Strains with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) are now available in a number of countries.
CBD is one of more than 85 chemical compounds found in marijuana, called cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are what make marijuana a medicine. These compounds are responsible for the effect your body experiences: whether it’s an intense high or one of the many therapeutic benefits.
The two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC — the most popular compound — is psychoactive, meaning that it causes a high.
As research on marijuana’s medical benefits increases, the spotlight is turning towards CBD.
Some people prefer CBD because it’s non-psychoactive and can impart therapeutic benefits without getting them high.
CBD has been shown to lower anxiety, help control seizures and even reduce the size of some cancerous tumours. It can also help those suffering from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and possibly diabetes.
Another benefit of CBD is that it can work to counteract the negative side effects of THC. Some people — particularly new users or those who take a high dose of THC — can experience anxiety or paranoia.
CBD helps to balance this feeling with calmness and focus. For this reason, a CBD-rich strain can be effective after a stressful day.
What are High CBD Strains?
Each type of cannabis has varying amounts of THC and CBD. Many of the strains purchased in dispensaries are high in THC and have levels of about 20% THC or higher.
However, for a strain to be considered high in CBD, it only needs to have levels over 4%.
A high-CBD strain is grown by selective breeding. This means that plants that are known to produce high CBD levels are bred together.
However, it will likely take several tries at selective breeding before the grower ends up with a plant with high levels. This is why growing high-CBD strains is more complicated than growing high-THC strains.
It’s also important to note that since each strain varies by grower, the CBD levels will also differ.
One of the reasons why high-CBD strains are growing in popularity is because patients can now get the medical benefits of marijuana without getting high.
Although CBD has a relaxing effect, it does not impair cognitive function, making it okay to consume before working or driving.
Popular High CBD Strains
Over the past few years, cannabis growers have developed two strains that have become well known for their elevated levels of CBD: Charlotte’s Web and Avidekel.
Charlotte’s Web (20% CBD)
In 2011, the Stanley brothers from Colorado developed a variety of marijuana that was high in CBD and low in THC for people suffering from cancer. But after stopping the unrelenting seizures of a 5 year-old girl, the siblings realized a unique benefit of the high-CBD strain. The girl’s name was Charlotte, and the strain was dubbed “Charlotte’s Web”.
Charlotte’s Web is believed to be the highest CBD strain in the world. It contains 20% CBD and less than 0.5% THC.
It all started with a phone call came from Charlotte’s parents, Matt and Paige Figi. Their daughter was born with Dravet syndrome, and suffered from more than 300 seizures a week.
After pharmaceutical options and diet changes failed to control the illness, the family made the decision to try medical marijuana. Despite some concern about her young age, the Stanley brothers decided to give Charlotte an opportunity to try an oil-based extract made from the unique strain — with great success.
Soon parents from all over the country were flocking to Colorado to try this unconventional medication for their own children’s epilepsy. Results were mixed; Charlotte’s Web helped some epileptic children but not others.
In an effort to solve this mystery, researchers at the University of Colorado are studying the genetic differences between patients who do or do not respond to CBD-rich cannabis.
Avidekel (15.8-16.3% CBD)
Another high-CBD strain called Avidekel was developed in Israel, the brain child of breeders working for a goverment-licensed cannabis company called Tikum Olam. Avidekel contains 0% THC and 15.8 to 16.3% CBD.
The company began creating a CBD-rich cannabis strain in 2009 through selective breeding. The Avidekel strain was completed three years later.
According to Ruth Galilly of Hebrew University, Avidekel has shown promise in treating a variety of conditions with minimal side effects. “The cannabis plant, enriched with CBD, can be used for treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, liver inflammation, heart disease and diabetes,” she told Reuters.
Avidekel has also become a favourite of many patients in Israel. Avi, a 60-year-old survivor of cancer and volunteer at Tikum Olam’s cannabis dispensary, told Public Radio International that this strain has improved his life. “I can do everything with the CBD… For me, it’s the best.”
The popularity of Charlotte’s Web and Avidekel marks a change in the way patients access the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
In late 2013, the FDA granted GW Pharmaceuticals permission to investigate the antiepileptic potential of a pharmaceutical CBD extract (Epidiolex).
Other High CBD Strains
There are several other high-CBD strains. However, their availability varies by region and some strains can be difficult to find in dispensaries.
ACDC (20% CBD)
ACDC is a hybrid strain with 50% sativa and 50% indica genetics, although some plants may be more sativa-dominant. The strain is grown by crossing Cannatonic and Ruderalis.
Popular in California, the ACDC strain has a CBD:THC ratio of 20:1. The strain has won several Cannabis Cup awards for its high levels of CBD, which makes it a great option for patients suffering from pain and anxiety.
Users describe the taste of ACDC as skunky and sweet and say the strain imparts euphoric effects while allowing them to stay relaxed and focused. This strain is also popular for cannabis juicing and making concentrates.
Harlequin (15% CBD)
Harlequin is a sativa-dominant strain grown by crossing Colombian Gold, Thai (a Nepali indica variety) and Swiss landrace strains. Having a CBD:THC ratio of 5:2, this strain is said to be a very effective painkiller.
The Harlequin strain also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Users also report experiencing a clear head, uplifted mood and nausea relief from using Harlequin.
Sour Tsunami (11-13% CBD)
This sativa-dominant strain was first bred by Lawrence Ringo of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective. Sour Tsunami is mainly a cross between Sour Diesel and NYC Diesel; however, it was also bred with Double Diesel and Ferrari strains.
Sour Tsunami was one of the first strains grown specifically for high CBD as opposed to THC levels. Lawrence Ringo originally bred this strain to help his own back pain, and it has since been used by patients suffering from chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. Having close to a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio, users also report mental clarity and relief from depression when using this strain.
Cannatonic (5-17% CBD)
Cannatonic is a hybrid strain created by the founder of seed bank Resin Seeds. It is a cross between MK Ultra and G13 Haze and is most popular in California and Michigan.
Because Cannatonic numbs the body, it’s often used to treat pain. Users also report becoming more focused, relaxed and uplifted after consuming this strain. Cannatonic’s CBD levels can vary greatly by grower, but it typically has a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC.
Jamaican Lion (8-13% CBD)
Jamaican Lion is a sativa-dominant strain that was bred by cannabis grower Shadrock in 2006 and brought to California a year later. The strain combines characteristics from its parent strains: Mountain Lion and Yarders. Although it has low THC content, the Jamaican Lion strain still has some psychoactive effects.
After consuming Jamaican Lion, users report clarity and ease of mind, making it a good option for those suffering from anxiety. During the 8th week of flowering, the strain has a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC; however, higher CBD levels are achieved by week 9.