With the momentum of CBD as a powerful, natural healing agent to many ailments, the question is often asked: which delivery method is the best and, of these methods, how quickly does each delivery method take to experience effects? Along with the method of consumption, a number of factors come into play discussing how long CBD takes to work. These factors can include dose, diet, time of last meal, body fat percentage, mood, current health status, and more. We can, however, generalize how long each method is likely to take and how long the effects are said to last. Before getting into how long it takes to experience effects, it’s important to note that the best way to see the effects of CBD is to use it daily. Much like essential oils, CBD is intended to be proactive vs reactive and consistent long term use will warrant the biggest healing effects.
When you consume CBD, not all of it will directly affect your body. Only a percentage of it will be able to enter your systemic circulation and produce its effects, which is referred to as “bioavailability,” or the percentage that is able to be taken on by your body. The bioavailability is heavily dependent on the manner in which CBD is delivered, and how quickly it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Many other factors can also contribute to the bioavailability of the consumption method. For instance, when any organic compound enters your stomach, it must pass through the liver, which reduces the amount of CBD through absorption or chemical breakdown by liver enzymes. This filtration is referred to as “first-pass effect,” where passing through the liver reduces the concentration of bioactive compounds.
There are four typical ways to deliver CBD to your bloodstream: inhalation, topical application, sublingually, and ingestion.
Another relatively speedy way of getting CBD into your bloodstream is sublingual delivery. When delivered sublingually, CBD is typically used in a tincture form and absorbed directly under the tongue. This is perhaps one of the most popular ways to consume CBD. The sublingual method allows for the mucous membranes in your mouth to absorb the cannabinoids, bypassing the digestive system and the liver, and allowing for a higher bioavailability. Sublingual tinctures and sprays are thought to be the second quickest delivery method of CBD, with most people reporting results in under an hour and effects that last up to 3-4 hours.
When CBD is vaporized and smoked, it is almost immediately absorbed into the bloodstream through your lungs. Because of this, it is very fast acting. CBD can get to the receptors in the brain and body quickly, avoiding the “first-pass effect” of being processed by your liver. Instead, the CBD is diffused directly into your bloodstream. Results from an inhalation method can sometimes be felt almost immediately, but shouldn’t take any longer than 5 – 40 minutes. Inhalation is thought to be the delivery method where results can be noticed the quickest. Alternately, the effects may not last much longer than 1-3 hours when smoked or vaporized.
Typically used to treat pains and skin problems, topical CBD is generally one of the slowest applications of CBD. While It can take more than an hour to feel the full effects, it can also last more than 5 hours. As a cream, lotion, or balm, it can take longer for the CBD to permeate the skin and enter the bloodstream, but some of the topical effects may occur rather quickly. For instance, for joint pain, the effects may take an hour or more to be felt, but treatment for itching skin may be felt a lot quicker since the active compounds don’t need to permeate the skin to be felt.
Oral consumption is quick, familiar, and popular because of the ease of use. Capsules, edibles and oils can all be consumed orally. When consumed this way, the bioavailability of CBD is dramatically reduced during the first-pass effect. When delivered orally, CBD is metabolized by the liver and in other sites such as the gastrointestinal tract. Due to the low bioavailability of oral CBD, and the process of navigating through the body and being digested into the bloodstream, this is the slowest delivery method in terms of feeling effects. It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours for the effects to begin, and it largely depends on how much you’ve recently eaten. Although this delivery method takes the longest, it also lasts the longest.