and thoroughly research before trying new strains.