Here’s How to Determine How Much CBD You Should Take
Many people use CBD for pain and anxiety relief. But how do you know if you’re taking too much?
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness. She holds a bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Sociology and is a certified sleep coach.
It’s safe to say that CBD is pretty mainstream now — you can buy it in grocery stores. No longer is it considered a trendy health hack but a legitimate option for pain and anxiety relief. But even with the largely widespread acceptance, there are still a lot of questions about how much and how often you should take CBD.
CBD products do not have federal oversights or regulations. In fact, up to 70% of CBD products you buy on the internet either have more or less CBD than listed on the label. Finding the ideal CBD dosage for pain or anxiety can be difficult. Here’s how to make it easy.
What can you use CBD for?
Research, though limited, indicates that CBD has legitimate health benefits. While there is no FDA regulation, research has shown that full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD effectively treat pain and anxiety. There’s only one FDA-approved CBD product, called Epidiolex, that’s available by prescription. Epidiolex treats seizure disorders such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
However, there are several other benefits and uses of CBD products.
The most common uses of CBD
- To lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression for things like muscle pain or migraines
- To reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea
- Relieve inflammatory diseases
- Help with behavioral symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Managing multiple sclerosis and improving mobility
The CBD market is continuously expanding with new products. However, there are four main types of CBD product categories. All of which will vary in potency and dosage per unit.
Oils and tinctures
CBD oils generally come in either a liquid or capsule form. You can take the extracts independently or use the dropper to add them to food or drinks. Liquid tinctures are usually taken directly under the tongue.
“Tinctures are generally taken at higher concentrations than oils. This means that if you were taking 1 milliliter of tincture, you would need to drop the concentration down to 0.5 milliliters. A good rule of thumb is to start with a small dose (0.25 milliliters) and slowly increase your dose over time,” says Reda Elmardi, a registered dietician and certified nutritionist.
Edible CBD products are quickly becoming very popular, likely because of their convenience and flavor profiles. With edibles, you have several options in flavor, potency and prices. They have everything, from gummies to cookies, chocolates and even granola bars.
CBD is also available in topical creams and salves applied directly to the skin. Popular forms are lotions, creams or ointments. Topical CBD products are good options for muscle pains, joint inflammation or nerve pain.
Topical CBD is one of the more difficult forms for determining dosage. Not only does potency vary by product, but also varies by how much you use each application. It’s important to follow manufacturer instructions carefully.
How to determine the best CBD dosage for you
CBD products express dosage in milligrams. Epidiolex starts with a dosage of 2.5 milligrams taken twice a day. After a week, you can increase the dosage to 5 milligrams twice a day. Federal regulation makes determining dosage straightforward.
For the rest of the products on the market not regulated by the FDA, there are no established guidelines for CBD concentration, which makes determining how much you should take a little more difficult. There are a few key factors you need to keep in mind — your weight, what you’re treating and the concentration of the product.
The ideal dosage for you will vary depending on what you’re using it for and what form you’re taking. Don’t forget that different forms also mean how quickly it takes effect. Generally, edibles, oils and capsules will take roughly 30 to 60 minutes to take effect. Smoking or vaping CBD will bring it on significantly quicker since the CBD absorbs into your bloodstream rather than your digestive system.
CBD dosage will vary by condition
In general, the CBD dosage is dependent on the disease and its ability to be managed by CBD. The research that is available on CBD treatments has very varied dosage levels. Clinical studies have varied in oral doses from 100 to 800 milligrams a day. Others administer lower levels around 40 milligrams. A 2019 study investigating CBD for anxiety found that 300 to 600 milligrams reduced anxiety symptoms. However, that study was limited to 57 adult males.
“For generalized anxiety or sleep disorders, 25 to 75 milligrams per day is recommended, while for PTSD, 33 to 50 milligrams per day is recommended. In severe anxiety, a patient’s dose might be increased to 300 to 600 milligrams. If the patient is experiencing pain due to chemotherapy, 50 to 60 milligrams is recommended, with a maximum daily dose of 600 milligrams,” says Kimberly Langdon, a board-certified MD.
