You’ve probably heard a lot of hype around CBD lately, and for good reason. As it turns out, cannabinoids like CBD closely mimic and interact with one of the most fundamental physiological systems in the body – the endocannabinoid system.
Your ECS is responsible for maintaining key homeostatic processes essential for harmonious physiological and biochemical symphony. In this way, the balance of the ECS is a central component in health and longevity.
The activity of your ECS is a reflection of the highly variable biochemical uniqueness that exists between you, me and the next person. Thats why a one size fits all approach to using CBD will likely produce the same result as throwing spaghetti at the wall with the hope that it sticks.
Research is useful, but not as relevant as we’d like
One of the ways we like to deal with health outcomes is to categorise treatments based on which disease someone has. This often leads to the idea that a specific dose applies to managing a particular disease.
Whilst this may seem like a good idea, it fails to account for the fact that a particular disease can occur through a myriad of different perturbations across mechanistic pathways. Basically, even though a diagnosis labels two people with a certain disease, the pathways that are broken could be very different between them.
For this reason, theres no optimal dose for addressing symptoms according to what disease or health condition you have.
In other words, there’s no specific dose for managing chronic pain, anxiety or inflammation across diseases. That dose is completely subjective.
Having said that, the studies that do currently exist are a good rule of thumb to gauge the ballpark figures for:
- A minimum therapeutic effect
- Establishing tolerable upper limits (safe doses)
But, as you’ll soon see, theres much better ways to find your own specific therapeutic window.
Here’s a summary of the existing research on doses within particular sample populations for different conditions:
CBD is a fairly novel compound and hasn’t yet been allocated an official RNI (Reference Nutrient Intake), mainly because its a phytochemical, not a vitamin or mineral. Phytochemicals like cannabinoids, terpenes, polyphenols, flavinoids and many more haven’t a specified guideline really.
These are pretty high doses, but give us an idea of the tolerable upper limit. Now we can estimate the smallest amount needed to produce an effect. This forms the initial threshold by which you can break into your therapeutic window.
You can use yourself as a guinea pig here, start low and work your way up. A run of the mill dose could be ~ 25 mg, but you may choose to start at 5 mg and work your way up.
Body Weight As A Rule of Thumb
This method is much like using BMI to assess body composition – its useful, but far from perfect.
Just like BMI, going by weight alone fails to account for the amount of muscle:fat:bone that makes up that total weight. Even if you share the same body weight as someone, you could have more muscle and less fat which constitutes different metabolic activity. Your genes and how they behave in response to your particular surroundings may also vary.
That being said, Honest Marijuana has a useful guide for CBD dosing based on body weight:
Your response will vary based on your unique body composition and:
- Endocannabinoid tone (synthesis, degradation and signalling of EC’s)
- Metabolic activity of liver enzymes (CYP) which metabolise cannabinoids
- Nutritional Status (omega 3:6 consumption notably)
- Stress (impacts EC tone)
- Sleep (also impacts EC tone)
Whether you have decided to use research reference ranges, or gone with body weight as a starting point, you can then proceed to optimise your dose.
This involves finding the window between the smallest dose which produces a meaningful effect, and the point where your response starts to plateau as the dose increases. This you could call the upper limit of the therapeutic window.
Finding your window helps avoid wasting your precious CBD and prevents overshooting a therapeutic sweet spot.
CBD has no official Tolerable Upper Limit (maximum safe dose), but is generally well tolerated. Thats why its a good idea to have some idea from the literature just to be safe.
Metabolic Activity of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes
A small detail to be aware of is the breakdown of CBD in the liver by a family of enzymes called cytochrome p450.
The activity of these enzymes is highly variable from person to person, as they are under genetic and epigenetic control. Thats to say that whilst some of their activity is determined by inherent genetics, they can also be induced or inhibited.
Many foods, drugs, nutrients, supplements, lifestyle and environmental factors all influence CYP 450 activity. That means that if you are taking CBD, it might, in theory, influence the metabolism and effectiveness of other drugs, and vice versa.
A few interactions to note:
- Inhibits CYP1A1
- Inhibits CYP1A2
- Inhibits CYP1B1
- Inhibits CYP2A6
- Inhibits CYP2B6
- Inhibits CYP2C19
- Inhibits CYP2C9
- Inhibits CYP2D6
- Inhibits CYP3A5
If you are taking medication and are unsure, check to see if any are metabolised by these enzymes so you can dose CBD with adequate time apart from your medication for EG.
