What microdosing is and how it applies to CBD.
The way most of us use medication, or any substance, really, is to keep taking more until you feel the desired effects. Feel a cold coming on but still need to get through your day and get some work done? Keep taking DayQuil until you feel that familiar, super alert, medicine-head feeling. Need to perk up in the morning? Keep drinking coffee until you feel the fog gradually lift from your brain. Looking to shed those inhibitions so you can deliver that “It’s raining men” duet at karaoke? Keep drinking long island iced teas until the part of your brain that knows you’re tone def quiets down. Whatever the situation, the prevailing wisdom seems to be “crank it up until you feel it kick in.” But what if taking more of something isn’t always the best way to get the results you want? What if, in some situations, less is actually more? That’s the idea behind the new trend of microdosing, and it seems to be all the buzz on-line right now. As someone who has no experience with the practice of microdosing, I wanted to know what all the fuss is about. So, today, I’m going to do some research, figure out what this micro-dosing business is all about, and see whether it might actually benefit those of us who use CBD.
What is micro-dosing?
To start, let’s get a little insight into what microdosing is and where it came from. At it’s core, microdosing is pretty much exactly what you would think it is: taking a very small dose of a medication or substance. To be more specific, microdosing is when you take a dose too low to give you the usual perceptible effects of a substance, like hallucinations with something like LSD or the feeling of being “high” with something like marijuana, yet still enough to grant you some sort of desired health benefit. The idea seems to be that there is a land of therapeutic benefit that exists between zero and intoxication, and that’s where those into microdosing want to live.
When did microdosing start?
This is actually slightly tricky and really depends on how you think about the question. If we want to know where the first practice of microdosing began, then we might have to go WAY back in time. Researchers have found buttons containing mescaline from the peyote cactus at Native American ceremonial sites that date back to almost 4000 BCE! So, we know that our ancient ancestors knew about the hallucinogenic properties of some plants and took them intentionally. Additionally, we know through art work that many ancient and indigenous people ate hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, and it’s possible that many of them ate small amounts that might contain doses low enough to be considered microdoses. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of our ancestors were ingesting small amounts of hallucinogenic molds or fungi without even realizing it. But it gets even trippier than that (pun intended)! Terence McKenna theorized that microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms might have been the catalyst that propelled our early ancestors Homo erectus to evolve into the species Homo sapiens. The thinking here is that low doses of psilocybin found in the mushrooms our Homo erectus ancestors ate resulted in heightened senses which made them better hunters. It also, McKenna contended, made them better thinkers in general, able to problem solve and think outside of the box more easily. All of these benefits propelled the species towards the humans we are today in what has been called “the stoned ape theory.” I don’t know if any of that is true, and as far as I know there isn’t any way TO know, but how crazy would it be if it is? This was my favorite thing I came across in my research for this by far.
When did modern microdosing start?
If you want to know when the more modern conception of microdosing began, we need look no further than Dr. Albert Hofmann, the unintentional inventor of LSD. One Friday night, while working on an altered form of the ergot fungus, Dr. Hofmann accidentally dosed himself with what would later be known as the psychedelic LSD. In a move that honestly sounds more like the beginning to a 1930s monster movie than solid science, Hofmann immediately start testing his new found substance on himself, including experiments with microdosing. In fact, Dr. Hofmann would go on to live to 102 years old, and some reports say that he microdosed LSD for at least the last two decades of his life, all while continuing an active lifestyle complete with lecturing. Go doc! The one who really brought microdosing into the public light, however, is Dr. James Fadiman, the world’s foremost, and most outspoken, authority on psychedelic microdosing. With his help, microdosing has become the new hip thing for young creatives and intellectuals. Even Rolling Stone has reported on its popularity in silicon valley. From stoned apes to stoned programmers, microdosing has had a long and illustrious history!
How does microdosing work?
Here is the complicated thing about microdosing: very little research has been done on it. Turns out, most institutional review boards (the ethics panels that approve human research) aren’t too keen on dosing large groups of people with hallucinogenic drugs and then letting them just go about their business out in the world. However, we CAN get a glimpse into the possible mechanisms by looking at the practices of some pharmaceutical companies. When running clinical trials, many pharmaceutical companies conduct what is called a “phase 0 study” where human participants are giving extremely low doses of a drug. The goal is to administer a dose that is so low it won’t have the full effect of a normal dose, but still high enough to stimulate a cellular response. This cellular response can then be studied to look for any unintended or dangerous effects. And this is the basic premise behind all microdosing: the ingested substance interacts with your body and stimulates some sort of physiological change that imparts a benefit while not triggering the usual, larger dose effect.
Can you microdose CBD?
Technically speaking, you could microdose anything, I suppose. The real question is, will microdosing CBD be beneficial? And on that question the jury is still out. Also, the entire concept of microdosing CBD is a little confusing. The whole idea originally behind microdosing is to gain benefits from a substance while avoiding some of the more “undesirable” effects, like getting high and seeing floating, disembodied heads talk to you in the bathroom mirror. But CBD is already not psychoactive in that way, so there aren’t any unwanted psychedelic effects we would want to avoid. That being said, there are perhaps some reasons to think that microdosing CBD might give some benefits that larger doses don’t. While research keep finding that CBD is one of the safest substances out there, it still does come with a number of possible side effects at high doses. Perhaps most well known is CBD’s ability to make you drowsy at high doses. Now, this is perfect for those wanting to take CBD for insomnia, but not so good for someone who has to focus on work or other activities throughout the day. I have heard reports of people taking CBD in rather low doses (under 5mg) and feeling more awake and alert afterwords. After researching microdosing, I can;t help but wonder if this is the result of the CBD hitting that microdosing sweet spot where it impacts the body at the cellular level, but it doesn’t yet have the normal impact we associate with CBD. I have also read accounts of people experimenting with low doses of CBD (we are talking around 1mg here) and seeing some improvements with skin conditions, fatigue, and other ailments.
Microdosing is NOT homeopathy
One important point I want to make at the end here is that microdosing should not be confused with homeopathy. Homeopathy is the practice of diluting a substance, usually a harmful one, to such a degree that there is usually not a single molecule of the original substance left in the mixture. The belief is that the water itself holds a sort of “memory” of the substance, and that is what interacts with your body and creates the beneficial effect. Now, I don’t like to step over other people’s beliefs, but there is absolutely no evidence that homeopathy works, and the logic of it doesn’t even stand up from a common sense standpoint. The two practices may sound a bit similar on the outset (both aim to take less of something and get a benefit out of it) but microdosing is quite different. For one, you actually are taking the substance you think you are, just in smaller doses, whereas in homeopathy you are not. And two, even though the research is scant, there IS some scientific rationale behind microdosing. I just wanted to make this clear in case anyone was turned off to microdosing because it might resemble homeopathy.
More research needs to be done on microdosing in general, and microdosing CBD in particular, before I would outright recommend it. However, seeing as how the rationale makes some sense, and that CBD itself is such a safe substance, I can’t think of a reason for you not to try it if you are so inclined. I tend to take somewhat high doses of CBD for athletic recovery, but I might try experimenting with microdosing CBD over a week or two in the future and report back my findings!