How much CBD should I be taking?

By Andrew Megahy Oct 22, 2019 4 min

With my previous post focusing solely on some of the therapeutic applications of CBD, I feel that it follows that the next topic should be dosage. You can google phrases such as, “How much CBD should I be taking?” and receive as many different answers as there are opinions to the topic. While I hold absolutely no illusions that my viewpoint is more accurate than anyone else’s, I hope that I can at least help make the topic a little clearer. What I’m not going to do is give accurate numbers for how much CBD to take to treat every possible ailment, for reasons that will hopefully become clear over the course of this post. Instead I’ll try to convey how to determine yourself what is the best dosage on a per person, per symptom basis.

First of all we need to talk about the route of administration. As I mentioned briefly in the post about toxicity, different methods of administration have varying bioavailabilities (a measure of the amount of active ingredient that makes it into the bloodstream). In regards to CBD I’m going to discuss sublingual, oral and topical methods of application. It’s difficult to pin down accurate numbers for bioavailabilities for each of these methods of administration, as scientists are naturally conservative beasts when writing literature. In addition, a wide array of conditions like metabolism, age, health and presence of other substances (even food!) all affect the overall uptake of CBD.

With my previous post focusing solely on some of the therapeutic applications of CBD, I feel that it follows that the next topic should be dosage. You can google phrases such as, “How much CBD should I be taking?” and receive as many different answers as there are opinions to the topic. While I hold absolutely no illusions that my viewpoint is more accurate than anyone else’s, I hope that I can at least help make the topic a little clearer. What I’m not going to do is give accurate numbers for how much CBD to take to treat every possible ailment, for reasons that will hopefully become clear over the course of this post. Instead I’ll try to convey how to determine yourself what is the best dosage on a per person, per symptom basis.

First of all we need to talk about the route of administration. As I mentioned briefly in the post about toxicity, different methods of administration have varying bioavailabilities (a measure of the amount of active ingredient that makes it into the bloodstream). In regards to CBD I’m going to discuss sublingual, oral and topical methods of application. It’s difficult to pin down accurate numbers for bioavailabilities for each of these methods of administration, as scientists are naturally conservative beasts when writing literature. In addition, a wide array of conditions like metabolism, age, health and presence of other substances (even food!) all affect the overall uptake of CBD.

While this all sounds rather daunting, since we’re primarily interested in self-dosing a food supplement we can afford to be pretty vague. CBD is incredibly safe, even by the World Health Organisation’s standards (WHO). Their official quote is:

“Cannabidiol is found in cannabis and cannabis resin, but does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence. It does not have significant ill-effects”.

Let’s start with oral dosage. Typically oral drugs come in the form of capsules or tablets, though for CBD you can also get gummies. Unfortunately for us, the stomach is incredibly efficient at processing what comes into it. As a result oral bioavailability can be as low as 9-19% (Cherniakov et al. 2017, Scuderi et al. 2009). This is often accounted for in medications by including absorption enhancers in the formula or by increasing the total percentage of active substance. For CBD though, this means you’ll typically need a higher dosage to attain the same effect of a higher bioavailability route.

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“Cannabidiol is found in cannabis and cannabis resin, but does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence. It does not have significant ill-effects”.

Next let’s look at tinctures, the sublingual approach. A paper on sublingual pharmacokinetics by Narang and Sharma (2011) found that Glyceryl trinitrate (Nitroglycerin) had a bioavailability of 48% when administered under the tongue. CBD is a larger molecule than Nitroglycerin and therefore won’t have the same level of absorption, but even if we assume it has only half the absorption rate that’s still 24% – much higher than taking oral capsules of the same strength.

Finally I would like to discuss topical products like balms, lotions, ointments etc. These products are interesting because they mostly don’t get absorbed into the bloodstream at all and instead act locally on the area they are applied to. Exceptions exist where a permeation enhancer is included in the formula (Paudel et al. 2010), allowing the active ingredient to pass through the skin (though these are often referred to as ‘transdermals’ instead of topicals). Despite their minimal bioavailability, because the CBD is being applied directly to the area it is required they are incredibly effective. For purposes such as joint pain or inflammation these are the ideal method of application.

“Cannabidiol is found in cannabis and cannabis resin, but does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence. It does not have significant ill-effects”.

Now we come back to the original question: how much CBD do you actually need to take? Hopefully it won’t come as too much of a shock after reading this far that the answer is: it depends. When self-dosing it’s important to start small and work up from there. For minor issues you may find that you only need 5-10mg of CBD per day. However, someone with the same symptoms could need 40-50mg to achieve the same relief. My personal recommendation would be to start at 5mg for a few days, then up your dosage by another 5mg and repeat until you get the desired effect. But how do you know how much 5mg of CBD actually is?

“Cannabidiol is found in cannabis and cannabis resin, but does not have psychoactive properties and has no potential for abuse and no potential to produce dependence. It does not have significant ill-effects”.
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Now we come back to the original question: how much CBD do you actually need to take? Hopefully it won’t come as too much of a shock after reading this far that the answer is: it depends. When self-dosing it’s important to start small and work up from there. For minor issues you may find that you only need 5-10mg of CBD per day. However, someone with the same symptoms could need 40-50mg to achieve the same relief. My personal recommendation would be to start at 5mg for a few days, then up your dosage by another 5mg and repeat until you get the desired effect. But how do you know how much 5mg of CBD actually is?

Capsules usually state the mass of CBD per capsule on the packaging which makes things easy, but tinctures often only state the CBD content per bottle. For a standard tincture we can reasonably assume that a single drop is 0.05ml. Thus, a 10ml bottle of 1000mg (10%) CBD will contain 200 drops – each drop containing 5mg of CBD (so a 5% drop will contain 2.5mg and a 20% drop will contain 10mg). From there you can determine how many drops to take for your desired dose.

The absolute best advice I can give is to do some personal research and see what other people are taking for similar problems. Read some opinion blogs, ask a question or two on reddit, speak to other people who already take CBD. And consult with a doctor if you can, especially if you currently take medications for any condition you’re looking to treat.

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The absolute best advice I can give is to do some personal research and see what other people are taking for similar problems. Read some opinion blogs, ask a question or two on reddit, speak to other people who already take CBD. And consult with a doctor if you can, especially if you currently take medications for any condition you’re looking to treat.

Andrew Megahy1

Andrew Megahy

Lead Scientific Officer Linkedin