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The Optimal Ratio: Balancing THC and CBD

Written by Tamir Bresler

Many recreational cannabis concentrates currently on the market go out of their way to flaunt their high THC content. Vape oils are likewise repeatedly distilled to purify the THC as much as possible. And maybe this represents the will of the people. But have consumers thought to consider the beneficial effects of balancing the THC in their concentrates with CBD?

CBD is molecularly almost identical to THC, the only difference being the oxidative cyclization of one ring. It is synthesized in vivo from the same precursor molecules as THC, only diverging at the last stage by the action of a separate enzyme, CBDA-Synthase. They have almost exactly the same molecular weight and physical properties. And it would be nearly impossible to distinguish solutions of THC and CBD side-by-side with the naked eye.

Figure 1. Molecular structures of THC and CBD. Comparing them side by side shows they are almost structurally identical, differing only in one oxidative cyclization1.

There is significant scientific rationale for mixing CBD and THC together to produce increased pleasurable recreational effects. A study that co-administered the two cannabinoids found that: “CBD also changed the symptoms in such a way that the subjects receiving the mixtures showed less anxiety and panic but reported more pleasurable effects”1­

In 1998, Dr. Mechoulam and his team introduced the idea of the entourage effect. This research validated the hypothesis that different cannabinoids work synergistically on the endocannabinoid system, enhancing their activity.2When smoked on its own, CBD has been shown to have positive physiological effects on the body. These include parasympathetic nervous system activation and appetite induction.3 Combined with THC, it reduces the paranoia and anxiety normally associated with cannabis use.4

Some of the most seminal early scientific studies on this effect were done in Brazil in the 1970’s. Studying the habits of recreational users and the effects of chronic use, researchers found that high doses of THC on its own produced anxiety and panic—but adding CBD significantly reduced those symptoms in patients.“The subjects receiving the mixtures showed less anxiety and panic but reported more pleasurable effects.”5

Pharmacologically, there is a host of evidence showing mixing THC and CBD together is beneficial. Sativex®, made by GW Pharmaceuticals, is one of only two cannabis-derived prescription medications available for use. Containing a 1:1 mixture of THC:CBD, as well as trace amounts of other cannabinoids from the whole-cannabis extraction process, Sativex® has been shown to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) and to reduce the pain-reduction threshold in terminal cancer patients.6

As avid recreational cannabis enthusiasts, we hope that more studies are done to show how our favorite cannabinoid cousins can best pair together. Let’s continue the search for the optimal ratio, whether it is used to relieve patients of their pain, or to produce a calmer and relaxing high.


  1. Russo E, Guy GW. A tale of two cannabinoids: the therapeutic rationale for combining tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Med Hypotheses 2006;66(2):234-46.
  2. Ben-Shabbat et al. An entourage effect: inactive endogenous fatty acid glycerol esters enhance 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol cannabinoid activity. Eur J Pharmacol 1998;353(1):23-31.
  3. de Mello Schier et al. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS NeurolDisord Drug Targets 2014;13(6):953-60.
  4. Fernandez-Ruiz et al. Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?Br J ClinPharmacol 2013;75(2):323–333.
  5. Karniol et al. Cannabidiol interferes with the effects of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in man. Eur J Pharmacol 1974;28(1):172–7.
  6. https://www.leafscience.com/2017/11/02/what-is-sativex-nabiximols

About the author

Tamir Bresler