How to Take Your CBD
Finding Your Optimal Serving Sizes and Formats
So you’ve decided to join the growing revolution of people using cannabidiol (CBD) for relief and support with anxiety, arthritis, pain, menopause symptoms, insomnia and other health issues. Now comes the truly hard decision: tinctures, topicals, vaporizers, edibles… Which is best for you? And how much should you take?
If you’re overwhelmed by the wide variety of CBD products, you are not alone. Each method delivers CBD to your body in a different way, which affects what it can be used for and how often you’ll want to take it. Adding to that confusion is the fact that each of our bodies responds differently to CBD, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you design a cannabinoid treatment plan that fits your individual health goals — whether you’re choosing your first CBD product, or just optimizing your current routine.
Clarify Your Goals
With more than 65 different targets throughout your body, CBD has a staggering variety of therapeutic properties. Focusing on just one or two or those properties will help you find the best product and dosage quicker.
Ask yourself what you want CBD to improve. Do you want emotional support? Do you have a lot of arthritic pain? Are you just curious to see if life is somehow “better” with it?
Many people benefit from tracking their progress. You could use a score to rate your symptoms or try journaling about your current experience. Creating a baseline record will help you judge the effectiveness of your CBD treatment.
Where Does the CBD Need to Reach?
In order for this little molecule to be effective, it must get to where it’s needed. For most health goals, figuring out the location of CBD’s target will be straightforward.
If your target is located anywhere close to your skin or a mucous membrane (ie vagina), you could first try a localized product like a topical or suppository. This delivers the highest concentration of CBD exactly where you want it.
Otherwise, CBD needs to travel through your bloodstream to reach its target — whether that’s to your brain, immune system, or other locations. Vaporizers and oral products are best for this purpose.
What’s Your Time Frame?
How long CBD works in your body is a balance between how you ingest it and how quickly your body eliminates it. Some methods deliver a sharp, quick peak of CBD, while others offer a slow, steadier concentration.
If you’re looking for immediate, short-term relief, then inhaled products like a vaporizer might be ideal. On the other hand, if you want to maintain steady levels of CBD throughout the day, then an oral product would be more appropriate.
Many people benefit from a combination of delivery methods. Here are some examples of how people use CBD products:
1-3X daily oral supplement + vape pen as needed
1-3X daily oral supplement + topical as needed
Oral supplement a few hours before bedtime (lower doses can energize while higher doses encourage sleep)
Topical vulva spray as desired
Vaginal suppository as needed
Everybody’s Different: Finding Your Dose
How well each method works varies from person to person, and is influenced by many factors (covered in more detail below) so dosing is a highly individual process.
It’s always recommended to start with a very low dose to make sure you don’t react poorly to any of the product’s ingredients. Try one or two drops of an oral formulation, or a tiny puff off a vaporizer… this will be well below the recommended serving size listed on the product.
Then, wait until after the CBD has peaked and is leaving your system before trying a slightly higher dose. Wait at least an hour for vaporizers, and 6+ hours for an oral formula. You can take more sooner, but any effects you feel will be the cumulative result of both doses.
Even if you know how much CBD is in each serving, that value only represents the maximum amount that could be entering your body — most of that CBD will never reach your bloodstream or its targets.
But there are tricks that can help increase the amount of CBD your body absorbs.
- Before increasing how much you vape, experiment with different inhalation techniques.
- If you’re taking an oral formulation, try holding it under your tongue or swishing it around your mouth before swallowing.
For more tips and considerations, read about each ingestion method below.
CBD Sources & Quality
Once you find your optimal CBD method and dosage, be aware that it may change if you switch products. Some manufacturers are less trustworthy than others, so different CBD sources may have different effects.
What’s the best type of CBD to use? Scientists recently discovered that broad-spectrum CBD extracts (from cannabis or hemp plants) are much more effective than so-called “pure” CBD isolates. Researchers think broad-spectrum extracts work better because they contain a variety of molecules that are similar in size and shape to CBD — that all work synergistically together.
CBD: Can You Take Too Much?
If you’re worried about taking too much, just know that clinical trials have prescribed CBD doses up to 1,200 mg daily for months without observing any serious side effects . That’s more CBD than an entire bottle of Foria Basics , or 60+ suggested servings per day!
That said, we recommend speaking with a trusted medical professional before embarking on your CBD journey .
Although CBD is generally considered safe, it could lower your blood pressure. CBD can also interfere with your body’s ability to process certain pharmaceutical drugs. Both CBD and grapefruits inhibit cytochrome p450 , so take extra precautions if you are on a medication that comes with a warning not to consume with grapefruit . Topical or inhaled products could help minimize this interaction.
