Curious about how long does it take for CBD oil to work? Experts weigh in on what can affect CBD absorption and make the oil take longer to kick in. Wondering how long CBD’s effects will last? Read on to learn what you can expect from CBD.
How Long Does It Take CBD to Work, Anyways?
W e probably don’t have to tell you that CBD is everywhere these days: people are putting it in their coffee, pouring it into their cocktails, rubbing it on their skin, and blending it into their post-workout smoothies. Researchers are learning more about CBD every day, but there’s still a lot about it that we don’t know. and that can be really confusing if you’re a CBD newbie.
One of the biggies: How long does it take for CBD oil to work? Because who hasn’t been in the situation where it seems like one person takes CBD and turns into a zen mother earth goddess right away, while you’re sitting over here waiting for something (anything!) to happen to take your morning anxiety away. (What’s that saying? A watched mug of CBD coffee never kicks in?)
Turns out, CBD isn’t one-size-fits-all. Various factors—such as the amount you take, the form you take it in, and where you got your CBD from—can all impact how long it takes to work, says Brooke Alpert, RD, the founder of Daily Habit, a line of CBD powder.
For example, if you’re putting your CBD product in a coffee that has almond milk or sugar or anything else that might need to be digested, your CBD will kick in more slowly than it would if you put a few drops directly under your tongue. “I look at it the same way I talk to people about their sugar consumption,” Alpert explains. “If you have juice or put a little bit on your tongue, it’s going to be an immediate reaction versus when it’s in fruit where you have fiber, which slows down absorption.” (Generally speaking, CBD oil added to a coffee or smoothie will probably take around 30 minutes before you start to feel anything.)
It’s worth noting that the research on taking CBD sublingually (science-speak for under your tongue) is mixed: As Well + Good has previously reported, many studies on the subject have included both CBD and THC, so it’s hard to generalize the findings to products that are just CBD-based. However, chemist Jesse Kater previously told tell Well+Good that “most of the literature supports the notion that CBD has better bioavailability when consumed sublingually versus orally.” That supports anecdotal evidence that CBD starts working almost immediately when taken under the tongue. Alpert agrees to an extent, saying that it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to kick in when taken sublingually.
Charlotte’s Web co-founder Jesse Stanley adds that CBD products often come in different strengths and thus the amount of CBD that works for your bestie may not work for you. “You might need to try a few strengths until you find what works for you,” he says. (Good to know!)
“Every day consistency is key,” he adds. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He encourages people to think of CBD as a dietary supplement and notes that it can take up to four to six weeks to “fully realize the benefits of CBD,” especially if you’re taking it to alleviate anxiety, pain, or for stress relief. “We are all unique in our needs and bodily systems. Some people experience rapid and very noticeable benefits while others notice benefits over time and daily use, which is common for many dietary supplements,” Stanley says.
The most important factor, Alpert says, is quality. There is so much variance among CBD products, and that can also impact how long it takes before you start feeling any effects. “This is where people are getting frustrated with CBD, because they’re like, ‘Well, I got a CBD gummy from my local bodega and I didn’t feel anything,’” Alpert says. Some things Alpert and Stanley say you should consider when shopping for any CBD product:
- The origin of the hemp: ”Hemp is a powerful phytoremediation crop, which means it cleans the soil, so you’ll want to find out that it’s grown using responsible farming practices in soil that is pre-tested for toxins or heavy metals,” Stanley says.
- Is the product full-spectrum? Both Stanley and Alpert recommend looking for full-spectrum products, which means that all the different compounds in the hemp—the foundation of every CBD product—work together to “further heighten [your] body’s response to CBD,” according to Stanley.
- Transparency: Look for third-party testing that shows you what’s in there, Alpert recommends. “All CBD is not created equally and it’s really important that whatever you’re buying actually has what it needs to have in order for it to be effective.” Reputable companies shouldn’t hide or obscure that info in any way.
The reality: Trial and error is the name of the game when it comes to finding the correct amount CBD that will actually work for you. With a little research, you’ll hopefully find the right amount for you that gives you the results you’re aiming for.
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How Long Does It Take for CBD to Work?
We’ve gathered all you need to know about how CBD interacts with the body so that you can have a reasonable expectation of how long its effects will take to occur.
What is CBD?
CBD is a chemical compound found in and extracted from cannabis and hemp plants. Also known as CBD, this chemical belongs to a family of compounds called cannabinoids. Native to cannabis and hemp plant groups, cannabinoids can interact with our bodies when consumed to induce a range of potential effects.
