Top 3 Benefits of Consuming CBD-Rich Cannabis Strains

By | last updated July 4, 2023

Medically reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon, MD

Evidence Based 17

A majority of cannabis strains in the medical and recreational markets today are higher in THC than in CBD. But strains with higher levels of CBD are becoming increasingly popular as people learn more about the benefits of CBD and seek less-intoxicating cannabis experiences. 

These are what scientists would call Type II (High THC/ High CBD) and Type III (High CBD/Low THC) cannabis varieties, in contrast to the more prevalent Type I (High THC/Low CBD) strains (1).

In this article, we’ll discuss the top benefits of using such CBD-rich cannabis strains, including fewer psychoactive effects, reduced anxiety and stress, and helping with drug addiction.

May Reduce Intoxication and Side Effects

Arguably the main benefit of opting for CBD-rich cannabis strains is that they have fewer psychoactive effects. This makes them a great option for beginners, people looking for medical benefits without the intense high, and those who want to stay productive while using cannabis. 

These groups are best suited by cannabis strains with CBD to THC ratios ranging from an even 1:1 to as high as 20:1.

Another important benefit is that as the CBD ratio in cannabis goes up, the likelihood of side effects like anxiety, short-term memory impairment, and psychosis goes down.

For example, one 2018 study examined the effects of CBD on acute memory in 134 people smoking cannabis with varying levels of CBD, finding that those “smoking cannabis high in cannabidiol showed no memory impairment” and that “use of strains richer in cannabidiol may protect cannabis users from the chronic psychotic-like effects of THC (2).”

Another 2011 study surveyed 1877 people about their cannabis use, finding that “although the observed effects are subtle, using high cannabidiol content cannabis was associated with significantly lower degrees of psychotic symptoms (3).”

Meanwhile, an innovative 2012 study correlated the levels of CBD and THC in the hair of 120 cannabis users to psychosis, memory issues, anxiety, and depression. Those who had CBD in their hair had lower psychosis-like symptoms and better recognition memory than those who didn’t. Higher hair THC levels were also associated with worse depression and anxiety (4).

But there have also been negative findings. One 2019 study found that vaping cannabis with a 1:1 THC and CBD ratio was no less impairing than using THC-rich cannabis, and actually increased cognitive impairment during simulated driving and cognitive performance tests (5).

Conflicting research like this strengthens the argument that more research is needed to confirm if and how CBD may or may not affect THC.

high-cbd cannabis

May Be Ideal for Anxiety and Stress

CBD-rich cannabis may also be better suited for helping with anxiety and stress. For starters, research has shown that CBD has potent anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties, so it’s reasonable to say that cannabis with more CBD is better for lowering anxiety:

  • In a 2019 study of teenagers with social anxiety disorder, CBD oil lowered anxiety (6)
  • In a 2022 study of people with treatment-resistant anxiety, CBD improved both anxiety and depression symptoms (7)
  • A 2020 review of numerous studies concluded that “CBD has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders” (8)

Meanwhile, in a 2018 study, people reported that high THC/high CBD cannabis (defined as strains with more than 11% CBD and 26.5% THC) was the best at improving symptoms of stress (9).

In another 2021 study, people using CBD-dominant and 1:1 strains reported less paranoia and anxiety compared to those using THC-rich strains (10).

At the same time, the researchers noted that the presence of CBD was not necessarily the reason for reduced anxiety, but rather less THC: “Cannabis chemovars containing CBD may result in less overall exposure to THC and subsequently less potential for harm.”

This idea gets further evidence from a 2022 clinical trial that tested whether CBD can protect against the side effects of THC. Forty-six participants vaped cannabis containing four different CBD:THC ratios (10 mg THC, 0-30 mg CBD). The researchers reported that “At CBD:THC ratios most common in medicinal and recreational cannabis products, we found no evidence that CBD protects against the acute adverse effects of cannabis (11).”

But the study did have some limitations, like a small sample size and relatively low doses of CBD, so the scientists emphasized the need for more research.

May Help with Addiction

There’s also growing evidence that CBD could help with addiction to nicotine, opioids, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, and even alcohol, which means CBD-rich cannabis may help people with substance use disorders (12). 

One 2021 review paper concluded that “CBD alone or in combination with commonly employed treatment strategies in drug addiction may configure a potential therapeutic option for improving the dishabituation process of addicted patients (12).”