Ways to take CBD
Oral – Swallowed
Pathway to targets: When CBD is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and travels throughout your body.
Time-frame: This is the slowest route for CBD to reach its targets, but also the longest period of time that it’s active. Peak bloodstream levels are reported anywhere between 1-6 hours. Best for long-term supplementation.
- Food. Food affects your body’s ability to absorb CBD, and more cannabinoids are absorbed on a full stomach . CBD is fat-soluble, and consuming with a healthy dose of fats can increase the amount of CBD that reaches your bloodstream 3-fold — which is why Foria Basics contains MCT coconut oil.
- Pay attention to THC. Swallowed products are first metabolized by your liver before circulating through your body (first-pass metabolism). If your CBD product contains THC (i.e it’s a “full-spectrum CBD”), it could be converted to 11-hydroxy-THC , which is a strong intoxicant. Many people find that CBD helps counterbalance the “high” associated with THC, but if you are sensitive to THC, look for CBD from a hemp source.
- Prescription drug interactions. As mentioned earlier, CBD could interfere with the processing of certain drugs by cytochrome p450. Because cytochrome p450 is most concentrated in the liver, ingested CBD is more likely than inhaled CBD to cause drug interactions.
- Time in your mouth. Everything above applies to CBD that is swallowed immediately. However, while it sits in your mouth, it can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. See below.
Oral – Sublingual or “Buccal”
Pathway to targets: CBD can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream from capillary-rich areas underneath the tongue, along the gums and cheek. From here, it avoids first-pass metabolism and is sent throughout your body.
Time-frame: This route gets CBD into your bloodstream faster than swallowing. Under the tongue (sublingual) is generally quicker than against the cheek (buccal). However, because most of the CBD will eventually be swallowed, peak bloodstream levels range from 0.5 – 5 hours.
- Food. When evaluating an oral spray, researchers discovered that the total amount of absorbed CBD increases 5-fold if the person has recently eaten . Chewing helps increase blood flow to your mouth, which could help increase absorption.
- Increase surface contact. It’s often suggested to keep CBD oil in your mouth for 1.5 minutes or more before swallowing. During this time, increase absorption by vigorously swishing the oil around your mouth and even between your teeth — this increases the surface contact between the oil and your capillaries. (If you’ve tried oil-pulling as a tooth-and-gums cleanser, this will be familiar.)
Types: Vape pens, dabs, high-CBD cannabis
Pathway to targets: When CBD is inhaled, it passes to the lungs where it rapidly passes into the bloodstream. Inhalation avoids first-pass metabolism.
Time-frame: This is the quickest way to get CBD circulating through your system, but it also is effective for the shortest period of time. Peak bloodstream levels are within 10 minutes.
- Inhalation technique. Based on studies with THC, inhalation can get anywhere from 2-56% of this molecule into your bloodstream based on your inhalation technique. Try this: use the vaporizer for the first half of your inhalation, then finish your inhalation with a deep breath of fresh air — get those molecules deep in there! (This technique will also minimize irritation if the vapor is a bit too hot, by mixing in cooler air.) On exhale, any vapor that you can see is lost, so instead of exhaling fully, start a partial exhale until you see vapor — then inhale all the way back in and repeat a few times until you see less vapor on the exhale.
- Vapor Pen Hardware. Avoid cheap, disposable vape pens, and watch out for any that list “propylene glycol” in the ingredients. Look for higher-quality vape pens with ceramic heating elements, for a cleaner vapor.
Types: Creams, oils, lotions
Pathway to targets: Topical CBD diffuses across your skin and reaches local targets, like muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves. Very little, if any, enters the bloodstream — unless it is designed for transdermal activity.
Time-frame: Varies, depending on the target.
- Often paired. Topicals are great for on-the-spot treatment and arousal. But for long-term health goals, people often get the best results when they pair topicals with oral or inhaled CBD products.
Vaginal & Anal
Types: Suppositories, lubes, creams in applicators
Pathway to targets: CBD applied to the mucosal tissue of the vagina and anus have the strongest effect locally at muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves — similar to the way topicals work. However, because these areas are rich in capillaries, some CBD could be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Time-frame: For local targets like sexual pleasure or menstrual cramps, Foria’s Relief Suppositories with CBD and Awaken Arousal Oil with CBD are active within minutes (and possibly up to an hour) after application. Absorption into the bloodstream is highly variable and has only been studied rectally. Any molecules entering the bloodstream through the rectum should peak within 2-8 hours .
- Vaginal differences. Absorption across the vaginal wall will vary with your age, vaginal pH, and where you are on your menstrual cycle.