How much CBD is best for you will depend on your body. Your body weight and existing medications will influence the ideal dosage for you.
Can you take too much CBD?
A clinical review of studies confirmed that people tolerate doses as high as 1,500 milligrams a day. We want to stress that the research around CBD dosage is still really young, so there is not much to point to about how much is too much for people. More research is needed to definitively conclude the ideal dosage for each condition.
Not a ton of known side effects associated with CBD products. Though fatigue, diarrhea and appetite changes have been reported. The FDA states that CBD can cause liver damage and potentially impact the other prescription medications you’re taking.
If you’re starting your CBD journey, it’s best to slowly build your dosage so you can monitor how it affects you.
“The idea is to start very low (i.e., 5 milligrams per use) and increase daily usage by 5 milligrams every two days until you start feeling results. Then, stop increasing and keep using the same number of milligrams or drops. For many people, the amount that provides modest benefits in the first couple days will, after consistent use, provide more and more benefit over time,” says Dr. Dustin Sulak, an integrative physician and leading cannabis clinician.
How to calculate CBD dosage
For some forms of CBD, determining how much is each unit is simple. Capsules or gummies tend to have an expressed milligram content, making dosage much easier than oils or creams.
Oils or tinctures with a dropper bottle list the CBD content for the total liquid bottle. So instead of eating a gummy that’s 50 milligrams, it will look more like 7,500 milligrams of CBD in the 30-milliliter bottle. Some bottles will offer serving sizes — like one drop — to indicate dosage. This allows you to have greater control over how much you are intaking, but even still, it’s not a perfect science.
Some bottles with a traditional nutrition label on the back will tell you exactly how much is in one dropper. If you are unsure, it’s a good idea to reach out to the company to find out. It can be difficult to figure out how much you’re intaking for the bottles that do not break down by serving size and offer only the total amount. It is difficult, but not impossible; it just takes a little bit of math.
Say you have a 30-milliliter bottle of CBD oil, and each drop is 0.05 milliliters.
To determine how many milligrams of CBD per milliliter, you divide the total milligram content by how much the bottle is. In this example, the math would look like this:
7,500 milligrams divided by 30 milliliters = 250 milliliters.
There is 250 milligrams of CBD per milliliter for this product. Next, you want to know exactly how much CBD is in each drop.
250 milliliters x 0.05 milliliters = 12.5 milliliters per drop.
This calculation works with any bottle of CBD. Once you know how much CBD is in each drop, you can accurately take your ideal amount. “To ensure the best results, keep track of how much you take, how many times a day you take it and rate your symptoms daily (by rating 1 to 10, 10 being best) to see if they are getting better or worse,” Sulak advises.
Too long, didn’t read?
CBD is a continually evolving field in both products and research. While research is lacking, what is available suggests that CBD does have therapeutic benefits and is generally very well tolerated by people. Still, more research is needed to really dig into the long-term side effects and best dosage markers for the average person.
In place of federal regulations, use your best judgment regarding how much CBD you are taking. Talking to your doctor about dosage is always a good idea when in doubt.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
What Dosage of CBD Should You Take?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight
CBD is available in a number of different formulations including creams, tablets, oils, and gummies. These can vary in terms of their ingredients as well as dosages, and there is not a great deal of research available on what dose might be beneficial or safe to treat certain conditions.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have psychoactive effects. Interest in the use of CBD for health purposes has grown tremendously in the last few years.
CBD is believed to have a range of positive physical and mental health effects. Because of this, it has become increasingly popular as a way to alleviate everything from anxiety to sleep disorders.
In order to determine if CBD is right for you, it is important to consider its potential benefits, side effects, and available research on safe dosages.
