This question comes up quite a bit.
There's a great deal of confusion in the market on the interaction between CBD and THC especially as it pertains to anxiety.
The pathways for anxiety are very different than for sleep or pain (the other two main reasons people question THC and CBD ratios).
First, this question assumes that you have access to the product with THC levels above .3%.
Most of the CBD on the market comes from cannabis with less than .3% THC.
That's the definition of "industrial hemp" which is what can be found legally online.
Keep in mind that .3% THC is almost a rounding error....but NOT zero (important longer term).
See our article on is CBD effective without THC.
Yes, it can make you fail a drug test depending on quantity and how your body processes it but in terms of anxiety or other health attributes, it's negligible.
So for the CBD to THC ratio questions, we'll assume you live in a state where both are available.
Let's get into it...the research will surprise a lot of people.
We'll cover these areas:
- How do THC and CBD interact for anxiety
- Understanding the THC to CBD ratio for anxiety
- The Histamine and THC connection for anxiety
- Best THC to CBD ratio for anxiety
How do THC and CBD interact for anxiety
We've covered CBD's benefits for anxiety in detail here and across dozens of detailed articles.
There's clear research on CBD's effects across both short term (GABA levels) and long term (neurogenesis) as well as supportive (inflammation and stress response) pathways for anxiety.
See our article on CBD and GABA.
What about THC?
The research shows that THC has a "biphasic" effect in terms of anxiety.
At lower levels, it can cause a reduction in anxiety while at higher levels, it can actually create anxiety.
It's really hard to get THC separated out from "cannabis" which also has CBD in the research.
THC by itself is very different than the effect people get with cannabis.
In a study on healthy individuals, the reported effects of just THC were:
Delta-9-THC (1) produced schizophrenia-like positive and negative symptoms; (2) altered perception; (3) increased anxiety; (4) produced euphoria; (5) disrupted immediate and delayed word recall, sparing recognition recall; (6) impaired performance on tests of distractibility, verbal fluency, and working memory (7) did not impair orientation; (8) increased plasma cortisol.
Two things jump out there for anxiety.
First..."increased anxiety" (#3)!
Secondly, an increase in cortisol (our main stress hormone).
Check out CBD for cortisol and anxiety.
So why do people report relaxation when using cannabis with THC?
There are two main reasons for this.
First, cannabis also has CBD in it which is showing a powerful effect in offsetting the negatives of THC.
This really gets to the THC to CBD ratio in ALL cannabis consumption.
You want to make sure you have a significant level of CBD with THC regardless.
In fact, that's the root of the much proffered "entourage effect" which is used to push full spectrum CBD everywhere (incorrectly).
There's a great synopsis here from Scientific American:
It goes deeper than that.
CBD can also protect the brain from some of the effects of THC:
Higher THC and lower CBD were associated with this volume reduction indicating neurotoxic effects of THC and neuroprotective effects of CBD.
You see this across a range of different effects from THC such as increased appetite:
Cannabidiol Attenuates the Appetitive Effects of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Humans Smoking Their Chosen Cannabis
CBD does two major things to calm the effects of THC.
First, it blocks its metabolism in the liver.
See our article on Why CBD is a must if you use THC.
The "high" from THC actually comes from a metabolite or byproduct of its processing in the liver.
If the liver is busy metabolizing CBD (same p450 pathway), it is unable to change THC into its psychoactive form.
Secondly, in the brain itself, THC has been shown to adversely impact key connectors of white matter between different brain areas tied directly to the anxiety circuit.
This is more a longer term effect.
We literally look at NIH studies on THC and CBD effects across brain areas here:
When we look at studies that actually break out THC versus CBD for anxiety:
THC alone increased subjective anxiety as well as the skin conductance response to the fearful faces while CBD alone trended toward a reduction in anxiety.
Look...we're not anti-cannabis but the research is clearly showing THC doesn't help that circuit other than with small levels and sparingly.
Long term, it affects the very brain areas we're trying to improve (see CBD for neurogenesis here) in a negative way.
See our article on CBD and brain repair.
That's the wrong direction.
THC's real strength (outside of what CBD can do) is with increased appetite and perhaps reduced pain.
The problem is that THC builds tolerance longer term which means your body becomes less and less sensitive to the key player that THC mimics called anandamide!
Let's help to clear up the CBD to THC ratio question.
Understanding the THC to CBD ratio for anxiety
It can be confusing if you're in a state with legal cannabis.
What do all the ratios mean?
The people behind the counter are giving out all sorts of incorrect information based more on folklore and word of mouth.
Our favorite is "you need some THC to activate CBD"
See our article on Do you need THC to activate CBD.
We just learned above that CBD and THC actually work counter to each other with one negating the effects of the other!
That is probably the most common thing you'll hear to start the question of the ratio of CBD to THC.
So...what are the parameters.
First, we established above and at our CBD versus THC for anxiety article that CBD alone is the better fit for anxiety.
