Anxiety and depression affect millions of people annually. Some people are affected by one, some by the other, and many suffer from both simultaneously. With such numbers, it’s no wonder why the pharmaceutical industry has evolved to focus on anxiety and depression. New mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications are approved for use every year in an attempt to keep up with demand.
As research expands into aromatic compounds found in the cannabis plant, we’re hearing more and more talk about terpenes for depression and anxiety. Terpenes are complex chemical compounds that contribute to the taste and smell of plants, but their potential for medicinal use is just now being explored.
Terpenes alone usually aren’t a cure-all, but there is solid scientific evidence they can have a positive influence on mood. Especially when used together with cannabinoids, medications, and lifestyle changes, they could have an uplifting effect.
Curious? Here’s everything you need to know about terpenes for depression and anxiety.
Can Terpenes Help with Depression and Anxiety?
Disclaimer: Terpenes are non-polar oil-based hydrocarbons that, in pure form, can be very potent and sometimes volatile, flammable, and even corrosive compounds. For this reason, they should strictly be used by experienced and trained manufacturers, and we advise those unfamiliar with these compounds to exercise caution.
People have been using compounds in cannabis for years to self-treat anxiety and depression, but only recently has the connection between this use and the science behind cannabinoids, terpenes, anxiety, and depression been explored.
While the effects of cannabinoids like CBD and THC have received the bulk of attention for their effects on mood and wellness, plant compounds such as terpenes are now recognized thanks to the synergistic “entourage effect” when used together with cannabinoids.
So, are terpenes good for anxiety? Or for depression? Terpenes tend to boost the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, making the perceived results stronger and more beneficial. Of course, since cannabis use is a highly individual experience, what “works” for one person may not work for another.
That said, studies have examined terpene profiles for their potential beneficial effects in regard to anxiety and depression. We’ll get into these below.
What Are the Best Terpenes for Anxiety?
As mentioned, you can’t just “take terpenes” for anxiety and depression, but you can use specialized products with naturally occurring or added terpenes to support positive effects on your mental health.
The answer to the question “What terpenes are good for anxiety?” isn’t one size fits all, but here are the top terpenes under investigation for their possible anti-anxiety effects:
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is found in a wide range of spices and other strong aromatics, from black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, basil, and oregano, to hops and cannabis. It has a sharp, spicy scent and has been shown to reduce anxiety in animal studies:
“Beta-caryophyllene is one of the most abundant terpenes found in cannabis extracts and is postulated to be an anti-inflammatory analgesic. Recent evidence suggests that the cannabinoid receptor subtype 2 (CB2) is involved in regulation of mood and anxiety disorders and β-Caryophyllene is a selective full agonist at CB2 receptor… when administered systemically in mice, it produces anxiolytic effects.”(1)
Limonene is found predominantly in citrus fruits but is also produced by pine, rosemary, mint, fennel, and juniper plants. It has a slightly bitter, pungent, citrusy smell. Limonene is assumed to reduce stress and mood disorders due to research, where limonene was administered to mice before a stressful maze test:
“The limonene treated group showed increased locomotor activity and open-arm preference in the elevated plus maze experiment. Limonene treatment increased the expression of both tyrosine hydroxylase and GAD-67 proteins and significantly upregulated dopamine levels in the striatum. Furthermore, tissue dopamine levels were increased in the striatum of mice following limonene treatment, and depolarization-induced GABA release was enhanced by limonene pre-treatment in PC-12 cells. Interestingly, limonene-induced anxiolytic activity and GABA release augmentation were blocked by an adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) antagonist. Our results suggest that limonene inhibits anxiety-related behavior through A2A receptor-mediated regulation of DAergic and GABAergic neuronal activity.”(2)
Linalool is a prolific terpene found in many plants belonging to the mint, laurel, and birch families, as well as citrus, rosewood, cinnamon, and cannabis. Its scent is strong lavender with heavy notes of citrus, and it has been the subject of much study for its anxiolytic potential:
“Linalool, a monoterpene common to both lavender and cannabis possesses potential anti-neoplastic, sedative, and anxiolytic properties via modulatory activity on glutamate and GABA neurotransmitter systems.” (3)
This is one of the most common terpenes, found in sweet basil, hops, mangos, and cannabis. Myrcene has an odor described as fruity, earthy, and clove-like. It’s linked to benefits for chronic pain and may have anti-inflammatory properties. It has been researched as part of clinical studies into cannabis essential oils to discover its anxiolytic therapeutic effects:
“[Myrcene] demonstrated measurable effects on the autonomic nervous system in healthy human subjects (n = 5). Inhalation of cannabis essential oil for 5 min improved nerve activity and was shown to relieve stress and anxiety (Sweet almond oil was used as a control). The subjects generally felt more relaxed, energetic, calm, and an elevated mood, five min post inhalation. The study also used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain activity and results showed that there was an increase in theta (4–8 Hz) and alpha (8–13 Hz) brain wave activity in the posterior brain region, which is comparable to the EEG waves of individuals undergoing meditation.” (4)
Nerolidol is yet another possibility on the list of terpenes for anxiety. It’s found in neroli, ginger, jasmine, lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, and cannabis. It has an odor often described as floral, apple, and rose with green, citrusy notes and has been shown to provide anxiolytic therapeutic effects without causing motor control impairment (one of several adverse effects of common anti-anxiety medications):
“…results showed that anxiolytic dose of nerolidol (12.5, 25, and 50 mg/kg) as well as diazepam (1 mg/kg) had no significant effect on motor coordination. The nerolidol has been reported as a positive modulator of gamma aminobutyric acid receptor. Moreover, anxiolytic profile and effect on motor coordination at anxiolytic dose of nerolidol is similar to that of diazepam, suggesting GABAergic modulation as a possible mechanism for its anxiolytic effect.” (5)
Found in all photosynthesizing plants, including green tea and cannabis, phytol’s smell is described as grassy and balsamic. It has been researched for its potential sedative effects and anxiolytic-related properties. In the future, it may prove to be helpful for reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
“All these [anxiety-related] effects were reversed by pre-treatment with flumazenil (2.5mg/kg, i.p.), similarly to those observed with diazepam (2mg,/kg, i.p.; positive control) suggesting that the phytol presents mechanism of action by interaction with the GABAergic system. These findings suggest that acute administration of phytol exerts an anxiolytic-like effect on mice. Furthermore, suppose that phytol interacts with GABAA receptor, probably at the receptor subtypes that mediate benzodiazepines effects, to produce sedative and anxiolytic activities.” (6)
What Are the Best Terpenes for Depression?
Again, you can’t simply ingest terpenes like you would oral antidepressants, but the research supporting the inclusion of terpenes as part of a holistic mental wellness treatment is growing.
It is too soon to say these terpenes have anti-depressant effects, but here are the top terpenes being studied in connection with their possible therapeutic effects on depression:
Alpha-terpineol is found in lilac trees, conifers, lime blossoms, star anise, rosemary, lavender, juniper, eucalyptus, and cannabis. It has an aroma similar to lavender. In mice studies, terpineol was found to act as an antidepressant:
“The acute administration of terpineol produced the antidepressant-like effect, since it significantly reduced the immobility time in TST (100–200 mg/kg, p.o.) as compared to the control group. Moreover, terpineol showed an antidepressant-like effect in the preventive treatment that was blocked by a nonselective dopaminergic receptor antagonist (haloperidol), a selective dopamine D2 receptor antagonist (sulpiride), a selective CB1 cannabinoid receptor antagonist/inverse agonist (AM281), and a potent and selective CB2 cannabinoid receptor inverse agonist (AM630), but it was not blocked by a nonselective adenosine receptor antagonist (caffeine) or a β-adrenoceptor antagonist (propranolol)… Our data showed terpineol antidepressant-like modulation by CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and D2-dopaminergic receptors to further corroborate our molecular evidence.” (7)
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is found in black pepper, basil, oregano, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, hops, and cannabis. It has a spicy, peppery scent and has been shown to produce multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice, including antidepressant effects on mice subjected to stress-induced depression:
“To test the effect of BCP on long-term depression, field potentials were measured during the application of lipopolysaccharide and low frequency stimulation. In the tail suspension test and forced swim test, chronic stress-induced despair behaviors were reduced by BCP. Also BCP improved the stress-related changes in the hippocampal expression of COX-2, BDNF, and CB2 receptor expression. In organotypic hippocampal slices, BCP reduced the lipopolysaccharide-induced intensification of the long-term depression. In conclusion, BCP improved chronic stress related behavioral and biochemical changes. These results suggest that BCP may be effective in treating depression and stress related mental illnesses.” (8)
Beta-pinene is produced by plants such as basil, conifers, dill, eucalyptus, oranges, parsley, and cannabis. It has a spicy, herbal aroma and the effects of pinene have been demonstrated as antidepressant-like, at least in preclinical studies on animals:
“Pinene can exert effects on the brain through its ability to act as a positive modulator of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor subtype by binding to the benzodiazepine site to improve sleep in mice. Indeed, α-pinene (0.63 mM) potentiated the response of GABAA receptors to GABA by ~49–57% compared to GABA alone, in-vitro. In addition, β-pinene targets the serotonin 5-HT1A, and β-adrenergic receptor sub-types to exert antidepressant effects in mice, suggesting that β-pinene may possess similar properties to existing anti-depressant drugs that target monoaminergic (eg serotonin and norepinephrine) signalling in the brain; however, further studies are needed to confirm.” (9)
Linalool is found in many flower and spice plants, including mint, cinnamon, citrus, rosewood, laurels, birch, and cannabis. It has a highly recognizable scent, usually described as lavender with a touch of bergamot, and its antidepressant properties have been studied alongside those of Beta-pinene:
“To assess the possible contribution of the serotoninergic system, animals were pre-treated with WAY 100635 (a 5-HT1A receptor antagonist) and PCPA (a serotonin synthesis inhibitor).To assess the participation of the noradrenergic system, the animals were pre-treated with yohimbine (an α2 receptor antagonist), propranolol (a β receptor antagonist) and neurotoxin DSP-4 (a noradrenergic neurotoxin). In the dopaminergic system, we used SCH23390 (a D1 receptor antagonist)… Our results indicate that linalool and β-pinene produce an antidepressant-like effect through interaction with the monoaminergic system.” (10)
What Are the Best Strains for Anxiety and Depression?
As noted, everyone’s physiology is unique, meaning their reaction to specific cannabis strains, cannabinoids, and terpenes will vary. This individuality is compounded by the fact that cannabis strains with the same name marketed by different cultivators may have entirely different phytochemical profiles.
This means that the terpenes you’ll find in Bubba Kush sold by one company will vary in type and strength from the same strain sold by another company.
However, based on one scientific study (11) that included surveys of cannabis users who were looking for relief from anxiety, the following four strains were highly regarded as effective (relevant terpenes listed in descending order of presence):
- Bubba Kush: contains caryophyllene, limonene and myrcene
- Skywalker OG Kush: contains myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene
- Blueberry Lambsbread: contains myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene
- Kosher Kush: contains myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene
For depression, no such specific research studies exist, but several strains commonly suggested for relief include:
- Strawberry Banana Goo: contains caryophyllene, linalool, and pinene
- Purple OG Kush: contains linalool, caryophyllene, and pinene
- Blue Dream: contains caryophyllene, linalool, pinene, and terpineol
- Skywalker OG Kush: contains caryophyllene and terpineol
- White Widow: contains caryophyllene and pinene
- Jack Herer: contains pinene and linalool
Cannabis products can also have added terpenes, providing desired terpene levels even if they aren’t present in high levels in the chosen strain.
Lab Effects: Natural Botanical and Cannabis Terpenes Wholesale
You may not be able to take terpenes as easily as popping a pill for anxiety or depression, but their potential—especially when combined with cannabinoids—can’t be disputed.
- Seeking terpenes for making cannabis “anxiety and depression support” products? Lab Effects has 40+ true-to-flower cannabis-derived terpene strains on sale, many of which have been covered in this blog.
- Our terpenes are derived from 100% natural, plant-derived sources and never contain artificial additives or chemicals.
- All of our terpenes are guaranteed for purity and consistency. We welcome you to customize terpene blends to meet your exact preferences.
Order cannabis terpenes wholesale today from a reputable company in the U.S. cannabis industry. Lab Effects is cGMP-certified, ISO 9001-certified, HACCP-certified, FDA-registered, and ANAB-accredited.