There’s been a renewed focus on wellness recently, which makes total sense given *gestures broadly at the world*. After all, we’re living through a literal pandemic, so it’s only natural that health, both physical and mental, has been at the top of your mind. Of course, you can’t talk about health and wellness without mentioning cannabis. With expanding legalization across the U.S., marijuana is losing its bad rep, and for good reason. It turns out that weed can actually be really good for you, and these benefits of smoking weed include everything from decreasing symptoms of depression to lowering your risk of diabetes.
It is important to note that research on marijuana is still rather limited due to federal regulations since it’s classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no “currently accepted medical use.” In fact, since 1968, researchers in the United States have only been allowed to study cannabis sourced from a single facility. The facility in question is located at the University of Mississippi, and it wasn’t until 2021 that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced it was in the process of registering several other American companies to produce MJ for medicinal and scientific purposes. It’s about time.
However, despite the limited amount of information that’s currently available, preliminary studies are very promising and show that potential health benefits of cannabis use (both mental and physical) are totally worth being explored further. Cannabis experts and medical professionals alike also attest to the pros of smoking weed. To learn more, Elite Daily spoke to Dr. Hervé Damas, a physician and cannabis researcher, and Spencer Ekl, an Operations Manager at Gage Cannabis, to get the lowdown about the benefits of weed, as well as how different kinds of cannabis can affect you.
Cannabis May Bring Your Creativity To New Highs
Pot may be the creative assistant you’ve been looking for. However, individual personality may play the biggest role in cannabis’ overall influence on one’s creative abilities.
While there are many ways researchers measure levels of creativity, one such way is something called “divergent thinking.” Essentially, divergent thinking quantifies creativity by tallying how many solutions to a problem someone can think of. It’s believed that the more solutions one comes up with, the more creative they probably are.
“Marijuana has long had a reputation amongst many musicians, artists, writers and other creatives for having the ability to help them create or overcome ‘blocks,’” Dr. Damas says.
Authors of a 2012 study found that divergent thinking increased in subjects who smoked weed who did not consider themselves creative to begin with. However, those who did consider themselves to be very creative from the get-go didn’t see an overall increase in their creativity after smoking.
Looking at the data from the research, Dr. Damas hypothesized that this difference might be due to the fact that the creatives used a 1% stronger strain of THC than the non-creatives in the study. In addition, the creatives reported using cannabis an average three days more per month, so their tolerance is most likely higher, meaning they won’t feel the effects as strongly.
“This data set would lead towards creatives having greater tolerance to the effects of THC. This tolerance is the result of their more frequent and more potent use and is demonstrated in the scores,” explains Dr. Damas.
If you’re looking to potentially increase your creativity with cannabis, Dr. Damas says the strain you choose can make a difference. “Sativa strains are known to provide the ‘head high’ that people associate with fostering creativity,” he says.
Cannabis Can Be Used To Treat Depression
Research has shown that not only can cannabis treat depression, but consuming cannabis can also lower your risk of developing depression.
A study conducted by Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience in 2013 found that THC “reduces the negative bias in emotional processing,” which means weed can be used to help people cope with depression and other psychiatric disorders.
In addition, a study published by USC and SUNY Albany 2015 found that “those who consume marijuana occasionally or even daily have lower levels of depressive symptoms than those who have never tried marijuana.”
Dr. Damas says this is due to the presence of one compound.
“Within the cannabis plant is a compound called Cannabidiol, which we commonly know by the abbreviation CBD. CBD is known to be a very effective anxiolytic (anxiety reliever) and antidepressant when used long term,” he says.
Just FYI, indica-dominant strains are highest in CBD ratio compared to sativa-dominant strains. So, if you’re feeling blue, brighten up your day by packing a bowl with an indica-dominant strain.
Lighting Up May Lower Your Risk Of Diabetes, But The Jury Is Out
A study published in The American Journal of Medicine in 2013 found that people who smoke marijuana had lower insulin levels and insulin resistance levels by 16 and 17%, respectively.
This suggests that cannabis may play a role in regulating blood sugar, which can decrease your risk of developing diabetes.
