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How Do CBD Ratios Work?

August 23, 2018 @ 8:16AM

The subject of CBD ratios has been a hot topic in the cannabis industry for a few years now, and the concept has only gained more interest as cannabis-derived CBD products have become more affordable and more plentiful over the last couple of years. The premise of these ratios is that THC & CBD work better together than they do separately, and varying proportions of CBD to THC produce noticably different effects that may better suit people who either don’t want to feel intoxicated or don’t tolerate THC well.

You’re probably familiar with Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that causes the psychoactive “high” from consuming cannabis, so let’s briefly talk about CBD in case you’re less familiar with it. CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it's a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is being researched for its "anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, neuroprotective, antioxidant, and antipsychotic” properties. A common-but-false belief regarding CBD is that it is the only medicinal/ therapeutic component of cannabis, though this could not be further from the truth, as THC (as well as myriad other cannabinoids and terpenes) provide a diverse range of therapeutic benefits, and they all work synergistically.

We're starving for any kind of scientific research and/or clinical trials relating to cannabis here in the United States— as researching marijuana legally is currently extremely difficult to do given its current status as a Schedule I drug (we’ll discuss this topic further in a future blog)— but existing research and clinical trials from other countries like the the United Kingdom and Israel have guided the decision-making of American pot product developers for years now. To be more specific, groundbreaking studies regarding a cannabis-based drug called Sativex® repeatedly emphasize that a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC seems optimal for treating the widest array of symptoms. Sativex® is prescribed to people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 21 countries— Canada, Israel, Australia, and 18 European countries— but has not yet been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Published research by local neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo states that “numerous randomized clinical trials have demonstrated safety and efficacy for Sativex®,” and he goes on to say that it is considered to be very well-tolerated with minimal or negligible side effects (his exact, albeit confusing phrasing was “a very favorable adverse event profile has been observed in over 2500 patient years of exposure in over 2000 experimental subjects”). In one UK study funded by GW Pharmaceuticals (producers of Sativex®), patients were administered a 5mg/kg dose of CBD in conjunction with a 5mg/kg dose of THC and observed a 20% peak reduction in spasticity. When the patients were given 10mg/kg of CBD and 10mg/kg of THC, the peak reduction in spasticity increased to 40%.

In another Sativex® study out of Scotland, serious adverse events related to treatment were only reported in 2.7% of patients (the most common adverse side effects reported from Sativex® clinical trials were dizziness, drowsiness, and disorientation). The same study also concluded that "patients consistently reported little or no intoxication” and that "Sativex® is well tolerated and provides sustained long-term symptom relief.” 

After reading through clinical trials and other studies pertaining to CBD, it seems apparent that the varying ratios are more of a matter of preference than effectiveness. To put that another way, there’s a strong probability that you will benefit the most from a product with a 1:1 ratio, but if you don’t tolerate THC well (or if you’re going to be in a situation that requires you to retain a certain level of mental clarity, such as medicating before work) consider trying a cannabis product with a higher ratio of CBD to THC.

1:1 Ratio

Products with a 1:1 ratio provide the broadest spectrum of relief, and seem to be the most effective for alleviating neuropathic pain. In terms of intoxication, CBD curbs the intensity of the THC high, but simultaneously prolongs the duration of THC’s effects. 

As of this writing, we carry flower by Red Frog and From the Soil Farms with a 1:1 ratio, as well as 1:1 cartridges by Fairwinds and Airopro, and a variety of 1:1 edibles including chocolates, cookies, candies, beverages, and tinctures.

2:1 Ratio

Products with a 2:1 ratio may contain less THC than a 1:1 product, but they may still feel similar to 1:1 products. This ratio may not be ideal for people who are sensitive to THC, but it's still worth experimenting with.

As of this writing, we carry Discovery Garden RSO and lemon flavored drops by Zoots with a 2:1 ratio.

5:1 Ratio

Products with a 5:1 ratio have a functional, generally clear-headed balance of THC & CBD that’s better suited to those who are sensitive to THC’s effects but still want to maximize its benefits.

As of this writing, we carry the 5:1 Release cartridge by Fairwinds which is specially designed to help manage stress & anxiety.

10:1 Ratio

Products with a 10:1 ratio are CBD rich (or “high CBD”), and have just enough THC to allow the user to benefit from its effects without feeling much of a high.

As of this writing, we carry a 10:1 tincture by Fairwinds (as well as their 10:1 cartridge), and 2 strains of flower by Puffin Farm with a 10:1 ratio.

20:1 Ratio

These products are CBD rich, with a micro-dose of THC to optimize the effects. This ratio is intended to be non-intoxicating, and our friends at Fairwinds have observed that there are diminishing returns in terms of wellness support for ratios that exceed 20:1.

As of this writing, we carry Green Revolution RSO, lemongrass hard candies by Zoots, and cartridges by Fairwinds with a 20:1 ratio.

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As with all marijuana products, the experiences are unique to the individual, and we encourage our customers to experiment with different ratios to see which one works best for their specific needs. We typically have at least one Washington state certified Medical Marijuana Consultant on duty in our pot shop at all times (call ahead to make sure), otherwise be sure to visit ProjectCBD.org for more information.

Article by Ramsey Doudar; an in-house marketing and social media strategist at Herbn Elements. Ramsey's perspective is influenced by 2 years of budtending, 5 years as a cannabis industry marketing professional, and 10+ years of being a super picky medical patient.