It’s a simple question we hear in the dispensary every single day. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple.
While the cannabis plant is famously associated with *chill vibes* and stress relief, the fact remains that ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all. We see this in the dispensary all the time: THC products seem to relieve stress really well in some people but can exacerbate stress and anxiety in others. And CBD products may work for some, but have absolutely no effect whatsoever for others.
While this all sounds confounding, there are patterns that can help us understand why this is. People turning to cannabis to manage stress will choose one of three cannabis types: high-THC/low-CBD (Type-I), combination THC : CBD (Type-II), and high-CBD, low-THC (Type-III).
So what’s going on here? Well, science is still trying to figure it out. But there are a few theories that attempt to explain why people find relief with different kinds of cannabinoid products.
Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that may offer some clues as to which category could work best for you.
THC and CBD are sisters– not twins
First of all, it’s important to understand that THC and CBD work very differently– regardless of body chemistry and lifestyle factors. In short, THC acts on cannabinoid receptors (CB1R) in the brain that make a person feel “high” or intoxicated. CBD does not act on this receptor. Instead, CBD works on non-intoxicating channels, and it’s possible that it can even make a person feel less high if they’ve already consumed THC.
That’s because CBD is what the scientists call a “negative allosteric modulator at the CB1R,” which means that CBD actually changes the way that THC is bound to the CB1 receptor (remember, that’s the one found in your brain that makes you feel high). If THC is like a screw in a wall (the receptor is the wall in this case), CBD is the screwdriver that loosens it up a few notches.
What that means for you is that CBD might be able to temper down the psychoactive effects of THC– which might be a positive thing for a lot of folks who are more sensitive to THC. However, not everyone enjoys impinging on their high.
On its own, CBD has been reported to produce feelings of subtle lightness, clarity, calmness, and tranquility– in some cases drowsiness.
By figuring out your preference and being able to answer the question: “would you enjoy feeling intoxicated right now?”, you’ve already won half the battle.
Cannabis “types” are determined based on THC : CBD ratio
So many factors impact the effects of cannabis on the mind, mood, and stress. And we just don’t have enough research yet to be able to accurately predict how different cannabis formulations will make you feel until you’ve tried them for yourself. That’s why experimentation is the name of the game. Not sure where to start? Check out our guide about how to dose responsibly.
Type I: High-THC/ low CBD
So you’ve made up your mind: you want to get high. A lot of people find the intoxicating euphoria they get from THC can be extremely therapeutic.
In such cases, people should seek out what is called a Type I flower or product, meaning that it has high amounts of THC and very low to trace amounts of CBD. In other words: Type I cannabis will make a person feel high.
And there are levels to these sensations. Leveling up too high can have some serious consequences and unintended side effects that cause a lot of people to shy away from high-THC products. And for good reason: getting uncomfortably high sucks.
Instead of relying on state guidelines or friends’ recommendations to decide how much THC to consume, it is important that each consumer determines their ideal dose for their unique body chemistry on their own. That means start with one small hit, wait at least 5-10 minutes, and see if you need to take more. In the case of edibles, wait at least 3-4 hours before taking another dose.
Common Type-I ratios (THC:CBD)
- 25:1 (25% THC : 1% CBD for flower or 25 mg/THC and 1mg/CBD for edibles) (most intoxicating)
- 20:1 (20% THC : 1% CBD for flower or 20 mg/THC and 1 mg/CBD for edibles) (middle intoxicating)
- 15:0 (15% THC : 0% CBD for flower or 15mg/THC and 0 mg CBD for edibles) (least intoxicating)
Bottom line: if you consider yourself a person who is generally not sensitive to substances, and you want to feel intoxicated, trying a Type I flower or product is a good place to start.
Type II: THC/CBD Combination
This ratio is ideal for people who tend to get anxiety, but who still would like to be intoxicated.
Strains and products that contain CBD in combination with THC can make the THC high a much more forgiving, gentle experience– especially if the user is wanting to consume cannabis to take their mind off of stress. CBD might mitigate some of the stress-exacerbating side effects that THC has– as well as potentially chilling us out on its own.
There are many different THC: CBD ratios out there, so depending on how strongly they want to feel the THC, there should be options available everywhere.
Often, Type II cannabis has roughly equal amounts of THC and CBD, but there are many different combinations of each that may lend themselves to different experiences.
Common Type-II ratios (THC:CBD)
- 2:1 (10% THC : 5% CBD for flower or 10 mg/THC and 5 mg/CBD for edibles) (most intoxicating)
- 1:1 (10% THC : 10% CBD for flower or 10 mg/THC and 10mg/ CBD for edibles) (middle intoxicating)
- 1:2 (5% THC : 10% CBD for flower or 5mg/THC and 10mg/CBD for edibles) (least intoxicating)
Bottom line, if you consider yourself a person who is generally sensitive to substances, but you still want to feel somewhat intoxicated, a Type II might offer a mild–yet forgiving– experience.
Type III: High CBD/low THC
But the mind-altering effects of any amount of THC just aren’t comfortable for a lot of users– regardless of dose. A lot of these folks may have much, much more pleasant experiences with cannabis that contains 3%THC or less, combined with a CBD% of 15% or more.
Type III is the most gentle experience one can have with cannabis, as there is generally very little potential for intoxication (depending on user sensitivity and THC content). Of course, everyone is different and there are folks out there that have experienced mild euphoric effects from even very, very low-THC products, but the majority of users will not.
Common Type-III ratios (THC: CBD)
- 1:5 (1% THC : 5% CBD for flower or 1 mg/THC and 5 mg/CBD for edibles) (potentially intoxicating)
- 1:10 (1% THC : 10% CBD for flower or 1 mg/THC and 10 mg/CBD for edibles) (low chance of intoxication)
- 1 :20 (1% THC : 20% CBD for flower or 1 mg/THC and 20 mg/CBD for edibles) (very low chance of intoxication)
Bottom line: if you consider yourself a person who is generally very sensitive to substances, and you don’t want to feel intoxicated, a Type III product or flower will offer the lightest, most manageable experience with minimal chance of side effects from THC.
Wrapping it all up
Cannabis isn’t like ibuprofen: a lot of factors determine what kind of experience you’re likely to have with it.
With cannabis, how you want to feel might play a role in determining how you will feel when you take it. Expectations and intentions are important, so checking in with your body and it needs when you’re stressed is THE most important step in determining which product is right for you.
There is no one-size-fits-all for stress relief, and usually what works best is a combination of the right strain or product and lifestyle changes like exercise, meditation, and nutrition.
Next time you come into the dispensary to grab something for stress, try out a few different THC: CBD ratios and experiment until you find what works for you. There’s no way to measure your body chemistry (yet) to gauge how sensitive you are to these compounds– but paying attention to your body’s signals and talking to one of our knowledgeable budtenders is a good place to start.
(2018) Pharmacological Foundations of Cannabis Chemovars
(2017) Cannabis Pharmacology: The Usual Suspects and a few Promising Leads