Here’s a quick look at the key human findings: 

  • A 2010 study of 94 cannabis users found that smoking high-CBD strains reduced attentional bias (tendency to focus on something while ignoring other things) towards cannabis and food, suggesting that “CBD has potential as a treatment for cannabis dependence” (13)
  • A 2022 study found that vaping CBD helped cannabis users reduce their daily cannabis consumption (14)
  • A 2013 study found that smokers who used a CBD inhaler reduced their cigarette consumption by 40%, while another 2018 study reported that a single dose of CBD caused smokers to rate cigarettes as less pleasant (15, 16)
  • A 2019 clinical trial found that CBD reduced craving and anxiety caused by drug cues in people with heroin use disorder (17)

Researchers believe CBD’s anti-addictive properties are related to its effects on the brain’s dopamine, opioid, serotonin, glutamine, and endocannabinoid systems, as well as neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons in the adult brain) (12).

plain jane cbd hemp pre-rolled joint

My Experience With CBD-Dominant Cannabis

I am a registered industrial hemp cultivator in Missouri, where I harvested hemp flower crops in 2021 and 2022 for research and personal consumption. As a marathon runner, I do enjoy consuming high-THC cannabis, but I also smoke my own hemp flower. 

One of my favorite hemp flower strains our farm has grown is Cinderella Story. I personally don’t experience any psychoactive effects when smoking high CBD flower, but instead get a nice relaxed and calm feeling. 

Choosing High-CBD Cannabis

To sum up, CBD-rich cannabis offers several key benefits, including less of a high and fewer side effects, lowering anxiety and stress, and helping with substance use disorders. 

Still, there are still many conflicting research results that make it difficult to determine how CBD will affect each person so experimentation is necessary. 

If you’re interested in giving CBD-rich strains a try, popular options include Harlequin, ACDC, and Sour Tsunami. For those seeking an even milder alternative, hemp flower is an excellent option since it contains very low THC levels (less than 0.3%).

References

  1. Fischedick, Justin T. “Identification of terpenoid chemotypes among high (−)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol-producing Cannabis sativa L. cultivars.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research 2.1 (2017): 34-47.
  2. Morgan, Celia JA, et al. “Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 197.4 (2010): 285-290.
  3. Schubart, Christian D., et al. “Cannabis with high cannabidiol content is associated with fewer psychotic experiences.” Schizophrenia research 130.1-3 (2011): 216-221.
  4. Morgan, C. J. A., et al. “Sub-chronic impact of cannabinoids in street cannabis on cognition, psychotic-like symptoms and psychological well-being.” Psychological medicine 42.2 (2012): 391-400.
  5. Arkell, Thomas R., et al. “Cannabidiol (CBD) content in vaporized cannabis does not prevent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-induced impairment of driving and cognition.” Psychopharmacology 236 (2019): 2713-2724.
  6. Masataka, Nobuo. “Anxiolytic effects of repeated cannabidiol treatment in teenagers with social anxiety disorders.” Frontiers in psychology 10 (2019): 2466.
  7. Berger, Maximus, et al. “Cannabidiol for treatment-resistant anxiety disorders in young people: an open-label trial.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 83.5 (2022): 42111.
  8. Skelley, Jessica W., et al. “Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.” Journal of the American Pharmacists Association 60.1 (2020): 253-261.
  9. Cuttler, Carrie, Alexander Spradlin, and Ryan J. McLaughlin. “A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect.” Journal of affective disorders 235 (2018): 198-205.
  10. Gibson, Laurel P., et al. “Effects of cannabidiol in cannabis flower: Implications for harm reduction.” Addiction Biology 27.1 (2022): e13092.
  11. Englund, Amir, et al. “Does cannabidiol make cannabis safer? A randomised, double-blind, cross-over trial of cannabis with four different CBD: THC ratios.” Neuropsychopharmacology (2022): 1-8.
  12. Navarrete, Francisco, et al. “Role of cannabidiol in the therapeutic intervention for substance use disorders.” Frontiers in Pharmacology 12 (2021): 626010.
  13. Morgan, Celia JA, et al. “Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis.” Neuropsychopharmacology 35.9 (2010): 1879-1885.
  14. Cleirec, Grégoire, et al. “Efficiency of Inhaled Cannabidiol in Cannabis Use Disorder: The Pilot Study Cannavap.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 13 (2022).
  15. Morgan, Celia JA, et al. “Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings.” Addictive behaviors 38.9 (2013): 2433-2436.
  16. Hindocha, Chandni, et al. “Cannabidiol reverses attentional bias to cigarette cues in a human experimental model of tobacco withdrawal.” Addiction 113.9 (2018): 1696-1705.
  17. Hurd, Yasmin L., et al. “Cannabidiol for the reduction of cue-induced craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.” American Journal of Psychiatry 176.11 (2019): 911-922.

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