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Can CBD undo the anxious side effects of THC?

July 3, 2016

“If you accidentally consume too much THC and feel anxious or paranoid, counteract it by taking some CBD.” That’s what my budtender told me to do once, and ever since, I’ve wondered to what extent that’s true.

The answer for many people is yes, it can, but with the caveat that there are many factors that can impact how one responds to anxiety and CBD. Some of those variables include:

  • The type of CBD product used
  • Your unique biology and genetics
  • The intensity and nature of anxiety
  • The THC/CBD dose ratio


CBD vs. THC: What’s the difference?

There are, however, mechanical truths about CBD that might help you understand why it tends to alleviate anxiety whether it was induced by THC or other external stressors.

The relationship between THC and CBD

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is an excellent anxiety-fighting compound. It occurs in trace amounts in most varieties of cannabis, but recent years have seen a surge of high-CBD strains and products. CBD isn’t psychoactive like THC – when isolated from its THC counterpart, it does not produce the obvious euphoria.

“Cannabidiol balances the buzz and softens the euphoria–or, in some cases, the dysphoria–induced by THC, which can make people feel very loopy and weird. CBD is the yin of THC’s yang.”

Martin Lee, author of 'Smoke Signals'

Although THC and CBD are two distinctive compounds, they work together in interesting ways. For example, CBD has been found to enhance THC’s painkilling properties while diminishing the paranoia it can cause.

“CBD interacts with THC in complex ways, diminishing certain effects (the munchies, sleepiness, the high) while augmenting others,” writes Martin A. Lee in his book, Smoke Signals. “Cannabidiol balances the buzz and softens the euphoria–or, in some cases, the dysphoria–induced by THC, which, in concentrated form, can make people feel very loopy and weird. CBD is the yin of THC’s yang.”


Why Does Cannabis Cause Paranoia in Some But Helps Anxiety in Others?

You’ve probably experienced this yin-and-yang balance with strains that contain both THC and CBD. Take the Pennywise strain, for example. With a one-to-one ratio of CBD and THC, Pennywise provides milder effects than THC-dominant strains. As one Leafly reviewer put it, “It was a very mellow feeling….no racing heart just calm. No heavy headed feeling either.”

Just last week, I took a THC-packed dab in an attempt to stave off some morning nausea, but I got so foggy headed and anxious, I felt like crawling right back into bed even though it wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet. My to-do list was far too long to lay around waiting for the side effects to pass, so I popped a 10mg CBD capsule and hoped for the best. Within 20 minutes, I was clear-headed enough to tackle cognitively demanding tasks, and the anxiety dissolved soon after.

It makes you wonder: how do CBD’s profound anti-anxiety effects actually work?


How to find the best CBD cannabis product for you

CBD and its anti-anxiety mechanisms

Project CBD, an organization dedicated to the dissemination of CBD information, has compared the chemical to a “dimmer switch.” It has a way of calming excess signaling and activity in the brain’s endocannabinoid system.

Shop trusted CBD brands on Leafly Market

Before we get into that, it’s important to understand what that big word means. Also referred to as the ECS, the endocannabinoid system refers to a network of receptors and compounds that bind to them. Think of it like a series of keys and locks. Cannabinoids like THC bind to these receptor sites to induce a variety of effects from euphoria to anxiety. But cannabinoids from cannabis aren’t the only compounds that interact with our system. Our bodies actually produce their own marijuana-like compounds – known as endocannabinoids – that interact with this system. In other words, cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are two different sets of keys that unlock the same locks.


Cannabinoids 101: What Makes Cannabis Medicine?

Many conditions and diseases can be characterized by underactive or overactive endocannabinoid systems. PTSD brains, for example, are known to produce insufficient levels of anandamide, a natural endocannabinoid that is structurally similar to THC. Introducing underwhelmed receptor sites with cannabinoids that act like endocannabinoids can, in a sense, correct the deficiency and result in a therapeutic effect.

