Finding Your Minimum Effective Dose – The Art Of Starting Low, Going Slow And Staying Low

“Our perception of dose is what we can withstand rather than what we need.”

— Michael Backes, author of Cannabis Pharmacy

For the vast majority of patients choosing cannabis, there will be a therapeutic dose of cannabinoids that will be below a dose that gets you high- this is referred to as your minimum effective dose (or MED). If you’re a patient using cannabis as a medicine, it works to your benefit to find the lowest dose of cannabinoids that will bring the relief you’re looking for. This article will guide you in finding this minimum effective dose.

Minimum Effective Dose – A Feather’s Touch

Cannabis is so effective as a medicine or recreational drug because we were all born with Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS). This signaling system modulates every other system in your body, working diligently to keep everything in balance, humming along in homeostasis, the harmonic tone of cells vibrating in health. 

The ECS is doing its best to keep an even tone in the cellular community. When we introduce phytocannabinoids into this system it creates more noise, more vibration, more excitement, more everything for the body to adjust to. 

Starting with a sub-therapeutic level of THC and CBD, gently and thoughtfully increasing the doses allows you to find the lowest dose that’s effective for you without unnecessarily overwhelming your ECS- your minimum effective dose.

A sub-therapeutic dose is one so low you feel nothing.

So How Do You Actually Determine Your Minimum Effective Dose?

Let’s take a look at how one goes about finding the minimum effective dose with cannabis: 

  1. Begin with a sub-therapeutic dose. This can be as low as 1 mg of THC and/or 1 mg of CBD, or one drop of oil under the tongue or on a bit of food. Schedule this dose for the morning, so you can feel the effects when they start to show themselves. (If you’re interested in making your own infused oil, check out my past posts for an introduction or some easy methods!) 
  2. Hold that dose steady for at least one week. You’re letting your ECS adjust to the new molecules. 
  3. Begin tapering the dose up, using as small a dose addition as possible every time. With each increase let the ECS have at least a week to adjust before tapering up any further. 
  4. If euphoria becomes a concern before you find relief, fall back one THC level. When the psychoactivity is no longer a concern, wait three days before attempting to increase any further.

NOTE: Alternatively, you can increase the CBD volumes to ratios of 3:1 or higher, which will tamp down the psychoactivity of THC. When euphoria can’t be tolerated comfortably drop back one step. If this controls euphoria stay at that dose, and hear your ECS saying, “That’s enough for now.”

Once you’ve found the lowest dose that brings you the relief you sought, you stay at that level until you have a compelling reason to increase or decrease. Any increases are done by following the same careful practices you learned finding your minimum effective dose.

You Are Evolved to Heal

Using an infused oil or tincture is an excellent starting point for finding your minimum effective dose.

The signaling action of your ECS exists to spontaneously modulate the actions of cells that are out of harmony with neighboring cells. Phytocannabinoids will safely augment this job when your ECS is under stress and can’t keep up. 

It should be assumed that by properly dosing cannabis through a minimum effective dose, your system will strengthen over time and will require less augmentation with cannabis medicines. It’s suggested that you periodically test the strength of your ECS by abstaining from cannabis use for 36 hours or more and then thoughtfully re-introducing your cannabis medicines following the same basic method used for establishing your minimum effective dose.

Resetting the Tolerant System

Getting your minimum effective dose with a tincture.

A daily cannabis consumer runs the risk of creating a tolerance to the cannabinoids, and you’ll find yourself using more to get the same or less effect.  When the body is overstimulated by too many cannabinoids, it can cause some of the endocannabinoid receptors to harden off and sink into the cell membrane, essentially taking them offline and raising your minimum effective dose. 

Fewer available receptors mean your regular minimum effective dose dose will have less effect. Simply switching between different products that offer similar results can often be enough to keep the ECS from taking receptors offline and keeping you from developing a tolerance.  

If tolerance sets in- it’s time to take a short herbal holiday. The ECS will soften those receptors and raise them back to the cell surface for signaling availability after a mere 36-hours without any weed. 

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a noted cannabis physician, has a well-defined protocol for resetting your medical dose posted on his website, The Sensitization Six-Day Protocol can be a little grueling for a daily cannabis user, but the end result is typically a reduction in dose by half.

I maintain a support thread at 420 Magazine for those going through the Sensitization Protocol. You are more than welcome to stop and we’ll gather the wagons and cheer you through the trickier moments as you help your ECS work more efficiently.

Summing It Up

Medicating with your minimum effective dose can keep you from overwhelming your endocannabinoid system.

Finding your minimum effective dose is a simple process of micro increases and the time to let the body accept the help cannabis offers. This is healing on a cellular level using natural medicines. It can take more time to find your sweet spot than you may have imagined, but the investment of time and dedication as you listen to your body will pay off big benefits down the road. 

We’re always open to new ideas on learning to use cannabis as a medicine and lifestyle enhancer. If you have any thoughts to share with us about finding the minimum effective dose, feel free to join the conversation and leave them below in the comments section.