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Now that high-THC cannabis strains are more readily available than ever before, the next big thing seems to be CBD. Known by its longer name of cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabinoid found in small amounts in many marijuana strains. CBD is thought to have potential health benefits. However, with CBD, it seems that the opposite may be true. Is microdosing CBD the best and brightest idea in medical marijuana?
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The Endocannabinoid System
Before moving on to the complexities of microdosing, you need to know how CBD works. Your body has what's known as an "endocannabinoid system," or ECS. "Endo" is a prefix meaning "internal," pointing to the fact that your body produces its own cannabinoids naturally. It's called the endocannabinoid because we discovered cannabinoids in the plant first, before finding out that these same compounds are produced within ourselves!
Your ECS is responsible for a multitude of functions that are all designed to keep your body working within a stabilized framework, known as homeostasis. When your body is acting out of whack—like when you’re running a fever or suddenly sweating bullets for no reason—that's a sign that homeostasis is being disturbed. When this happens, your ECS responds to mitigate the changes taking place and to keep you running in your optimal parameters.
THC vs. CBD
Both THC and CBD are active within the ECS. THC primarily and strongly binds to the CB1 receptor, which results in euphoric feelings, impaired coordination, and the other hallmark traits of being stoned.
CBD, however, mostly bypasses the CB1 in order to bind to the CB2. Activation of CB2 receptors doesn't produce psychoactive effects, but it does have a hand in many important regulatory functions. Compounds that initiate CB2 receptor responses are promising when it comes to providing therapeutic treatment for a variety of conditions. Acute pain, chronic pain and inflammation, neuropathic pain, and neurodegenerative diseases all stand to benefit from CBD therapy.
But contrary to the rules of man-made drugs, cannabinoids seem to have different efficacy against different conditions, with different optimal dosage ranges. For example, a small dose of CBD may lead to a slight energizing effect, but larger doses are known to act as sedatives. This is where microdosing comes in.
What Is Microdosing?
Microdosing is a term with origins in the world of hallucinogens. It was originally used in reference to taking tiny doses of LSD or other psychedelics in order to reap therapeutic benefits. As you likely know, hallucinogenic substances are notorious for leading to "bad trips." And even if you aren't afraid of otherworldly nightmares, you still might want the benefits without visiting cloud nine.
In its original sense, microdosing is taking about a tenth of a normal LSD dose every three to four days. Anecdotes about of the positive benefits—less anxiety, eased depression, and increased motivation—are all on the list of benefits you can get by microdosing hallucinogens. But what about cannabis?
There's good evidence that cannabis may provide the same sort of effect in a variety of capacities. We recently investigated the idea that cannabis and creativity go hand in hand, and we found some startling results from multiple studies.
Divergent thinking is the kind of thinking you use when brainstorming: coming up with solutions to a loosely-defined problem. In practical terms, measuring divergent thinking is also measuring general creativity. In the most recent study, THC did seem to help enhance divergent thinking, but only under a specific set of circumstances. A dose of 5.5 mg of THC increased the subjects' divergent thinking by a little bit, but once the dose was cranked to 22 mg, all bets were off. In fact, the 22 mg dose caused a nosedive in divergent thinking, and subjects ended up having lower divergent thinking indicators than they did while sober!
This evidence for taking smaller doses of THC makes it even more intriguing to explore the effects of microdosing CBD.
Shannon Barnett's Success Story
CBD microdosing is a case of necessity propagating invention. Shannon Barnett was a set nurse and makeup artist by trade, with a bevy of chronic conditions on her plate: She dealt with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) from age 12 and on, and she was diagnosed with Raynaud's disease in 2009. Things came to a head in 2014 when fatigue took over and her skin began rebelling, with a rash and red dots appearing nearly head to toe.
Unsurprisingly, the solutions Shannon was presented with all involved medication regimens, including steroids and hormones. Also not a shock: none of them worked. One of them even triggered lupus, and others brought on a barrage of other horrible side effects.
Finally, Shannon took to the internet, and research led her to CBD time and time again. She got her medical card but was unsatisfied with the products on the market. So she began making her own and experimenting with dosages. She found that as little as one or two milligrams of CBD can produce desired therapeutic results. Microdosing CBD cleared up her skin condition, improved her sleep, and generally improved her quality of life.
Shannon now has her own CBD line called Sana Sana Wellness and has helped many more people find symptom relief through microdosing CBD.
Types of CBD Products
CBD products have flooded the market of late, and it can be a little difficult to determine what product is best for microdosing and best for you. The main differentiator among CBD products is whether they're derived from hemp or from cannabis. For some people, hemp-based CBD oil works just fine to manage their symptoms. But for others, like Shannon Barnett, relief isn't felt unless the CBD is accompanied by the host of other cannabinoids found in cannabis.
If you live in a state where cannabis is legal, you're best off purchasing a CBD product from a dispensary. In most legal states, products have to be tested for CBD content and contaminants, so you're getting a product that is guaranteed safe to consume. But if you do your due diligence and research online CBD retailers, you can certainly find a reliable source. Here are three of the top products to use for microdosing CBD.
- Oil: Oil is the most widely available form in which to get your CBD. It usually comes in small dropper vials, and it can be used in a variety of applications. You can get a vapeable variety or mix oil into sprays and topicals. This versatile form factor is a favorite for many, and it can be found in nearly all dispensaries as well as online stores.
- Tincture: CBD tincture is primarily used for edible applications. A drop or two under the tongue makes microdosing CBD simple and discreet, and a tincture can be mixed into pretty much any food or drink as well.
- Gummies: CBD gummies are the easiest form of edible to microdose. Baked goods are larger and can therefore have more uneven distributions of cannabinoids and be more difficult to divide. But since CBD is mixed in with heat, candies are usually even in distribution. And dividing a 10 mg gummy into two, three, or even four pieces is significantly easier.
If you're looking to get the benefits of CBD, you don't necessarily have to shell out the big bucks. Start with just a milligram or two of CBD, and take note of what that does for you. Remember: Finding your optimal dose is a matter of observant experimentation, and it's different for everyone.