High CBD Strains & The Science Behind Them

High CBD Strains

Here are the top 5 strains known for having an elevated CBD content.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web strain icon

Typically containing 15-20% CBD content and little to no THC, this relaxing hybrid strain is ideal for those interested in enjoying the medical benefits of cannabis with little to no psychoactive effects.  Charlotte’s web is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, pain, nausea, appetite loss, and migraines.

Cannatonic

cannatonic state cannabis strain image

With a CBD content ranging from 6-17% CBD, this highly relaxing hybrid strain is most commonly used to manage pain.  Like other CBD rich strains, it can also help reduce anxiety, depression, appetite loss, and nausea.

ACDC

Red AC/DC Gibson SG cannabis strain icon

This low THC, hybrid strain has been found to contain as much as 20% CBD.  It offers almost no psychoactive effect, but is commonly used for its medical value in treating pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, and appetite loss.  It has also been known to boost creativity.

Harlequin

Harlequin pattern cannabis strain icon

This strain is roughly 75% sativa and is known to enhance creativity.  It contains relatively little THC—about 10% on average—but up to 15% CBD.  While it won’t get users very high, it is commonly used to help reduce pain, appetite loss, nausea, anxiety, and depression.

Sour Tsunami

cannabis sour tsunami strain icon

A well-balanced hybrid (approximately 60% sativa and 40% indica), this strain contains a small amount of THC, averaging at about 10%.  However, it has a relatively high CBD content, averaging a range between 11 and 13%.  Its relaxing effect likely isn’t enough to satisfy recreational users, but it can benefit those suffering from nausea, depression, appetite loss, pain, and insomnia.

The CBD Science

Cannabinoids are the organic compounds responsible for the array of effects the plant has on its consumers.  Basically, they make cannabis medicine that’s fun to take.  Most people are familiar with the cannabinoid THC because of its psychotropic effects; it’s the one that gets you high.  For a lot of pot consumers, the higher the THC content, the more desirable the cannabis product.  While THC content is usually the selling point for recreational users, cannabidiol (CBD) is what medical users are most interested in. If you’re not super interested in CBD science, skip this next part to get straight to the list of high CBD strains.  But if you want to nerd out with me, read on.

CBD Science

According to Project CBD, CBD’s effects are a result of cannabinoids interactions with various molecular pathways beyond the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 including the serotonin receptor, vanilloid receptors, GPR55, and nuclear receptor.  It also inhibits the re-uptake of CBD Scienceendogenous neurotransmitters and modulates allosteric receptors.

That was a lot of science in two sentences.  Let me break it down.

Serotonin receptors (5-HT1A or hydroxytryptamine if you want to get really technical) send chemical messages to our brains that facilitate the regulation of mood balance, appetite and digestion, memory, sleep, and sexual function and desire. CBDA (the acidic, unheated version of cannabidiol) and CBD have a strong affinity for the serotonin receptor and cause it to slow down its signaling.  This is what makes CBD an effective anti-depressant as well as treatment for addiction, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia.

Commonly referred to as vanilloid receptors, TRPV1 (transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V) receptors regulate body temperature, inflammation, and pain.

A TRPV1 agonist, or stimulant, CBD can be used to manage neuropathic pain

GPR55 is a receptor scientist call an “orphan” receptor because they don’t know if is a part of a larger group of receptors like it.  Expressed primarily in the brain, GPR55 modulates physiological processes including blood pressure and bone density.  An overactive GPR55 receptor increases bone absorption and can cause osteoporosis.  It also promotes the proliferation of cancer cells, and its expression has been detected in multiple types of cancer.  While CBD is a serotonin and a TRPV1 agonist, or stimulant, it is a GPR55 antagonist which means that it inhibits or blocks GPR55 signaling.

CBD may be able to stop the progression of osteoporosis and cancer cell proliferation.

PPARs (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) are located at the surface of a cell’s nucleus.  PPARs play a role in the regulation of lipid intake, insulin sensitivity, energy homeostasis, and various metabolic functions.  Additionally, the activation of PPARs results in the degradation of amyloid-beta plaque, one of the molecules responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  PPARs also have an anti-proliferative effect and the ability to initiate tumor regression in human lung cancer. CBD activates PPARs which explains its possible efficacy as a treatment for diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and lung cancer.

Natural Production of Cannabinoids

Our brain produces its own cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, including anandamide and 2AG.  CBD competes with these endocannabinoids in order to travel from the cannabis plant to a human cell.  Basically, both CBD and our endocannabinoids use the same vehicle (fatty acid binding proteins, or FABPs), and there is only so much room.  CBD wins, inhibiting the re-uptake of endocannabinoids anandamide and adenosine.  This causes the brain to raise endocannabinoid levels, and it is this mechanism that makes CBD a neuroprotective against seizures, an anti-inflammatory, and an anti-anxiety in addition to the numerous other benefits triggered by increased levels of endocannabinoid activity.

As an allosteric modulator, CBD has the ability to change the shape of a receptor, altering the way that that receptor expresses itself.  For example, the GABA-A (gamma-Aminobutyric) receptor is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in our nervous systems. CBD’s anti-anxiety effects are a CBD Scienceresult of its ability to change the shape of the GABA-A receptor in a way that enhances the receptor’s sedating effects.  Another example of CBD’s allosteric modulation directly affects the potency of cannabis’ THC-induced psychoactivity.  CBD changes the shape of the CB1 receptor in a way that undermines THC’s ability to bind with CB1.  The more CBD present in a cannabis product, the less intense the high.

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.