Chances are if you ask ten different cannabis experts their opinions on cannabis dosage, you will likely get ten different answers. Medical professionals don’t fare any better, as “prescribing” plant-based compounds is an inexact science. Cannabis, by virtue of being a natural plant, contains imprecise combinations of cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenoids, and other plant compounds.
Cannabinoids, like CBD, are fat-soluble compounds. It’s why their effects are prolonged, and taper off slowly. Your body stores cannabinoids in fat, and gradually releases them at sub-therapeutic levels. This is why many cannabis users can fail drug tests days or weeks after ingesting cannabis. This may also be why women can be more sensitive to cannabinoids than men, as women have a greater proportion of body fat than men.
Most studies and research on cannabinoids have been conducted using isolated, synthetic cannabinoids. While some pharmaceutical companies have used this research to offer single-molecule cannabinoid compounds—like Marinol, which is isolated THC used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea with limited effectiveness—there is emerging evidence that cannabinoids are most effective in concert with each other and with the hundreds of other compounds found in the whole cannabis plant.
By ingesting whole plant cannabis extracts instead of isolated or synthetic molecules, your body recognizes it as food. Research suggests that there is a synergistic benefit to the combinations of cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and over four hundred different plant compounds.
But there is evidence to suggest that single-molecule cannabinoids may present a dosage conundrum for drug developers. For example, the makers of the 1:1 THC/CBD drug Sativex recommend a two-week period to determine the ideal dosage for the patient.
Can you overdose on CBD or cannabis?
CBD is shown to be non-toxic even at extreme doses of 700mg per day to 1,500mg per day. There is no known fatal overdose level for cannabis found among the decades of research on the topic, and no known deaths associated with cannabis use.
“No signs of toxicity or serious side effects have been observed following chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers (Cunha et al., Pharmacology 21:175-185, 1980), even in large acute doses of 700 mg/day (Consroe et al., Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 40:701-708, 1991)”
Where should I begin?
Some using cannabis for medicinal purposes report starting small and then building up to a therapeutic dose. Some start with large doses and taper off to a maintenance level. As with many other compounds, herbs or foods, patients must get to know their bodies and their metabolisms. In general, less is more when it comes to cannabis.
Can I get “high” from CBD?
CBD has been shown to be non-psychoactive in numerous studies. In fact, CBD counteracts the “high” associated with THC.
When first taking CBD-rich cannabis compounds, or when first getting cannabinoids in general, your body may feel overwhelmed. Since most humans have not been supplementing their diets with cannabis for generations, you are supplementing a system that has been deficient, and activating receptor sites that likely haven’t been used in any serious way for your entire life.
However, there are a few unknowns that may be relevant to dosing. Cannabinoids have biphasic properties, which means that small doses and large doses of the same cannabinoid can have opposite effects. This means that there is some discussion as to whether large doses of a particular cannabinoid might not have any extra benefits, and why smaller doses might be just as (if not more) effective. When it comes to cannabis, less may in fact be more.
Is there CBD or THC in hemp seed oil and other hemp products that I find at health food stores?
Yes. All hemp products contain THC and CBD, even if in trace amounts. There is approximately 10mg of CBD per kilogram of hemp seed oil found in health food stores.
For comparison, high CBD cannabis oils found in dispensaries and elsewhere can contain hundreds of milligrams of CBD per milligram of oil.