CBD modulates the receptor signaling associated with THC, which is why their co-presence has become so important in the field of cannabis therapeutics. Relevant to this particular discussion is CBD’s ability to modulate excess cannabinoid activity in the brain, which can result in anxiety. In this way, CBD can certainly mitigate the anxious, paranoid side effects associated with THC overconsumption.


8 ways to sober up from being high

Which CBD product is right for you?

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a state with legal cannabis, you have an ever-growing selection of CBD products to choose from. Finding the right one will rely heavily on your unique circumstances, but there are some key ideas to keep in mind while narrowing down your search.

  • Lab tested products are the only way to guarantee their cannabinoid content. Without testing, you don’t know how much CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids are present.
  • Smoking or vaporizing CBD-rich strains is the fastest way to achieve relief, but keep in mind that these may still contain THC and other cannabinoids. Dabbing a high-CBD oil, for example, may not do much for your anxiety if THC is still present. Pay attention to the THC:CBD ratios of your product.
  • Ingestible oils can be a fantastic way to get a more concentrated dose of CBD, and these are my personal favorites for treating anxiety. Keep in mind that CBD capsules can take a lot longer to kick in, as ingested oils are absorbed by the body differently than smoked or vaporized product, which absorb through the bloodstream directly.


6 ways to enjoy cannabis without having to smoke it


Although CBD has demonstrated a high safety margin, always take care when medicating with any of these products. Notify your doctor if you decide to use CBD and consult with medical professionals educated in therapeutic cannabis applications, especially if you’re using CBD in conjunction with other medications.

We want to hear from you! Have you had success in counteracting THC-induced anxiety with CBD? What are your favorite products for doing so? Let us know in the comments section!

  • Megan Elizabeth Griffin Baker

    Hey Bailey I liked your post! I wrote a response: Ironically, because I am such a naturally anxious person you’d think I’d stay away from sativas but I love them too much to quit my favorite day time smokes. Recently I’ve begun making CBD salads with my Sativas and Cbd flowers. It’s a nice mix when I need anxiety relief but also need a little bit of the sativa cerebral the head change.

    • Bailey Rahn

      Thank you, Megan! I’m so glad you found the information helpful, and I really enjoyed reading your response. We have some really fascinating content relating to CBD and anxiety coming up in mid-October, and it should help address some of the questions raised about dosing on your blog. I’ll try to remember to connect you to that series once it comes out! Cheers!

      • Fernando Trochez

        Has your series come out yet? I’m looking forward to reading more CBD related articles 🙂

  • Maria Liberatore

    Bailey. As a vendor of CBD products containing less than the FDA mandated legal amount of.3% THC, it’s imperative that I offer my customers truthful advice and information regarding the ability of industrial hemp CBD to “treat” the same issues as THC/CBD products with the same or similar results. Research is quite limited. Would you be able to steer me toward bona fide sites to research. Perhaps, you have already written an article? TY. Keep up the good work.

    • Shonya S

      Wish Bailey would have replied to your post…

      • CupcakesandKale

        Hey Bailey – I’m also very interested in this part of the discussion. I own a pet supply store and we’ve seen wonderful,amazing results for dogs with seizures, anxiety, etc. it’s made me even more fascinated with the endocannibinoid system and hemp CBD.

    • mjg

      Maria: Did you ever find out the answer to this question?

  • quel-y

    Great article. I love the new publicity around CBD because it benefits both medicinal patients and the cannabis community as a whole. And yes CBD can absolutely reduce anxiety and paranoia. In particular, those very-hard-to-find strains similar to Charlotte’s Web that contain very high CBD and very low THC are the best for anxiety and paranoia without any THC high at all. However these strains are often very difficult if not impossible to find in states and countries where cannabis is not legal for medicinal purposes. A Charlotte’s Web type of strain is just not desired in the recreational market so you won’t find them from a street dealer or even in most dispensaries.

    More common – but still difficult to find in some places – are strains with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio. These are my favourite. I find that they do still get me high, but much less high than non-CBD strains and with no paranoia or anxiety at all. It’s like CBD “takes the top off”. When you need the benefits of cannabis without much high it’s the way to go. You get the benefits and can still get on with your day.

