CBD — perhaps you’ve heard of it? JK, you’ve definitely heard of it. You probably can’t go anywhere these days without seeing cannabidiol — commonly called CBD — products all over the shelves.
How’d it suddenly get so popular? Well, it’s been reported to have a ton of health and wellness benefits (anxiety relief and better sleep, anyone?). CBD products are cannabis-based, but because they contain little to no THC, they don’t get you high.
If you’re new to CBD, understanding the available products and their dosages can be overwhelming. You may have no idea where to start, what to buy, or how to find your ideal dose of CBD.
Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know about taking CBD for the first time.
There are lots of ways you can get CBD into your system, so the first thing you’ll need to decide is how you’ll consume it.
Inhalation is the quickest way to get CBD into your bloodstream. If your state has legalized cannabis or has CBD-only dispensaries, you may be able to find CBD flower or “bud” with little to no THC.
If smoking isn’t your jam, CBD vapes are also fast-acting and offer a legit advantage in convenience and discretion. However! Be super-duper diligent about buying vaping products from a legal dispensary.
Black market vapes have been found to contain stuff you shouldn’t be inhaling, like vitamin E acetate. (And let us be clear: Vaping is still bad for your lungs.)
Oils and tinctures
If you thought oils and tinctures were the same thing, guess again:
- Oils tend to be more concentrated with CBD (i.e., more potent) and may have a weedy taste.
- Tinctures are alcohol-based, less potent, and the better-tasting of the two. They may be mixed with other herbs and flavorings.
Both products work by sublingual absorption (sub-what?). That means if you hold the liquid under your tongue for a bit before swallowing, some CBD will absorb through the membranes in your mouth. That makes it enter your bloodstream more quickly.
Edibles, candies, and drinks
The vast array of CBD capsules, CBD edibles, and CBD-infused drinks (hello, CBD coffee!) work similarly. They travel through your digestive system and start getting absorbed 30 minutes to 2 hours after you’ve swallowed them.
Creams, lotions, bath bombs, and lube
Yep, you read that right — lube! Topical CBD refers to creams, ointments, and lotions. These may be a good choice for localized pain and inflammation, while transdermal patches may deliver more of a sustained, long-term release.
Bath bombs are trending right now, with plenty of happy bathers claiming that soaking in a tub infused with CBD kick-starts a deep, full-body relaxation. And there are even CBD lubes that may help ease pain and get you in the mood.
Here’s the most important rule when it comes to cannabis: Start low and go slow.
If you’re smoking or vaping CBD, it’s hard to measure your intake in milligrams. But the nice thing about inhalation is that you get pretty instantaneous feedback. If a couple puffs on a CBD vape leaves you feeling relaxed but not too relaxed, that’s probably your happy spot.
Everyone responds to CBD differently. “There’s no such thing as a standard dose of CBD, given that it’s being used… by many people for many different conditions,” says Martin A. Lee, founder of Project CBD.
The different varieties of CBD may also require different dosages. For instance, you may need to take more of a CBD-only isolate compared to a full-spectrum product. If your stuff is CBD-only, Lee recommends 25 milligrams to start. You can always go up or down from there.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with full cannabis access, you can get your feet wet with a lower dose of a full-spectrum CBD. Try 5 milligrams and titrate up (that is, adjust) by 5 more milligrams every couple of days.
Here’s a quickie suggestion guide for the two different types of CBD you may be taking — but remember that everyone is different.
Find the right dosage of CBD isolate
Note: The below dosages are general guidelines for first-time use. You should consult with your healthcare provider before starting a CBD regimen to determine the appropriate dosage for your specific needs.
Day 1: 25 mg
Day 2: Reduce to 10 mg if yesterday’s effects were too strong; otherwise, stay with 25 mg.
Day 3: Same as Day 2
Day 4: Increase to anywhere between 35 and 50 mg if you haven’t yet reached your desired effect.
Day 5: Reduce to 25 mg if a higher dose is too strong; otherwise, stay in the range of 35 to 50 mg for the next few days.
Increase your dose every few days and continue observing the effects. Many adults report finding their sweet spot in the range of 25 to 75 mg of a CBD-only product.
Dosages for full-spectrum CBD
Day 1: 5 mg
Day 2: 5 mg
Day 3: 10 mg (if you haven’t yet reached your desired effect)
Day 4: 10 mg
Day 5: 15 mg (if you haven’t yet reached your desired effect)
Day 6: 15 mg
Day 7: 20 mg (if you haven’t yet reached your desired effect)
Day 8: 20 mg
Day 9: 25 mg (if you haven’t yet reached your desired effect)
Continue increasing your dose until you get the maximum benefit. If you notice any unwanted response to CBD (such as dizziness), reduce your intake.
What you’re shooting for is a minimum effective dose — the sweet spot on the bell curve where you’re taking the most helpful quantity without overdoing it or breaking the bank. (Seriously, have you checked the price tags on high quality CBD products lately?)
