CBD is everywhere you turn, in products such as oil tinctures, edible gummy bears, and lotions! There is no question why CBD has become so popular, with people claiming they use CBD to find relief from a variety of different ailments from better sleep to helping them control epileptic seizures!
But for people just starting to learn about CBD, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to choose the right dosage. Here, we lay out some general rules and guidance that the industry has developed so far.
First and foremost: CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR WHEN ADDING ANY SUPPLEMENT TO YOUR DAILY REGIMEN. The information below is not meant to replace your doctor’s guidance, nor is it intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or affect the structure or any function of the body.
There are 3 general rules that you need to know about CBD dosage:
- No “One Size Fits All” Dose
There is not a “one size fits all” dosage that is right for everyone. Your metabolism, body weight, body chemistry, genetics, severity of ailment, and method of consuming CBD all play a role in determining an effective dose for You. Because of these differences, one person may find relief with 4mg CBD but another person needs 50+mg CBD before they feel relief.
- Be Patient
Patience and persistence are key. Typical guidance is to start low and go slow. This means to start with a low dose and slowly increase the dosage over time. The ‘Start Low and Go Slow’ works for most people. But for people that have severe ailments, this will likely lead to frustration and quitting before they find the right dose. So persistence is key.
- The milligram (mg) is King
What really matters in figuring out your dose is the milligrams of CBD you are consuming. “A dropper full” or “3 drops” are not adequate ways to tell what your dose is. You have to know how many milligrams are in those measurements. Every product has a different concentration level of CBD, meaning that a dropper full of one oil can have a different amount of CBD than a dropper full of an oil with a different concentration. To really know how much you are consuming, make sure you calculate the amount in milligrams.
Step 1: Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum vs Isolate
Full spectrum products contain more cannabinoids and terpenes than CBD isolate and contain up to the legal limit of 0.3% THC. Broad Spectrum products do not contain THC, but do have more cannabinoids and terpenes than CBD isolate. CBD isolate products contain 99+% pure CBD molecule, without any other cannabinoids.
Each type of product generally requires different dosages. This is predominantly due to the entourage effect. The term “entourage effect” describes the effect of when the many components within the hemp plant interact with the human body to produce a stronger influence than any one of those components alone. As the saying goes, “the total is greater than the sum of its parts.”
This means that to accomplish similar therapeutic relief provided by a full spectrum product, a slightly higher dose of a broad-spectrum product may be needed, and even higher for an isolate product.
The following graph gives a theoretical comparison between dose and therapeutic effect for full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate products. Typically, people find they need a lower dose of a full spectrum product than an isolate.
The different types of products—full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate—have different therapeutic dose windows. The therapeutic dose window is the amount of ‘wiggle room’ you have around your optimal dose to still feel relief. For isolates and products with minimal cannabinoids and terpenes, relief decreases when you take less than or more than the optimal dose with a limited dose window. When the product has more cannabinoids and terpenes in it, the therapeutic dose window is much larger, and may not decrease at high doses in some cases. The dose windows are illustrated in the graphic below.
The small therapeutic dose window of an isolate product requires much more patience and time to find the dose that works. Some people find relief with a 15mg dose, and some require 50mg or even higher. If you start at 25mg of an isolate product and just keep increasing, you may never find relief because your specific optimal dose is 10mg but you started too high. On the other hand, you may start at just a few milligrams a day, and slowly increase over weeks to find out that your optimal dose is 60mg. Although this seems like a tedious process, many people say it is worth it to find the relief they have needed.
Step 2: Bioavailability
With so many types of products out there, from vapes to lotions, it’s hard to know where to start. In addition to dose, it’s important to understand a product’s bioavailability. Bioavailability is the degree and rate at which a substance is absorbed into the blood stream. Bioavailability of a substance varies based on the method of consumption, and dictates how much of the substance is actually usable in your system to provide your desired level of effect. Put simply, the higher the bioavailability, the lower the dose you need to feel the desired effect.
The actual percentages of bioavailability for each method of consumption are difficult to specify due to the high variability of ways to consume, biochemistry, and metabolism of each person, etc. The infographic below lays out the general consensus of highest bioavailability on the left to the lowest bioavailability on the right.