“One of the prevailing theories is that Cannabinoids allow for greater entry of glucose into the cell. The jury is still out on this one since there have been some studies that show no correlation,” says Dr. Damas. One such study that showed no correlation is a 2020 study that looked into the effects of recreational cannabis in those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Sparking Up Is A Great Social Activity
Weed can reduce social anxiety. During a 2020 study, researchers gave participants with social anxiety 400 mg of CBD before giving a speech and saw reduced social anxiety compared to the control group who did not consume 400 mg of CBD. While the sample size for this study was small, it is promising research that shows marijuana can help with social anxiety, specifically in regards to cannabinoid CBD found in the marijuana plant.
Pot Can Make Your Periods Suck Less
When it comes to managing premenstrual symptoms, marijuana can be a natural alternative to Midol.
Studies have found that THC is an analgesic and antinociceptive agent that can alleviate the pain of those killer cramps and pounding headaches. Plus, marijuana has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with the bloating that occurs around that time of the month.
Dr. Damas says cannabis is a common pain reliever. “Surveys of medical marijuana patients find that upwards of 40% reports using cannabis for the treatment of pain, from nagging aches, episodic pain (menstrual cramps) to chronic conditions like fibromyalgia,” he says. “Cannabis users tend to decrease their consumption of prescription analgesics as well as over the counter pain medications.”
Getting High Can Lead To Better Sex
“Studies have shown that cannabis can be an aphrodisiac [by] increasing pleasure [and] intimacy while decreasing anxiety amongst partners,” explains Dr. Damas.
In fact, in 2019, a study looked into sex for women specifically and concluded that marijuana improved satisfaction with orgasms. Another 2017 study found an increase in sexual frequency, for both men and women, and that it didn’t appear to lessen sexual function.
Smoking A Bowl Can Boost Your Energy
While there’s a stigma that marijuana use can make you lazy, not all strains of cannabis turn you into a complete couch potato.
Research has supported a link between the brain’s CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors and dopamine. Essentially, small doses of marijuana won’t hurt your efficiency level, and an increase in dopamine levels gives you the focus you need to get your stuff done. However, over-doing it can actually harm productivity and motivation, so keep it in check.
If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, swap out your coffee and smoke a Sativa-dominant strain like Sour Diesel or Jack Herer, instead.
“‘Yellow Fruit Stripe’ is one of my favorite sativa-dominant strains, and it is perfect for morning or during the day when you are still trying to get things done or go out and do any sort of activity,” Ekl says.
Smoking Weed Can Also Help You Fall Asleep — To A Certain Extent
While there is considerable debate over the long-term effect marijuana has on sleep cycles, some feel that smoking a bowl before bedtime acts as a better sleep aid than other substances like alcohol and certain sleep-inducing medications.
“Indicas are known for their relaxing properties. This is a result of their unique chemical composition of phytocannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.), as well as their concentration of other substances like terpenes (linalool, myrcene),” explains Dr. Damas.
Terpenes, such as linalool and myrcene, are the oils found in cannabis. They’re what cause the aroma of the plant and give certain strains their distinct flavors. Terpenes also can affect the unique roles of different cannabis strains, aka whether they’re more relaxing or heightehning. However, more research is still necessary to truly understand the extent of their involvement.
Unfortunately, though, it’s been seen that marijuana’s effectiveness as a sleep aid decreases with increased usage. That said, a cannabinoid found in marijuana, CBD, is a great aid for sleep.
“CBD can also be used for sleep because of its effect on receptors that cause sedation (GABA),” says Dr. Damas.
“One of the benefits of using CBD for sleep is that you won’t be ‘high’ like you will if you use an indica.”
“Some indica strains that I think work well are ‘GMO,’ ‘Garlic Cookies,’ and ‘Grand Daddy Pluto.’ These also work great for pain relief or injuries,” Ekl says.
Smoking Weed Makes You Worry Less
Susan A Stoner, PHD, a research consultant at the University of Washington, looked into the effects of marijuana on mental health. Dr. Stoner reported that using marijuana can contribute to short-term anxiety relief. The article also mentioned that small doses of THC act as a sedative, decreasing symptoms of anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious, smoking may be of help. (Just don’t go overboard, as smoking too much can actually give you anxiety or paranoia.)
Ripping The Bong Can Actually Be Good For Your Lungs
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 indicated that marijuana smoke is not detrimental to your lungs.
In fact, past studies found lighting up can briefly increase your lung capacity in the short term… you know, from all that inhaling you’re doing.
Dr. Hervé Damas, Founder of Dr. Damas Wellness and cannabis researcher
Spencer Ekl, an Operations Manager at Gage Cannabis Co