    While on vacation in the Netherlands (near Amsterdam) I tried to find a CBD strain – any strain – at coffee shops but had no luck whatsoever. In the recreational market CBD strains simply aren’t available or are very rare. More than that, the few bud tenders I talked to didn’t even know what CBD was! Though they proceeded to sell me a high THC strain that got me very high, which I’m okay with, and they called it a “CBD strain” but it wasn’t, and wasn’t at all what I was looking for. The Netherlands has a good medical cannabis program but those strains aren’t available in most coffee shops. I’m not picking on the Dutch, it’s just an example of the difficulty finding high CBD strains even in mature cannabis markets.

    Here in Canada we have many different lab-tested high CBD strains, including many 1:1 strains and one or two that are very similar to Charlotte’s Web (15% CBD and 0.8% THC). But these are only available to medical patients ordering by mail-order. It’s very difficult to find good CBD strains at dispensaries in Canada, and almost none of the dispensaries have their products tested by labs to disclose the THC:CBD ratio so you don’t really know what you’re getting. For people seeking high CBD strains it’s a real problem. That will change upon legalization in 2017, but it’s an unfortunate fact today. At least we have options.

    In certain U.S. states I’ve read about people having great difficulty finding high CBD strains. With greater awareness I hope that will change. Your article about CBD is a great step in the right direction, thanks Bailey!

    • Dorothy Watkins Edgson

      If you are in Vancouver. Green Cross has a really good one. Super concentrated oil.

      • mjg

        Dorothy: What is the oil Green Cross has?

  • greensaregoodforyou

    Just letting people know, my partner needs to use MJ for some lift in mood ( THC good for that ) and found that after years of not smoking, the MJ was a bit strong and anxiety/paranoia etc a problem. So we tried using some cbd oil before using MJ vape and it works a treat….smooths things out but still getting some THC through. Using around 15mg cbd oil. Hope this helps someone who can benefit but finding strains too strong, and you don’t always know which one you have, especially if no Med MJ nearby.
    All the best and stay well.

  • GRUnGe-gUrL

    im definitely trying to find something that will help with my panic attacks, anyone know i good strain?i smoke a tiny puff of a friends green, and full blown, im gonna die feeling, im sick of xanax, poisoning myself

    • Vinny Romero

      There are several high cbd strains out there. I like to mix high cbd strains with traditional strains and it works great. However, I only experienced thc-induced anxiety occasionally. If even small amounts of thc cause you anxiety, i would start with a strain that has a higher cbd-to-thc ratio like Catatonic or Harlequin. They have a high (10%+) cbd and low (below 5%) thc content and shouldnt produce any anxiety and a very very mellow high. Then, work your way up to strains with a little more thc. Lately, my favorite all day strain is a high cbd Ak47 (16%thc:10%cbd). As your tolerance to thc builds, you should be able to eventually use higher thc, minimal cbd strains if you want, personally i dont know how i ever consumed without cbd, the experience is so much more enjoyable, but to each their own!

      • Heather N Roland Roy

        I grind up a 50/50 mix of Stephen hawking kush (CBD strain) and whatever other strain I am in the mood to smoke. It gives me the chance to have a mellow experience and keeps my anxiety on an even keel. If things get to be too much I have a 150mg CBD spray that I can use. It really helps! Try mixing some strains till you find the sweet spot.

  • Vinny Romero

    YES! This article is on point! Along with the medicinal benefits, cbd allows me to use high thc strains, without any paranoia or anxiety. It’s especially helpful at night when mixed with strong indicas, as the couchlock effect can freak me out sometimes. Apparently this is the opposite of what most people experience, usually reacting adversly to pure sativas, but regardless of the strain if it hits me weird or i over do it, i simply place 2 drops of cbd oil (rso) in my lip and within 10 mins, anxiety is managable, and completely gone within 30 mins. I have also been mixing high cbd and high thc strains, which allows me to medicate and have a little fun, too.