Vaping has one of the highest bioavailability of the above-mentioned methods of consumption. The bioavailability can vary greatly depending on the quality of the vaping device, the size and spacing of puffs, hold time, and volume of inhalation. The study, Medicinal Cannabis: In Vitro Validation of Vaporizer for the Smoke-Free Inhalation of Cannabis, found that with specific vaporizers that were studied, a bioavailability of 50-80% was possible. Until more studies into the long-term effects of vaping are completed and regulations catch up with the latest technology, it is probably best for non-smokers to avoid vaping entirely. The technology is too new to say definitively that it is safe, especially for sensitive individuals and those with compromised immune systems.
Sublingual tinctures have the next highest bioavailability. Sublingual tinctures are ingested by dropping the oil under your tongue and allowing it to absorb directly through the capillaries located under the tongue into your blood stream. This bypasses the digestive system and first-pass metabolism by the liver, which would eliminate large amounts of CBD from your body before it would have a chance to enter the blood stream.
Suppositories are not normally the first product someone might choose, but they are a great option for individuals who have difficulty swallowing or have severe nausea that might prevent the oral option. According to the Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics study, suppositories are approximately two times more bioavailable than any oral consumptions such as capsules, edibles or drinks.
Smoking CBD flower or pre-rolls can result in about 25% bioavailability of the CBD according to the Medicinal Cannabis: In Vitro Validation of Vaporizer for the Smoke-Free Inhalation of Cannabis study. Smoking of any kind where combustion is used results in harmful, and many times carcinogenic, substances being introduced into the body. Smoking is not recommended.
One of the most commercially available methods of CBD consumption is the oral method. This is any CBD that you swallow, including but not limited to capsules, gummies, edibles, or drinks. The Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics study claims that the bioavailability of oral consumption is 4-20%. This means if you consume 100mg CBD in a capsule, you have about 4-20mg that make it into your system.
Topicals are another popular option for CBD. Generally, CBD does not travel through the skin very well. If you are looking for relief in a specific location on the body like a joint or specific place on the skin, topicals could be a great option! But if the goal is getting the CBD into your system, then this might not be the best route.
Step 3: Dosing Method: Titration or By Weight
For either method that you use, we recommend you keep a journal. It may be helpful to write down what you are taking CBD for, and how you are feeling without CBD. This will be your baseline to compare against. As you progress, compare how you feel against your baseline. It is good to discover how you react to a certain dose, so you can ascertain whether a higher dose is giving you more relief or less relief. If you feel like you haven’t reached your optimal dose, keep going to the next stage. The most common reason people think that CBD didn’t work for them, is because they gave up too soon, before they found their optimal dose.
Titration, or micro-dosing, is the “Start Low and Go Slow” method and is generally recommended for those who have little experience with CBD. It is also recommended for those whose body is highly sensitive to anything that they consume. Due to the higher bioavailability and ease of control for smaller doses, a sublingual tincture is recommended to find your optimal dose.
It is important to take your dose in the morning, midday and evening to help maintain stable CBD levels in your system. If you can’t do three times a day, try to stick to two times a day. An example titration schedule is shown below. You can use lower values or higher values depending on what you want and how your body responds.
The By Weight method gives a broad dose range based upon your weight. The theory is the bigger the body, the more CBD may be required for relief. As explained above, one’s metabolism, body chemistry, genetics, severity of ailment, and method of consuming CBD also play a role in determining an effective dose for You. These factors are not accounted for in the By Weight method, which is why two people that weigh exactly the same may need different amounts of CBD to achieve the same desired effect. This article recommends 1-6mg per 10lbs of weight. For example, by this calculation a 150lb person would have a daily dose in the range of 15-90mg of CBD.
In conclusion, no one can tell you what dose will work for you. It is up to you to find what dose if effective for your needs. The knowledge above will hopefully help you in your journey.
Please note: Although CBD has been found to help with many things, it is not a wonder drug that cures everything, as some people claim. For some, CBD can provide complete relief. But for others, it may not relieve the symptoms completely, or may only take the edge off at the optimal dose. Many people add CBD to help with their quality of life. Does it make all the bad stuff go away? Not necessarily, but it can help make it more bearable.