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Cannabis plants contain a chemical that can actually relieve cannabis-induced anxiety

As cannabis legalization becomes more prevalent, research into its various components and their effects on the human body, including anxiety, has gained momentum.

A recent study led by a research team from Johns Hopkins Medicine has shed light on the potential of a naturally occurring chemical in cannabis called d-limonene.

D-Limonene, cannabis, and anxiety

The study was conducted by Tory Spindle, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He and his team aimed to investigate the anxiety-reducing effects of d-limonene in humans when combined with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component in cannabis.

Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was the senior author of the study.

He explained, “People use cannabis to help reduce anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but since THC levels vary widely, if a person overshoots their tolerance of THC, cannabis can induce anxiety rather than relieve it.”

Vandrey continued,” Our study demonstrates that d-limonene can modulate the effects of THC in a meaningful way and make THC more tolerable to people using it for both therapeutic and non-therapeutic purposes.”

Rise of THC levels in cannabis

In recent years, selective breeding of cannabis plants has resulted in strains containing upwards of 20% to 30% THC, compared to an average of 12% a decade ago.

This increase in THC levels can make it challenging for users to consistently consume the same amount of THC on each occasion.

THC interacts with receptors in the brain to produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. However, when a user is exposed to higher-than-usual doses of THC, the drug can also trigger anxiety, fear, and panic.

Promising role of D-limonene

D-limonene, one of the most abundant terpenes or essential oils in the cannabis plant, has shown promise in rodent studies in reducing anxiety behaviors. Terpenes are responsible for the taste, aroma, and color of plants.

In the study, 20 healthy adults participated in up to 10 outpatient sessions, during which they inhaled vaporized d-limonene alone, vaporized THC alone, vaporized THC and d-limonene together, or vaporized distilled water (as a placebo).

The study was double-blinded, ensuring that neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was receiving which mixture.

How D-limonene from cannabis impacts anxiety

The research team concluded that combining d-limonene with THC significantly reduced subjective indicators/reports of THC-induced anxiety in participants. These reductions were greater as the dose of d-limonene was increased.

Additionally, they observed no interference with THC’s subjective, cognitive, or physiological effects when co-administered with d-limonene, as well as no effects from d-limonene alone that differed from the placebo test.

Dr. Spindle, the lead author of the study, states, “This study is a first step in uncovering how we can mitigate risks of THC when used in medicine, and also is targeted at making cannabis safer for the general, non-therapeutic consumer.”

The researchers plan to continue experimenting with other terpenes alone and in combination with THC to see how they interact with each other, as well as replicate the d-limonene study in larger and more diverse clinical populations. They also plan to test alternative methods of administration, such as oral ingestion.

Exploring the therapeutic benefits of cannabis

As mentioned previously, cannabis has been gaining recognition for its potential therapeutic benefits. As research continues to uncover the medicinal properties of this versatile plant, more people are turning to cannabis as a natural alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals.

Pain and inflammation management

One of the most well-known therapeutic applications of cannabis is pain management. The cannabinoids found in cannabis, particularly THC and CBD, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to reduce pain perception.

Many patients suffering from chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain, have found relief through the use of cannabis-based products.

Cannabis also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a common underlying factor in many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative conditions.

By targeting inflammation, cannabis may help alleviate symptoms and slow disease progression in conditions like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Alleviating anxiety and depression with cannabis and D-limonene

The cannabinoids in cannabis have been shown to interact with the brain’s receptors that regulate mood and emotion.

For individuals struggling with anxiety and depression, cannabis can provide a natural alternative to traditional antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

However, it is crucial to find the right balance, as high doses of THC may exacerbate anxiety in some individuals.

Cancer treatment and sleep quality

Cannabis has shown promise in supporting cancer treatment by reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Additionally, some studies suggest that certain cannabinoids may possess anti-tumor properties, potentially slowing the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Many people struggle with sleep disorders, such as insomnia, which can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.

Cannabis, particularly strains high in CBD, can promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. By addressing sleep issues, cannabis may indirectly contribute to better mental health, pain management, and immune function.

Implications and future D-limonene studies

In summary, D-limonene, a natural chemical found in cannabis, shows great promise in reducing the anxiety-inducing effects of THC.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine-led study provides evidence that combining d-limonene with THC can make cannabis use safer and more tolerable for both medicinal and recreational consumers.

As researchers continue to explore the interactions between terpenes and THC, as well as test alternative methods of administration, this important finding paves the way for more effective and personalized cannabis-based treatments.

By unlocking the potential of d-limonene, we take a significant step towards harnessing the benefits of cannabis while minimizing its risks.

The full study was published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.


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