    • 58VintageSunburst

      In my experience, CBD, almost completely obliterates the effects of cannabis flower or concentrate. Its a buzz annihilator leaving me in a relaxed and mellow state.

  • Think a little further

    I only grow strains with stable 1:1 CBD/THC, and I have been smoking daily for 22 years now 🙂 I hate when I run out of my own stash and have to buy high THC strains. I like to be creative and active when i smoke, and no paranoia. Now running is CBD Shark Shock and CBD Nordle, yum yum..

  • Pierce Hudson

    very good read i haved smoked for many years but only recently have looked into the real qualities of this beautiful herb and this article was helpful thankyou

  • Lori Minson

    I just started using cannabis and usually buy high cbd strains when I smoke. I also bought an all cbd vape oil. I wanted to try to actually smoke something with THC to see if it would help better with all the nerve pain I experience. So today I bought a mango haze cartridge. I smoked a bit and got anxious it seemed. I’ve been anxious most of the day also due to PTSD. Anyway I got the cbd vape out and took a couple of hits and it Immediately brought me back to reality. Now I feel calm and relaxed without wanting to go to sleep. I feel great actually. My new favorite combo!

  • Josh Derickson

    Thanks for the article. I can’t relate more. I notice that weed is fairly unpredictable. Sometimes I will smoke and be relaxed and anxiety free. Other times, I will smoke (The same amount maybe one or two bowls) and feel extremely anxious and paranoid. And everytime I felt this way I would tell myself I’m done smoking weed. I know a lot of people can relate to this, as I have been going to a holistic treatment for anxiety meetup in LA. A fellow meetuper (I won’t say his name) introduced me to a CBD vape pen from a company called Quanta, its printed on the vape cartridge. Now, when i smoke weed and have any anxiety or warning signs of it I take a puff or two from the CBD pen and it does wonders. I get a nice head high, I feel relaxed, and my aches and pains from my back (I have a terrible back thanks to my father 😉 ) are relieved. I think CBD is the wonder drug everyone should be using, not necessarily THC or weed. Like I said, some of the bad effects from weed arent worth the risk.

    • Elise Roche

      is this the company you mentioned?
      I’d like to give it a try.. 🙂

      • Josh Derickson


    • Laura Ertel

      This is funny I actually heard of Quanta a week ago and have my pen rn. It truly is different. I’m not sure what they do but when I hit it, it feels equivalent to drinking a glass of wine. Super cool!

  • HopefulTexas

    My father is using a high THC cannabis oil to treat his stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After about 2 months on the oil he started having major anxiety to the point where he can hardly eat or drink. We are going to try a CBD oil to see if it will help. Has anyone had experience with this?

    • G-Man

      My Sister in Law recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She is having anxiety and food just doesn’t taste good with the chemo. How is your Dad, and is he vaping? Has it helped any of his symptoms?
      Kate in Kingston

      • Kellie Carter Parker

        I am sorry to say that my dad passed away three weeks ago. He had elected not to have chemo and unfortunately the cannabis oil was not able to cure him. The CBD oil added to his THC oil definitely helped with the anxiety. The thing that seemed to work the best for his appetite (and sometimes anxiety) was taking a hit or two from a joint. He had never vaped before, so he didn’t want to do that, but I think it is a great delivery method. I would highly recommend your sister-in-law try it to help her symptoms. I hope that you have better results with your treatment than we did. Praying for your sister-in-law and you as you battle this miserable cancer!

        • Michael Kinsey

          I am so sorry for your loss. But I did want to Thank You for sharing your Fathers story as well as the products and delivery methods used, as well his results. Again, Thank You so much for the very helpful information, I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your Father and I hope that you and your Family are coping with his loss, through Gods Help and Blessings.

    • Hashishcharas

      massage us

    • jdrucker

      On New Year’s Day 2018, I met someone who had stage 4 cancer and was taking — daily — 100 mg of CBD and 100 mg of THC, which he said did not get him high. He swore by it and seemed in quite a good mood. I’ll have to check up on him.