CBD is best known for its potential health benefits. Research tells us that CBD holds significant health potential, with evidence that it may be able to improve the symptoms of anxiety, pain, sleep, and inflammation ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ).
How does CBD interact with the body?
CBD interacts with a body a little differently from most cannabinoids, affecting different receptor types. Typically, cannabinoids exert their effects on the body by binding to cannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2. CBD, however, can only weakly bind to CB1 and CB2, meaning that cannabinoid receptors are not an effective means of action. Instead, CBD’s effects occur by the cannabinoid binding to non-cannabinoid receptors and acting on other receptor pathways.
The receptor that CBD binds to will determine the effects that you experience. If a CBD binds to a serotonin receptor, then you might feel reduced anxiety, whereas if it binds to a glycine receptor, then you might experience reduced inflammation ( 6 , 7 ).
Method of consumption matters
The way you choose to consume CBD will alter how quickly you will feel its effects. Different consumption methods go through different biological systems with varying forces that impact how quickly CBD reaches your bloodstream to induce its effects.
As well as affecting the speed of delivery, different consumption methods will also determine CBD strength. This is known as the bioavailability of a consumption method. The higher the bioavailability percentage, the higher the amount of CBD that actually reaches the bloodstream. A high bioavailability percentage means that you will experience stronger effects from the CBD.
Ingesting CBD is likely to leave you with a longer wait time to experience the full effects. Because of the slow absorptive nature of the gut, you should expect edible products to hit their peak at roughly 1.5 to 4 hours after ingestion ( 8 ).
CBD edibles might last a while, but they are not the hardest-hitting product available. Because CBD degrades in the strongly metabolic gut, you can expect a relatively low amount of CBD to reach your bloodstream when you eat it, with a bioavailability hovering around 6-20% ( 9 ).
Inhaling CBD smoke or vapour will transport the cannabinoid’s effects to you quickly. This speedy delivery is because inhalation passes smoke and vapour through the lungs, which contain extremely permeable tissue that allow CBD to get to your bloodstream faster. With CBD inhalation you can expect to feel peak results as early as three minutes after consumption ( 10 ).
The effects of inhaling CBD are also likely to be strong. Smoking CBD can result in a bioavailability of roughly 31%, while vaping can reach a whopping 70% ( 11 , 12 ).
Applying CBD under the tongue can be a way to take CBD with slightly quicker and stronger effects than edibles. Placing CBD oil under the tongue rather than swallowing it might not seem like much of a difference, but the structure of the tongue may provide a quicker delivery. The underside of the tongue contains a mucous membrane that can absorb CBD and transfer it to the blood more effectively than if it had to go through the gut. You can expect to feel CBD’s peak effects at around 2 hours after consumption ( 13 ).
Transdermal products like CBD patches are designed to reach your bloodstream by travelling through your skin, and the time it takes for you to feel the effects of CBD will depend on the specific make-up of the product. These typically have additional ingredients added to them to help CBD penetrate your skin. Transdermal patches can take a few hours to a day to induce their peak effects on the body.
Due to the nature of CBD, it cannot reach the bloodstream through the skin alone. CBD is lipophilic, meaning that it can’t dissolve in oil. Our skin has an oil layer and to cross it, CBD must be “carried” across through additional ingredients like those found in transdermal CBD products.
The key benefits of transdermal CBD are that it allows for easy delivery while avoiding the gut, which degrades CBD and leaves you with a lower bioavailability. An effective transdermal CBD product should leave you with stronger effects than an edible CBD product ( 14 ).
While they are placed on the skin like transdermal CBD products, topical CBD differs in that it is not designed to reach the bloodstream. Topical CBD products like lotions and shampoos are meant to induce a local effect on the area of the skin that they are applied to. Because of this, you may feel local effects from topical CBD relatively quickly.
How dosage affects duration
Because of how different consumption methods metabolise CBD, the time it takes for CBD’s effects to be felt in the body will be roughly the same regardless of the dose . The biggest difference you will experience from a higher dose is the strength of those effects. There may be some slight time added to the duration due to the additional metabolism required.
The bottom line
When it comes to CBD, the method you use to consume it will have the most significant effect on how long it will take to work. Some methods will leave you waiting a few hours before you experience the peak effects of the cannabinoid, while others can deliver you results in minutes.