Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant. Unlike THC, it has potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-anxiety benefits.
In the past, most marijuana breeders focused on creating as high THC concentration as possible. More recently, however, as we began to learn more about the medicinal potency of CBD, more and more breeders are beginning to focus instead on the CBD content of their crops. We now have access to a variety of high-CBD marijuana strains, useful for a wide range of medical conditions.
We’ve put together a list of the best high-CBD strains available today. We’ve included a few different strains, some having mild psychoactivity others with no psychoactivity at all.
A Brief History Of High-CBD Marijuana
High CBD strains made headlines after the story of a little girl named Charlotte, who suffered from severe and crippling epilepsy on a daily basis. The only treatment that proved useful after years of trying different medications was CBD.
This story became well known throughout the world, and became the driving force behind the legalization movement of marijuana, especially in the United States.
Since then, many marijuana breeders have begun developing strains high in CBD, and low in the psychoactive THC component.
What Is CBD?
There are over 60 different cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, each with their own set of benefits. The majority of the cannabinoid content in a given strain of marijuana tends to be either CBD (cannabidiol) or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
CBD is non-psychoactive and provides most of the pain-relieving, relaxing, and neuro-regulating benefits of the marijuana plant.
For more detailed information on CBD, visit our CBD guide.
What Is THC?
The other main cannabinoid, THC, is the psychoactive component of the marijuana plant.
THC provides the euphoric, appetite stimulating, and neurological benefits of the cannabis plant. It’s also the main reason why many marijuana users might find themselves feeling paranoid and anxious after using high-THC marijuana.
What Are High CBD/Low THC Strains Used For?
THC has many benefits of its own but lacks the ability to reduce pain, treat anxiety and depression, and reduce the severity or frequency of epileptic seizures. For this reason, many breeders are choosing to develop strains low in THC so that they can focus on the medicinal benefits of the CBD content instead.
These strains generally range from mild psychoactivity to non-psychoactive. This makes them useful for children or those looking to receive the benefits of CBD without any changes in sobriety such as at work or school.
High-CBD/Low-THC Strains Are Used For:
- Pain relief
- Cognitive enhancement (mild)
- Stress reduction
- PTSD treatment
- Epileptic seizure reduction
- Anxiety relief
- Insomnia relief
- Promoting relaxation
- Reducing depressive symptoms
- Adjunctive treatment for cancer therapy
A Quick Note On Marijuana Terpenes
Although the main focus of the strains on this list is CBD and THC, terpenes play an important role in the effect profile of a particular strain.
Terpenes are small organic molecules found throughout the plant kingdom. They evaporate with little effort and have characteristic aromas.
Pinene, for example, is a common terpene found in a variety of plants that have the characteristic aroma of pine trees. Limonene is another common terpene that gives citrus fruits their classic aroma.
The marijuana plant can have hundreds of different terpenes in its leaves and flowers. This is why some marijuana strains can smell like roses, citrus fruits, geranium, or mint.
These terpenes share some medicinal effects as well. Some boost neurotransmitter production, others are anti-inflammatory, and some even boost the absorption and function of the cannabinoids themselves. These components are important to consider in the overall effect profile of the marijuana plant.
Top 5 Best High CBD Strains
Charlotte’s Web is the first strain on our list, and for good reason…
It has an incredible development story involving a little girl named Charlotte Figi who was suffering from seizures every 15 minutes. After her parents were unable to find the effective treatment they turned to CBD out of pure desperation.
CBD was by far the most effective treatment the family tried. This eventually caught the attention of a pair of breeders in Colorado (The Stanley Brothers).
These breeders got to work developing a strain with the highest CBD content possible. They aptly named their result after Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web).
Despite being one of the first high-CBD strains developed, it remains one of the premier high-CBD strains on the market. Most commercial CBD oil on the market today is made from Charlotte’s Web.
Charlotte’s Web boasts an impressive 20% CBD content and less than 0.3% THC. It’s completely void of psychoactive effects but provides potent relief for pain, inflammation, and epileptic conditions.
Charlotte’s Web is similar to hemp in its chemical profile. It contains about 4.45% terpenes, the majority of which is linalool (2.25%).
Linalool has been shown to inhibit glutamate  which is the main stimulating neurotransmitter in the brain. Increased glutamate activity has been shown to be connected with epileptic conditions . Linalool is likely one of the main reasons why Charlotte’s Web is so effective for treating seizures.
|Strain Type||Indica dominant|
|Best Use Cases||Epilepsy, chronic pain, inflammation and anxiety|
Sour Tsunami was created by the late Lawrence Ringo, a superstar in the CBD community. This was a man who paved the way for CBD and marijuana legalization and has developed many of the world’s leading high-CBD strains.
After the death of this marijuana legend, another high-quality CBD strain was named in his honor (see “Ringo’s Gift” below).
Sour Tsunami was born from a combination of Sour Diesel and NYC Diesel. Both of these parent strains are fairly stimulating and contain fairly high THC. The pair makes for an unlikely set of parents for one of the best CBD strains in existence. This unlikely creation is a testament to Lawrence Ringo’s expertise in marijuana breeding.
Sour Tsunami has about 12% CBD and less than 1% THC. This appears to vary depending on how the plant is grown, however, with some samples tested showing as high as 6% THC.