CBD is just one of hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. While cannabis has been used in holistic medicine for many years, only recently have researchers begun to explore some of the medicinal purposes for CBD and other cannabinoids.
While further research is still needed, there is some evidence that CBD may have some beneficial mental health effects. These include:
- Alleviating depression: Some research also indicates that CBD may be useful as a treatment for depression. Studies suggest that the cannabinoid might have an influence on how the brain responds to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood. People with depression sometimes have a low level of serotonin, so CBD may help the brain use available serotonin more effectively.
- Improving sleep: While the reasons are not entirely understood and require further research, CBD also appears to have potential as a treatment for sleep problems. For example, one study found that people who took CBD also reported improvements in the quality of their sleep.
- Reducing anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health conditions, affecting almost 20% of American adults each year. Research suggests that CBD may help alleviate acute symptoms of a number of anxiety-related conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
In addition to the mental health benefits, CBD may also have therapeutic benefits for a range of other conditions. The World Health Organization suggests that CBD may have beneficial effects in the treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It is important to remember that these benefits have not yet been conclusively proven. More research is needed to determine the role that CBD might play in the treatment of different disorders and health conditions.
There have been a number of studies that suggest that CBD may have a number of different physical and mental health uses. However, more research is still needed to better understand the substance’s potential applications and possible long-term side effects.
A 2019 comprehensive review published in The Lancet Psychiatry looked at previously published studies. The review ultimately concluded that there was little evidence to support the use of CBD for mental health purposes and suggested that more research is needed in order to substantiate its use to treat symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t effective. Many of the studies that were included in the review were small, had few participants, and were not randomized controlled trials.
This suggests that more research involving more participants and well-designed studies is needed in order to better understand if, how, and why CBD works.
While its effectiveness is still up for debate, one 2017 review found that it was a relatively safe option. While it is important to remember that there is still a great deal we don’t yet know about CBD and its effects, it is something that you might opt to try to see if you experience any benefits.
How Much Should You Take?
The dosages used in research studies vary and there is no consensus on how much should be used for specific conditions. If you do decide to try CBD, it is also important to note that there is no universally agreed upon dose. Research also suggests that people may respond differently to various dosages, so the amount that is right for your needs might vary.
Some dosages that have been used in research studies for different conditions include:
- Anxiety: 300 to 600 mg
- Bowel disease: 10 mg per day
- Cancer-related pain: 50 to 600 mg per day
- Parkinson’s disease: 75 to 300 mg per day
- Poor sleep: 25 mg per day
- Psychosis: 600 mg per day
One 2020 review of studies found that participants showed improvements in anxiety levels after single doses of CBD ranging from 300 to 600 mg. Such results indicate that the CBD may hold promise as a treatment to alleviate symptoms of acute anxiety.
It is important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor before using CBD if you have symptoms of a serious mental or physical health condition. CBD could potentially worsen symptoms or interact with other medications you are taking.
Looking at the dosage information for the CBD product that has been FDA approved can also be helpful. For Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabis-derived medication used to treat seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy, the starting dosage is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This dose can later be increased to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight twice a day.
Other CBD products are not FDA regulated and do not have officially recommended dosages. This can make it difficult to determine how much you might need, but there are some things you can consider that might help.
- Assess your sensitivity to CBD: Your individual ability to tolerate CBD can also play a role in determining how much you need. If you are very sensitive to the effects of CBD, you should take a small dose. Some people may find that they are not as affected by the substance, so they may need to take a larger dose to notice any beneficial effects.
- Consider individual factors: When you are trying to decide how much CBD to take, there are a number of factors you should consider. These include the formulation and concentration of the capsule, oil drops, or gummies you are taking, the symptoms you are treating, and your age, sex, weight, and overall health. Generally, people with heavier bodies need to take a little more to achieve the same effects. Men may need a larger dose, while older people may need less.
