If you’re curious at all about the world of weed, you’ve probably heard of CBD. After THC, it’s the second most common cannabinoid—or “active ingredient”—in cannabis. And depending on where you live, you may even have seen it advertised as an additive in popular foods and beverages: Coffee, candies, tinctures and even dog treats!
Wait a second. You want to get my dog…high?
Not a chance. CBD by itself isn’t psychoactive, which is why it can be sold over the counter in places where cannabis isn’t legal. In fact, when it’s sold this way, it’s typically derived from hemp, cannabis’ less-interesting cousin, which contains so little THC you’d have to ingest an acre’s worth to feel anything.
By itself, CBD has some very interesting and useful effects in the body, which we’ll detail in a moment (as well as sharing some recommendations for the best CBD strains). But what’s perhaps even more interesting is what CBD does in combination with THC. It turns out that many of cannabis’ most powerful medical effects come not from any single ingredient, but the entire panoply of compounds found in the plant.
You may have heard of this phenomenon. It’s called the “entourage effect” and it’s one of the reasons many people seeking the health benefits of cannabis prefer whole-plant cannabis or extracts to ones focused on a single cannabinoid.
First, though, let’s lay out a few of the many ways CBD interacts with your body, and why you might want to seek out CBD-rich strains for their health benefits.
What is CBD and What Does It Do?
CBD—short for cannabidiol—is the second-most prevalent cannabinoid. As with much cannabis research, there is still much to learn about this fascinating plant compound. But thus far, it appears that CBD has a role to play in treating pain, seizures, addiction, and anxiety, to name just a few.
Unlike THC, which attaches to the body’s CB1 receptors in the brain, or other cannabinoids which bond with the CB2 receptors found throughout our immune system, it appears that CBD doesn’t directly interact with either of them. Instead, it acts as a sort of “conductor,” stimulating the body to produce its own hormones for specific effects.
CBD and THC work together in interesting ways. As we’ve reported previously, it’s been shown that in many regards, CBD actually mitigates the intoxicating effects of THC. It helps to think of it as a partnership between the two most important cannabinoids, not a contest. A healthy proportion of CBD helps keep the experience of intoxication and potential fuzziness in check, while also adding its own stress- and anxiety-fighting potential to the mix.
What’s more, the two cannabinoids fight pain (and even give you the munchies) in different ways. And while THC’s psychoactivity can make pain feel less severe, more studies actually point to CBD’s pain-fighting qualities than THC’s. While so far there is only a little hard clinical evidence to suggest CBD has a role in fighting pain, anecdotally it’s a very different story.
Many longtime cannabis users say CBD strains best treat their pain, whether it’s nociceptive (caused by injury), neuropathic (caused by damage to nerves) and the more mysterious central pain, which broadly speaking arises from a generalized dysfunction of the nervous system. Let’s be clear: Even if we’re not sure how—or even if—CBD in and of itself treats pain, it’s well-established that cannabis is a safe, gentle and effective treatment for pain.
Another compelling area of research is around the treatment of seizures. The FDA—which has been notably hesitant about advancing cannabis research due to Federal prohibition—last year approved a medication derived from cannabis to treat two rare forms of epilepsy.
That Federal prohibition, of course, is based on the antique notion that cannabis is a dangerous drug, perhaps a “gateway” to substances like heroin, methamphetamines and crack cocaine. Ironically, one of the most promising avenues of research on CBD indicates that it has a role to play in helping people quit these objectively harmful drugs. A 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics supports this possibility; another from 2013 found that CBD inhalers help smokers significantly reduce their craving for nicotine.
And in another seeming paradox, a study published in Neurotherapeutics suggests that CBD could help people who suffer anxiety disorders. Ironically, cannabis is sometimes implicated as a cause of anxiety and paranoia, not a cure for it. So what’s the real story?
In large part, early cannabis studies treated the cannabis plant more or less as a monolith, seeking out either high-THC strains or those with more or less equal ratios of THC to CBD. Now, the growing public interest in CBD is driving researchers to focus more closely on high-CBD strains. And because THC is associated with anxiety, it seems that the trend towards higher CBD / lower THC content is helping unlock some of the cannabis plant’s secrets.
Those secrets are yielding fascinating results in terms of the treatment of anxiety. One study found that CBD can reduce the anxiety many of us feel around public speaking. A 2016 case study suggests that CBD has a role to play in soothing pediatric anxiety. We could go on, but we hope the point is clear: A growing body of research supports the notion that CBD is a powerful medicine with implications for the treatment of anxiety.
One last note on the medical front. One of the most common questions around cannabis is: Can it cure cancer?
While cannabis has already been shown to be excellent at addressing the symptoms of cancer treatment—loss of appetite and nausea, pain, insomnia and others—we think it’s far too early to make any predictions about cannabis’ fighting cancer itself.
