You know it happens. You walk into a store and see a small bottle of oil with 250 mg of cannabidiol (CBD). The price seems reasonable and you’ve heard about its various health benefits, so you go for it. But to your astonishment, you find another CBD product for the same price in another shop—except this bottle reads 1,500 mg of CBD. What the heck?

As you may have noticed, not all companies selling CBD products package and label the dosage the same way. If you’ve found yourself confused by product labeling—or maybe you’re watching the boom of what many have called a “wellness trend” from the sidelines—let’s figure this out together. After all, you want to know exactly what you’re getting per drop, especially if you’re still trying to figure out what amount of CBD works best for you. (Spoiler alert: It’s different for everyone.)

[Product photos by Kirsten Summa.]

CBD is available for purchase in stores and online in various forms. The most popular are capsules, soft gels, gummies, liquid tinctures, salve, cream and vape oil. If you want a straightforward answer on what you are consuming, CBD in a solid form, such as a gummy or capsule, is the best option. The bottle tells you everything you need to know.

A great example is PlusCBDOil™ capsules from CV Sciences, a manufacturer in California. A 60-capsule bottle includes 10 mg of hemp-derived CBD per serving, with directions to take one capsule per day. In the list of ingredients, the bottle clearly states that within that one capsule, you receive 10 mg of CBD along with 125 mg of hemp oil. The same goes for the company’s line of gummies.

Understanding the labeling from other companies may be a little different—and requires a little more math. When a product says it offers what sounds like a large amount of CBD (such as 1,500 mg), that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how strong the product is per milliliter. Rather, the number instead refers to how much is in the entire bottle.

Doin’ the math

Let’s look at a bottle of CBD oil from Green Roads, which is based in Florida, as an example. If you have a 15 ml bottle that contains 350 mg of CBD, calculate how much of that 350 mg you’d get per milliliter with some good ol’ fashioned math skills: That is, 350 divided by 15. For every 1 milliliter of oil you consume via a full dropper, you receive 23 mg of CBD.

According to the bottle’s label, there are 15 full servings per bottle. With 15 servings, the amount of CBD per bottle would equal to a total of 345 mg of CBD, with the other five milligrams coming from hemp seed oil. The company recommends a single dose of 0.5 ml to 1 ml. Of course, doing just 0.5 ml would bring your CBD dosage per intake down, but your bottle would last a lot longer.

An alternative option for oral consumption is a spray, such as CV Sciences’ CBD Spray. The 60 ml bottle includes 500 mg of CBD and offers 160 servings. With two spray pumps, you get 3 mg of CBD. To double the dose to 6 mg, you’d double the spray pumps to four. Fairly simple math, really.

Salves and Creams

For salves and creams, it can be a little trickier to decipher how much CBD you’re actually absorbing into your skin because many topical products have other ingredients in them, such as frankincense, holy basil, arnica and other helpful, natural ingredients.

It is also difficult to figure out exact CBD dosage because everyone has a different fingertip size. In other words, how do you calculate a standard dosage in a fingertip-sized amount of salve when everyone’s fingers are different sizes?

Let’s use Silver Moon Nutraceuticals’ Arthritis Joint Pain Salve for our example here; this company is based in Hendersonville, N.C. According to the label, a bottle contains 250 mg of CBD, in addition to other ingredients. The directions suggest using a “pea-sized amount.” With a net weight of 57 grams for the container, a person with a small finger would maybe come out to 2 mg or 3 mg.

And, as a spokesperson confirmed, dosage is really based on the size of a person’s finger.

This is a great example of where the number on the front of the bottle may be confusing, as it doesn’t necessarily equate to a standard—or even predictable—dosage. 

Seek Guidance

As the availability of CBD products continues to grow, remember that it is very important to read the entire label. Try to understand how the CBD is broken down per container. More importantly, don’t purchase a product based solely on the prominent number on the front of the bottle—read the back, too.

If you find yourself still confused, talking to the company directly and asking questions can be really helpful, as some products are a lot more potent than others. If you’re purchasing your products from a local shop, find a knowledgeable employee to chat with—many are happy to shed some light on this confusing topic. With the expanding market and the versatility of CBD products that can potentially provide the relief you’re looking for, it’s important you make as an informed decision as possible.

Kirsten Summa

Kirsten Summa

Contributor, Nutritionist of Earth Goddess Wellness

Kirsten is a Charlotte-based nutritionist, advocate and media maker. And she's determined to educate the masses about cannabidiol (CBD) -- how to use it, how to buy it and how it might affect your health.