- Consider the symptoms you’re treating: The symptoms you are trying to alleviate can also play a role in the CBD dosage you need to take to see results. In one study, participants who took 25mg of CBD each day had improved sleep quality, although the results were not consistent. However, you might find that you need a lower or higher dose if you are treating another type of condition.
- Try a dosage calculator: Researchers note that while the variety of dosing strategies and formulations make it difficult to determine efficacy, there are a number of online “dose-calculators” available online (such as mydosage.com) that are designed to help people choose the correct dose. The accuracy of such calculators is difficult to assess, but it may be a good place to start.
Before you try CBD, discuss your plan with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a dose and help you better understand any potential risks, complications, side effects, or interactions you might experience.
Start With a Low Dose
Unless your doctor recommends a specific dose, start by taking 10 to 20 mg a day. Take this for a week to ensure that it is well-tolerated and that you don’t experience any unwanted effects or an allergic reaction.
If this dose does not have the desired effect, try increasing in increments of 5mg each week until the desired amount is reached.
In studies, amounts vary from as low as 20 milligrams per day to up to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. The World Health Organization reports that dosages in clinical research studies typically range between 100 and 800 milligrams per day.
Is It Possible to Take Too Much?
So what is the maximum amount of CBD you should take? Researchers have found that 600 mg per day appears to be safe, but one study suggested that doses of up to 1,500 mg a day are safe and tolerated well.
However, it’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy and experts do not yet fully understand the potential long-term impacts of CBD usage. For that reason, you should always discuss your CBD use with your doctor.
Starting at a lower dose and working your way up to the amount you need may be the best ways to avoid taking too much.
How to Take CBD
The amount of CBD found in a product may depend on different factors, including the formulation and method of administration. CBD products are available in a number of different forms including oils, capsules, tablets, nasal sprays, and gummies.
One of the most popular ways to take CBD is as an oil. Such products are made by combining CBD with some type of carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Some more recently developed products include dietary supplements, foods, beverages, lotions, salves, and cosmetics.
The type of CBD product you choose may depend on what you are trying to treat. If you are looking for general mood improvements, a dietary supplement might be a good option.
If you are targeting specific symptoms of a condition, taking an oil, capsule, or gummy might be a better way to obtain a higher, more concentrated dose.
Topical applications may produce localized effects, but they are unlike to have any mental health benefits.
What Kind Should You Take?
It’s also important to remember that many products don’t contain just CBD on its own. There are three types of CBD available:
- Isolate contains CBD and only CBD.
- Broad-spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids, but not THC.
- Full-spectrum contains CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
It may be helpful to take a broad-spectrum product since research suggests that CBD’s effects may be most beneficial when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. CBD may also help mitigate some of the effects of THC.
While CBD is generally well-tolerated, this does not mean that you won’t experience any side effects.
Some of the most common side effects that people experience when taking CBD include:
- Appetite changes
- Stomach upset
- Weight changes
Some recent research has generated concerns over the safety and potential long term effects of CBD. One study involved giving mice an equivalent of the maximum dose of the CBD medication Epidiolex, which is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The results indicated an increased risk for liver damage as well as concerns over its interaction with other medications.
It is also important to remember that CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some manufacturers make unproven claims about the uses and efficacy of their products. There is also concern about the quality and safety of the products themselves.
One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that a number of people experienced negative unwanted side effects due to CBD products that contained synthetic CBD, although the products were not labeled as containing such ingredients.
Mislabeling appears to be a fairly common problem with CBD products. In one study, 70% of the CBD products that were sold online contained significantly more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than the label indicated.
Federal law prohibits the sale of products that contain more than 0.3% THC. States laws also vary, so you should always check with your state before buying CBD products online.
A Word From Verywell
If you do decide to take CBD to alleviate an acute or chronic condition, remember that the amount that you take will depend on a variety of factors. Finding the right dosage often takes some experimentation and adjustments. Starting with a low dose and then gradually increasing the amount you take until you achieve the desired effects is the best approach.