The Science Behind CBD Dosing

science of cbd dosing

CBD is the hot new player in town as it relates to natural alternative supplementation and treatment that has the potential to alleviate a broad range of symptoms from an increasing number of ailments.

Yet despite the increasing number of studies purporting the potential benefits, there has been little discussion surrounding proper dosing in order to get the most out of your CBD oil. Is a higher dose always better, or is there a point at which diminishing returns don’t make the higher dosage or concentration worth it?

This article will explore that and more. Read on to learn about what science says about CBD dosing…

Medically Effective Dosing

Studies have shown that CBD’s medicinal efficacy may require a particular dosage or range at which it reaches a biologically significant threshold capable of eliciting desired effects. Researchers often refer to this as a “Goldilocks Zone,” where there’s not too much CBD but not too little, either. 

This “effective” dose or “zone” may differ deepening on the desired effect, or the intended ailment or symptom(s) needing treatment. For instance, CBD appears to treat anxiety at relatively low doses compared to the high doses needed to effectively treat epilepsy.

The National Institute of Health has spent millions on exploring the medicinal potential of cannabis and its related cannabinoids such as CBD. Cannabinoids have the capability to manipulate, modulate or otherwise exert an effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system in humans. By interacting with CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoids such as CBD can have broad-reaching effects that may hold therapeutic promise for those suffering from medical ailments.

While the primary psychoactive phytocannabinoid, delta 9-THC, has acknowledged medicinal value, cannabidiol is widely known for its broad range of potential medicinal uses. In recognition of CBD’s vast potential, over $9 million in grants were awarded in 2015 to fund CBD-specific medicinal research.

Much of this research has centered around the treatment of epilepsy, but impressive progress is also being made in the areas of depression, anxiety, arthritis, neuroprotection and even cancer. 

As it relates to epilepsy, CBD has shown significant potential for treating the condition in children, with the FDA approving the first ever CBD-derived drug intended for this purpose. A high daily dose of 600 mg has been noted to reduce seizure frequency significantly.  

While this is a much larger amount of CBD than you’d find in many of the CBD edibles for sale at your local dispensary, many retail CBD products with lower levels of the cannabinoid are reported to be effective at treating anxiety, pain, and many other symptoms and disorders.

CBD and the “inverted U” effect

A 1990 study found that low to moderate CBD doses reduced anxiety, but CBD’s anti-anxiety effect disappeared at higher doses. In fact, the lowest dose had a moderate anti-anxiety effect, the second-lowest dose had the greatest anti-anxiety effect, the third dose had a moderate effect, and the highest dose had no effect.

It’s a phenomenon known as the “inverted-U” effect, and it’s actually quite common among drugs that affect multiple brain receptors, as CBD does.

The current research suggests that anxiety and depression-related disorders respond best to low-moderate CBD doses, while epilepsy responds best to higher CBD doses. 

CBD is known for treating a wide spectrum of symptoms from pain to PTSD, which reflects its diverse set of targets throughout the brain and body. Differences in sensitivity for these targets may be the cause of CBD’s inverted U-response and Goldilocks Zone.

CBD and THC interaction

Low doses of CBD impact fewer neural targets than high doses. At low doses, CBD blocks endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids from interacting with receptors in the nervous system. This allows the CBD to reduce adverse effects such as anxiety.

THC directly stimulates the CB1 receptor, causing psychoactive effects for which Cannabis is infamous. CBD reduces THC’s ability to stimulate CB1 receptors, decreasing THC’s negative effects like anxiety and short-term memory impairment. 

Cannabidiol and anxiety

CBD activates and enhances serotonin receptors, providing anti-anxiety effects.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which regulates mood and stress response. Low serotonin levels contribute to conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and major depression. A common pharmacological treatment for these conditions involves enhancing the amount of serotonin available to activate the receptors using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Experimenting with CBD doses

Rodent studies of CBD in anxiety and stress reveal that CBD similarly enhances serotonin receptor activation. In rats, a low-to-moderate dose of CBD has anti-anxiety effects following a stressful period of restraint, but these anti-anxiety effects go away when the serotonin receptor 5-HT1a is blocked ahead of time, indicating that low doses of CBD near the peak of the rodent’s inverted-U response reduce anxiety.

Similar CBD doses in humans are also effective at reducing anxiety in individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder, and low to moderate doses are effective at reducing stress and improving performance in a simulated public speaking event. These positive effects are associated with restoration of normal brain activity in key regions associated with anxiety.

So what exactly is going on in the brain as a dose of CBD takes effect? CBD’s receptor GPR55 initiates a cascade of events that can have diverse effects in brain cells. CBD blocks GPR55’s function and alters brain activity, protecting against seizures. When administered in higher doses, however, the benefits of lower concentrations can be lost. Anti-anxiety effects, for example, are obstructed while higher concentrations of CBD work to block GPR55 receptors.

Closing Thoughts on Optimal Dosing

As research continues to work at identifying CBD’s numerous neural targets and their sensitivity, we inch closer to understanding the optimal CBD dose for treating different conditions. Identifying effective CBD dosing for specific disorders will lead to treatment strategies that may be able to combat multiple ailments at once. CBD’s Goldilocks Zone for treating anxiety shows the need for a better understanding of its therapeutic mechanisms.

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