- Anal placement. Whether or not rectal suppositories deliver CBD into the bloodstream is highly variable between individuals. If the suppository also contains THC in a general cannabinoid formula, placement of the suppository into the lower rectum (closer to the sphincter) can help avoid first-pass metabolism and the risk of a more “stoned” feeling.
Everything we’ve been discussing — the pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol — is a complicated subject that scientists are still actively piecing together. There are no established guidelines for the best way to use CBD to achieve your health goals. Prepare for a truly unique experience that deserves patient and loving experimentation. We wish you success on your journey!
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If you’re overwhelmed by the wide variety of CBD products, you are not alone. Each method delivers CBD to your body in a different way, which affects what it can be used for and how often you’ll want to take it. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you design a CBD treatment plan that fits your health goals.
What Dosage of CBD Should You Take?
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Iryna Veklich / Getty Images
CBD is available in a number of different formulations including creams, tablets, oils, and gummies. These can vary in terms of their ingredients as well as dosages, and there is not a great deal of research available on what dose might be beneficial or safe to treat certain conditions.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have psychoactive effects. Interest in the use of CBD for health purposes has grown tremendously in the last few years.
CBD is believed to have a range of positive physical and mental health effects. Because of this, it has become increasingly popular as a way to alleviate everything from anxiety to sleep disorders.
In order to determine if CBD is right for you, it is important to consider its potential benefits, side effects, and available research on safe dosages.
CBD is just one of hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. While cannabis has been used in holistic medicine for many years, only recently have researchers begun to explore some of the medicinal purposes for CBD and other cannabinoids.
While further research is still needed, there is some evidence that CBD may have some beneficial mental health effects. These include:
- Alleviating depression: Some research also indicates that CBD may be useful as a treatment for depression. Studies suggest that the cannabinoid might have an influence on how the brain responds to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood. People with depression sometimes have a low level of serotonin, so CBD may help the brain use available serotonin more effectively.
- Improving sleep: While the reasons are not entirely understood and require further research, CBD also appears to have potential as a treatment for sleep problems. For example, one study found that people who took CBD also reported improvements in the quality of their sleep.
- Reducing anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health conditions, affecting almost 20% of American adults each year. Research suggests that CBD may help alleviate acute symptoms of a number of anxiety-related conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
In addition to the mental health benefits, CBD may also have therapeutic benefits for a range of other conditions. The World Health Organization suggests that CBD may have beneficial effects in the treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It is important to remember that these benefits have not yet been conclusively proven. More research is needed to determine the role that CBD might play in the treatment of different disorders and health conditions.
There have been a number of studies that suggest that CBD may have a number of different physical and mental health uses. However, more research is still needed to better understand the substance’s potential applications and possible long-term side effects.
A 2019 comprehensive review published in The Lancet Psychiatry looked at previously published studies. The review ultimately concluded that there was little evidence to support the use of CBD for mental health purposes and suggested that more research is needed in order to substantiate its use to treat symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t effective. Many of the studies that were included in the review were small, had few participants, and were not randomized controlled trials.
This suggests that more research involving more participants and well-designed studies is needed in order to better understand if, how, and why CBD works.
While its effectiveness is still up for debate, one 2017 review found that it was a relatively safe option. While it is important to remember that there is still a great deal we don’t yet know about CBD and its effects, it is something that you might opt to try to see if you experience any benefits.
How Much Should You Take?
The dosages used in research studies vary and there is no consensus on how much should be used for specific conditions. If you do decide to try CBD, it is also important to note that there is no universally agreed upon dose. Research also suggests that people may respond differently to various dosages, so the amount that is right for your needs might vary.
Some dosages that have been used in research studies for different conditions include:
- Anxiety: 300 to 600 mg
- Bowel disease: 10 mg per day
- Cancer-related pain: 50 to 600 mg per day
- Parkinson’s disease: 75 to 300 mg per day
- Poor sleep: 25 mg per day
- Psychosis: 600 mg per day
One 2020 review of studies found that participants showed improvements in anxiety levels after single doses of CBD ranging from 300 to 600 mg. Such results indicate that the CBD may hold promise as a treatment to alleviate symptoms of acute anxiety.
It is important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor before using CBD if you have symptoms of a serious mental or physical health condition. CBD could potentially worsen symptoms or interact with other medications you are taking.
Looking at the dosage information for the CBD product that has been FDA approved can also be helpful. For Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabis-derived medication used to treat seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy, the starting dosage is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This dose can later be increased to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight twice a day.
Other CBD products are not FDA regulated and do not have officially recommended dosages. This can make it difficult to determine how much you might need, but there are some things you can consider that might help.
