Hi. I’m Lesley Nickus, Marijuana.com’s new Managing Editor. Like many of our readers, I’ve been self-medicating for years. In the absence of clinical research and a solid bank of information for doctors to effectively recommend specific cannabis products for medical use, those in search of alternative therapies have been forced to take a “let’s see what happens” approach to evaluating the effectiveness of the cannabis products we consume — based mostly on the anecdotal experiences of our peers.
Since 2007, I have studied the plant’s makeup, cultivation practices, extraction techniques and the science behind how cannabinoids interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system. But I never knew exactly what or how I could best utilize this knowledge for my individual wellness.
Having lived with myself for more than 30 years, I’m aware that I am at high risk for anxiety. I’m your standard A-type female, with elevated expectations of myself, and a borderline workaholic. The constant pressure to be perfect is a real struggle, completely put upon me by my very own brain — and some past life experiences. I’m not unique.
Men and women across the US experience some form of anxiety. In fact, it’s the most common mental illness in the country. People with anxiety experience very real physical symptoms over things others may see as inconsequential. These feelings range from an increased heart rate to panic attacks.
After years of therapy, I became disillusioned with pharmaceutical medication prescribed to treat symptoms of what was assumed to be depression. It didn’t work.
It made me different. I felt nothing. I decided I would rather find way to process those feelings than to dull them. I’ve found that for the most part, a healthful diet, regular exercise and sometimes binge-watching “sad” shows or movies to cry out my emotions had worked. When it doesn’t, I have cannabis, which helps to silence those negative or incessant thoughts that prevent me from going about my day productively.
Here’s one more minor example of how things usually go when anxiety creeps up on me:
Brain: “There’s traffic up ahead.”
Me: “Ok, cool. I’m not running late. It’s fine.”
Brain: “But what if it does make you late? Is there another route you can go? You should get off the freeway now and take side streets. Do you even know where you’re going? What if you get lost? Oh my god, what if there’s an earthquake? You’re stuck in the middle of all these cars. How will you escape?!?!”
Me: [heart now racing, breathing deeply, gripping the steering wheel with sweaty palms]
Most people don’t worry about getting stuck on the freeway in traffic while Godzilla rains fire down on unsuspecting commuters. And most days, I can laugh at the silly thoughts and go about my life like any other person. But sometimes, particularly when I’m under a lot of stress, I can’t.
Incessant thoughts keep me up at night. They prevent me from getting excited about social activities and they cause my life experiences to be diminished. I know many people reading this can relate.
The right cannabis product silences this seemingly never-ending stream of thoughts. Used appropriately for this purpose, cannabis helps me focus on tasks and get things done while the naysayer who questions every life decision I make is forced to stay quiet and let me live my life.
Not every product actually helps. While there is still a lot to be desired in terms of what strain names tell us (read: not much of anything), as more states legalize cannabis for recreational use, more and more cultivators are providing lab analysis results that show the cannabinoid makeup and terpene content of the product. Knowing the concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes is a huge benefit to those of us trying to manage a qualifying condition.
So, when I was told about CannaGx at a yacht club party (yeah, marijuana is a topic of discussion in all levels of society), I was understandably very intrigued. This service tests your DNA to identify how your body responds to pain, anxiety and insomnia — three of the main reasons cited by those who use medicinal cannabis.
Marijuana.com requested a batch of sample tests. I was lucky enough to snag one.
When it came in, I swabbed the inside of my mouth with the four provided cotton swabs, filled out the questionnaire and packed my DNA into the appropriate envelopes for analysis. In turn, I received a customized report that evaluated my genetic markers for the three above-mentioned issues.
From personal trial and error, I know high THC strains with citrus-heavy terpene profiles tend to increase the volume of random thoughts and anxious feelings. The report’s findings confirmed that. This doesn’t stop me from trying some prime Jet Fuel or Super Silver Haze, but I know that when I do consume that combo of THC and citrus terps, I’ll need an activity lined up — usually running, biking or swimming. When it comes to actually managing my anxiety, CBD-heavy strains and terpene profiles with myrcene (found in mangos) and linalool (found in lavender) are key.
While there is still a huge gap when it comes to understanding how cannabis products interact with our bodies, a great first step is keeping track of what you’re trying, where you got it and how it makes you feel. Until we have a greater body of evidence, as well as clinical trials to support the medical application of cannabis for specific conditions, it is important to have a dialogue about how we use marijuana in our everyday lives. Only then can we really take control of our individual wellness and demand greater access to scientific research on cannabis’ benefits and risks.