The Ultimate Guide to Understanding THC & CBD Ratios
If you are new to using medical cannabis, you may find your first trip to a dispensary a little confusing. The transparent labeling of products will contain information regarding potency and ingredients (if an edible, tincture, or cannabis vape cartridge). It will also include CBD and THC ratios.
There is other information on the labels, too, about different types of minor cannabinoids and terpenes. You may be wondering what it all means because cannabis is cannabis, right? But when you are a patient using medical marijuana to help moderate symptoms, those ratios hold the key to choosing the best strains and products for your wellness needs.
Patients frequently ask our practitioners and physicians about ratios and why they are essential (if not a little bit confusing). We have created this guide to help you understand what a CBD-THC ratio means. This will help you learn everything you need to know to find the best products at your local dispensary.
What is the Big Deal About CBD to THC Ratio?
Cannabis sativa (marijuana) is a psychoactive plant that contains over 500 components, of which 113 cannabinoids have been identified. Researchers have discovered that the cannabis plant has between 80-120 cannabinoids and also 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals. Many of which may have wellness benefits.
Two of these cannabinoids have been studied for their medicinal properties: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The potency of marijuana is determined based on the THC concentration of the plant. This cannabinoid is the reason a person will experience psychoactive effects. The higher the amount of THC in a product, the more intense the psychoactivity.
The major cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. High inflammation is linked to many symptoms, including pain, edema (swelling and fluid retention), and gastrointestinal upset (nausea and diarrhea). Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, COPD, and arthritis are also tied to high levels of inflammation in the human body.
In more recent years, the way marijuana can be used has changed significantly. What used to be as simple as smoking the plant through combustion has morphed into finding the ideal relief through an arrangement of different oils, edibles, lotions, and flower. For some, this can be extremely overwhelming, especially when you throw in different ratios of milligrams of THC to CBD.
Of course, consulting with a qualified Medical Marijuana Doctor will give you an idea of what products work best for you; however, it is quite easy to understand how ratios work on your own as well. Once you grasp the idea of ratios and how your body reacts to different quantities of cannabinoids, you will be able to get the best results possible from medical marijuana products.
What Are Ratio Marijuana Products?
The understanding of cannabinoid ratios is still in the early stages; however, cannabinoid’s medical and therapeutic properties are still distinct. THC and cannabidiol CBD differ in the way their molecules act on receptors located throughout the entire body.
In the brain, THC binds with the CB1 receptor, and CBD binds with the CB2 receptor while also blocking CB1 receptors from binding with THC. This means CBD can potentially decrease some of THC’s effects, like anxiety, as well as psychoactivity.
Whenever you see a marijuana product that has a ratio on it, it indicates the amount of milligrams of CBD to THC. For example, a product labeled as a 1:1 means for every milligram of CBD in the product, there will be one milligram of THC as well.
Cannabidiol (CBD) also shares the above THC traits. However, at the same time, it acts as an anti-anxiety and anti-seizure. However, CBD doesn’t produce a “high” sensation like THC. Because of this reason, many people prefer marijuana, having a higher ratio of CBD to THC, because consuming a low THC product comes with fewer adverse side effects.
Cannabidiol Can Taper and Balance the Effects of THC
Cannabinoids work better together, and the best example of this is medical cannabis products that have high CBD ratios. Not only does CBD help with inflammation (the root cause of most unpleasant symptoms, chronic pain, and some chronic diseases), it helps balance the effects of THC.
Some studies have shown that CBD might have antipsychotic properties. One recent case-control study found that the use of marijuana with high levels of THC may be associated with an increased risk of psychosis, especially when its CBD levels are low.
In countries such as England and the Netherlands, where highly THC-concentrated cannabis is regularly used, recent studies have shown an increased incidence of schizophrenia in comparison to countries like Italy, where more traditional cannabis varieties that have lower concentrations of THC are used.
High CBD ratio medical cannabis products can still make you impaired. However, many people feel that CBD helps reduce negative cannabis side effects such as nausea, paranoia, anxiety (Sativa dominant strains), and more. Sativa strains that have lower THC and higher CBD can provide sedating properties similar to Indica strains.
Now that you understand what medical cannabis ratios are and why they are important, here is a reference guide to common cannabinoid ratios you may find in your local dispensary. Keep in mind that a medical cannabis dispensary is different than a recreational marijuana shop. Products with higher beneficial ratios are provided for patients based on ratios that research suggests may work best.
A 0:1 ratio means that there’s no CBD mixed in with THC in the product. This means you’ll likely experience THC’s euphoric effects, so if you are sensitive to THC, you might experience its adverse effects. Some people prefer isolated THC because it can provide pain and inflammation relief. It can also potentially boost a person’s mood and energy. If you enjoy a strong psychoactive high, this ratio may be a good option.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are products that have a 1:0 CBD to THC ratio. This means that the product does not have any THC and should not produce psychoactivity. These products typically do not provide the best relief as to ones that have a little of both of the cannabinoids, but it is still likely to enhance a person’s overall mood and offer some anxiety relief.
A 1:1 ratio means that there are equal parts of CBD to THC in a product. This is often recommended as the most effective option to start with for new users. It has the right amount of THC to give medicinal effects but also plenty of CBD to lower THC’s adverse effects. It typically provides mild psychoactive effects that are pleasant and leave the consumer able to be functional throughout the day.
1:9 OR GREATER
Ratios like 1:9 or 1 to any number higher than 9 are considered high-THC ratios. While these products are not as intense as THC concentrates, they will still have many of the same high-THC characteristics.
These THC-rich strains and products can usually help those facing health challenges like:
These ratios are great options for those who want to avoid intense psychoactivity but still receive the right amount of relief. These ratios have more CBD than THC, such as:
In these ratios, the CBD keeps euphoric effects at a minimum, but the THC helps make the products more effective.
For those who do not want to experience any type of high but would like the benefits of the entourage effect, go for a 10:1 or higher CBD to THC ratio, such as an 18:1 or a 25:1
Are Higher CBD Ratio Products More Expensive?
The consensus is that cannabis products with higher CBD ratios are more valuable for medicinal purposes. For all the reasons mentioned above. Traditionally, higher cannabidiol ratios are higher priced in the dispensary. It’s kind of the way that organic food (which is healthier for you) is more expensive at the grocery store.
High CBD ratio cannabis strains are not harder to cultivate. The process is the same. However, they are more valuable to patients using medicinal cannabis so you can expect a higher price. One way to keep your medical cannabis costs reasonable is to consider taking a daily broad-spectrum CBD supplement, which can provide the same effects if you are unable to source affordable high CBD ratio cannabis products near you.
Dr. Glider is a board certified Internal Medicine Specialist. He received his Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians Certification in 2017 and was one of the first recommending physicians with DocMJ. In addition to medical marijuana recommendations, Dr. Glider continues to practice Internal and Geriatric Medicine in private practice. Additionally, he serves as Medical Director for a home health company, supervising and educating staff, as well as supervising an advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners for a transitional care program.
Dr. Glider graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine & Surgery in Des Moines, IA and completed his residency at Saddlebrook General Hospital in Saddlebrook, NJ. He has received several honors and awards throughout his professional career, including a City of Des Moines Merit Award and a Chamber of Commerce Award (Port St. Lucie, FL). Dr. Glider is an experienced and caring physician who is loved and respected by his peers and his patients.