Welcome back to week 3 of DIY month here at the NW blog!
Today we’re talking about dosing, and this information is so important.
Those of you who are new to cannabis, or for those who are new to using cannabis for wellness, this information will help you find the right dose to feel amazing and avoid an unpleasant experience.
Cannabis is bi-phasic, which means that its effective at very small doses, then loses its effectiveness as you add more. You’ve probably read the mantra, “start low and go slow”, and for good reason. Most people simply take too much cannabis, particularly if you started using as a young person. Now, let me say that I love being high. I love the psychoactivity, I love the dreamy awe. But I experience that at much lower doses than I initially thought. And if I add a bit more, I’m often disappointed in the result.
So what’s a good dose? And how do you dose when using legacy market (illegal) cannabis?
Let’s begin with onset and duration.
There are several ways to ingest cannabis; smoking, vaping, edibles, tinctures, and topicals.
Smoking has the fastest onset, as the cannabinoids pass directly into the bloodstream from the lungs. Take a small puff, and wait 5 minutes before taking more. The tendency (at least for me) is to puff away while it’s burning, but it’s easy to miss that low-dose sweet spot, so put it out and take your time! Effects last an hour or two.
Vaping has a fast onset also, and I recommend the same level of patient self-awareness when you begin. There are a couple of ways to vape: with a pen and cartridges, and with a dry-herb vaporizer. I prefer the to vape my buds in a Firefly 2 dry-herb vaporizer. Vaping flower retains terpenes and cannabinoids, it tastes fantastic, and you actually ingest higher amounts of THC than smoking, because it doesn’t burn off. Plus you can use the ABV (already been vaped) plant material to infuse oil after!
I do not use or recommend cartridges. I know some are made with safe ingredients, but I live in a prohibition state and I have no idea what’s in the vape carts available to me. Many contain propylene glycol, and I just prefer to keep things simple.
The process for new users is the same as smoking; take a small puff, wait five minutes. Effects last a hour or two.
Edibles are their own game. They go through the digestive system and are processed in the liver. There the THC is converted to 11-OH-THC, a metabolite of THC, which feels much stronger than THC. Onset is 1-3 hours, and it depends on what’s in your stomach when you ingest. Always have some food before you take an edible, it slows onset and helps you have a more consistent experience. Start with 2-5mg, and be prepared to wait a long ass time to feel anything. Unlike other ingestion methods, you can’t expect consistent results from edibles, so take them in a comfortable place until you’re familiar with how they affect you. They last 3-6 hours, which is great for insomnia or pain relief, but less great if you’re feeling really anxious from taking too much. Low and slow, man.
Tinctures are taken either sublingually (under the tongue) or swallowed. Swallowing them will create effects like an edible; it will have a slow onset, last longer, but have somewhat unpredictable results. Sublingual ingestion is quicker, with an onset time around 15 minutes, and effects last an hour or two. Take 2-5mg, and hold it under the tongue for 3-5 minutes. It’s easy to titrate (adjust your dose) because it comes on pretty quickly, and unlike edibles, when you find your goldilocks dose it will offer a pretty consistent experience each time you take it, as long as you use tinctures sublingually. Dr. Sulak from Healer.com recommends sucking on gummies or lozenges instead of swallowing them to keep the medicine in the mouth longer, which allows more of it to pass through the membranes of the mouth directly into the bloodstream.
Topicals are applied to the outside of the body, and will not produce a high. THC and CBD absorb through the skin and provide local effects only
If you’re new to cannabis:
Start with 1-5mg. You might not notice any effects the first couple of times you use cannabis. This is common. Don’t up your dose until you’ve given your body enough time to adjust. This process of finding the right dose can take a week or longer. Take your time and have fun with it!
But Jess, I don’t know how much THC is in my weed! How do I figure out how much to take of that homemade infused oil or tincture I made last week? Good question. You can do that 2 ways.
You can do some dosage math, using the national average THC% as a base number. I believe it’s around 15%. So, the infused coconut oil recipe I gave you called for 14g of flower, 15% of that is 2.1 grams or 2100mg of THC in the recipe. You infused 14oz of coconut oil which equals 84 tsp. 2100mgs THC divided by 84 tsps equals 25mg/tsp. Thats a little over 3mg in ⅛ of a tsp.
