When night falls, and sleep seems just out of reach, some turn to a trusty herbal ally: Indica. Known for its ‘couch-lock’ effect, Indica has been a go-to strain for those seeking the embrace of Morpheus. But what’s the science behind this snooze-inducing strain?
The Myrcene Effect
One of the primary factors influencing Indica’s sedative nature is the presence of the terpene myrcene. Myrcene, one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis, is recognized for its sedative and motor relaxant effects. A study highlighted that mice administered with myrcene showed a significant increase in sleep duration.
Myrcene, better known as the active sedating principle of hops and lemongrass, is also found in basil, mangos, and its namesake, Myrcia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension (Ulbricht, 2011).https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/myrcene
The cannabinoid profile, particularly the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), also plays a vital role. Indica strains often have higher concentrations of THC, contributing to their sedative effect2. Interestingly, while THC in moderate to high doses can induce sleep, some individuals might find low doses of THC stimulating, especially newcomers to cannabis.
Beyond THC and Myrcene
It’s not just about THC and myrcene; other cannabinoids like CBN, known for its sedative properties, and a range of terpenes contribute to the overall effect. Terpenes like linalool and humulene, alongside cannabinoids like CBD and CBN, enhance the sedative qualities of strains rich in myrcene.
Cannabinoids and Sleep
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a part in regulating sleep among other functions.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) are the two most prominent cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, and their effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system are pivotal in the regulation of sleep, among a myriad of other physiological processes.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of receptors found throughout the body, including the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The primary function of this system is to maintain bodily homeostasis – biological harmony in response to environmental changes. Sleep regulation is a critical aspect of homeostasis, and cannabinoids exert their influence by interacting with the system’s receptors, namely CB1 and CB2.
THC is known for its psychoactive properties, binding primarily to CB1 receptors located in the brain and central nervous system, producing the ‘high’ associated with cannabis. This interaction can influence the body’s sleep-wake cycle, potentially aiding in the reduction of sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and increasing sleep duration.
CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and interacts with a variety of physiological targets, including CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system. CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system can lead to anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) and neuroprotective effects, which may help individuals unwind and prepare for sleep, particularly if anxiety is a factor that contributes to their insomnia.
Indica strains are often characterized by a higher CBD to THC ratio compared to their Sativa counterparts. This higher concentration of CBD may contribute significantly to the relaxing and sedative effects commonly attributed to Indica strains. The presence of other cannabinoids, such as CBN (Cannabinol), which is produced as THC ages and oxidizes, also plays a role in the sedative quality of these strains. CBN has been observed to have a pronounced sedating effect, even more so than other cannabinoids, though it is typically present in smaller quantities.
Moreover, the entourage effect, a concept suggesting that cannabinoids work better together than in isolation, posits that the sleep-inducing properties of Indica strains are not due solely to any single compound. Instead, it’s the synergistic action of cannabinoids, terpenes (the aromatic compounds in cannabis), and flavonoids (the compounds that give plants their color) that produce the full therapeutic potential.
Terpenes such as myrcene, which is abundant in many Indica strains, have their own sedative and muscle-relaxant properties. When combined with cannabinoids, these terpenes may enhance the overall relaxing and sleep-promoting effects of cannabis. This synergy could potentially increase the therapeutic value for those seeking relief from insomnia and other sleep disorders.
While Indica strains are often associated with sleepiness, their effects are not uniform and can vary widely depending on the chemical profile of the strain and the consumer’s unique biology. This complexity allows for a personalized cannabis experience, where one can find strains tailored to their desired effects, whether that’s for sleep, relaxation, or a gentle euphoria.