When we consider plant medicine, we have to shift our perspective away from the model of health we have become so accustomed to. In our current allopathic system, we take a standard dose of an isolated compound to mitigate symptoms of illness and disease. A standard or universal dose is an amount of medicine that typically works to reduce symptoms for most people. Take the common pain killer, ibuprofen, for example. The recommended adult dose for moderate pain is between 200-400mg taken every four to six hours. This dose window is relatively small as most people can achieve symptom relief with one or two ibuprofen pills. This is not how it works with plant medicine.
There is no standard or universal dose when it comes to plant medicine. People’s experiences with plant medicine are unique to their physiology and in extreme cases, as is the case with medicinal plant Atropa belladonna, a dose can be therapeutically effective while a slight adjustment in that dose can be poisonous and even lethal. Therefore, when integrating plant medicine, it is incredibly important to responsibly experiment under the supervision of a professional while identifying optimal dose.
Because cannabis is a plant medicine, no standard dose exists. Every person will have a unique relationship with cannabis. A person may find relief at 2mg of THC while another person may need 200mg of THC. The dose range for cannabis is quite large, with CBD having an exceptionally large window in which people may experience symptom relief. Luckily, cannabis is safe – a lethal dose for cannabis has not yet been identified – so while experimentation should still be consciously conducted with a guide, it is relatively low risk. However, that is not to say that cannabis consumption is without uncomfortable side effects.
Cannabis follows something called a biphasic dose response curve (as seen below). The curve shows that there is a certain threshold dose at which people will have an optimal therapeutic experience. Below the threshold dose, people will experience increased therapeutic benefit as they increase dose, but above the threshold dose, people will experience diminished therapeutic benefit and uncomfortable side effects including but not limited to drowsiness, anxiety and paranoia. Another term for this phenomena is bidirectional effects.
Every person’s optimal dose will be unique to them based on their unique physiology and chosen consumption method. Because our bodies process compounds differently depending on if we eat them, apply them to our skin or inhale them, the threshold dose will vary according to the way in which we choose to consume. This is why we promote strategies such as microdosing. If you are new to a particular consumption method, or new to cannabis in general, start low and go slow. Work your way up to that optimal dose, so that you can avoid experiencing uncomfortable side effects and diminished therapeutic benefit.
Finding your optimal dose will require experimentation as that dose is unique to you. Therefore, we recommend keeping a consumption journal. Record your experiences with cannabis, making note of the consumption method, dominant compound ratios and any additional information that might have an impact on your experience (Where are you consuming? Who are you with? What have you eaten that day? How much water did you drink? How’s your mental/emotional state?). As you track your experiences, you will begin to find what products and varieties work best for you.
Remember that cannabis is a medicinal plant and therefore, does not follow the allopathic model. It is not consistent nor is it predictable in its effects, however it can be incredibly rewarding and offer therapeutic support if the time is taken to consciously experiment and integrate it into your lifestyle.