(If that didn’t make sense, don’t worry! Here’s a dosage calculator from wakeandbake.co.)
So, start with 1/8tsp dose. I personally add it to coffee or tea and drink it that way. I’d avoid using it in a recipe until you have an idea of how this dose affects you.
When you do use it in a recipe, you need to know how many servings the recipe will make, and the dose you want each serving to contain. Then work backwards. Your brownies make 12 servings, and you want them to be ½ tsp each. ½ times 12 servings equals 6 tsps or 3 tbsps total infused oil in the recipe. Replace that much butter or oil in the recipe with canna oil, and make up the difference with regular oil or butter. So if your brownie recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, you’d first convert that to tablespoons. ½ cup equals 8 tablespoons, so you’d use 3 tbsp of canna oil and 5 tbsp of regular.
If you made the tincture, you’ll need to measure your alcohol to figure out the dose of your product. The recipe doesn’t call for that, because I don’t do that. But I don’t do dosage math, either. Why? Because every bag of legacy market cannabis I buy is different, so I need to check the dose every time I make a new batch of oil or tincture. Plus I don’t really care how many mgs I'm taking. I focus on how I feel.
So, here’s how to titrate, or figure out your dose when you don’t have the numbers.
Start with a very small dose: 1 puff if inhaling, 1/8tsp for infused oil, 1 drop for tincture. Keep a log of your experience. Check in with your body before you use, and at intervals. Ask yourself how you feel emotionally, and in your body. Are you anxious? Are you relaxed and calm? Are you tense or in pain? Are you excited? Are you hungry? Do you have dry mouth? Is your heart beating fast?
Healer.com provides these great worksheets for titration when using by inhalation and tincture.
I do it with a post-it on the fridge. Jot down how you feel before you use, and how much you took. Then for edibles jot down your notes every hour or so, noting when you no longer feel any effects. If using a tincture; keep a log starting after 20 minutes, then 60, and note when you longer feel anything. It may take you a few tries to find the right dose, don’t worry about it.
What if I took too much?
If you notice your heart is racing and you feel anxious, you’ve taken too high a dose. Fortunately, cannabis is not toxic, so no matter what you will be fine. The first thing to do is remain calm and just breathe. Take a few slow deep breaths and see if you can interpret your heart racing as excitement rather than fear. Know that your body is having a reaction to cannabis, and that is all that is happening. Your fear is coming from your body, not an actual threat. Try and distract yourself with tv or sleep it off, if you can.
You could try chewing on a black peppercorn. It contains the phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene, which binds to the same receptors as THC. This might be the reason it helps.
If you have some, CBD will counteract the anxiety response to THC. Studies show a dose as low as 15mg of CBD will help. You could take an oil sublingually or smoke some high CBD (and low THC) cannabis. Anything you have to swallow, like an edible or a capsule will take too long to be effective. In my own experience, a half dropper of CBD oil under the tongue helps me feel better almost immediately if I’ve had a bit too much. It makes things sharper and helps me feel in control again. Which brings me to…
THC and CBD are like a power couple, they work best together. They enhance the medicinal benefits of each other, and CBD mitigates the unpleasant side-effects that THC can produce.
CBD is an appetite suppressant, and using the right dose completely stops the munchies from being a thing for me.
Its neuroprotective, and helps lessen short-term memory loss from THC. Im noticeably sharper when I dose CBD with my THC. I don’t forget shit, Im clearer, I don’t get stuck in my thoughts.
And lastly, CBD helps with anxiety and paranoia from THC. Until recently it was thought that CBD blocked the high of THC, but it turns out it just stops the anxiety and mental fogginess.
So, consider taking CBD with every dose of THC, they are a powerhouse of positive effects when taken together. Most people like a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
And if you still find you’ve had a bit too much, add more CBD for nearly instant relief (when taken sublingually or smoked, not swallowed).
Thanks for reading, I hope this is helpful to you! If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or shoot me an email at email@example.com
I used the following websites to inform this post:
I am Jessica DaCosta, I'm a proud cannabis enthusiast, advocate, and mom of two.