By John Wood
If you’re looking to try CBD to get relief from everyday stressors, support the quality of your sleep cycles, experience improved recovery from exercise, have a calmer and more focused life or simply for general wellness, CBD may be for you.
When it comes to the best CBD delivery method, it depends on your health and wellness goals, how quickly you’d like to feel relief and which is most convenient for you.
Ingesting CBD Under Your Tongue
One of the most effective methods of taking CBD is to place CBD oil or easy-dissolve tablets sublingually, or under the tongue. The CBD enters the bloodstream through the mucous membranes, which is a faster delivery method than ingestion of capsules or edibles.
Form: Oils, tinctures, easy dissolve tablets.
A tincture is a concentrated CBD extract created using an extraction process that separates CBD oil from the aerial plant parts (flowers) to make the highest quality CBD oil.
Tinctures are usually diluted in a carrier oil such as MCT, coconut, hemp seed oil, olive oil or avocado oil to facilitate faster absorption in the body.
The oil is not swallowed immediately; it is placed beneath the tongue for at least one minute (maximum five minutes) to allow it to be absorbed. The benefit of taking CBD sublingually is that the phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, flavonoids and antioxidants it contains bypass the digestive system and liver. They travel directly into the bloodstream, which provides a more immediate effect.
Easy-dissolve CBD tablets are a quick way to get your daily dose. The tablet begins dissolving immediately after you put it under your tongue.
Timeframe to feel effects: 15 minutes to 60 minutes
Duration of effects: Four to six hours
Bioavailability1: In lipid solution, >90%; in nonlipid solution (water), 6%-20%
This type of intake is the most popular. It’s easy to do and you feel the effects quickly.
Edibles are a popular way to administer CBD. Edible CBD foods and snacks come in various shapes and sizes, from gummy bears and mints to beverages, to adding CBD oil to smoothies or your favorite recipes. Even Coca-Cola has announced plans to create a CBD-infused drink.
Because CBD must pass through both the digestive system and the liver, ingesting edibles is one of the slowest ways to experience the effects of CBD. However, your body will absorb more cannabinoids if you eat edibles on an empty stomach; this will reduce the time it takes for the CBD to make its way through the digestive tract and be broken down by the liver.
Edibles are ideal for dealing with stress, pain relief, inflammation and general wellness.
Form: Edibles, capsules
Timeframe to feel effects: 30 minutes to two hours
Duration of effects: Six to eight hours
After tinctures, edibles are the second most popular way to take CBD. There are two types of edibles: 1) Manufactured edibles; and 2) homemade edibles, where you add CBD to your own food or drinks.
Ingesting CBD oil in Capsule Form
CBD oil also comes in capsule form. Like edibles, capsules release CBD more slowly because they must be absorbed through the digestive tract. Besides being convenient to carry with you, they also offer consistency in dosing.
Softgel capsules can soften and melt during shipping, so keep this in mind if your product will be delivered to a warm climate. A better choice would be an easy-dissolve tablet or CBD hemp oil.
Timeframe to feel effects: 30 minutes
Duration of effects: About 6 hours
Bioavailability: About 6-19%
Applying CBD-Infused Topicals
Topical CBD is applied to the skin for localized muscle soreness. This is an ideal delivery method for relief of tight muscles and stiff joints, as well as for skin care. Because topical CBD bypasses the digestive tract and liver, the effect can be felt much more quickly. These products are excellent for muscle and joint discomfort, and may relieve dryness, puffiness and itchy skin.
Form: Salve, balm, body creams, body moisturizers, body butter, face creams, facial oils, pain relief roll-ons, ointments, soaps, bath salts.
Timeframe to feel effects: 60 to 90 minutes
Duration of effects: Up to 6 hours
Bioavailability: About 45%
Transdermal CBD adhesive patches applied to the skin release small amounts of CBD into your bloodstream over a long period of time. They tend to be more costly than other alternatives but can provide excellent relief.
Form: Patch or gel.
Timeframe to feel effects: 15 minutes
Duration of effects: Patch, 12 hours; gel, four hours
Inhalation By Smoking or Vaping
Smoking low-THC, high-CBD bud is the fastest way to feel the effects of CBD (it enters your lungs and then goes rapidly into your bloodstream). Vaping has a similar effect to smoking without the harmful byproducts of smoking.
Format: Smoke, vaporize
Timeframe to feel effects: Immediate.
Effects last: Two to four hours
Bioavailability: 10 to 35%
Inhalation method: Smoking, vaping
One of the benefits of smoking is that you feel the effects immediately. But as with anything you smoke, it can be harsh on the throat and lungs. Plus, secondhand CBD low-THC, high CBD bud smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing compounds and toxic chemicals that secondhand tobacco smoke contains.
Research is lacking on risks involved with vaping. Until the science catches up to the market, look for vape cartridges that are solvent-free (i.e., no potentially harmful additives such as propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol).
Form: Inhalation by vaping. A vaporizer heats and releases CBD oil in a fine mist, which is inhaled.
Timeframe to feel effects: Immediate. Ideal for treating tension quickly.
Suppositories have been used for centuries to deliver medication. The medication makes its way into the bloodstream but bypasses the stomach and liver. This is a good option if oral intake is restricted, and is often recommended for cramps and pain relief.
Form: Rectal and vaginal suppository
Timeframe to feel effects: 10 to 20 minutes
Duration of effects: Five hours or more
Bioavailability: Approximately twice that of oral intake
While the oral mucosal delivery method is the most popular method for taking CBD, it bears repeating that the best method for you could vary depending upon the ailment you’re attempting to relieve (and other factors).
1Bioavailability is the proportion of a drug or substance that enters your circulation and has an active effect on the body.