Cannabis and relaxation? They go hand in hand, right? In fact, the ability of cannabis to elicit feelings of euphoria, tranquility and relaxation plays a huge part in what makes cannabis such an amazing plant! In fact, the reasons people most commonly cite for why they consume cannabis is because it helps them release stress, relax, and chill out.
Relaxation helps us clear our mind, release physical tension, and reduce stress. It plays a vital role in our overall physical and emotional health. (We can ignore it at our peril!)
Most people think of “relaxation” as a general term to describe a state of tranquility. In short, the exact opposite of stress and tension. But, going deeper, how would you define it and are there different kinds of relaxation?
There Are Two Types of Relaxation
There are actually two distinct types of relaxation — and thankfully, cannabis can be a powerful catalyst to help us experience both kinds: physical and mental.
Physical relaxation describes the release of physical tension, while mental relaxation is the clearance of clutter from our conscious mind. We can achieve both forms consciously or unconsciously. When you’re on vacation hanging out at the beach and sipping a fruity drink, you may not have consciously thought — “I need to relax.” It was simply a byproduct of your surroundings. In contrast, after a stressful week of work, you may consciously think — “Hmm, I could really use a massage!”
Both types of relaxation are vital in regulating the nervous system. When the body is under mental, psychological, or physical stress, inflammation. There are so many factors when it comes to promoting relaxation. From diet and hydration, to getting adequate amounts of exercise and sleep, most of these critical factors are directly related to the endocannabinoid system.
Why Does Cannabis Help Us Relax?
Cannabis provides instant and much-needed relaxation for many patients, and in more ways than one. In short, the way that the body deals with stress, mental or physical, depends mostly on hormonal regulation processes within the body. Many of these processes are also affected by the endocannabinoid system, made up of key receptors that can be directly supplemented by cannabis and the active chemicals it contains - namely, cannabinoids and terpenes. Proper levels of cannabinoids within this system can lead to healthier patterns of mood, pain and sleep regulation.
The following sections will outline precisely how the ability to relax is affected by the chemical profile and the context within which one uses cannabis.
What to Look for in a Relaxing Strain
Cannabis is a complex plant with a lot of different and useful chemical compounds — including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids — that can influence its effects. And, because every strain has a unique chemical composition, each will produce slightly different effects, just as they will exhibit unique colors, flavors and aromas. Interestingly enough, the chemical composition can even vary within each strain, depending on different growing conditions and cultivation techniques. The consensus is for each patient to choose strains that appeal to their senses for the optimal experience.
Broadly speaking, patients in need of quality rest and relaxation would be wise to look for indica-dominant strains, such as a Kush or berry-flavored strain. Also, look for strains rich in specific cannabinoids and specific terpenes. Linalool, also found in soothing lavender oil, is typically contained in the terpene profiles of certain cannabis strains that can have a relaxing and almost dreamlike effect. Myrcene, another relaxing terpene, lends its familiar herby flavor to bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and cannabis. Be careful, because too much myrcene might make you too relaxed — myrcene is why indica-dominant strains can induce “couch lock”.
Strains high in cannabidiol, or CBD, can be quite rare but are outstanding calming agents. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown to neutralize some of THC’s potentially adverse or uncomfortable physical and psychoactive side effects, like sweating, heart racing, and paranoia. In addition, strains with high levels of cannabinol, or CBN may also be helpful in relaxing the mind and body. This cannabinoid is a degraded version of THC, which was recently discovered to aid sleep.
Keep in mind there are no magic ratios or precise levels of constituents to look for, because everyone responds differently. It may take a little trial and error to find the perfect strain or product that makes you feel comfortably relaxed.
Try Combining Cannabis With An Activity to Produce a Synergistic Effect
If you already have a beloved activity that helps you wind down and relax, try pairing that experience with your favorite cannabis strain. Taking up a hobby like yoga or meditation can seriously change the way the body and mind carry stress throughout the day. Yoga’s perfect combination of strength and breathing exercises are proven to shift the body’s response into a more focused and relaxed state. Getting deep into the flow will automatically result in lower breathing rate, decreased blood pressure, and increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, heart, and gastrointestinal tract.
Many patients use cannabis as a relaxing agent right before bedtime, replacing or predicating the need for pharmaceutical sleep aids. However, cannabis alone may not fix every sleep issue. Take extra care before bed to ensure your late night activities are not interfering with your body’s sleeping rhythm. Even just comfortably reading a book is more stimulating than staring at a computer or smartphone screen - which is proven to negatively affect melatonin release, disrupting the normal patterns of sleep, and subsequently, relaxation.
Treating yourself to a professional massage can also help stimulate the endocannabinoid system, and a chronic sense of relaxation. The effects of massage have been studied time and time again, proving a novel treatment for generalized anxiety and chronic pain of all types. Pick a therapist that comes highly recommended from someone you trust. A true professional will know all the ins and outs of the bones, muscles and connective tissues, the appropriate pressure to apply, and precisely which areas to work on in order to relieve the most stressed-out parts of your body.
Remember that mental and physical relaxation go hand in hand; it is very difficult to achieve one without the other.
Whatever your reason for using medical cannabis, know that there is more to a balanced and healthy lifestyle than simply supplementing. There is an entire system of your body in play! Healthy diet and hydration practices, proper sleep and regular exercise will go a long way in aiding patients who seek to eliminate physical tension and gain a more relaxed outlook on life.