Even before marijuana was legalized, growers were chasing certain ratios of CBD and THC. Where it was different, however, was the ratio they were chasing was often very high THC and low CBD. This meant stronger highs while consuming less. As it stands now, with legal medical marijuana, companies have started reversing this trend, creating high CBD products with small amounts of THC. In this post, we will look at what CBD and THC are, what CBD:THC ratios are, and how different ratios produce different results.
It is always important to speak to a doctor with any questions about medical marijuana you may have, and you can easily find an Ohio medical marijuana doctor through DocMJ at (https://docmj.com/ohio/). If you would like to see if you qualify for medical marijuana, take our quick eligibility survey here (https://docmj.com/ohio/eligibility-survey/) as well.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids, meaning that they bind to cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are mainly found in specific areas of the brain (CB1) and immune and gastrointestinal systems (CB2). Although both chemicals act on these receptors, they produce very different results. THC is psychoactive, this means that it alters brain function, may change behavior and is responsible for the “high” feeling when ingesting certain strains of cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive, and research indicates it can have effects on anxiety, cognition, and pain. In general, the more CBD present, the lower the psychoactive effect. This is due to lower levels of THC overall and, interestingly, that CBD may lower the effects of THC when binding to the same receptors (Laprairie et al., 2015).
Scientific research on specific CBD and THC ratios is currently few and far between. Patient and customer feedback however, is not. Many people claim that certain CBD and THC ratios help soothe different conditions and can be used to help a wide variety of ailments. This chart, created by DocMJ’s Medical Director, Dr. Michael Bruno, shows which common symptoms may be helped by varying CBD and THC ratios.
Though research on specific dosages of CBD and THC ratios is difficult to find currently, the logic behind different dosages for different diseases is not. For example, the effects of CBD on seizures has long been recognized. As far back as the seventies, testing of CBD on rats as an anticonvulsant has been studied (Consroe and Wolkin, 1977). Other studies have shown reduction in seizures in humans (Tzadok et al., 2016; Cunha et al., 1980) and, in 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug based on CBD to treat two forms of epilepsy. Therefore, a CBD rich ratio is likely to help with seizures.
Pain is slightly more complicated. Some studies have shown some pain-alleviating effects of CBD in animal models (Jesus et al., 2019) and others in humans with neuropathic pain (Ho et al., 2019). Other studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system may regulate certain pain thresholds and have pain-relieving properties as well (Iversen and Chapman, 2002; Barinaga, 2001). These receptors have a high affinity for THC, meaning that THC molecules are very likely to bind and activate them. Because of this, many ratios of CBD and THC may work, and finding what can work for someone specifically can require trial and error. It is worth noting, though, that at high THC dosages the psychotropic side effects can quickly become apparent.
Nociceptive pain, the pain generally caused by injury, can also be helped by CBD and THC’s anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammatory properties of the chemicals can be attributed to the CB2 receptors found in the immune and gastrointestinal systems (Turcotte et al., 2016). Both CBD and THC bind to CB2 receptors, so a mix of the two is likely to best help inflammation.
THC and CBD can also be used to help muscle spasms, by relieving pain and inflammation. Studies have also shown that MS patients claim a reduction in muscle spasms when treated with cannabinoids compared to placebo (Zajicek et al., 2003). Overall, specific mechanisms for how cannabinoids may affect muscle spasms are still being researched and CBD and THC have been reported to be beneficial.
CBD has been held as an anti-anxiety treatment and has many studies claiming it’s calming effect (Blessing et al., 2015; Crippa et al., 2011). A recent study in mice showed that CBD may have an anti-depressant effect on the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, a common target for SSRI drugs (Linge et al., 2016). For these reasons, a stronger, CBD-rich ratio may help more with anxiety.
A new study has shown that cancer patients are more likely to use a high THC ratio to treat certain side effects including nausea and weight loss (Kim et al., 2019). The CB1 receptors in the brain have been suggested for targets of therapy and another possible pathway for THC as an anti-nausea drug has been found to be the 5-HT3 receptor, which is itself linked to nausea and vomiting (Taylor and Sauls, 2019).