  • Stephanie Mowery

    I just made some oil using full-spectrum CBD from Durban poison and super lemon haze, with some added CBD isolate to up the dose a bit. Have had amazing success using CBD oil for anxiety and pain relief, as well as reducing seizures in my epileptic son, and decided to experiment with some full-spectrum products to see how the various terpenes and other compounds add to the amazingness that is CBD 🙂 Thanks for the post, always glad to learn more!

  • Yaeshawn Edward Davis-Carlone

    I’m ordering sum CBD oil today n when I get it, I’ma put a drop or wutever on sum HIGH THC but LOW CBD [paranoid green I call it, LIKE SUM PURE SATIVAS or even SATIVA DOMINANT HYBRIDS…] n then vape it in my Xtreme Q vaporizer… N E BODI THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA!”?

  • Samuel Rivard

    I found that that therpene can really effect how CBD and THC interact with me… Sometime smelling lavender help me alots to calm down…
    Iam use to feel anxiety in my body and iam not use to feel axious in my brain… (I know it sound weird)

  • smellslikejesus

    Ive just tried cbd vape juice for the first time. I gave it a test for my anxiety. I knew it wasnt going to get me high but for £34 a bottle I was hoping for some kind of result. It didn’t do much for my anxiety but after smoking thc afterwards i found it made me cope with my high a whole lot better. I didnt feel that 30 min paranoid rush i normally get. So there is some benefit.

  • Austin Doney

    I have had great success in counteracting effects from smoking sativa and indica strains, CBD works wonders for me in multiple ways. I am soo thankful for CBD and THC equally they have been great blessings in my life!

  • Cristina Sulzener

    How to sensibly buy LEGAL cbd oil online? Because I got a letter saying customs has confiscated my package two times already and I’m pissed.

    • Just don’t. Most customs officers don’t know the difference between CBD and the rest of the stuff, so they confiscate it. To avoid trouble, purchase it from your home country–that way, there are no more borders to cross and no hassle to deal with.

  • Nessa

    I don’t use CDB to counteract high THC induced anxiety but I have been taking it for PTSD, anxiety and depression. CDB, for me, is a Godsend. I describe it to people like ” there is a bumper pillow between what is happening and my flight or fight responce.” Without it I feel like a squirel coming out of a sewer on a busy highway. With CBD I am more in control of my body, reactions and the influances of the world around me. I have a low tolerance to CBD and THC so I don’t need a lot but I have been able to reduce my antidepressent medication by half. 🙂

  • Joe Polete
  • Theodore Lodigensky

    Hi, this inquiry is for Bailey Rahn. I read your July 3, 2016 article about CBD curbing the anxious side effects of THC. You mentioned using the CBD to counteract the THC you were taking for nausea. I am a cancer patient and I use a lot of CBD and I want to use it with THC as I understand they each two different things. My problem is THC tolerance and I need help increasing mine. In order to be effective I’m going to have to take a lot more THC then I’m currently able. I would really appreciate some feedback and advice. I’m committed to these natural cures and very concerned That I will never be able to take enough THC to be effective on my tumors.Thanks for anything you could provide

  • Shaun Jay Ruhland

    Ive recently started taking CBD oil daily. I put it under my tongue and it absorbs through the saliva glands (im pretty sure thats how it works anyway. Thats how i was taught to do it). It has been great. Reduces anxiety greatly and I have been sleeping amazingly every night 🙂 im gonna smoke some weed soon and if I feel anxious Ill take soke CBD oil and see how it goes

  • briteleaf

    Last year I grew one SuperCBDx called Sweet Cheese. Easy, organic outdoor grow. The bud is about 17% CBD with almost no THC. Now, I mix it with my THC bud when I vaporize and when I make canna coconut oil for edibles. I’ve found that it enhances the pain relief and that I feel happier with the mix, more happy in my everyday life.

