CBD. You’ve seen these three letters advertised at your neighborhood cafe, fused within the topical your aunt has been boasting to the family about, even on the shelves of your local pharmacy stores. What you might not be aware of, however, is which cannabis strains contain the highest levels of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating cannabinoid that has taken the health and wellness market by storm.

Similar to the way cultivators try to maximize the production of THC, there are also high-CBD strains specifically bred to offer therapeutic benefits without intoxicating levels of THC. This has made it possible for children suffering from seizures to be safely treated with medical cannabis. A number of studies on CBD suggest that it offers potential therapeutic value in the treatment of various physical ailments, such as chronic pain, inflammation, and epilepsy, as well as psychological conditions, including stress, depression, and anxiety.

And while CBD is often associated with oils, tinctures, vape pens, and other cannabis products, it’s also available in flower to roll in joints, pack in bowls, and load in vaporizers.

The cannabis plant is comprised of hundreds of chemical compounds that create a unique harmony of effects, which is primarily led by cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD (the two most common) are the main drivers of cannabis’ therapeutic and recreational effects:

  • THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) makes us feel hungry and high, and relieves symptoms like pain and nausea.
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating compound known to alleviate anxiety, pain, inflammation, and many other medical ailments.

Cannabis contains over a hundred different types of these cannabinoids, but start by familiarizing yourself with these two first. Instead of choosing a strain based on its indica or sativa classification, consider basing your selection on these three buckets instead:

  • THC-dominant strains are primarily chosen by consumers seeking a potent euphoric experience. These strains are also selected by patients treating pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. If you tend to feel anxious with THC-dominant strains or dislike other side effects associated with THC, try a strain with higher levels of CBD.
  • CBD-dominant strains contain only small amounts of THC, and are widely used by those highly sensitive to THC or patients needing clear-headed symptom relief.
  • Balanced THC/CBD strains contain balanced levels of THC, offering mild euphoria alongside symptom relief. These tend to be a good choice for novice consumers seeking an introduction to cannabis’ signature high.

It’s worth noting that both indica and sativa strains exhibit these different cannabinoid profiles. “Initially most people thought higher CBD levels caused sedation, and that CBD was more prevalent in indica cultivars, which we now know is most definitely not the case,” Raber told Leafly. “We are more prone to see some CBD in sativa-like cultivars, but there isn’t a systematic rule or relationship in that regard.”

Consider the following questions when choosing the right strain or product for you.

  • How much experience do you have with cannabis? If your tolerance is low, consider a low-THC strain in low doses.
  • Are you susceptible to anxiety or other side effects of THC? If so, try a strain high in CBD.
  • Do you want the effects to last a long time? If you do, consider edibles (starting with a low dose). Conversely, if you seek a short-term experience, use inhalation methods or a tincture.