Though they’re both found in a cannabis plant—meaning either hemp or marijuana—using CBD (full name: cannabidiol) is a far cry from smoking weed. Like THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is a cannabinoid—a molecule that helps the functioning of our endocannabinoid system, which regulates our mood, sleep cycle, inflammation, immune response, and more. But unlike THC, CBD isn’t intoxicating. “In other words, CBD can’t get you high,” says Alex Capano, chief science officer for Ananda Hemp, a Kentucky-based health and wellness brand specializing in CBD products.
Like Capano explained above, the perfect dose varies from person to person. It also depends on a few things—the first being whether you’re using an isolate or full-spectrum product. Isolate products are pure CBD while full-spectrum products contain multiple cannabidinoids and oils, vitamins, and more natural compounds. “With full-spectrum products, you need a lower dose—and that might prevent drug interactions and will be easier on your liver,” says Capano.
What is the difference between CBD and THC?
Still, “less is more,” she says, because CBD is metabolized through the same pathway in your liver as many common prescription and OTC meds. For that reason, Capano recommends sticking with full-spectrum products (which contain multiple cannabidinoids and oils, vitamins, and more natural compounds) as opposed to isolate products, which are pure CBD. “With full-spectrum products, you need a lower dose—and that might prevent drug interactions,” she explains. (Drug interactions are pretty uncommon, especially at low doses, but can occur with some commonly used ones, such as SSRIs and blood thinners.) Plus, with smaller doses, you’ll avoid stressing out your liver.
But as a general rule? “Start low and go slow,” recommends Capano. “More isn’t always better, it’s like a bell.” Start with 10 mg worth of active ingredient a couple hours before bed. Each day, you can increase the amount slightly and take note of how you feel; dial it back when you don’t feel any extra benefit (or even feel a little worse) from additional milligrams. The sweet spot will likely be between 10 and 40 mg a day.
To make sure you’re getting a legit product, research the brand before purchasing from it and find out where it sources its CBD. If you can find a company that’s vertically integrated—meaning they have control over the growth of their plants—that’s ideal, notes Capano. (It’s not essential, though, and might be difficult to find a vertically integrated brand, as only a handful of companies in the U.S. are.)
Many people benefit from a combination of delivery methods. Here are some examples of how people use CBD products:
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.
What’s Your Time Frame?
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.
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.