Nevertheless, this strain is considered mildly stimulating, while maintaining the characteristic benefits of high CBD strains.
Sour Tsunami is rich in the terpenes limonene and pinene.
Limonene is useful for boosting the effects of CBD and THC. Pinene, on the other hand, has the ability to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.
This neurotransmitter is an important player in the process of learning and memory. It’s a common mechanism for nootropic supplements aimed at boosting learning speed and memory.
Sour Tsunami is an excellent choice for those looking to receive the benefits of CBD during the day without feeling sedated. It has benefits of some mild THC stimulation, which makes it good for improving concentration and focus.
It’s a favorite strain among many business professionals, creatives, and students.
|Strain Type||Sativa dominant|
|Best Use Cases||Improving focus and concentration, boosting mood, chronic and acute pain, depression.|
Ringo’s Gift contains as much as 20 times more CBD than THC. In total, it has about 16% CBD and less than 1% THC.
Ringo’s Gift is the child of ACDC (see honorable mentions) and Harle-Tsu, which are impressively high-CBD strains of themselves.
Its low THC content allows for some mild psychoactivity, mostly in the form of background euphoria. This is a great strain for those looking to receive the benefits of high-CBD marijuana but doesn’t want the couch-lock and fatigue that often comes along with it. This makes Ringo’s Gift perfect as a daytime high-CBD strain.
Ringo’s Gift has a very low terpene content (<1%) which means the majority of its benefits rely specifically on the CBD and THC concentrations. It also means that it has a very mild, earthy aroma.
|Strain Type||Sativa dominant|
|Best Use Cases||Chronic pain, stress, muscle cramps/damage|
Harlequin has the highest THC content of any of the other choices on the list. We’ve included it because despite having a higher THC content, its effect profile resembles that of a more CBD dominant strain. The THC content allows for some unique differences.
The CBD:THC ratio of this strain is somewhere between 5:2 and 2:1 (varying reports from cannabis analysis lab results).
Harlequin is great for promoting relaxation without being too sedating. In fact, it tends to be more uplifting on the mood than most of the other high CBD strains available, making it useful for increasing productivity and improving depression or anxiety.
This strain is highest in the terpenes myrcene and pinene.
Myrcene has been shown to provide analgesic effects through the opioid receptors in the brain. This is the same mechanism of action for pharmaceutical painkillers like codeine and morphine .
Myrcene has also been shown to improve muscle relaxation by increasing the activity of GABA , which is the neurotransmitter responsible for rest and relaxation.
Harlequin is often used in a similar respect to nootropics for boosting creativity, cognitive performance, and focus. It can be used to boost workflow by reducing anxiety and promotes clarity of thought while maintaining only mild psychoactive effects.
|Strain Type||Sativa Dominant|
|Best Use Cases||Inflammation, chronic pain, insomnia, poor appetite, stress|
Remedy is the most sedative of the high-CBD strains on this list. It’s a combination of Cannationnic (one of our honorable mentions) and Afghan Skunk.
The high terpene concentration is unique for a high-CBD strain, which is generally lower in terpene content than other, high-THC strains.
Of the terpenes, limonene is the most abundant terpene in Remedy. This is the characteristic scent of lemons and citrus fruits and has some medicinal benefits of its own.
In one study, limonene was shown to boost serotonin activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain . It’s useful on its own as an antidepressant and anxiolytic (reducing anxiety). It’s also reported to enhance the effectiveness of other cannabinoids , making their effects more noticeable in the body.
In this way, it’s thought that the limonene content of Remedy is able to boost the overall effectiveness of the CBD, making it more comparable to some of the other strains on this list that contain as much as twice the CBD.
|Strain Type||Indica dominant|
|Best Use Cases||Insomnia, stress, anxiety, pain, inflammation, epilepsy.|
Choosing only 5 of the many high-CBD strains available today was difficult. There are so many breeders producing high-quality strains with varying cannabinoid profiles.
Here are some of our honorable mentions.
Pennywise has high CBD but also contains fairly high THC. It’s a nearly perfect 1:1 ratio of the two cannabinoids.
The equal CBD:THC ratio makes it a jack of all trades, useful for high stress, insomnia, pain, fatigue, poor appetite, and anxiety.
Unfortunately, it also produces a fair degree of psychoactive effects and can be very unpredictable from one user to the next. This is ultimately why it didn’t make our list of top 5.
ACDC is an overall a great strain, high in CBD (as much as 20%). The THC and terpene content can vary a fair amount and has proven to be unpredictable. THC can range from <1% to over 6%.
This is a great strain for conditions like anxiety, pain, arthritis, and insomnia. Unfortunately, the high variability of this strains chemical profile makes it unreliable and its use involves a bit of a gamble.
It may be sedating to some, stimulating to others, and can have any degree of psychoactivity depending on the person.
Cannatonnic has roughly double the CBD content to THC (15% and 7% respectively) as well as a higher level of another cannabinoid known as CBG (0.5%).
The CBG content offers some additional benefits towards treating pain and insomnia. It tends to complement the effects of CBD well without causing over sedation like other complimentary cannabinoids like CBN which is more often found in high-THC strains.
This is a great high-CBD strain but isn’t as powerful as any of the other strains on our list.
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