For the last several decades, the cannabis industry and the growers within it, have been breeding cannabis to contain high amounts of THC, essentially breeding out cannabidiol, or CBD, to produce the most potent products available. However, with the increased awareness of the medical benefits of CBD, and an increasing demand for the cannabinoid, some growers are starting to rethink their approach because the demand for high CBD strains has never been higher than right now.
Some high CBD strains are merely the expression of a phenotype, or physical characteristic, these strains only produce high levels of CBD when a certain gene is expressed. Therefore, growers must either plant a lot of seeds and only keep the plants expressing the CBD or grow clones taken from a mother plant known to have the correct genes. Other high CBD cannabis strains are more consistent in their CBD production and can be grown from seed.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular high CBD strains on the market – their benefits, tastes, and overall experience for the user.
High CBD Cannabis Strains and Phenotypes
This high CBD strain, a cross between an MK Ultra clone and a G13 Haze male, was originally introduced in 2008 by Resin Seeds in Spain. As they tell the story on their website, this strain helped start the push for high CBD content in cannabis strains. While high CBD content has always been a trait of industrial hemp, Cannatonic was the first strain to selectively breed down THC content, while increasing the CBD content in a cannabis sativa strain. The amount of CBD in Cannatonic is dependent on the chemotype, however, Resin Seeds states growers can expect 75% of the crop, grown from seed, to be CBD-rich. This strain of CBD-rich cannabis is known to test upwards of 23% CBD, and will most frequently contain a 1:1 CBD to THC Ratio.
One of the most popular phenotypes of Cannatonic, ACDC contains only a minute amount of THC with a ratio of 20:1. This high CBD strain produces virtually no psychoactive effect at all, however, the benefits can help treat a variety of conditions including pain, anxiety, epilepsy, MS, and many others. This pheno provides a relaxed, happy effect which provides clarity and focus while helping alleviate chronic symptoms. The super low THC content makes this an excellent choice for consumers who need a functional daytime symptom relief.
A high CBD sativa hybrid originally produced by Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt Seed Collective for his own back pain, this strain is also a pioneer in CBD medicine. After four years of breeding, this specific cross between Sour Diesel and New York City Diesel typically tests between 10 and 13 percent CBD with THC content up to 10% providing a consistent 1:1 CBD to THC ratio. Be aware the CBD producing phenotype of Sour Tsunami only appears in 25% of the plants, sampling at 3-4 weeks will determine whether or not the CBD characteristics are present.
The Queen of CBD and quite possibly the original high-CBD strain, Harlequin is the product of cross-breeding four classic landrace strains – Colombian Gold, Thai, Swiss Sativas combined with a Nepalese Indica. Despite its strong sativa heritage, this strain lacks a strong cerebral effect as the high CBD content typically counters the psychoactive effects of the THC. Harlequin consistently produces a 5:2 CBD to THC ratio, making it a favorite among growers. However, don’t expect to pick up a packet of seeds for Harlequin, as a true Harlequin is grown from clone only.
What happens when you cross two powerful high CBD strains? Harle Tsu is the flower child of a Harlequin clone and Sour Tsunami male which is now bred Harle-Tsu x Harle-Tsu to produce a consistent expression of the CBD phenotype. Also, a product of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective this strain has won multiple awards at the Emerald Cup. CBD levels can reach up to 20% with less than 1% THC, making this strain completely non-psychoactive.
Crossing Harlequin with Jack the Ripper creates this cannabis variety which doesn’t resemble a killer clown at all except in lineage. Pennywise produces a high-CBD phenotype about 70% of the time. As a one to one cannabis strain, the plant usually produces 12-15% CBD and approximately the same amount of THC. Interestingly, the balanced ratio rarely induces munchies typical of most cannabis strains, in fact, many consumers even report appetite suppression. Mildly sedative, Pennywise is a great choice for those looking for a little help getting to sleep.
Burning Bush Nurseries offers seeds for this powerhouse of CBD goodness. With a whopping 59:1 CBD to THC ratio, there’s little to no chance of experiencing any type of psychoactive effect from this strain. Grown simply from what they call “Northern California Landrace Genetics” the lineage of this strain is relatively guarded. Nobody knows where it came from, or what went into it. Boasting of 15% CBD to less than .25% THC, Suzy Q has the potential to be a powerful medicine without the high.
Rare 99% indica-dominant CBD strain created by crossing L.A. Confidential and X18 Pure Pakistani. Certain phenotypes of Tora Bora have been shown to produce a 2:1 CBD to THC ratio with CBD percentages around 14% and THC around 6%. However, be aware, with its indica lineage, Tora Bora is generally quite potent and may be recommended to the veteran cannabis consumer, or a patient who prefers a higher potency. Creating mostly a body effect due to its cannabinoid profile, Tora Bora is considered extremely beneficial high CBD strain for chronic pain, nerve damage, and insomnia.