- Assess your sensitivity to CBD: Your individual ability to tolerate CBD can also play a role in determining how much you need. If you are very sensitive to the effects of CBD, you should take a small dose. Some people may find that they are not as affected by the substance, so they may need to take a larger dose to notice any beneficial effects.
- Consider individual factors: When you are trying to decide how much CBD to take, there are a number of factors you should consider. These include the formulation and concentration of the capsule, oil drops, or gummies you are taking, the symptoms you are treating, and your age, sex, weight, and overall health. Generally, people with heavier bodies need to take a little more to achieve the same effects. Men may need a larger dose, while older people may need less.
- Consider the symptoms you’re treating: The symptoms you are trying to alleviate can also play a role in the CBD dosage you need to take to see results. In one study, participants who took 25mg of CBD each day had improved sleep quality, although the results were not consistent. However, you might find that you need a lower or higher dose if you are treating another type of condition.
- Try a dosage calculator: Researchers note that while the variety of dosing strategies and formulations make it difficult to determine efficacy, there are a number of online “dose-calculators” available online (such as mydosage.com) that are designed to help people choose the correct dose. The accuracy of such calculators is difficult to assess, but it may be a good place to start.
Before you try CBD, discuss your plan with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a dose and help you better understand any potential risks, complications, side effects, or interactions you might experience.
Start With a Low Dose
Unless your doctor recommends a specific dose, start by taking 10 to 20 mg a day. Take this for a week to ensure that it is well-tolerated and that you don’t experience any unwanted effects or an allergic reaction.
If this dose does not have the desired effect, try increasing in increments of 5mg each week until the desired amount is reached.
In studies, amounts vary from as low as 20 milligrams per day to up to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. The World Health Organization reports that dosages in clinical research studies typically range between 100 and 800 milligrams per day.
Is It Possible to Take Too Much?
So what is the maximum amount of CBD you should take? Researchers have found that 600 mg per day appears to be safe, but one study suggested that doses of up to 1,500 mg a day are safe and tolerated well.
However, it’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy and experts do not yet fully understand the potential long-term impacts of CBD usage. For that reason, you should always discuss your CBD use with your doctor.
Starting at a lower dose and working your way up to the amount you need may be the best ways to avoid taking too much.
How to Take CBD
The amount of CBD found in a product may depend on different factors, including the formulation and method of administration. CBD products are available in a number of different forms including oils, capsules, tablets, nasal sprays, and gummies.
One of the most popular ways to take CBD is as an oil. Such products are made by combining CBD with some type of carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Some more recently developed products include dietary supplements, foods, beverages, lotions, salves, and cosmetics.
The type of CBD product you choose may depend on what you are trying to treat. If you are looking for general mood improvements, a dietary supplement might be a good option.
If you are targeting specific symptoms of a condition, taking an oil, capsule, or gummy might be a better way to obtain a higher, more concentrated dose.
Topical applications may produce localized effects, but they are unlike to have any mental health benefits.
What Kind Should You Take?
It’s also important to remember that many products don’t contain just CBD on its own. There are three types of CBD available:
- Isolate contains CBD and only CBD.
- Broad-spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids, but not THC.
- Full-spectrum contains CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
It may be helpful to take a broad-spectrum product since research suggests that CBD’s effects may be most beneficial when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. CBD may also help mitigate some of the effects of THC.
While CBD is generally well-tolerated, this does not mean that you won’t experience any side effects.
Some of the most common side effects that people experience when taking CBD include:
- Appetite changes
- Stomach upset
- Weight changes
Some recent research has generated concerns over the safety and potential long term effects of CBD. One study involved giving mice an equivalent of the maximum dose of the CBD medication Epidiolex, which is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The results indicated an increased risk for liver damage as well as concerns over its interaction with other medications.
It is also important to remember that CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some manufacturers make unproven claims about the uses and efficacy of their products. There is also concern about the quality and safety of the products themselves.
One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that a number of people experienced negative unwanted side effects due to CBD products that contained synthetic CBD, although the products were not labeled as containing such ingredients.
Mislabeling appears to be a fairly common problem with CBD products. In one study, 70% of the CBD products that were sold online contained significantly more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than the label indicated.
Federal law prohibits the sale of products that contain more than 0.3% THC. States laws also vary, so you should always check with your state before buying CBD products online.
A Word From Verywell
If you do decide to take CBD to alleviate an acute or chronic condition, remember that the amount that you take will depend on a variety of factors. Finding the right dosage often takes some experimentation and adjustments. Starting with a low dose and then gradually increasing the amount you take until you achieve the desired effects is the best approach.
CBD holds promise as a treatment for a range of conditions, but how much should you take? Learn more about CBD dosages for different purposes.