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Cannabis 101

How to find the right CBD:THC ratio

Gregg PadulaJanuary 19, 2021

One of the most daunting aspects of getting started with cannabis can be interpreting a dispensary menu. A foreign language to a beginner, and even experienced cannabis users, the market is vast and continually expanding, leaving you staring into a dizzying array of capital letters and compound percentages.

The most perplexing to many are the many variations of Cannabidiol (CBD) to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ratios on cannabis products like edibles and tinctures. Commonly found ratios are 1:1, 4:1, 10:1 and 20:1.

1:1 ratio means there is equal amounts of CBD and THC in a cannabis product or dose. It is ideal for those who want to experience the psychoactive high of THC, balanced by CBD to moderate the potential negative effects or sensitivities to THC. 

4:1 ratio means there is four times the amount of CBD to THC, and are considered mid-range products. This makes the impact of THC more mild than products with a 1:1 ratio, yet still effective for those looking for some psychoactive benefit. 

10:1 ratio means there is 10 times the amount of CBD to THC, considered as a high-CBD, low-THC product or dose. Rarely psychoactive, this ratio is preferred by those who don't want to feel 'high'. 

20:1 ratio means there is 20 times the amount of CBD to THC, also considered a high-CBD, low-THC product or dose. Also preferred by those who want minimal-to-none psychoactive effects, as well as a starting point for those new to cannabis. 

Generally, the higher the ratio of CBD, the less you can expect to experience the “high" and psychoactive effects of THC. Still, determining the ratio to best meet your needs is, for the most part, trial and error. Our individual physiology makes it difficult to lock down ratios consistent across the board. 

How do CBD and THC work together?

THC and CBD complement each other and work together when the correct ratio matches the physiology of the user. CBD can lessen the intoxicating effects of THC, so a higher ratio will mean that there is less psychoactivity.  It is particularly effective for the nervous system, and can be beneficial for anxiety, depression, tremors, palsies, and epilepsy. 

Both have a myriad of benefits used singularly, but when used together they become a powerful source for wellness and experiences, creating what is referred to as the “entourage effect," which in short describes the phenomenon that occurs when multiple cannabinoids are stimulated, and then activate others.

Though considered non-psychoactive, CBD has many effects in common with THC. Even when there are similar effects, such as the anti-inflammatory properties of both, each accomplishes them in a different way, resulting in a more varied and robust response as a result of the two working together.

According to “CBD: A Patient's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis:" “It is precisely because of the 'entourage' effect of cannabis that makes it so effectively therapeutic. There are conditions that will respond to pure CBD, but, remembering that our own endocannabinoid system is complex, it makes sense that the highly compatible phytocannabinoid system exploits the complexities of our built-in processes. 

Which ratio is right for me?

If you are considering the use of a ratio, consider starting low with a 10:1 or 20:1 (a high-CBD, low-THC) cannabis product. It has been suggested that letting your body get used to CBD alone before introducing THC can eliminate any uncomfortable psychoactive effects – especially if you have never used cannabis before. 

Medium-CBD and high-CBD options, such as 4:1 or 10:1, are often used in fighting autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, anxiety, and psoriasis with little impairment or psychoactivity.

A balanced 1:1 ratio can be a great place to start for those looking for an introductory experience to the psychoactive benefits of THC, or for those looking to use cannabis for therapeutic or medicinal benefits. From there, you can adjust the percentage of CBD to your needs.

An equal 1:1 ratio is also ideal for activating the entourage effect, and is most often used for pain relief, anxiety, spasticity, fibromyalgia, insomnia, nausea and appetite stimulation. A 1:1 is considered the best starting point for therapeutic needs due to the multitude of conditions it may treat with minimal impairment.

Gregg Padula
Gregg Padula
Gregg Padula is a cannabis columnist with industry roots reaching back to Humboldt County, CA in the early 2000’s – and later as one of the first cultivators in Massachusetts’ medical cannabis industry. This unique vantage point is explored in much of his work for Gatehouse Media and