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  • Drew Herb Lesser

Sativa vs Indica, and CBD in treating PTSD and CPTSD, What does the research say?

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) are debilitating psychiatric conditions characterised by intrusive thoughts, heightened anxiety, and emotional dysregulation. This article examines the potential therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, focusing on Sativa and Indica strains, along with Cannabidiol (CBD), in the management of PTSD and CPTSD. We discuss the current state of research, the mechanisms of action, and the potential efficacy of these interventions.

PTSD and CPTSD are mental health conditions that develop following exposure to traumatic events. They often manifest as symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, and emotional numbness. While traditional treatments include psychotherapy and medications, some patients experience limited efficacy and unwanted side effects, prompting interest in alternative therapies.

Medical Cannabis: Sativa vs. Indica

Medical cannabis, with its various strains, has gained attention as a potential treatment for PTSD and CPTSD. Two main categories of cannabis strains, Sativa and Indica, have distinct characteristics.

Sativa strains are typically associated with uplifting, energizing effects. They often contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric "high." Some studies have suggested that Sativa strains may help reduce anxiety, a primary symptom of PTSD, through mood-enhancing properties (Wilkinson et al., 2015).

Indica strains, on the other hand, are known for their sedative and relaxing effects. They tend to have higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound, and may help with sleep disturbances and emotional regulation. CBD, in particular, has shown potential as an anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent (Blessing et al., 2015). A case series by Jetly et al. (2015) investigated the use of an indica strain in military veterans with PTSD and found potential benefits in reducing nightmares and improving sleep. However, the sample size was small, and controlled clinical trials are needed to validate these findings.

Medical Cannabis: Hybrid Strains

Hybrid cannabis strains are cultivated by crossing Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants. This hybridization results in a balanced cannabinoid profile, which includes both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. Studies suggest that the 50-50 hybrid strains could offer benefits for PTSD and CPTSD patients.

The use of cannabis for PTSD and CPTSD is controversial, and the available evidence is mixed. One study, conducted by Greer et al. (2014), found that PTSD symptoms decreased in patients who used cannabis, while another study by Bonn-Miller et al. (2016) indicated that cannabis use might exacerbate symptoms in some individuals. Further research is needed to understand these discrepancies and the potential of hybrid strains.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis and has garnered significant attention for its potential therapeutic effects on anxiety and stress-related disorders. . CBD's mechanism of action involves interacting with the body's endocannabinoid receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating mood and stress responses. A study by Elms et al. (2019) suggests that CBD may help manage symptoms related to emotional dysregulation and chronic pain, which are often associated with CPTSD.

Combining Sativa, Indica, and CBD

Optimal cannabis-based treatment for PTSD and CPTSD may involve a tailored approach. While Sativa strains with higher THC content might provide short-term relief from anxiety and depression, they may not be suitable for individuals prone to panic or heightened anxiety. On the other hand, Indica strains, with their higher CBD content, can offer relaxation and aid in sleep regulation.

CBD, as a non-psychoactive compound, should be integrated into treatment regimens with both Sativa and Indica strains. Its anxiolytic properties can counterbalance the psychoactive effects of THC, offering a more balanced and tolerable experience for patients.


The use of medical cannabis, particularly Sativa and Indica strains, along with CBD, in the treatment of PTSD and CPTSD is a subject of ongoing research and debate. While some studies suggest potential benefits, the field requires more rigorous clinical trials to establish clear guidelines and assess long-term effects. Importantly, patient safety, efficacy, and the need for personalized treatment regimens should be considered.

Collaboration between healthcare providers, researchers, and patients is essential in exploring the potential of medical cannabis as a complementary treatment for these complex disorders. It is crucial to emphasize that these treatments should be used in conjunction with evidence-based therapies and under the guidance of qualified healthcare providers.

In conclusion, medical cannabis, comprising Sativa and Indica strains, and CBD, holds promise as an alternative or adjunctive treatment option for individuals with PTSD and CPTSD. Nevertheless, more research is needed to determine the safety, efficacy, and appropriate dosages of these interventions, taking into account the individualized nature of these conditions.


  • Wilkinson, S. T., Radhakrishnan, R., & D'Souza, D. C. (2015). A systematic review of the evidence for medical marijuana in psychiatric indications. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 76(3), 323-330.

  • Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825-836.

  • Elms, L., Shannon, S., Hughes, S., & Lewis, N. (2019). Cannabidiol in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: A case series. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 25(4), 392-397.

  • Greer, G. R., Grob, C. S., & Halberstadt, A. L. (2014). PTSD symptom reports of patients evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 73-77.

  • Bonn-Miller, M. O., Babson, K. A., & Vandrey, R. (2014). Using cannabis to help you sleep: Heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 136, 162-165.

  • Jetly, R., Heber, A., Fraser, G., & Boisvert, D. (2015). The efficacy of nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, in the treatment of PTSD-associated nightmares: A preliminary report. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 35(6), 680-684.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The author is NOT a Doctor. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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