Can CBD tame THC’s psychoactive effect?

The cannabis plant produces hundreds of different phytochemicals belonging to several families—cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and others. Among these, the cannabinoids THC and CBD stand out as the most sought-after chemicals.

All these cannabis constituents have their own purposes, but their effects tend to be more profound when combined. This chemical synergy is known as the entourage effect. According to this theory, not only do cannabinoids like THC and CBD synergise, but terpenes and other compounds as well. When it comes to our star cannabinoids, can CBD counteract or tame the psychoactive effect of THC? Find out below.


CBD and THC are the two most common cannabinoids encountered in modern cultivars. Although both produce beneficial effects, they feature a stark difference—THC is psychoactive, whereas CBD is not.

THC underpins the high produced by the cannabis plant. The molecule induces the often euphoric, enjoyable, and relaxing effects associated with smoking, eating, or vaping cannabis. However, THC can also pack some undesirable effects, giving rise to paranoia and even panic in inexperienced or unprepared users.

The secret behind these effects? THC binds to CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system like a key fits into a lock. These sites exist throughout the central nervous system; once activated, a series of chemical changes occur that give rise to an altered state of consciousness.

Researchers are just beginning to understand how CBD works in the body. Like THC, CBD also interacts with the endocannabinoid system. However, it does so in a different manner. The molecule doesn't bind to cannabinoid receptors with much affinity. The fact that it doesn’t latch onto the CB1 receptor explains why CBD doesn't produce a psychoactive effect.

Instead, CBD raises levels of endocannabinoids—including anandamide (often dubbed the "bliss molecule")—that bind to native cannabinoid receptors. CBD also targets serotonin, TRPV1, GPR55, and PPAR receptors to produce its effects.

Through these pathways, researchers have found CBD to produce various outcomes. The cannabinoid appears to help individuals when they are feeling nervous and pressured[1], and it may help soothe sensitive skin[2] and ease sore muscles[3].



Combining CBD and THC offers myriad benefits. Not only will it help tame the high, but the two cannabinoids appear to work better side by side. One of the easiest ways to consume both molecules at the same time is with a good old fashioned smoke. Select a strain that features equal parts THC and CBD and fire it up. These varieties provide enough THC to kickstart your CB1 receptors alongside adequate levels of CBD to stave off any adverse effects.

If you find you're extra-sensitive to THC, try a CBD-rich strain with much lower levels of THC. You'll still experience the effects of both cannabinoids, just with less of a high.

You can also try combining CBD oils with smoking and vaping. Inhale some THC-rich weed and keep a bottle of CBD oil nearby to modulate the high as you go. If the effects become too much, place a few drops under the tongue and wait for it to be absorbed.

Likewise, take several drops before your smoke to buffer against the psychoactive effects before they take hold. Taking CBD in this manner will enable you to dose accurately and readily.


The synergistic pas de deux of THC and CBD surpasses anecdotal experiences. Indeed, a paper[4] published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2012 discusses CBD’s ability to inhibit the paranoia and memory impairment associated with THC.

Furthermore, an archive of scientific studies documents how the two cannabinoids produce superior effects in certain conditions when used simultaneously.

A randomised, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management demonstrates the synergistic power[5] of THC and CBD among a group of patients. Compared to the THC and placebo groups, the group receiving an extract containing both THC and CBD showed more significant improvements regarding discomfort and sleep function.

Several animal studies also suggest that THC and CBD work synergistically. A 2019 paper[6] published in Frontiers in Pharmacology investigated the effects of both cannabinoids on models of neuro-hyperactivity in zebrafish.

The researchers tested several THC:CBD ratios and found 1:1 to be the most effective. Although far removed from humans, such models lay the foundation for how this blend might be effective for various conditions.

The above represents just a snapshot of the available research. Although preliminary, it gives us some definite insight into the potential of the entourage effect.



The CBD:THC ratio of a cannabis extract, product, or strain is a fairly good indicator of its effects. A ratio with a higher level of CBD will provide a more clear-headed effect, whereas higher THC values will boost psychoactivity.

Check out some of the common ratios seen in extracts and cultivars below. These values will give you a good idea of how CBD can counteract the effects of THC, and which products will suit your lifestyle the best.

CBD:THC — 1:1

The perfect balance. A 1:1 extract or strain provides equal parts THC and CBD. Users will experience an obvious psychoactive effect, but adequate amounts of CBD will lessen the impact. Feelings of paranoia are less likely.

CBD:THC — 2:1

Twice the amount of CBD doubles down on the lucid effect. Users will experience a light high, but not enough to feel overwhelmed or intoxicated. The CBD blocks most of the negative effects of THC, leaving users feeling creative and uplifted.

CBD:THC — 8:1

These strains and extracts provide only a light high, if any. While THC’s effects may be apparent, they won’t interrupt productivity or functionality. This ratio is great for daytime use.

CBD:THC — 20:1

Sky-high levels of CBD alongside almost no THC makes these products perfect for first-time cannabis users. Users won't experience a high, but small levels of THC might contribute to an entourage effect.

CBD:THC — 1:0

Enjoy the full effects of CBD without any THC at all. Great for users looking to avoid any psychoactive effect, and for those subject to drug tests.


Although the research can be conflicting, it does appear that CBD counteracts some of the psychoactive effects of THC. However, the two molecules appear to work in harmony rather than in conflict, offering a more pleasant experience as a result. Future research will determine just how effective this relationship is—and why.

External Resources:
  1. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients | Neuropsychopharmacology
  2. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis - ScienceDirect
  3. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation - ScienceDirect
  4. SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research
  5. Multicenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain - ScienceDirect
  6. Single and Synergistic Effects of Cannabidiol and Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Zebrafish Models of Neuro-Hyperactivity
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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