Still, there are some early indications that it might do just that. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that in certain cases, CBD helped to significantly slow the spread of cancer, tending to suppress cancer cells’ growth and also promoting their destruction.
That’s a fairly broad survey of CBD’s effects on our bodies. So…what about its effects on the brain? What does ingesting high-CBD cannabis feel like, and what are some best CBD strains so you can try for yourself?
What Are High-CBD Strains Like?
High-CBD cannabis has a very distinctive experiential profile from high-THC cannabis. If high-THC cannabis produces the stereotypical “couch lock” and heavy body effects we’ve historically associated with weed, many people instead describe high-CBD strains as having a “heady” or “cerebral” quality.
This is due in part to a lower THC content. As we mentioned earlier, if you’re prone to the anxiousness that a heavy THC hit can sometimes bring, CBD-heavy strains may be a wiser choice. They tend to leave you clear-headed and alert. It’s for this reason many fans seek them out for daylight or work-hour use, or even as a mild stimulant for social gatherings. Instead of promoting a long nap, they’re more likely to get you dancing, chatting, and feeling at ease.
What Are the Best CBD Strains?
Once upon a time, high-CBD strains were hard to come by. But the explosion in interest and research—evidenced by the many studies referenced above—suggest that cannabis strains with a higher CBD content than THC content might become the new norm.
Because we maintain close relationships with growers, processors, and suppliers, we’re able to have access to a wide variety of cannabis products, and we’re always choosing our stock carefully to reflect what our customers are looking for in their cannabis. So while we can’t promise that all of our dispensaries will have all of the strains we list below, there’s an excellent chance we’ll have a few.
What’s more, we heartily suggest you engage with your friendly budtender about viable alternatives. If you’re seeking out the best CBD strains, you can rest assured we’ll find something that suits your tastes, interests, and needs.
So without further ado, here are just a few of our favorite high-CBD strains:
This cannabis is a sativa-dominant CBD powerhouse! With an extremely CBD-heavy cannabinoid makeup (THC:CBD ratio of 1:20), this strain produces few if any intoxicating effects. It helps many patients treat pain, anxiety, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and the negative effects of chemotherapy, all with a clear head.
CBD Critical Mass
A high-CBD cross of Afghani and Skunk #1, this indica-dominant strain is great for relaxing and easing physical discomfort. It stimulates creativity and euphoria without knocking you out. Botanically speaking, it grows like a sativa but flowers like an indica. And most notably, it was bred specifically to maximize its medicinal benefits. Not only is it hugely medicinal, but it’s delicious, with earthy, woody, and sweet flavors. Fans of this strain most commonly report the effects as relaxing, tingly, happy and uplifting.
CBD Mango Haze
An energizing sativa-dominant, Mango Haze attracts many fans of its medical qualities. The strain has been selectively bred to produce a high CBD content, so the large dose of CBD is accompanied by little to no psychoactive high.
Typically showing a 2:1 CBD to THC ratio, this hybrid delivers many medical benefits without the anxiousness and paranoia associated with THC. You will feel some psychoactivity, however, so prepare accordingly. A strain with powerfully relaxing effects, some fans describe it as “uplifting” and “focusing the mind.” You may also feel strong warming and relaxing body sensations. It’s recommended for those who desire pain relief, and some report it calms nausea, anxiety, stress and mood disorders as well.
This beloved strain displays sativa-dominant uplift, usually with a very slight euphoric effect. It’s great for daytime activities while giving a mild and soothing CBD ride. Often described as bringing clear-headed, uplifting, focus-producing effects, Harlequin also reliably treats anxiety, chronic pain, depression, gastrointestinal issues, inflammation, PMS and cramps, and migraines.
Stephen Hawking Kush
While we’re fairly sure the late physicist had no part to play in naming this mild, relaxing strain, we like to think he would have appreciated its healthy dose of CBD. (Then again, he’s not available for rebuttal.) This indica-dominant strain is known for its gentle euphoria, imparting both heady and soothing effects.
Technically, White Widow is not a high-CBD strain but was bred with the optimal amount of CBD as a buffer (1-4%) to mitigate some of the effects of THC. Consumers report White Widow to be helpful in treating PTSD, depression, stress and anxiety, nausea, and pain. It’s a versatile strain that works great for daytime or evening use.
Wrapping It Up
Again, we’d love to connect with you about any questions you might have about high-CBD strains, how to get the most out of the strains you choose, or the world of cannabis in general. We’re excited that cannabinoids like CBD hold such promise for both our bodies and our minds, and we’ll keep you updated as more news and developments arise in the wild and wonderful world of cannabis research. Till then, stay healthy and stay happy!