Using medicinal cannabis is all about restoring balance — the body’s natural state of homeostasis.
But how do you know what’s the right balance of medicinal cannabis for you or your patients?
You’ve probably heard of the two main cannabinoids in cannabis, CBD and THC (if you haven’t, check out our article, What is medicinal cannabis?).
Medicinal cannabis products contain different ratios of CBD and THC, depending on their intended use.
Medical cannabis will often contain other cannabinoids (the cannabis plant has more than 100 of them), but for the purposes of this article we’ll be focussing on the CBD:THC ratio.
These are the most studied, well known and widely used cannabinoids for which you’ll be seeking or writing a prescription.
Getting the CBD:THC ratio right is essential for achieving the desired healthcare outcomes.
A quick intro to CBD and THC
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant.
They’ve been found to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system in unique ways, which is why they’ve become so popular in the medical community.
THC is most well known for causing a “high” or euphoric feeling, but studies have found it can have many other important effects.
CBD has become popular for its medicinal potential and the fact that it doesn’t have any intoxicating effects.
Because CBD and THC have unique properties and effects, doctors will prescribe different CBD:THC ratios for different health conditions.
Researchers and doctors are still discovering which ratios are best for managing specific conditions.
What’s a CBD:THC ratio?
The ratio of CBD to THC simply refers to the amount of CBD compared to the amount of THC in a medicinal cannabis product or dose.
A ratio of 1:1, which is fairly common in medicinal cannabis, means the product contains an equal amount of CBD and THC.
A CBD:THC ratio of 20:1 means there’s 20 times the amount of CBD compared to THC, making it a “high CBD” product or dose.
CBD:THC ratios are important because they help patients and doctors have a clear understanding of what they’re taking and prescribing and the effects it’s likely to have.
What’s the best CBD:THC ratio for me?
The optimum CBD:THC ratio for you depends on the health condition or symptoms you have.
We aren’t allowed to provide specific health recommendations here, but we can share common CBD:THC ratios that doctors may prescribe to patients.
Ratios can range from pure CBD (less than 0.3% THC), which doesn’t make you feel “high” at all, all the way to 1:20 CBD:THC, which can have considerable psychoactive effects.
But the CBD:THC ratio also determines the clinical benefits of medicinal cannabis.
A pure CBD product might not be the best option for nausea or spasticity, for example.
This is why it’s so important to use prescription medicinal cannabis because you can be confident the ratios are precise.
Let’s look at the CBD:THC ratio spectrum to help you choose the right balance for you or your patients.
A balanced dose: 1:1 ratio
An equal balance of CBD and THC is likely going to have some intoxicating effects, especially for new cannabis users.
However, the presence of CBD can help offset the effects of THC.
In New Zealand, a 1:1 medicinal cannabis product has been approved for patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.
A doctor might choose to prescribe a 1:1 CBD:THC product for nausea, neuropathic pain, or appetite stimulation.
High CBD dose: 10:1-20:1 CBD:THC ratio
A high CBD dose is unlikely to have any intoxicating effects, which means it’s more compatible with everyday life.
A doctor may choose to prescribe high CBD products for things such as insomnia and sleep disorders, stress and anxiety, epilepsy and even mild pain caused by inflammation (such as arthritis).
High THC dose: 10:1-20:1 THC:CBD ratio
A high THC dose will have psychoactive effects and may make you feel euphoric, sedated, and impaired.
Therefore, it’s not compatible with everyday responsibilities, such as work, driving, childcare etc.
A doctor might consider a high THC dose for patients who are in severe pain, such as cancer-related pain.
However, it’s not advisable to start with such a high dose of THC and doctors will be able to recommend a titration protocol.
The general rule of thumb is to start low and go slow.
Finding balance with medicinal cannabis
It’s easy to think that all medicinal cannabis is the same and you just take more or less, depending on your prescription.
However, CBD:THC ratios allow medicinal cannabis companies and doctors much more flexibility when it comes to dosing.
Today, medicinal cannabis products can be more targeted towards specific health conditions based on the blend of cannabinoids.
Understanding CBD:THC ratios helps you to find the right cannabinoid balance for your health condition and maximise the clinical benefits of medicinal cannabis.