Dosing cannabis to produce specific desired effects can be challenging. You may have heard experts say that the amount of cannabis a person should take to address any given condition is individual to that person. What they are saying is that each of us has a unique endocannabinoid system, and how we respond to cannabis is different from how everybody else responds. There is no one-size-fits-all version of cannabis use.
While some people are seeking out cannabis for the euphoric state – being “high” – many are looking to cannabis-derived products to address health concerns or to support their overall wellness without the mind-altering effects. Microdosing is a technique for taking in the nourishing cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids contained in the cannabis plant without “getting high.”
What is microdosing?
Microdosing is a way of consuming cannabis in carefully measured, smaller amounts to get the health benefits while still being clear-minded and able to function throughout the day. The concept of microdosing was actually developed in the 1970s by a Swiss scientist, Dr. Albert Hofmann, who experimented with ingesting small doses of lysergic acid, or LSD, to prove that he could gain therapeutic value while avoiding getting into a pronounced altered state of mind. He reported that the small doses gave him an overall sense of well-being.
Applied to cannabis, microdosing means taking THC in low doses regularly over a period of time. Low doses of THC could potentially address stress, anxiety, pain, and other conditions and disorders while not producing a high.
How much THC is considered a microdose?
A low dose of THC varies by individual and can be affected by one’s overall tolerance of THC. For some, particularly newer or less-frequent cannabis consumers, a low dose is between 1 milligram and 10 mg, with many opting for a middle ground of 2.5 mg to 5 mg. For others, 15 mg or more is a microdose, providing relief without producing a high.
While THC at very low levels can be therapeutic and the effects easier to feel, CBD isn’t typically microdosed and is more therapeutic at what would be considered moderate doses – 20 mg to 30 mg. The effects of CBD tend to be much more subtle than THC and felt over longer periods of time with regular usage.
How can you measure out a microdose?
Not all forms of cannabis consumption are ideal for microdosing or at least not easy to measure out in smaller doses. If you’re smoking or vaping, two intake methods that are far less precise, you might get a beneficial microdose without getting too elevated by taking only one or two inhales. Keep in mind inhalation is the fastest delivery method of THC and other cannabinoids into your bloodstream, so the effects could be rapid and strong.
An easier way to microdose is to use a THC tincture because you can measure by drops. Each bottle should tell you how many milligrams of THC in total is inside and also how many are in a dropperful. You can then do the math to reduce the amount of THC you consume, measuring it out drop by drop. When using a tincture, holding the oil in your mouth and under your tongue will deliver the THC into your bloodstream more quickly as it absorbs through your mucosal membrane and sublingual glands.
Even easier for microdosing are THC tablets. If one tablet is 10 mg, cutting it in half should be 5 mg and cutting it again should be 2.5 mg. You can also cut edibles such as gummies into smaller pieces; however, there could be a little more variation in size and dosing in an edible product, so microdosing with edibles is considered a little less precise but still a preferred method of microdosing for some.
Keep in mind that ingesting THC in any form that has to pass through your digestive system and liver could alter the potency of the THC – including making it more potent. Tablets, capsules, and edibles as well as oils swallowed too quickly will take a while to work through your digestive system so don’t expect fast results.
Keeping track of microdosing
As you try to find your “right dose,” keeping a journal or log of what you’re taking, how much, how often and the effects is a good way to zero in on what works best for you. You can make notes in a regular notebook or even purchase a journal created for tracking cannabis consumption that prompts you to fill in specific information to help you as you try different forms and doses.
Start out with a very low dose and slowly increase over the course of days or weeks, not throughout a single day. A big mistake many people make when trying to find an optimal dose is to keep taking more and more over the course of a few hours until they begin to feel uncomfortably high. Finding the right dose can take a few weeks of trying out different forms and different amounts.
If at any time you feel too high, you can counter the effects of the THC with some CBD. Holding a dropperful of CBD oil under your tongue for 30 seconds or using a CBD oral spray under the tongue can help temper the effects of the THC.
If you don’t have CBD handy, chewing on peppercorns or biting into a lemon could produce a similar effect, interfering with how THC is binding to the receptors in your brain and helping reduce the high.
As with any medication or supplement, consult your health practitioner or a cannabis physician before using cannabis because THC and CBD could potentially interact with any other medication you’re taking.
Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of “The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine” (Ten Speed Press).