CBD By The Numbers
I believe that once the legal fog has lifted off of CBD and cannabis-related products, the world will be a better place. That’s not hyperbole; based on the available evidence and overwhelming anecdotes, coupled with the high-stress nature of our American lives, I believe CBD will be a game changer in the management of stress, anxiety, sleep, pain, and more.
The most important nugget of CBD knowledge you need is around the numbers of CBD. Let’s define some terms and teach you how to read a CBD label.
There is a tremendous amount of confusion from non-pharmacy nerds about the dose, strength, and size of CBD. Let’s get on the same page here:
The dose of CBD is how much YOU take to get the results, usually expressed in milligrams (mg). For example, in my house when I get a headache, I need 600mg of ibuprofen to resolve it. My wife, on the other hand, gets away with just 200mg.
When we talk about how much CBD we use, we should focus on the dose, not the number of drops, droppers, capsules, or whatever. Imagine I said, “To get rid of my headache, I use 3 tablets of ibuprofen.” What does that mean? What if each tablet was 800mg?
When it comes to CBD, many people start out at around 5mg during the day and around 10mg at night. That dose will probably need to be increased to some amount that works for them for whatever CBD is being used for. The number of drops, etc is largely irrelevant because those numbers will change product-to-product, where your dose will remain consistent .
“Keep your eye on the ball,” my little league coaches repeated to me as I constantly embarrassed myself playing sports as a kid. The ball for CBD is the dose - always know what this number is.
Back to my ibuprofen example. The strength of my ibuprofen at home is 200mg per tablet. The strength is an amount per unit. It is also referred to as concentration.
The strength tells us how many units of something we need to take to get our dose. Here’s a screenshot from our recent webinar where we use brownies to relay this point:
These brownies have a strength of 40mg per square. If my dose was 40mg, I’d need 1 square. If my dose was 80mg, I’d need 2 squares. If my dose was 10mg, I’d need ¼ of a square and I better have a sharp knife.
Many dosing units can be broken down further into smaller amounts. You can split tablets. You can cut brownies. You can take smaller amounts of liquids. Capsules are the only one you shouldn’t try to split because it will be an inaccurate mess of white powder. Having that around the house sends off the wrong message to the neighbors.
CBD products vary wildly in the available strengths. Our Vitality Approved products are 10mg per ml, 25 mg per ml, 40mg per ml, 50mg per ml, and 100mg per ml.
Here’s an important point: When switching or starting CBD products, your dose never changes, just the amount of dosing units you need to administer your dose.
Someone using 10mg of CBD could use 1 ml of our 10mg per ml liquid or 1/10th of an ml of our 100mg per liquid.
The Package Size
I need 600mg of ibuprofen for my headache and the strength of ibuprofen you can buy over-the-counter is 200mg. I will need 3 dosing units (tablets) to get my dose.
I can buy 24 of the 200mg ibuprofen, 50, 100, or even 1000. The package size tells me how many dosing units are in there.
If you are buying CBD capsules, it should say 100 capsules or 30 ml or 2 brownies. Don’t get edible CBD, by the way… It’s CB-Diculous!
In CBD and cannabis-land, they mish-mash the strength and package size to create another number, usually displayed on the front of the bottle. See below for a few examples of non-vitality approved brands:
The number on the front of a cannabis-related product is NOT an indicator of strength. A 500mg is not automatically weaker than a 750mg. Super confusing, right? That number is the strength of the product multiplied by the package size.
If you have a 50mg per ml strength CBD and there is 30ml of liquid, the number on the front will be 1500mg.
I can have a 50mg per ml strength CBD and have 15ml of liquid, the number will be 750mg.
***In this example, the strength of the product is the same, but the number on the front is different.***
Here’s another one for you:
If I have a 50mg per ml CBD and there is 30ml, it will say 1500mg on the front.
If I have a 100mg per ml CBD and there is 15ml, it will say 1500mg on the front.
**In this example, the strength is VERY different, but the numbers on the front are the same!**
The number on the front of a CBD product is NOT an indicator of strength, just the total amount of CBD in the entire package.
With capsules, tablets, and liquids, it’s not too difficult to reverse engineer the big number to figure out the strength if you have to. What about this:
How do you dose that? What exactly is a “dollop”? Is your “chocolate chip sized” dab of cream the same as mine? Hint: I’m a sugar addict so no. How many mg of CBD are there in each dose of a topical?
It’s a super silly thing that is insanely confusing to people new to CBD.
Math - Just What Someone With Anxiety Needs!
I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it is true. Some people use CBD to support their mood and energy. Do you think they want to try to figure all this out?
It is crucial that anyone who purchases CBD understands these numbers. If you can’t do the math, that’s completely normal! You are not trained in this stuff. To be honest, I remember many 5th and 6th year pharmacy students struggling with the basics like this, and we live and breathe doses and concentrations.
CBD products must be accompanied by an expert who can help you understand these differences and set up a strategy for proper CBD use. Who has 2 thumbs and does that for his customers? THIS GUY!
Until we have a clearer picture and lenient, yet firm regulations in place, it’s a stinking mess out there in CBD-land. There is so much variability between the products, especially on the quality, dosing, and cost factors, it’s difficult for responsible practitioners to make easy recommendations to their patients. It has to be a two way street, and consumers need to arm themselves with the most complete understanding possible before trying CBD products. We don’t want you to light your money on fire or be turned off something that could accomplish some health goals.
Clearly understanding the difference between dose, strength, package size, and total CBD amounts will allow for a stress-free, efficient CBD experience.
Just trying to keep it real...
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth