DISCOVER CANNABIS

Does Microdosing Work?

Some people use microdosing, or low doses of cannabis, to relieve physical and mental ailments without getting high. But does the science support this approach? Find out how to get the most out of the least bit of your bud.

Microdosing is the practice of taking low doses of cannabis regularly, sometimes several times a day. The goal is to get the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, like relief from pain1 or anxiety2, while avoiding the intoxication or “high” from THC.

Research shows that everyone has a threshold level of THC. Below this level, they do not feel the psychoactive effects, but may still benefit from the anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and mood-influencing properties of THC, CBD and terpenes3. Is this routine right for you?

Who Wouldn’t Want to Get High?

Feeling a high come over your body can be a nice sensation when you’re at home with nothing to do, nowhere to go and no responsibilities. But that same experience when you need to be “on” can be distressing. If you need to work, parent or drive, being high isn’t safe or particularly pleasant. THC intoxication can affect your memory, coordination, sensory perception and awareness of time4. For people who rely on cannabis to manage pain5, anxiety6 or nausea7, getting relief while avoiding intoxication is essential to functioning in day-to-day life.

How Much THC Is in a “Micro” Dose?

Most experts suggest starting with very low doses, usually between 1.25 to 2.5 mg of THC once per day. After three or four days, if there isn’t enough relief, then you can increase by about half a milligram per day8. This strategy of slowly increasing the dose is called “titration.” It typically continues over several days, where you increase your dose slightly until you get the results you’re looking for.

If any unwanted side effects happen, like impairment, anxiety, fatigue or grogginess, then scale back to the last dose you could tolerate9. Everyone’s body is different, and it's important to maintain a low-and-slow approach to find the “sweet spot” where your cannabis does what you need it to without getting in the way of your day.

 

Microdosing THC and CBD: Does It Work?

What Products are Good for Microdosing?

Because microdosing depends on small, exact amounts of THC, formats that you can measure precisely are ideal. Some good options are low-dosed, commercially measured oils or edibles, as well as tinctures, sprays and capsules. Homemade tinctures and infusions are not recommended for microdosing unless you have the equipment to measure the potency of the finished product. Products that you eat and digest (like edibles and oils) can be well-suited to microdosing because of their long-lasting effects. They tend to peak within 2 to 4 hours and last 6 hours10 or longer.

Tinctures and sprays are also easy to measure, but they don’t get digested. Instead, they get absorbed straight into your bloodstream from the thin membrane under your tongue and at the base of your gums. Because of this, they tend to peak faster and wear off slightly sooner than edibles or oils11. They can be a good option if you need quicker effects.

 

Learn More: Cannabis Consumption Methods

Can I Microdose by Vaping?

Inhaling cannabis products by smoking or vaping can also be a route for microdosing. However, these methods may cause problems for your lungs12. Also, they’re harder to dose accurately, since the actual amount of THC a person absorbs depends on how deeply they inhale and how long they hold their breath13. Nevertheless, some people prefer to microdose by inhalation because the effects come on much faster than with edibles, and they also fade more quickly, so there’s less worry about overdoing it and being uncomfortably intoxicated for several hours.

To microdose by inhalation, it's recommended to start with one puff and wait 15 minutes, since this is about how long it takes to start feeling the effects14. After the first 15 minutes, you might take another inhalation every 15 to 30 minutes until you get the relief you want without feeling high15. It’s important to consider the potency of the product you’re inhaling; one puff of pure THC distillate will obviously be much stronger than one drag of a 1:1 extract or medium-low THC flower.

Because there are so many variables at play, from your body's THC tolerance to the actual amount you absorb from each product, it's a good idea to work with your doctor or cannabis educator to plan your own personal titration schedule and figure out your ideal microdose. It's important never to drive or operate dangerous machinery when you're impaired.

 

Learn More: Using Cannabis Responsibly

Does Microdosing Work?

When it comes to relieving pain, several studies have shown that surprisingly low doses of THC can be effective. In one study, cancer patients with pain who weren’t getting relief with opioids were given an oral spray called Sativex, with roughly a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. The patients were divided into three groups: one got a low dose (2.7–10.8 mg THC per day), one got a medium dose (16.2–27 mg THC per day) and one got a high dose (29.7–43.2 mg THC per day). Patients in the low-dose group reported the biggest improvements in their pain, the medium-dose group reported slightly less improvement and the high-dose group didn't get any better effect than they did from a placebo. The patients also said that side effects (like impairment and anxiety) got worse with larger doses16.

Similar studies have also shown that microdosing using edibles and oils can be effective. Products containing roughly 5 mg of THC or 1 mg of nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, were able to reduce pain for cancer patients, patients recovering from surgery and patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)17 18 19.

A low dose of vaporized THC (1.29%) was also shown to be an effective pain reliever in patients suffering from neuropathic pain caused by damage to nerves, the spinal cord or brain matter20.

Does Microdosing Work for PTSD or Anxiety?

Low doses of THC have also helped patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several studies have shown that up to 4 mg nabilone or 5 mg of THC could significantly improve nightmares, quality and quantity of sleep, and other PTSD-related symptoms21 22 23 24.

Although some people microdose THC to treat anxiety, the evidence to support this use is limited. A small study involving 20 patients showed that 1 mg of nabilone taken twice daily for 28 days improved anxiety symptoms25. However, in a smaller trial with eight volunteers who had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a single dose of 2 mg of nabilone only helped some patients26.

Depression is another condition that some users treat with low-dose THC, with only limited research to support the benefit. A recent study reported that medical cannabis users perceived a 50% reduction in depression when using strains high in CBD (> 9.5%) but low in THC (<5.5%) content27.

More research is needed to determine whether microdosing THC can reliably treat mental illness. You should always talk to your doctor before experimenting with cannabis, especially if you’re using it to alleviate symptoms from specific conditions.

Can You Microdose CBD?

Low doses of CBD may also have benefits for improving clarity and overcoming fatigue or tiredness. Studies have shown that CBD doses as little as 5 mg can have a stimulating effect and increase wakefulness28 29 30. Another study found that for a low dose of THC that wasn’t effective at easing pain on its own, adding CBD brought the relief up to a more desirable level31.

Can I Make Homemade Edibles for Microdosing?

As long as you use a potency-tested tincture or infusion and have a way to divide your servings into exact sizes, homemade edibles can be a great way to make your microdosing routine pleasant and convenient.

One popular method is to make DIY cannabis gummies. You can get a gummy mold online or at many baking stores. To make your ideal microdosed chewables, just multiply your individual THC dose amount by the number of gummies in your mold. Then find a recipe that incorporates either an alcohol tincture or infused oil with approximately the amount that you need to get your dosage right. In an oil-based recipe, you can top up with some plain (un-infused) oil if needed to get the right amount for the recipe.

Our favourite Calgary canna-cookery wizard, Chef Elycia Ross of Li’l Truck on the Prairie, has offered a gorgeous looking recipe for microdosing THC gummies. These are gelatin-free, use an infused tincture and incorporate the delicious terpenes from lemon rind and lavender. You can boost your micro therapy with the anti-anxiety and pain-relieving effects of limonene and linalool32 in a yummy, pocket-friendly treat. Just make sure to savour it, because you can only have one!

Recipe: Lemon, Lavender and Rose Infused Gummies 

Serves: 50 Gummies
THC Content: 2.4 mg each 

 

Photo: Elycia Ross

 

Tools

- Measuring cups
- Medium-sized saucepan
- Rubber coated whisk 
- Fine mesh strainer 
- Silicone molds or ice cube trays 

Ingredients
- 1 cup tap water
- 1 Tbsp dried rose petals
- 1 Tbsp dried lavender
- 1 lemon, juiced & zested 
- 1 tsp agar agar powder
- 1/4 cup cold water 
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) cannabis tincture 

We used a tincture with 8 mg/ml of THC and made 50 gummies. Adjust the amount of tincture to fit your concentration and your ideal dose per gummy.

Directions
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combined 1 cup of water with the rose petals, lavender and lemon and then bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain into a bowl. 
2. Pour the strained liquid back into the pot and bring back up to a simmer. 
3. Combine the cold water and agar agar in a small bowl and slowly add the combination into the simmering liquid. 
4. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 
5. Turn the heat off and add your 1 tbsp of tincture to the mix. Combine thoroughly and pour into a spouted measuring cup. 
6. Pour into your silicone molds and place on the counter for 20 minutes before setting in the fridge. Keep covered in your refrigerator until consuming. 

 

References

[1] Hill KP, et al. Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):96-104.

[2] Fabre LF, McLendon D. The efficacy and safety of nabilone (a synthetic cannabinoid) in the treatment of anxiety. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981;21(S1):377S-382S

[3] Lee MA. (2019 April 1). CBD and Cannabis Dosage Guide—Interview with Dr. Sulak. Retrieved from https://healer.com/cbd-cannabis-dosage-guide-project-cbd-interview-with-dr-sulak/.

[4] Cohen K, Weizman A, Weinstein A. Positive and Negative Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids on Health. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2019;0(0).

[5] Hill KP, et al. Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):96-104.

[6] Childs E, Lutz JA, de Wit H. Dose-related effects of delta-9-THC on emotional responses to acute psychosocial stress. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.03.030

[7] Parker LA, Rock EM, Limebeer CL. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1411-1422.

[8] MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. Eur J Intern Med. 2018;49:12-19.

[9] MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. Eur J Intern Med. 2018;49:12-19.

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[11] MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2018;49:12-19.

[12] (US) IoM. 3, First, Do No Harm: Consequences of Marijuana Use and Abuse. In: Joy JE, Watson SJJ, Benson JAJ, eds. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Washington DC: National Academies Press; 1999.

[13] Perez-Reyes M. Marijuana smoking: factors that influence the bioavailability of tetrahydrocannabinol. NIDA Res Monogr. 1990;99:42-62.

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[15] MacCallum CA, Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. Eur J Intern Med. 2018;49:12-19.

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[17] Noyes R, Jr., Brunk SF, Baram DA, Canter A. Analgesic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. J Clin Pharmacol. 1975;15(2-3):139-143.

[18] Holdcroft A, Maze M, Dore C, Tebbs S, Thompson S. A multicenter dose-escalation study of the analgesic and adverse effects of an oral cannabis extract (Cannador) for postoperative pain management. Anesthesiology. 2006;104(5):1040-1046.

[19] Wissel J, Haydn T, Müller J, et al. Low dose treatment with the synthetic cannabinoid Nabilone significantly reduces spasticity-related pain. Journal of Neurology. 2006;253(10):1337-1341.

[20] Wilsey B, Marcotte T, Deutsch R, Gouaux B, Sakai S, Donaghe H. Low-Dose Vaporized Cannabis Significantly Improves Neuropathic Pain. The Journal of Pain. 2013;14(2):136-148.

[21] Jetly R, Heber A, Fraser G, Boisvert D. The efficacy of nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, in the treatment of PTSD-associated nightmares: A preliminary randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over design study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015;51:585-588.

[22] Roitman P, Mechoulam R, Cooper-Kazaz R, Shalev A. Preliminary, open-label, pilot study of add-on oral Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Clinical drug investigation. 2014;34(8):587-591.

[23] Fraser GA. The use of a synthetic cannabinoid in the management of treatment-resistant nightmares in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CNS neuroscience & therapeutics. 2009;15(1):84-88.

[24] Cameron C, Watson D, Robinson J. Use of a synthetic cannabinoid in a correctional population for posttraumatic stress disorder-related insomnia and nightmares, chronic pain, harm reduction, and other indications: a retrospective evaluation. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2014;34(5):559-564.

[25] Fabre LF, McLendon D. The efficacy and safety of nabilone (a synthetic cannabinoid) in the treatment of anxiety. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981;21(S1):377S-382S.

[26] Glass RM, Uhlenhuth EH, Hartel FW, Schuster CR, Fischman MW. Single-dose study of nabilone in anxious volunteers. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981;21(S1):383S-396S.

[27] Cuttler C, Spradlin A, McLaughlin RJ. A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2018;235:198-205.

[28] Nicholson AN, Turner C, Stone BM, Robson PJ. Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2004;24(3):305-313.

[29] Zuardi AW. Cannabidiol: from an inactive cannabinoid to a drug with wide spectrum of action. Braz J Psychiatry. 2008;30(3):271-280.

[30] Mijangos-Moreno S, Poot-Ake A, Arankowsky-Sandoval G, Murillo-Rodriguez E. Intrahypothalamic injection of cannabidiol increases the extracellular levels of adenosine in nucleus accumbens in rats. Neurosci Res. 2014;84:60-63.

[31] Jamontt JM, Molleman A, Pertwee RG, Parsons ME. The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol alone and in combination on damage, inflammation and in vitro motility disturbances in rat colitis. Br J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun; 160(3): 712–723.

[32] Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2011;163(7):1344-1364.