Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratios and Products for Pain UPDATE: Starting in January 2022, Leaf411 transitioned to a schedule-based system for our nurse guidance calls. Visit our Services page at 04: CBD:THC Ratios, How to NOT get High with Cannabis In today’s episode of “How to NOT get high with cannabis,” we’re exploring cannabinoid ratios. In Video 1 we talked about hemp CBD, and in
Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratios and Products for Pain
UPDATE: Starting in January 2022, Leaf411 transitioned to a schedule-based system for our nurse guidance calls. Visit our Services page at this link to learn more.
How Different CBD:THC Ratios and Types of Products Can Help with Pain
Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Rustning
When it comes to treating pain with cannabis, both the type of product and the ratio of cannabinoids matter. The two primary cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), though the cannabis plant contains many other cannabinoids, terpenes, plus other compounds that contribute to its therapeutic effect.
CBD: This cannabinoid is the star player in hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products are required to have below 0.3% THC, which is such a small amount that it’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high. You’ll also find CBD in cannabis products that contain higher levels of THC.
THC: The cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” if used in large enough amounts. Cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC remain illegal at the federal level and can only be legally purchased in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana.
Understanding the roles that both CBD and THC play in managing pain can help you find the best product for your needs. If you need a quick refresher on the types of pain that CBD and THC work best on, check out our previous post here.
Timing Your Dose: How Different Cannabis Products Reduce Pain
Whether you’re looking at CBD hemp or cannabis containing higher levels of THC (sold legally in dispensaries), you have several different routes of administration to choose between :
- Inhalation (smoking, vaping): Takes effect immediately and lasts 2-4 hours. This is a great choice for instant relief and for treating breakthrough pain (a flare-up in pain when you’re already taking longer-acting cannabis products). You can also layer inhaled cannabis with a longer-acting method (more on layering below) to help get you through the night.
- Transdermal (patches, gels): Extended release option that takes effect quickly, since the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream. The time of onset is rapid, sometimes within 20 minutes. Transdermal products provide a consistent dose of medicine for up to 12 hours. The transdermal patch or gel is used on an area where the veins are near the skin’s surface—like the inside of your wrist or on your ankle.
- Sublingual (placed under the tongue): Sublingual administration can provide rapid relief, but there are few true oromucosal (sublingual) products on the market. Cannabinoids are fat-soluble and, in their natural state, do not absorb well into the oral mucosa. Moreover, cannabis products are often extracted into oils, and these products are not water-soluble. Patients often expect rapid onset when using tinctures, only to wait 1-3 hours for the dose to take effect. Many products marketed as tinctures will end up being swallowed and absorbed via the digestive system, regardless of how long they are held under the tongue. A true sublingual (a product in which the cannabinoids are formulated to be more water-soluble) absorbs rapidly into the mouth. The effects can be perceived in 15-20 minutes and can last 4-6 hours.
- Edibles (gummies, capsules): Edibles take effect in between 30 minutes and 2 hours. You’ll feel their effects between 5-8 hours. They provide a discreet, portable long-acting option.
- Topicals (creams, salves): Topicals provide short-term localized relief. They can take effect within minutes, and may last for up to an hour.
Understanding CBD:THC Ratios
Most marijuana flower sold at legal dispensaries is THC-dominant, with very little CBD. Of course there are exceptions, such as The Wife strain or even some CBD hemp flower strains. However, odds are that if you’re using flower, you won’t find ratios connected to the strain.
Once you start looking at other cannabis products, including vapes, you’ll notice ratios on many—but not all—product labels. Common ratios include 1:1, 5:1, 10:1, and even 20:1. What do these numbers mean? And how do they help with your pain?
The ratio indicates the amount of CBD compared to the amount of THC.
- A 1:1 ratio is when the amount of CBD and THC are the same in each dose.
- On the other hand, if a product has a 5:1 ratio, that means there’s five times as much CBD as THC in each dose.
It’s important to note that the ratio is not the same as the amount of CBD and THC. Our supporting member 1906 makes several different products, including their Midnight drops and Genius drops, that are designed to be swallowed. The ratio of each of these recreational products is 1:1—but the amount of CBD and THC in each is different.
- The 1906 Midnight 1:1 drops have 5 mg of CBD and 5 mg of THC per dose.
- The 1906 Genius drops are also a 1:1 ratio; however, they have 2.5 mg each of CBD and THC.
What if a product doesn’t list a ratio? In that case, look closely at the product label. The chances are good that the product either contains all CBD, with little or no THC (legal CBD hemp products fall in this category), or the product contains all THC.
What’s the Best CBD:THC Ratio For Your Pain?
The CBD and THC cannabinoids work individually to target different types of pain. By combining them in different ratios, though, you can achieve different effects to fit your specific needs.
While everyone is different, the following guidelines work for most people:
1:1 – Equal amounts of THC and CBD. A good option to try for all kinds of pain, including neuropathic pain. Products with a 1:1 ratio can be uplifting but this ratio will most likely cause impairment if using the suggested serving size. Always start low, go slow, to avoid intoxicating effects.
2:1, 4:1, 5:1 – A balanced product that can provide optimized levels of both CBD and THC for medicinal use, based on the fact that higher doses of CBD are often needed for relief. Can be intoxicating.
10:1 – A high CBD alternative for people who find the 5:1 ratio to be too intoxicating.
20:1 – High CBD levels along with very low THC levels provide a good option for managing inflammation pain. Very rarely intoxicating.
Leaf411’s supporting members offer many different CBD:THC ratios to meet different needs.
Be sure to closely look at the product label to make sure you understand the ratio! While it’s not as common, some manufacturers state the ratio reflecting the THC first and the CBD content second, like our member incredibles 10:1 THC:CBD tincture.