CBD is metabolised by CYP3A4, and has a bioavailability of ~ 6%. It hangs around for 1-2 days (half life) after oral dosing (*). Subjective effectiveness of CBD may include the variability in CYP3A4 activity, based on genetics, diet and lifestyle influences.
How To Take CBD
One of the most popular ways to ingest CBD is by using a tincture preparation/oil. These typically come with a glass pipette which administers CBD with a carrier oil in small droplets.
Alternatively, you can get caps which are already pre-dosed so taking fixed doses consistently is easier. Caps tend to come in ranges from 10-250 or even 500 mg, so experimenting with doses is slightly less flexible. It might be easier to play around with oils and tinctures at first as you can increase and decrease the dose with more precision.
You may have noticed that CBD can be referred to as a percentage as well as in milligrams (mg). Confusing, right?
Whilst knowing the percentage is handy to assess the general potency you are getting, measuring doses in mg is more practical. This way you can also go by doses used in research as well, as CBD is mostly referred to in mg.
To most accurately dose CBD, knowing how much CBD in mg/drop can help you find your sweet spot with plenty of room for exploration.
Working Out MG/Drop From % CBD & Millilitres
When a product refers to CBD in percentages, it highlights the concentration of CBD present as a percentage of the entire bottle.
Lets say you had an oil which was 5% CBD and was 10 ml in volume. That leaves 95% of the 10ml which will contain the carrier oil (usually coconut), a few other cannabinoids (not THC) and some other phytochemicals from Hemp or Cannabis.
Straight CBD = 5% of 10 ml = 0.5 ml
Now convert ml to mg using a conversion tool:
0.5 ml = 500mg per bottle
Within a 10ml bottle, you’re looking at ~ 200 drops.
So 500 mg/200 drops, should provide ~ 2.5 mg/drop
Working Out MG/Drop From Total Milligrams & Millilitres
To make life a little easier, some oils tell you how much total CBD is contained in mg for a whole bottle.
This makes it easier to establish how many mg are contained within 1 drop of oil. Mg allows you to gauge your intake, and find a snug therapeutic window.
A typical dropper will contain 1ml of oil. So if you have 10 ml which contains 500 mg total CBD, then 1 ml = 50 mg.
So Total CBD in mg / Total ml = CBD for 1 ml
The dropper (1 ml) may give you somewhere between 20 and 25 drops:
50 mg/25 drops = 2 mg
50 mg/20 drops = 2.5 mg
What works for you is going to be completely subjective, so start low and increase incrementally to find your therapeutic window.
Tracking Your Way To Success
Once you have established how many mg CBD exist per drop, you can start to track how you respond to different doses, and establish whether its best to:
- Dose in response to symptoms
- Dose periodically throughout the day
- Dose with food
- Dose Morning or Night
There’s no one right way to use CBD as it works very subjectively. After a little deductive experimentation, you can find how much, when and with what CBD works best for you.
Use a tracking diary or sheet to remember what doses you have used, at what time and the experience you notice for that particular dose – EG pain alleviation 6/10.
You may also like to document a little bit about whats going on in your day to see how that affects how you respond to your CBD dose – EG you had a particularly stressful day, which made it harder for your pain to subside. You may find you need a slightly higher dose on more stressful days.
Sativa, Indica or Hybrid?
So you may be thinking, if I’m just buying CBD, what difference does it make if that CBD came from a Sativa, Indica or hybrid?
Besides just the CBD in an oil or cap, you often get other trace cannabinoids (Not THC > 0.2%) and phytochemicals (varies with extraction method). Im referring here to full plant extracts, of which extraction has been specifically optimised for CBD.
You can also get pure pharmaceutical grade CBD, which you wouldnt classify as a sativa, indica or hybrid as its only CBD.
Each individual plant has a unique cannabinoid fingerprint which produces the subtle variations in effects you get around the dominant CBD experience.
- Indicas tend to be more suitable for sleep, relaxation, stress relief, appetite stimulation and anxiety.
- Sativas tend to produce stimulating, cerebral, antidepressant effects.
However, some of these effects can be attributed to THC, which you wont find in any CBD oil (in concentration over the legal limit of 0.2%).
The point is that a strain falling into these categories will tend to produce these characteristic effects.
As well as categorising a strain by its ‘family type’, many can be selected based on their hallmark effects, for example:
- Charlottes web – high CBD
- Durban Poison – high THCV
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