What the research says about how much CBD oil to take

There is a mountain of infographics and blogs offering guidance on how much CBD to take.

The problem? Almost none of them cite any sort of research behind their recommendations.

So I read every single CBD study I could find to see if there was a common dosing methodology that researchers use when studying the effects of CBD.

What the research says about CBD doses

In a nutshell—medical researchers can’t seem to agree on appropriate dosages for CBD—even by condition (more on that below).

Across sixteen research studies that I reviewed, doses ranged from 1 milligram of CBD to 25 milligrams of CBD per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg/day).

Below is a list of eight of those studies, what condition they were focused on, and the maximum dose per day.

Study Condition Dose / Day
Sativex: clinical efficacy and tolerability in the treatment of symptoms of multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain.(1:1 CBD to THC) Pain 30mg
Efficacy of artisanal preparations of cannabidiol for the treatment of epilepsy… Epilepsy 197mg – 381mg @ 150lbs
Chronic Pain Treatment With Cannabidiol in Kidney Transplant Patients… Pain 300mg
Practical Treatment of Pediatric Patients for Epilepsy, Autism, Cancer, and Psychiatric Disorders Epilepsy Up to 544mg
@ 150lbs
Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking Anxiety 600mg
Effect of Cannabidiol on Drop Seizures in the Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Epilepsy 680mg – 1360mg @ 150lbs
The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic… Arthritis 1,700mg @ 150lbs
Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol Pain / Inflammation Up to 1,700mg @ 150lbs

*Numbers above represent oral dose (when methodology provided)

The doses for treating epilepsy ranged from 197mg to 1360mg. And doses for treating pain ranged from 30mg all the way up to 1,700mg—per day!

To put things in perspective, 1,700mg of CBD is nearly two and a half 750mg bottles every single day!

how much cbd to take according to science

Not only does that get incredibly expensive very quickly, but that’s also way more CBD than most of us are used to taking (or should try to take without medical guidance).

Why dosage recommendations are so difficult

It turns out there are some good reasons why it’s hard to come to a consensus on the “right” amount of CBD.

The biphasic phenomena of cannabis

In simple terms, biphasic means that small and large doses have opposite effects. With THC and other cannabinoids, small doses often stimulate while large doses sedate.

But it’s more than just small doses giving you a boost and large doses putting you down for the count.

According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, increasing your dose after a certain point can actually produce fewer therapeutic benefits than you would receive at lower doses.

Essentially cannabinoids have a sweet spot—an optimal dose. To complicate things even more, that dose can vary wildly from person-to-person and product-to-product.

Different responses for CBD isolate vs. full-spectrum CBD

When buying a CBD product one of your most important considerations is whether to go with an isolate or full-spectrum product.

With an isolate product, you’re just getting the CBD. Whereas with a full spectrum product you’re getting all of the naturally occurring compounds from the cannabis plant.

Why does this choice matter? Well, there is a fair amount of research that cannabinoids actually work better together than in isolation.

This is known as the entourage effect and it not only impacts the effectiveness of cannabinoids—but also the dose.

In one of the studies above, the full-spectrum extract provided equivalent pain relief at lower CBD doses than its isolate counterpart.

Translation, you may be able to use a smaller dose if you’re using a full-spectrum extract.

Diet and genetics

What you consume, how stressed you are and how much exercise you get can all affect how much CBD you should be taking.

You may require less CBD to realize its benefits if you:

  1. Exercise (elevates anandamide levels)
  2. Consume THC
  3. Drink alcohol
  4. Use tobacco products (elevates anandamide levels)
  5. Have high hormone levels
  6. Eat a diet rich in fatty fish (elevates anandamide levels)

These things all increase the activity of your CB1 receptors. On the other hand, you may require more CBD to reap the rewards if you:

  1. Use opioids
  2. Are frequently stressed

Elevated cortisol levels (often a result of stress) and opioids decrease the activity of your CB1 receptors.

Bioavailability based on consumption method and carrier oil

There are many ways to consume CBD—intravenously, sublingually, inhalation, topically, orally, and yes, even rectally.

Every consumption method impacts the amount of CBD that is absorbed into the bloodstream (bioavailability).

For now, let’s just focus on the two most common ways to consume your garden variety CBD oil:

  1. Orally
  2. Sublingually (under the tongue)

Consuming CBD oil sublingually delivers far higher bioavailability—providing between 12% to 35% bioavailability compared to 4% to 20% for oral consumption.

In both cases, the carrier for the CBD—most commonly oil—also plays a role in bioavailability.

You can learn more about what carrier oil is best for bioavailability from Sonomechanics (science heavy) or Lazarus (easier read).

What medical cannabis practitioners recommend

Two doctors specializing in cannabis, Dr. Dustin Sulak and Dr. Bonni Goldstein, both advocate finding an optimal dose through a form of rigorous experimentation called titration.

In simple terms, titration means adjusting a dose of medicine over a period of time to discover a dose that produces the maximum benefits with the fewest side effects.

Here’s a modified and CBD-specific version of what Dr. Sulak recommends:

1. Abstain from any form of cannabis use for 48 hours.

2. Take inventory of how you’re feeling physically and emotionally by answering the following questions.

On a scale of 1 to 10: Score
How easy is to breathe?
If you have any aches, how severe are they?
If you’re in pain, how severe is that pain?
How anxious are you currently?
How blue or down do you feel?
How easy is it to smile and feel at ease?

3. Take one to three drops of CBD oil and write down your dose.

4. Wait 45 minutes and repeat the questionnaire you answered in step two.

5. If your scores have not changed, take another dose equal to the dose in step three.

6. Repeat the process until you record a noticeable difference in your scores.

Once you find a noticeable difference, you’ve found your minimum effective dose.

From here you should continue to raise your dose by small amounts until you begin to find no increased benefit.

For more information, I highly recommend you take a look at Dr. Sulak’s full sensitization protocol here: Healer sensitization protocol

What’s the consensus?

Sadly, among researchers, there really isn’t a consensus. But don’t despair.

While there isn’t great research-backed guidance out there about how much CBD any one person should consume, there is a way to figure that out for yourself.

Experiment! Establish a small starting dose and gradually increase until you find your minimum effective dose. Then experiment some more.

Continue increasing little-by-little until you don’t notice any additional benefit.