  • atarius

    You can definitely just use it in times of stress, or even better before the stressful event, if possible. Most CBD products take 20-60 minutes to take effect and CBD oil takes around 10. Once you get your dosage right (my advice is to start with 5 mg/kg a day) you can keep it there for 2 weeks and see if you feel better. There are absolutely no withdrawal symptoms with CBD. Here’s a study I recently found that explains the dosage and any reported side effects — And general article about

  • ya boy

    Switched from smoking THC flower daily (sometimes multiple times a day) to smoking exclusively CBD flower. I was using THC to manage my anxiety, depression, insomnia, but at the end of the day I was just smoking it to get high and because I love the smell and taste of cannabis.

    I also used to smoke about half a pack of cigarettes a day, then switched to vaping; but I still missed the smoking aspect.

    Now I smoke CBD flower multiple times a day and it actually relieves my anxiety and depression, helps me with my insomnia, and is a very healthy alternative to cigarettes. I’ll occasionally roll spliffs instead of straight flower, but I still consume far less tobacco and nicotine than I used to. Also, I really enjoy not being high all the time like I used to be.

    THC was almost amplifying my depression and anxiety without me knowing it, and now that I smoke CBD I’ve realized that.

    CBD is the GOAT and I now smoke THC as often as I drink (once every few weekends).

  • Sara Carlén

    For me a few drops of cbd oil makes me more energetic while about 10 drops makes me sleepy. So I take 2-4 drops after waking up and around 7-8 drops at night for sleep. Works for me and for others that have had problems with dosing at the beginning.

  • mjg

    I am confused! I have tried medical marijuana (Tweed lot #3 and Sun Grown Argyle). Lot #3 is an oil I ordered for pain and I can only take 2 drops (no later than noon) because it keeps me awake all night. The Argyle weed I ordered to sleep and smoking hasn’t worked out.
    How do you determine which weed to use? What does that mean when I react to the Tweed Lot #3 (THC .7/CBD 10.0) by not being able to sleep 12 hours after taking it? What do I then take to get to sleep?
    I do not have the mental focus to read every review Lift has on their website and Tweed is useless and using marijuana has become another DIY exercise, which I resent. There must be a better way of finding out what to take for different ailments.
    This weed stuff is becoming another complicated mumbo jumbo of terms and some other language that I simply do not understand and don’t have the strength to learn at this point.
    Please someone, help!

  • Susie Mmpatient

    Jeez, lay off Weaselina, guys. A) She made it perfectly clear she was not claiming to be an expert and that she was offering one anecdote not a peer-reviewed multi-site double-blind placebo-controlled study. I rarely read posts with so many careful disclaimers. Heck, I wish more health writers were that careful. B) Yes, CBD definitely does interact with many pharma meds, generally keeping them from being metabolized as well. Because CBD is a potent inhibitor of the cytochrome P450 enzyme, which is involved in metabolizing many drugs. Just Google “medication interactions CBD” and take a look. Project CBD, which it would be ludicrous to call a pawn of the Feds or Big Pharma, has two different articles on the subject on the first page of my results.
    FWIW, I’m a public-health journalist, an MMJ patient, and a user of high-CBD strains. (And a Harvard graduate, in point of fact. Dunster House. Which has nothing to do with anything except to make the point that we do exist. And use social media. Where do you think Mark Zuckerberg went to college?)

  • REAL science is to be preferred, but in its absence we need QUALITY anecdotal evidence. The Feds prevent any real research from being conducted in the US — at least with federal funds or interstate transport. The regulations and infrastructure employed to promote marijuana research is historically tied to trying to prove it harmful (in almost every way imaginable). Working with modern complex concentrates is nearly impossible. Marijuana has come a long way since the sixties and now we are understanding that it can produce dozens of amazing medicinal compounds like CBD, CBDA, CBC, CBGA & CBG. I know that looks like alphabet soup but those names are infinitely preferable to these products’ full names; try looking them up and then ask your senator and Congressional representative why marijuana and everyone of these cannabis-derived medicines are classified Schedule 1.