Not Feeling The Effects Of CBD? This Could Be Why
CBD is polarizing: While some people swear that it helps them relax and release stress, others claim it doesn't do much for them at all. There's definitely some element of body chemistry at play here, and plant medicines are bound to affect people differently to a certain degree. However, Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a California-based physician and author of the upcoming book Cannabis Is Medicine, has found that for the 99% of time that CBD "doesn't work" for her patients, they haven't tried a high enough dose.
The lowdown on a low dose.
When Goldstein, who has been working with cannabis medicine for over a decade, hears that someone isn't feeling the effects of CBD, dose is the first thing she asks them about.
"In general, we only absorb about 4 to 20% of the cannabinoids that we ingest," Goldstein tells mbg. This low absorption rate is due to the fact that cannabinoids like CBD are naturally fat-soluble, not water-soluble, so absorption into the bloodstream is low. Over the course of their journey through the body's digestive tract, a lot of them get lost as waste.
"So if you're taking 10 milligrams and you're only absorbing 4 to 20% of that," Goldstein says, "you're talking about a dose that's extremely low that likely is not going to do anything."
For comparison, many of the studies on CBD have administered doses in the hundreds of milligrams. In this double-blind trial in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, for example, 57 healthy males were given a dose of 150, 300, or 600 milligrams of CBD before a public speaking engagement. Measures of their mood, blood pressure, and heart rate found that those who received the 300-milligram dose reaped the most stress-reducing benefits before the big talk.* Another small study out of Japan1 on 37 teenagers with social anxiety disorder found that a 300-milligram dose of CBD taken daily for four weeks was enough to decrease their anxiousness.*
Not everyone will require such high amounts, though, so Goldstein recommends "starting low and going slow" when finding your ideal dose. "If you take a dose of 10 milligrams of CBD and you don't feel anything at all, you can continue to take it for a few days or even a week or so and see if there is some type of cumulative effect," she explains. If you still don't feel anything, then it's time to consider moving up to a slightly higher dose.
The type of product you're taking also might also be the issue: CBD isolate products that only contain one cannabinoid tend to be less effective than full-spectrum ones, which deliver an array of beneficial plant compounds that work in tandem due to what's known as the entourage effect.*
Side effects are relatively rare with CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids, even when you're taking them in larger doses. They're not out of the question, though, and the main one that Goldstein has seen is sedation. Upset stomach and decreased appetite can also occur, especially if you're taking CBD in oil form.
To reduce your risk of side effects, you should always talk to your doctor before bumping up your dose—especially if you're on other medications. "CBD is metabolized in the liver, in the same place that about 60% of other pharmaceuticals are metabolized," explains Goldstein, so drug-drug interactions, while rare, can occur.
How will I know if it's actually working?
CBD has been associated with benefits such as reduced stress, steadier mood, and less reactivity to triggers.* It can also be helpful for soothing aching joints thanks to its ability to ease inflammation in the body.*
After taking mbg's full-spectrum hemp extract, which contains 15 to 20 milligrams of cannabinoid content per serving, a total of 990 milligrams of hemp per bottle, people have reported that it helps them "take my day and what comes at me with a bit more calm and grace" and "feel more calm and grounded."* One user sums it up in saying that the hemp extract, which is combined with other relaxing ingredients such as hops and rosemary, helps them take the day in stride: "I feel more relaxed, and my day just seems to run smoother when I don't sweat the small stuff."*
If you haven't had this kind of success with CBD before, not all hope is lost: Make sure your product is full-spectrum, give it a chance to work, and up your dose (with the support of your doctor) before you write it off as a fad.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.