Determining the right serving size for you depends on several factors, but the bottom line is you need to find a serving that's effective for you. The #1 reason most people are afraid to try CBD, or decide to stop using it, is because they decide prematurely that it won’t work—or because they feel it isn’t working. If CBD has demonstrated effects in studies, how could this be? It turns out that most people are using a serving size of CBD far too low for them to achieve any of its beneficial effects.
The prevailing advice is that people should take a “low and slow” approach, but for the functional benefits of CBD to be felt it’s important not to be too conservative with your serving size. But how to strike this balance? Our advice is that you should not start too low, nor should you spend several weeks at a serving that isn’t working for you. In our mission to help more people discover the benefits of CBD, we advocate for higher servings. Is it safe to do so? CBD has demonstrated a remarkable safety profile time and time again, so side effects shouldn’t keep people from trying bigger serving sizes in their efforts to find an amount that brings them relief.
Full-Spectrum VS. Isolate
It’s vital to remember that CBD products don’t always include only CBD in their formulations. You’ll see full-spectrum products or isolate products offered. As the name suggests, an isolate product will contain only pure CBD in its formulation. In this case, as we mentioned above, you should feel free to try a higher serving size if you’re not getting the results that you want.
A full-spectrum product, on the other hand, will include the whole range of cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis plant. Other than CBD, full-spectrum products will include minor cannabinoids such as cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG)—but most importantly, they will include the major cannabinoid THC. In a full-spectrum formulation, you'll find something like a 25:1 CBD:THC ratio. While this small amount of THC (by law <0.3%) shouldn’t be enough on its own (e.g., at a low serving around 25mg of CBD) to cause any psychoactive effects, that tiny amount of THC can add up at larger serving—having the potential to cause low levels of inebriation that you wouldn't otherwise feel at those “suggested” low servings.
While the psychoactive effects that some people might feel at higher levels still won’t be anywhere near the intoxicating levels that are possible with THC-focused products, you might want to consider going with an isolate product during the workday or on days you need to drive. In the case of full-spectrum products, here’s a situation where you can apply the principle of “starting low.” It’s not the CBD that you are keeping an eye on, but more the fractional amount of THC found in those products.
Another aspect to consider is effectiveness of the delivery method chosen. The same serving size can affect you differently depending on the delivery method. Basically, this means that how you ingest the product can affect how quickly you feel its effects, how long that effect lasts, or how intense the effects are. Every person’s body is different. How you metabolize the product will be different, and therefore how much you need for the desired effect is unique to you. You might have to take a larger serving size of one type of product over another, depending on how it’s delivered.
Sublingual administration involves the use of a graded medicine dropper to apply a measured amount of CBD oil (referred to as a CBD tincture when taken this way) under your tongue. The tissue under your tongue has a network of mucous membranes that allows the CBD to absorb directly into your bloodstream. This delivery method has a rapid uptake, with people tending to notice effects within 15-30 minutes.
Even though oral administration (i.e., edibles such as capsules, coconut oil and gummies) also involves your mouth, it’s an entirely different method of delivery. Instead of being absorbed through the tissue underneath your tongue, the CBD gets into your system through your digestive tract. Having to go through your digestive system means that the CBD is broken down and metabolized by enzymes in your saliva, stomach, intestines, and liver before being delivered finally to your bloodstream, where you then feel its effects. This longer journey means that it takes longer for the effects of orally-administered CBD to appear—closer to 1-2 hours. This different metabolic pathway also means you might experience a difference in how long the effects last.
On top of that, because CBD tends to evaporate and degrade around 320° F (160° C), edible oils such as CBD coconut oil that can be used to cook with can sometimes result in a lower serving being delivered into your system if the cooking temperatures have passed the vaporization point and broken the CBD down. This is important information when baking edibles!
Why does high-quality CBD matter?
The safety profile of CBD has been well-demonstrated, but that safety profile goes out the door if you’re not using a high-quality product. Reputable CBD manufacturers will have their products tested and verified by a third-party laboratory so consumers can be sure of what they’re getting. What does this independent “certificate of analysis” do? It confirms that the amount of CBD listed on the packaging is actually what’s being delivered into your system, as well as ensures your product is free from metals, toxins, and other contaminants that would render CBD unsafe for consumption—especially at higher levels. Again, when you can be sure that your CBD product is the promised potency and is indeed safe, you can increase your serving size without fear.
How To Figure This All Out
We recommend a starting serving that corresponds to your body size and the intensity of the symptoms you're trying to relieve. A bodybuilder likely will need a larger serving of CBD than a smaller person would—though that would still depend on each person’s preferences and what effect they’re trying to achieve. For instance, a bodybuilder weighing in around 200 pounds would want to try 40mg of CBD for the occasional muscle pain they felt following workouts; while a 100-pound person with the same complaint would want to start at 10mg of CBD.
Depending on the product type and your particular circumstances, noticeable effects from CBD can take a few hours or a few days to perceive, as the cannabinoids build up in your body. If you don’t feel immediate results the first two or three times that you try a specific serving size, you have a few options to explore before increasing your serving size.
- Try taking the serving on an empty stomach (and make a note as such!) to see if that makes a difference.
- Try a different delivery method to see if its particular metabolic profile gives you different effects.
If neither of those methods work, we encourage you to increase your serving size by another 25mg.
We’d recommend using capsules/softgels (taken orally) or tinctures (taken sublingually) to determine what serving size works best for you. These delivery methods are most convenient in terms of accurate dosing, making it simple to increase serving size in discrete increments. (A topical option such as a lotion/balm could also be used, but it’s more difficult to get precise measurements—and less is known about CBD absorption through the skin for symptoms such as anxiety or sleep.)
Locate your body weight and symptom intensity on the chart below. We suggest starting at the lower end of the suggested serving size and increasing after 2-3 servings of that serving size if you haven't achieved the desired effects.
Think of yourself as a one-person scientific study. Take your serving of CBD at the same time each day and stick to the same type of product as you experiment with different amounts. In other words, only change the amount. Remember to change only one variable at a time.
We recommend keeping a journal (see example below) to track what CBD serving size you’re trying, along with how you respond to that particular serving and the delivery method. Be consistent in when you take your CBD, try to measure your servings accurately, and be diligent with your note-taking.
Although it might take some work and journaling to arrive at the optimal serving size for you, the benefits of CBD and the positive impact it can have on your life make investing time and effort into the process worth your while.
What To Track
Time of Day: Do you take your CBD in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, or at bedtime?
Time of Onset: How long does it take from the time you took CBD until you feel any effects?
Duration/Retention: How long do the effects last?
Mood/Other Symptoms: Take note of different aspects of your mood—both positive and negative. How optimistic, energized, or positive are you feeling? Are you experiencing mood swings or anxiety? How did you sleep? If you use a sleep tracker, record the number of hours you spent in deep sleep. Or, more simply, jot down how rested or sleepy you feel each day. Take note of aches, pains, or nerve tingles that are bothering you. (You may also want to note what the weather was like, if you got outside, and if you exercised that day.)
One way to make these observations a bit more objective is to assign a number to what you're trying to measure. One idea? Keep track of the level of intensity of each item by assigning percentages—such as today I felt 80% anxious. From day to day or week to week you can see if your anxiety reduces (e.g., from 80% to 50% anxiety) or pain relief increases (e.g., from 30% pain relief to 75% pain relief). Assigning numbers will help you to quickly see and track changes.