If we want to go based on actual research!
We have experimented with the full range of CBD THC ratio products.
They can swing from 30:1 THC to CBD all the way to the other extreme: 30:1 CBD to THC.
Let's look at an example: 30:1 CBD to THC.
This just means that for 1 part THC (usually measured in mg), you'll have 30 parts CBD.
We've actually looked at 30:1 or 50:1 and higher cannabis flower to test.
Interestingly, if a person has histamine or allergy to THC (about 24-36% of the population...see CBD histamine and anxiety here), they can still have a negative effect on even this low THC to CBD ratio.
This is such a big deal that no one talks about. Histamine. Allergic response. More on that below.
In fact, many people have negative responses to full spectrum CBD versus CBD isolate for this same reason!
See our article on CBD and glutamate for mental health.
In other people, it's very calming.
The general rule of thumb (everyone's different) is that anything higher than 10:1 CBD: THC ratio should not elicit a high.
As you go down the scale from there, you may start to experience more of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Again, this completely depends on your chemistry.
Quick note...you can fail a drug test on any of these ratios!
You can even fail a drug test on industrial hemp (used for full spectrum CBD) which is .3% THC.
That ratio may be 100's:1 CBD: THC.
Again, CBD "cannibalizes" the liver metabolism of THC so we're not sure why you would have THC present except for recreational effects.
Since we're looking specifically at anxiety, it makes no sense based on THC's effect on that pathway.
There's one more really important piece to look at which speaks to many people's negative reactions to most of the CBD on the marketplace.
The Histamine and THC connection for anxiety
Just yesterday, a good friend was saying he was having trouble sleeping.
He wakes up around 4 am and he's...wide awake.
Of course, he crashes early afternoon.
His doctor gave him diazepam which is a benzodiazepine (see CBD versus benzos for anxiety here).
He wakes up feeling like a zombie though.
His doctor didn't seem to mention that they're incredibly addictive, lose their power with time, and can be brutal to come off of (see how I used CBD to wean off benzos here).
Anyway, I brought up CBD and magnesium glycinate.
"I've tried the 3:1 ration CBD and it doesn't work my system".
The number of times we've heard that!
I gave him our 2000 CBD isolate to take with magnesium glycinate (or threorate) at the 4 am time and it works beautifully.
This change in reaction from one CBD product is not unusual.
Check out CBD histamine and anxiety here.
The common thread with anxiety and sleep is GABA.
It's our calming and "inhibitory" chemical in the brain.
A boost in GABA and we're calm. Boost more and we're sleepy.
Check CBD and GABA for more info (very fascinating).
That's the hammer that benzos (Ativan, Xanax, Valium), as well as many sleep agents, hit on.
See our article on How I got off of Benzos
Pure GABA effect (but with nasty side effects).
Here's why he had such a different response and THC: CBD ratio comes into play here.
He obviously has a histamine release from either the THC or the other plant material in full-spectrum CBD.
Histamine is excitatory!
It directly opposes GABA...eats it up.
Roughly 40-60% of the population has histamine (think allergies) issues and growing.
This number goes higher for women and as we get older. Progesterone is a major drive of GABA and it drops by 50% by age 40!
See our article on CBD and histamines and anxiety.
That can occur to all that plant material in full-spectrum CBD which makes up 90% of the market!
They're slinging this stuff when the research shows many reasons not to!
That's all the plant material in full spectrum or cannabis itself.
As for the THC: CBD ratio question specifically:
It's estimated that 73% of people with allergy issues are allergic to THC.
So roughly 24-36% of the population will not respond well to THC.
That speaks to his negative reaction to full-spectrum CBD.
We literally crafted IndigoNaturals after a similar reaction (see that story here).
We had to roll through 3-4 of the biggest CBD brands with bad reactions to figure out the CBD Isolate effect.
CBD by itself calms the histamine response.
In fact, we have clients to say their allergies clear right up.
You can literally test this effect (if you have money to burn) with CBD isolate versus CBD full spectrum.
Very different response.
Interestingly, histamine release can feel exactly like...anxiety!
24-36% of the population is a lot of people.
It's one reason that some people say that CBD makes their anxiety worse.
So...based on that…
Best THC to CBD ratio for anxiety
Hopefully, we established that for anxiety, zero THC is the best ratio.
Pure CBD isolate (CBD by itself).
Again, it's easy to test your reaction for anxiety.
Of course, we want the following attributes:
- THC free (see THC versus CBD for anxiety)
- 3rd party tested
- CO2 extraction process
- Organically grown in the US
- No pesticides
- No solvents
- No mold
- No bacteria
- No heavy metals
Those are the basic requirements and we built IndigoNaturals with this in mind.
We actually test twice (once at the biomass level and once at the finished product).
Our entire families use it so we're adamant on this point.
We base everything on research.
Everything else is just slick marketing and we want people to feel better.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.