Layering Different Cannabis Products
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night when your pain medication wore off, and suffered as you re-dosed and waited for the medicine to kick in? Fortunately, with CBD and THC products, you can layer different product types to reduce the changes of this happening.
For example, you might use a shorter-acting sublingual pill or vape to bring instant relief, together with an edible or transdermal patch to get you through the night.
If you’re using products containing THC (the cannabinoid that can be intoxicating and make you feel “high”), you’ll want to be careful with your dosing to make sure you don’t get end up with too much THC. The best approach is to start low and slow.
While you cannot overdose on THC, the feeling of being “too high” can be uncomfortable. Our website provides tips for what to do if you feel too high.
Cannabis as an Adjunct Therapy
Depending on how you use cannabis and other medications, there can be possible medication interactions. Our Leaf411 library offers guidance on specific medication interactions here.
We recommend consulting with a clinician before combining cannabis (which includes CBD hemp products!) with pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter pain medications.
Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained registered nurses can help with questions specific to medications you’re taking, and our service is FREE! Call us at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).
We’re Here to Help!
We realize that it can feel overwhelming when researching cannabis for pain. There are so many options—different types of products and different ratios.
Research on cannabis as a safe alternative for treating pain continues to grow. As nurses, we’ve heard and seen firsthand the power of this plant-based medicine, and we stay up-to-date on the latest findings and clinical guidelines for using cannabis for pain.
Our Leaf411 hotline nurses have both specialized training and experience helping people to find the best option for their particular situation. We’d love to share our expertise with you as well! Reach out to us on our free, anonymous hotline at at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).
The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.
04: CBD:THC Ratios, How to NOT get High with Cannabis
In today’s episode of “How to NOT get high with cannabis,” we’re exploring cannabinoid ratios. In Video 1 we talked about hemp CBD, and in Video 3 we talked about finding your minimum effective dose of THC — but at the end of the day, if we’re really trying to use cannabis as medicine, then we want to use both THC and CBD together .
In our video about Hemp CBD products, we mentioned that ideally you want to be looking for “full spectrum” or “whole plant” extracts that have trace amounts of THC, as they’ve been found to be more effective than CBD isolates — and this is because of a concept in cannabis called the “entourage effect.”
The Entourage Effect
The “entourage effect” theorizes that all of the compounds in cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more) work best when used together, enhancing one another’s effects to maximize therapeutic benefits. When it comes to using cannabis as a medicine, choosing a CBD:THC ratio has a big impact on the level of intoxication or “high” you experience.
If you recall from our hemp CBD video, THC binds to endocannabinoid system receptors primarily found in our brain and central nervous system, which is why it can create intoxicating experiences — while CBD’s primary function is to slow the breakdown of our body’s own naturally produced endocannabinoids so that we can use more of them.
But when THC is consumed with CBD, CBD is actually able to bind to our receptors as well — and it changes their shape, weakening THC’s ability to bind to the receptor and ultimately impacting how “high” we feel.
When used together, CBD can reduce the negative side effects of THC such as anxiety, paranoia, elevated heart rate, memory loss, and sluggishness while THC can help to increase the therapeutic benefit of CBD. This is important information for patients who truly need the therapeutic properties that THC has to offer, but don’t want to feel “high.” And if you are someone who uses THC recreationally, keep this in mind if you do happen to get uncomfortably “high.”
So what’s this look like in practice?
Well, if you walk into a dispensary, you’ll probably see products labeled as Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid — but this doesn’t tell you anything about the CBD:THC ratio, so you’ll likely need to ask your budtender about which products offer the CBD:THC ratio that you’re interested in. This is known as a cannabinoid profile, and all cannabis products fall into three general categories:
Generally speaking, if you don’t want to get “high” then you should look for a CBD-dominant or balanced product, but it’s important to note that cannabis affects everyone differently; depending on your condition and dosing, a THC-dominant product may be an effective medicine without producing a “high.” See Video 03 on Finding your Minimum Effective Dose of THC for more information.
You can typically find CBD:THC ratios such as 1:1, 2:1, 1:2, 3:1 or even 10:1 or 20:1. When shopping, know that CBD-dominant products are relatively new; most cannabis strains have been bred to be THC-dominant — but as more research is done on the benefits of more balanced and CBD-dominant strains, this is changing. Ask your budtender to direct you to the CBD-dominant options in your dispensary.
Now, if you have no experience with THC and are particularly concerned about getting “high,” then starting with the highest CBD:THC ratio available is the way to go. Many medical patients have reported that a 20:1 CBD:THC ratio has been helpful for their symptoms without making them feel intoxicated at all.
Even with this ratio, you’ll still want to start low and go slow, paying attention to how many milligrams (MG) of THC is in the dose you are consuming. For tips on getting started with dosing THC, check out Video 03 on Finding your Minimum Effective Dose of THC here.
If this ratio doesn’t work for you, slowly start increasing your ratio of THC, again starting low and going slow. This may feel tedious and perhaps even expensive as you try new products, but know that as long as you’re careful with your math, you can always combine products to create your own perfect CBD:THC ratio.
On the flip side, if you are already experienced with THC and are looking for a product ratio that would allow you to get the relief you’re seeking while still remaining alert and productive during the day, you may want to start with a bit more THC in your ratio, perhaps 2:1 or even 1:1 parts CBD:THC.
Know that your perfect ratio may change based on the symptoms you’re dealing with. For example, I personally find that a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC does wonders for my migraines, but if I’m struggling with back pain, a 2:1 ratio allows me to keep a clearer head.
Either way, always be sure to track your dose and the effects you feel — this is important for recreating or avoiding experiences in the future!
To learn more about the science behind using CBD and THC together, click here.
For more tips on how to not get high with cannabis, be sure to check out more from this video series here. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected]