Article written by
Melissa CampbellSEO Content Writer
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Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Learning how to dose cannabis edibles is no easy feat; it can involve a lengthy process of trial and error to determine your ideal amount.
While the effects of cannabis vary from person to person, there are essential tips and guidelines to help you harness the curative properties of marijuana and avoid the pitfalls of overconsumption.
Generally, it’s best to start with a 2.5 mg dose and wait two hours to see if you’ve achieved your desired effects. If not, take another 2.5 mg dose.
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Understanding Cannabis Edibles
Edibles, one of the fastest-growing cannabis products on the market, are food products infused with cannabis flower or extract.
Of all the myriad ways to incorporate cannabis into your wellness regimen, elevated eatables may be among the most effective.
One of the primary benefits of cannabis-infused foods is their versatility. Here are just a few examples of popular medical edibles:
- Baked goods such as brownies, cookies, and muffins
- Hard candies
Technically speaking, the term “edible” can refer to all forms of ingestible cannabis.
Marijuana-infused products like capsules, tinctures, and beverages are edibles, too, although they aren’t usually categorized as such, as these administration methods are metabolized by the body differently.
In recent years the expression has come to define solid edibles or food products infused with extracts derived from cannabis or hemp.
The Difference Between Consuming Edibles and Other Forms of Cannabis
The effects of cannabis are felt most rapidly when cannabis is inhaled.
The active cannabinoids within the vapor, or smoke, enter the bloodstream through the lungs to deliver their beneficial properties. When smoking or vaping, the effects can be felt almost immediately and last up to six hours.
The onset of effects takes much longer when ingesting cannabis. Before reaching the bloodstream, cannabinoids must be digested and metabolized by the liver.
The effects of cannabis-infused edibles may take up to two hours to kick in and endure for more than eight hours and tend to be much more potent than other forms.
As a highly potent delivery method, edibles are ideal for recreational and medical use and beneficial for relaxation and pain relief. “Edibles can help to provide whole body relief,” explains Mark Kasabuski, Leafwell’s resident pharmacist.
He adds, “When you smoke, it’s described as a head high, so to speak. But if you are looking for pain management or long-term relief throughout the day or night, edibles are always the way to go.”
Factors That Influence Edible Dosage
Finding the ideal therapeutic dose is critical to optimizing your cannabis edible experience.
There are many factors to consider as you determine your desired effects. Several elements influence your body’s response to cannabis, including weight, metabolism, endocannabinoid system, tolerance level, and potency.
The Strain and Potency of Cannabis Used in the Edible
One of the first things to consider when establishing your therapeutic dose is its cannabinoid profile, which provides critical information about the strength and potential effects of the cannabis product.
Kasabuski explains that people having trouble sleeping may benefit from an indica strain, known for its calming properties. “In cases of anxiety, too, you may want an indica strain that’s a little more soothing and relaxing,” he continues.
However, attributing specific effects to indica and sativa is not entirely accurate. The cannabinoid content and terpene profile of a particular strain are better indicators of what effects a cannabis product will have.
Whether purchasing a pre-made edible or planning to make your own, it’s essential to know the strength of its active compounds.
Potency is often measured by THC percentage. Most strains have elevated levels of THC, but many offer a balanced ratio of THC and CBD. Hemp strains are naturally CBD-rich and include less than 0.3% THC.
The notion of potency is relative to the consumer. While a typical intoxication dose of edibles contains 10 to 30 mg of THC, experienced users may require a much higher dosage to feel the same results.
“Some pain patients will need a slightly higher dose, especially if they’ve used opioids in the past,” Kasabuski says. “Oftentimes those types of patients require a bit higher THC dose, in the 20 mg to 30 mg range.”
Body Weight and Metabolism
Differences in body weight and metabolism should also be considered when determining the correct dose. “Cannabis is fat-soluble,” Mark explains. “[Cannabinoids] are absorbed by some of the [body’s] fat and are stored in the fat cells.”
Those with high body fat concentrations may metabolize cannabis much slower, delaying the onset of effects and extending their duration.
Conversely, individuals with a higher metabolism may experience cannabis edibles more intensely, with a rapid onset and shorter duration.
Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS is a body-wide signaling network that balances and regulates vital bodily functions such as appetite, sleep, mood, and cognition. It consists of three different parts: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Active ingredients, like THC, produce endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body and generate various physiological and psychoactive effects.
How cannabis interacts with an individual’s ECS can vary from person to person.
Tolerance refers to the body’s ability to adapt and respond to the active ingredients in cannabis.
New or infrequent consumers will feel the effects of THC more acutely than regular consumers who take the same dose.
Whereas regular marijuana users may develop a high tolerance and require larger amounts of product for optimal effects.
Fortunately, there is a simple method to decrease cannabis resistance — a T-break.
“Taking a 48-72 hour tolerance break (i.e., t-break) can help reset the endocannabinoid system,” Mark says. Abstaining from cannabis briefly can lower your tolerance levels and make cannabis more effective in smaller doses.
Determining the Right Dose
The quest for the “perfect” edible dose involves a fair share of trial and error. Edibles are notoriously potent, especially foods infused with THC.
While underdosing can undermine therapeutic results, overconsuming can lead to unpleasant side effects.
First-time and regular users should know what they’re consuming and how to consume it.
Understanding THC Content in Edibles
To fully understand the THC content in your edible, you must read the product label. Most cannabis products list basic supplement facts that include:
- The suggested serving size
- Number of servings per container
- Product ingredient list
- Cannabinoid profile
- The amount of each cannabinoid per serving
- Dosing suggestions
- Product safety warnings
On average, one serving of cannabis-infused edibles may contain 2.5 to 10 mg of THC per serving. However, determining the ideal starting dose depends on your tolerance and the effects you’re looking for.
“When it comes to dosing THC, we really want to proceed cautiously,” Kasabuski warns.
Inexperienced users may consider starting with 2.5 mg to 5 mg of THC, while seasoned users, or those with certain health conditions, may want to start with a higher dose.
The Importance of “Starting Low and Going Slow”
The effects of THC can be intense and unpredictable, especially for those with lower tolerance levels. New and inexperienced users run the risk of taking too much too fast.
“That’s where new patients tend to experience the negative sides of THC, with symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, and increased heart rate,” Mark says.
To ensure a safe, pleasurable experience, he recommends that new users:
- Start with the lowest effective dose
- Wait at least two hours to evaluate its effects
- Increase in small increments if necessary
Measuring the Dose for Homemade Edibles
While there’s no shortage of cannabis edible options, you can craft infused edibles to deliver your desired results.
Edibles are notoriously potent; accurate dosing can prevent unpleasant side effects and minor health risks.
Calculating the Total Amount of THC in Your Cannabis
To reap the full benefits of your cannabis treat, you’ll want to incorporate the appropriate amount of THC.
Cannabinoids in edibles are measured in milligrams, while other marijuana products, such as tinctures or dried flower, are measured in percentages.
When infusing food with extract or raw material, you must convert the percentages into milligrams.
To do this, you multiply the weight of your cannabis in milligrams by the potency of its active ingredient. For example, one gram (i.e., 1000 mg) of concentrate with 40% THC contains 400 mg of THC.
Once you know how much THC you’re working with, you can use this formula to calculate the amount of cannabinoids per serving:
- Formula: Weight of Concentrate x THC% x 1,000 ÷ Number of Servings
- Equation: (2 x .40) x 1000 ÷20 = 40mg of THC per serving
- Example: Infuse 20 cookies with 2 grams of a concentrate with 40% THC; each cookie will contain approximately 40mg of THC.
While homemade remedies are a great option, Kasabuski reiterates that first-time users should proceed cautiously.
“There are a lot of recipes out there. Make sure you choose a legitimate one that many people have commented on and go from there,” he elaborates.
“Generally, you want to start around that 5 mg mark. If you are newer to cannabis, I would recommend experimenting with dosing through different products from a dispensary to help determine the type of potency you need per dose.”
Tips for Safe Edible Consumption
Exercising responsible cannabis habits is the best way to maximize your experience and prevent unfavorable outcomes.
Here’s some advice to help you experience the full spectrum of benefits edibles have to offer:
- Start low and go slow: While this method is relevant for all cannabis consumers, it’s critical for beginners. Start with a low dose, then wait two hours to observe the effects and increase as needed.
- Consume in a safe environment: Plan to consume your edible in a calm, relaxing space to make the most of your cannabis journey. For some, that could mean being out in nature, while others prefer a private, relaxing indoor space.
- Use caution when mixing cannabis drinks with other substances: Whether it’s alcohol or prescription medication, be aware of potential drug interactions with marijuana. Speak with your healthcare provider about the risks of mixing cannabis with other substances.
- Check the cannabinoid content: Before consuming a cannabis-infused food, you should understand its potency. Check the product label for valuable information about the cannabinoid profile and additional ingredients your edible contains.
- Take T-breaks when necessary: If regular cannabis use has inhibited your ability to feel its effects, a brief pause in consumption may reset your ECS.
- Understand the cannabis laws of your state: While cannabis is legal in numerous states, it’s not everywhere. Be aware of legal guidelines concerning the use of cannabis in your region, including potential restrictions related to edible products.
- Stay well-fed and hydrated: Proper nourishment and hydration aid the digestion and metabolization of cannabis, enabling more gradual and consistent effects.
Safely Store Your Edibles
Proper storage practices can extend the shelf-life of your edibles and prevent unintentional cannabis ingestion by pets, children, and in some cases, adults.
When stowing away your THC treats, it’s essential to keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Store in a cool, dark place, as light, heat, and moisture can diminish the flavor and potency of your edible.
- Place your edibles inside a child-proof container and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
- Store in an airtight container to maintain freshness and prevent degradation over time.
- Vacuum-sealed containers are ideal if you plan on freezing your edibles, extending the shelf life for up to 12 months.
- Label your infused goods, or store them in a separate location to prevent instances of accidental ingestion.
- Cannabis edibles come in various forms. For best results, follow the storage instructions included in the product label or cannabis edible recipe.
The Bottom Line
Cannabis edibles provide a potent, satisfying way to medicate, but establishing a therapeutic dose may take some experimentation.
Understanding how tolerance, metabolism, and product strength contribute to the effects of edibles can be useful in making sound dosing decisions.
For more personalized help finding the right cannabis edible dose, consider making an appointment with Leafwell cannabis guidance.
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