How Long Does It Take CBD to Work? [The ANSWER!]

Everything you need to know


The short answer is ‘it depends.’ First of all, CBD affects everyone differently so it may take more CBD to impact you than your neighbor, for example. Then there is the small matter of ‘how’ you consume it. The fastest method is intravenously, but since using a needle every day is not practical, the next quickest way is inhalation via a vaporizer which can work in as little as 10 minutes.

The full answer is a LOT longer, which is why we have created this article! CBD is arguably the world’s most hyped health supplement at the minute with users making a purchase based on wild, baseless, and downright irresponsible claims. There is a prevailing belief that cannabidiol is some ‘miracle’ compound which, of course, isn’t the case.

CBD is an exciting compound because it has an increasing body of scientific evidence to back up claims. It has been linked with an improvement in mood, an alleviation in pain, and it could even reduce the seizures associated with epilepsy. However, you should not assume that a few mg of CBD will completely eliminate pain in a matter of minutes. There are several factors which influence the efficacy of the non-intoxicating marijuana and industrial hemp compound, and we analyze them below.

How Does CBD Work?

Rather than give you a long-winded explanation, let’s keep things simple. CBD must be absorbed into the bloodstream before it is distributed through our endocannabinoid system (ECS). There, the cannabinoids in the compound bind with the body’s receptors. This interaction is the driving force behind many of CBD’s perceived benefits.

This method of activation means that how CBD is absorbed is VERY important. The best ways to consume CBD involve bypassing the digestive system and metabolism in the liver to improve bioavailability (a fancy term for the rate of absorption). Effective forms of CBD consumption not only get to the bloodstream faster, but they also lose a lower percentage of CBD along the way.

3 Factors Which Impact CBD Absorption

CBD Quality

Not all CBD products are created equally. We see sellers championing the fact their cannabidiol comes from organic hemp, which is the bare minimum one would expect! Low-grade cannabidiol obviously contains a lower level of CBD, but also includes ingredients that reduce bioavailability.

There is a long list of CBD ‘types’ that are little more than variations on a theme such as Nano CBD and water-soluble CBD. In reality, the biggest issue to consider when absorbing CBD is the size of the compound’s particle. High-quality CBD sellers invest in manufacturing processes such as microencapsulation, which breaks CBD down into tiny particles. The result is faster absorption and higher bioavailability.

The Individual

Human beings are remarkable creatures in many ways, with unique traits such as fingerprints. This uniqueness also comes into play when using CBD. If two individuals take the same CBD type, dose, and quality at the same time, it would have a different impact on each person. Also, if these two people tried the same experiment three months later, not only would they differ from one another again, they would also differ from their own past results!

The rate of your body’s metabolism, known as the metabolic rate, involves breaking down and synthesizing compounds to help the body function properly. It is said that people with a ‘fast’ metabolism find it easier to lose fat, for example. Your body’s composition also plays a role. Individuals with a medical condition may not process substances as well as a healthy person. Likewise, the enzymes in your stomach aren’t activated as quickly when you are under stress.

When it comes to CBD absorption, size matters, a heavier individual will need more CBD to have the same effect as a lighter person. There is no medically recommended CBD dose, but one popular rule of thumb says you should take 1-6 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight depending on the severity of your condition. For instance, a 255-pound man might need 45mg of CBD a day to combat chronic pain, while a 125-pound woman may only need 18mg to achieve the same effect.

Medical Condition

As we mentioned above, you will need more CBD to combat a severe or chronic condition than a mild one. We have heard that epilepsy patients need up to 300mg of CBD a day to reduce seizures. On the other hand, if you feel stressed and nervous all the time, 20-30mg a day could be enough to take the edge off.

It also depends on how ‘severe’ a specific condition is. If you have terrible migraines, you may need 50mg a day to help. In contrast, 10mg could be all you need to feel relief from mild headaches. Please note that these dosages are used for the sake of examples and are NOT recommendations.

Method of CBD Consumption

Now that the background information is out of the way, we can move forward and answer the title question. The length of time it takes for CBD to work depends mostly on how you consume it. The cannabinoid only works when your body absorbs it. As a result, the CBD must make its way from the point of entry into the bloodstream where it can interact with cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid receptors.

The method of consumption dictates the speed and level of absorption into your bloodstream. In general, the faster it gets to the bloodstream, the higher the bioavailability level.

Intravenous

This involves injecting CBD directly into the veins. As you can tell, it is not a desirable method because not many people want to stab themselves with a needle every day. Sadly, it is unavoidable for patients with certain conditions. When you inject CBD, its bioavailability rate is 100%, and it works almost immediately.

Inhalation

This method involves inhaling CBD vapor directly into the lungs. The market is absolutely flooded with vaporizers that can heat up CBD oil in seconds. Once you inhale the vapor, CBD and other cannabinoids race through the body to your bloodstream via the alveoli sacs in the lungs.

Overall, the vaporized CBD is absorbed into your bloodstream within a minute or so; although it could be a few minutes before you experience the full effects. As well as being the fastest non-intravenous method, inhalation also offers the highest level of bioavailability. A 2009 study by Huestis, published in Chemistry & Biodiversity, found that vaping cannabinoids has a bioavailability rate of 56%. Other data places it between 34% and 46%.

Sublingually

If you don’t want to vape your CBD for some reason, sublingual consumption is the next best option for oil. It involves placing drops of CBD beneath the tongue. You are supposed to hold it there for up to 60 seconds to ensure the mucous membranes beneath the tongue are called into action.

The mucous membranes have a permeable layer covering miniscule blood vessels, allowing the oil to absorb into your bloodstream faster. It can work in 5 minutes, although most users report experiencing effects in 15-25 minutes. Several factors influence the absorption rate, which is why a 2012 study by Schoedel and Harrison, published in Current Pharmaceutical Design, placed the bioavailability rate anywhere between 12% and 35%.

Orally

As the name suggests, this involves consuming CBD through the mouth in the form of a capsule, edibles, or a CBD beverage. This method has a longer path to the bloodstream, which involves the salivary glands and the full stomach digestive process, which involves a journey through the liver, pancreas, and stomach acids.

It is relatively slow and can take up to 30 minutes to take effect. This taxing journey results in the loss of a lot of CBD. Huestis’ aforementioned 2009 study found that the bioavailability rate of orally consumed cannabinoids was between 4% and 20%.

Topical/Transdermal

This involves absorption through the skin, and common products include balms, creams, gels, and patches. It is the slowest acting method, and it can take up to 45 minutes to work. On the plus side, it is a good option to tackle localized pain and the effects last longer than other forms of consumption.

A 2010 study by Paudel et al. published in Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy, found that the bioavailability of topicals and transdermal items was between 34% and 46%.

Final Thoughts on How Long CBD Oil Takes to Work

As you discovered, there is no specific answer to the title question. The speed at which CBD works depends on the quality of the product, your body composition, physical size, and physical condition to begin with. Then you have to look at the form of consumption. Aside from taking CBD intravenously, vaping the cannabinoid is the next fastest option, and is also the best of the rest in terms of bioavailability.

This is the main reason why CBD capsules are usually much cheaper than tinctures you can vape. Even at the lowest end of the bioavailability scale for inhalation, it is still twice as effective as the highest end of the oral bioavailability scale.