THC has also been well documented as a possible sleep aid and appetite stimulant. One recent study has shown that the endocannabinoid system can increase food intake and may be linked to the olfactory system in the brain, making food smell better and stronger (Soria-Gómez et al., 2014). For insomnia, THC has been shown to increase sleep in humans (Pivik et al., 1972). However, some side effects have been reported from using THC as a sleep aid, and any concerns should be discussed with a doctor.
Overall it is important to know that exact CBD and THC ratios for specific symptoms are not a perfect science and requires some experimentation to find a perfect match for your needs. Based on past research, the above chart can hopefully help as a starting point, but it is clear that more and more research is being done on cannabinoids and more questions are being answered every day.
Laprairie, R. B., Bagher, A. M., Kelly, M. E., & Denovan-Wright, E. M. (2015). Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. British Journal of Pharmacology,172(20), 4790-4805. doi:10.1111/bph.13250
Consroe, P., & Wolkin, A. (1977). Cannabidiol–antiepileptic drug comparisons and interactions in experimentally induced seizures in rats. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics,201(1), 26-32. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
Cunha, J. M., Carlini, E., Pereira, A. E., Ramos, O. L., Pimentel, C., Gagliardi, R., . . . Mechoulam, R. (1980). Chronic Administration of Cannabidiol to Healthy Volunteers and Epileptic Patients. Pharmacology,21(3), 175-185. doi:10.1159/000137430
Jesus, C. H., Redivo, D. D., Gasparin, A. T., Sotomaior, B. B., Carvalho, M. C., Genaro, K., . . . Cunha, J. M. (2019). Cannabidiol attenuates mechanical allodynia in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats via serotonergic system activation through 5-HT1A receptors. Brain Research. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2019.03.014
Ho, C., Martinusen, D., & Lo, C. (2019). A Review of Cannabis in Chronic Kidney Disease Symptom Management. Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease,6, 205435811982839. doi:10.1177/2054358119828391
Iversen, L., & Chapman, V. (2002). Cannabinoids: A real prospect for pain relief. Current Opinion in Pharmacology,2(1), 50-55. doi:10.1016/s1471-4892(01)00120-5
Barinaga, M. (2001). How Cannabinoids Work in the Brain. Science,291(5513), 2530-2531. doi:10.1126/science.291.5513.2530
Turcotte, C., Blanchet, M., Laviolette, M., & Flamand, N. (2016). The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences,73(23), 4449-4470. doi:10.1007/s00018-016-2300-4
Zajicek, J., Fox, P., Sanders, H., Wright, D., Vickery, J., Nunn, A., & Thompson, A. (2003). Cannabinoids for treatment of spasticity and other symptoms related to multiple sclerosis (CAMS study): Multicentre randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet,362(9395), 1517-1526. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(03)14738-1
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. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
Crippa, J. A., Derenusson, G. N., Ferrari, T. B., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F. L., Martin-Santos, R., . . . Hallak, J. E. (2010). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology,25(1), 121-130. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283
Linge, R., Jiménez-Sánchez, L., Campa, L., Pilar-Cuéllar, F., Vidal, R., Pazos, A., . . . Díaz, Á. (2016). Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: Role of 5-HT1A receptors. Neuropharmacology,103, 16-26. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.12.017
Kim, A., Kaufmann, C. N., Ko, R., Li, Z., & Han, B. H. (2019). Patterns of Medical Cannabis Use among Cancer Patients from a Medical Cannabis Dispensary in New York State. Journal of Palliative Medicine. doi:10.1089/jpm.2018.0529
Taylor BN, Sauls RS. Cannaboinoid Antiemetic Therapy. [Updated 2018 Dec 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535430/
Soria-Gómez, E., Bellocchio, L., Reguero, L., Lepousez, G., Martin, C., Bendahmane, M., . . . Marsicano, G. (2014). The endocannabinoid system controls food intake via olfactory processes. Nature Neuroscience,17(3), 407-415. doi:10.1038/nn.3647
Pivik, R. T., Zarcone, V., Dement, W. C., & Hollister, L. E. (1972). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and synhexl: Effects on human sleep patterns. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics,13(3), 426-435. doi:10.1002/cpt1972133426