It takes a little trial and error to find your ideal dose. But the good news is that most people tolerate CBD well, even in large quantities. Side effects of CBD, if any, tend to be diarrhea, appetite changes, and too much sedation (i.e., the inspiration for those very exaggerated PSAs from middle school).
If your anxiety quiets down, you’re sleeping better, or you’re experiencing less pain, that’s a win!
The time it takes for CBD to work varies based on how you consume it. It could range from a few moments (with vaping/smoking) to several weeks (like when you’re slowly increasing your CBD oil dose for therapeutic effects).
CBD isn’t psychoactive, so you won’t feel stoned. But some people report getting a fairly quick response where stress melts away and their mood is ever-so-slightly lifted.
If you’re taking CBD for therapeutic effects (like for sleep, anxiety, or inflammation), you’ll probably have to take it for a longer time before reaping all the benefits.
In terms of rigorously researched uses, CBD for epilepsy is the blockbuster here. In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex to treat two rare seizure disorders, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
But even without clinical approval, people are using CBD to address a wide variety of conditions. Lee tells us that an extensive survey of CBD users showed anxiety, depression, and pain as the top-reported uses. Some people are also using CBD alongside conventional cancer treatments, he says.
Here’s what some of the research says about potential uses:
- Anxiety: A study from 2019 found that 79 percent of people with anxiety showed improvement when taking 25 to 75 milligrams of CBD daily.
- Insomnia: More research is needed, but a 2017 review of existing studies found that CBD “may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
- Depression: A 2010 study on mice found that CBD could have antidepressant effects. These results haven’t yet been fully replicated in people, but nevertheless, plenty of people report symptom relief.
- Pain and inflammation: A 2017 study on rats found that CBD may be effective in reducing pain. Once again, human studies still need to be done on this.
- PTSD and nightmares: A small 2019 study found that 10 out of 11 participants with PTSD found some relief with CBD. Some also reported relief from nightmares associated with PTSD.
- Nausea: THC is better known for helping with nausea, such as from chemotherapy. But CBD may have some benefits too. Many people report an improvement in nausea symptoms with CBD, and a 2010 study seems to back that up
CBD can be derived from hemp plants, which contain 0.3 percent or less THC, or from marijuana plants, which contain a higher concentration of THC.
If THC is legal in your state, consider buying a product with mostly CBD and a wee bit of THC. Research suggests these two cannabinoids may work better together than apart.
A word of caution, though: The CBD market isn’t well-regulated yet. For real — a 2017 study found that the dosages of a majority of consumer CBD products were actually mislabeled.
That means you can find top-tier products for sale alongside brands of low or questionable quality. Do your research before shopping!
When you buy a CBD product, three things should be clearly stated on the label:
- the total milligrams of CBD and THC (if applicable)
- whether the product is lab-tested
- the batch number
You can check the brand’s website for specifics about when and where they test products. Reputable companies have batch numbers listed on the label that correspond to real data.
If your state allows it, opt for full-spectrum CBD, which contains all the naturally occurring compounds in a cannabis plant, including THC. As we mentioned before, CBD + THC may provide more benefit than CBD isolate (CBD-only) products.
Lee says full-spectrum CBD tends to be more effective than isolate “in the same way that drinking freshly squeezed orange juice is better for you than taking an ascorbic acid supplement.”
If you’re still not comfortable with THC (which shows up in drug tests), try broad-spectrum CBD. It contains all the naturally occurring compounds in a cannabis plant except THC.
- CBD may interfere with certain prescription meds, so check with your healthcare provider before using it.
- It’s a good idea to try CBD for the first time when you don’t have anywhere to be. That way, if you just don’t feel like yourself, you can sleep it off.
- If you’re specifically looking for help with sleep, try taking your CBD about a half-hour before bed.
- If anxiety is kicking you around, try taking your dose earlier — like before the day really ramps up.
- While some people like a little CBD in their cocktails, skip the alcohol when you’re first trying CBD so you can really zero in on the effects.
- If you’ve titrated up to a large dose of CBD (like 50 milligrams or more daily), you’ll probably want to space out your doses a bit to avoid any GI issues.
- You can vape, smoke, swallow (in capsule form), eat, or drink CBD. You can also rub it on your skin, put it under your tongue, or add it to a bath.
- CBD is not yet well-regulated in the United States, so quality varies wildly. A CBD product’s packaging should include a batch number and mention whether the product has been lab-tested.
- More research needs to be done, but many people swear by CBD for relieving anxiety, insomnia, pain, nausea, and inflammation.
- Start low and go slow to find your minimum effective dose.
- If you’re taking a CBD-only product (CBD isolate), 25 milligrams is a good beginning dose. Stay there for a few days, and then gradually increase your dose until you get your desired effects.
- If you’re taking full-spectrum CBD, start with 5 milligrams and titrate up every few days.
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Last medically reviewed on March 24, 2020
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