CBD Critical Mass
By crossing a Critical Mass female with an unknown CBD Crew male, Dinafem Seeds was able to produce a high-CBD version of the strain. Another indica-dominant strain, this high-producing strain generally sees a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio with average cannabinoid percentages around 5% which means a minimal psychoactive effect coupled with the relaxing, body effects of its indica characteristics. Pain, stress, and inflammation are no match for the therapeutic benefits of CBD Critical Mass.
CBD Crew produced this high CBD indica strain by crossing White Widow with Skunk #1. The CBD phenotype of this strain flowers quickly, and produces a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio with around 6% of each. Excellent for pain, anxiety and insomnia, CBD Shark will take a bite out of symptoms for many chronic conditions and ailments.
Specially Cultivated High CBD Strains
While they don’t really count as strains, an honorable mention goes to Charlotte’s Web and Haleigh’s Hope. These high CBD strains are cultivated specifically for patients with debilitating conditions. Backed by charitable foundations, both producers help provide non-psychoactive cannabis oils to patients who are desperate for solutions.
A 20:1 CBD to THC product of the Stanley Brothers, is said to be produced through selective breeding of multiple strains including Harlequin, Sour Tsunami, and R4, a legendary CBD strain created by crossing Blueberry Haze and WU #1. Originally named “Hippie’s Disappointment” because of the low THC content, Charlotte’s Web was renamed after the little girl who helped bring cannabis as a medicine to mainstream media in 2003, Charlotte Figi.
A strain created after 7 years of selective breeding by botanist Jason Cranford, provides CBD oils in concentrations of 30:1, 20:1, 15:1, and 10:1. Although the exact genetics of Haleigh’s Hope is guarded, the Flowering HOPE Foundation helps to provide low-cost or no-cost Haleigh’s Hope tinctures to families in need. This strain was also named after a young girl with cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy.
Stephen Hawking Kush
Part of the Great Minds breeding program at Alphakronik, Stephen Hawking Kush combines two beautiful parents into one exceptional experience. Unique traits from the high CBD strain HarleTsu and a deep hitting indica – Sin City Kush, combine for a heavy hitting therapeutic experience. Testing shows it has a CBD:THC ratio of roughly 1:1. The breeders at Alphakronik have found the perfect balance between the high, and the calm, with a THC level only reaching 13 percent. Look out for flavor notes of black tea, mint, and pungent damp earth.
What do you get when you combine Cannatonic and Sour Tsunami. Both these genetic lines are already on this list as some of the best high CBD strains available today, so it goes without saying that Canna-Tsu would carry on the tradition. Lab results place the THC content at roughly eight percent and the CBD levels at four percent. Standards may vary, but this ratio is perfect for those folks seeking the pain relief and antidepressant characteristics of THC but can’t handle the high. If you are sensitive to a THC high, this relatively high level of CBD in Canna-Tsu helps balance it out. The experience is easy to manage, for effective therapeutic relief.
Another beautiful union between two high CBD strains already on the list. Ringo’s Gift was literally a gift by the breeders, meant to honor a long time cannabis activist – Lawrence Ringo. It typically contains about 20 percent CBD, in a ratio of 20:1 CBD to THC. This surprisingly powerful strain is useful for treating inflammation, anxiety, muscle spasms, and more. The flavor profile leans much more tropical than other high CBD strains, because of the citrus, pineapple, and minimal earthy undertones. It’s a perfect strain to add to your CBD repertoire if only to enjoy the aroma and distinct flavor profile.
Sweet & Sour Widow
For folks who steer clear of high THC strains, you might instantly fear a strain with “widow” in its name. But rest assured, the Sweet and Sour Widow strain is far less potent than its namesake. And the flavor profile? Well, have you ever encountered a strain that tastes a bit like onion soup? Sweet and Sour Widow is a high CBD strain with a 1:1 well-balanced ratio. The 50 percent CBD portion helps mellow out any of the psychoactive effects from the THC. Helpful for people looking to relax after a stressful day of work, and really set those anxieties aside. It may also have benefits for migraine and chronic pain relief, because of the decent level of THC.
In the Catholic tradition, St. Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy. It makes sense that at some point a breeder with a high CBD strain on their hands would go ahead and name it after Valentine. This powerful CBD strain is even better than the popular Charlotte’s Web variety. Valentine X has a 25:1 CBD to THC ratio. With this soothing healing power, and just a touch of THC to amplify the benefits (without a high), many people with seizure disorders use it on a daily basis. Thanks to the high levels of pinene, myrcene, Caryophyllene, and limonene, the strain has a lovely woodsy and earthy aroma to it. Immediately calming, and useful for anxiety relief.
As the demand for CBD continues to rise, we should expect to see more and more CBD-rich strains and phenotypes being introduced to the legal cannabis market. The science behind how cannabidiol can help supplement the endocannabinoid system and potentially treat a plethora of chronic health conditions is rapidly expanding and cannabis consumers are shifting as it does. As the cannabis market continues to evolve, high CBD strains like these will become more prevalent.