How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work?

Illustration of a clock with a cannabis leaf next to it.
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: November 14, 2023

If you use different types of CBD, you’ve probably noticed they have different absorption, onset, and duration of effects. Some forms of CBD take more time to kick in due to being metabolized in the gut, whereas others use faster routes of administration — like vapes or sublingual products.

Estimating how long it takes for CBD oil to work can be difficult if you’ve never tried it. Choosing the best way to take CBD depends on several individual factors, such as your diet, lifestyle, the potency of your product, its formula, and the type of extract.

So, how long exactly does it take for CBD to work?

Let’s take a look at the major drivers behind the onset of different CBD products.

Factors that Impact CBD Absorption

CBD may need anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours to work. The ultimate onset depends on how you consume CBD, whether you take it on a full or empty stomach, and the additional ingredients to boost its efficacy.

Method of Consumption

The consumption method is the major factor influencing the absorption of CBD. When you take CBD oil under the tongue or inhale it through a vape pen, you deliver CBD more directly to your system. This, in turn, can prompt a faster response and ensure a higher concentration of CBD in your bloodstream after taking your dose.

Oral forms like capsules and edibles, have a delayed onset and lose some of their potency when passing through the digestive system. But, on the other hand, the CBD is released gradually from the liver, so the effects last longer than from the above methods.

Topical products should usually start working after a few minutes from application, although the onset of a specific product depends on its formula.

Carrier Oil

While this factor doesn’t necessarily affect the time it takes for CBD oil to work, it impacts its absorption. CBD is a fat-soluble compound, so when you consume it alongside fats like MCT oil or hemp seed oil, they enhance the bioavailability and efficacy of your product.

Taking CBD On A Full vs. Empty Stomach

It may take more time for CBD oil to work when you take it on a full stomach. That’s because the food will slow down its metabolism. If you’re looking for faster-acting effects, taking CBD oil on an empty stomach should speed up its onset.

That being said, when you consume CBD oil after a hearty meal, the presence of additional fats may enhance its absorption, so despite a slower onset, your product will deliver more CBD to your system.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work? (By Consumption Method)

A consultation with a holistic doctor experienced in cannabis use before adding CBD to your routine should help you find the right dosage and adjust the consumption method to your lifestyle.

Here’s how long it takes for CBD oil to work depending on the method of consumption — should you want to explore this subject on your own.

How Long It Takes for CBD to Work Orally

Oral products like CBD capsules or gummies are easy to use, convenient, and they take away the guesswork involved in dosing CBD oil. Before the CBD passes into your bloodstream, it needs to be metabolized by the liver; the organ breaks it down into individual metabolites, allowing them to circulate throughout the body and reach its targets.

This “first-pass metabolism” is the reason behind their delayed onset. You may start feeling the effects after around 30 minutes, but they may just as well kick in after 2 hours, depending on the aforementioned factors. On a positive note, the effects may stay around with you for up to 10 hours.

How Long It Takes for CBD to Work Sublingually

Sublingual CBD products include CBD oils, tinctures, and sprays. They are administered under the tongue so that the active ingredients can be absorbed through tiny capillaries located in the mucous membrane of your mouth. From there, they travel directly into the bloodstream, avoiding the first-pass effect. You need to hold the oil under the tongue for around 60 seconds, swishing it around your gums to increase the contact area. Usually, it takes around 15–20 minutes for CBD oil to work.  The effects last for up to 6 hours.

How Long It Takes for CBD Vape to Work

Vaping is the fastest and most effective way to feel the effects of CBD. All you need is a vape pen and a CBD liquid; then, you just turn on the device, put your lips around the mouthpiece, and start inhaling the vapor. This way, the cannabinoids, and terpenes travel to your bloodstream through the lung tissue, ensuring fast-acting effects and the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods. It takes around 5 minutes for CBD vape oil to work, but on the flip side, these effects have the shortest duration — lasting up to 4 hours.

How Long It Takes for CBD Cream to Work

Topical products like CBD creams and ointments offer relief from localized discomfort, such as pain, swelling, itching, and general inflammation. Studies have found that the skin has endocannabinoid receptors in its epidermis layer. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, providing its anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits. None of the CBD reaches the bloodstream unless you’re using a transdermal CBD patch.

As mentioned, the time needed for CBD cream to work depends on its formula — especially on the fats that constitute the product’s base. Their effects last for 4–6 hours.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work? (By Condition)

Now that we’ve established how long it takes for CBD oil to work, depending on the method of consumption, let’s elaborate on its effectiveness in managing certain health conditions, such as pain, hypertension, and anxiety.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work for Joint Pain?

People suffering from joint pain usually take CBD oil to alleviate discomfort associated with the flare-ups and prevent them from occurring. Pain management with CBD oil is possible through the use of several mechanisms in the body. One of them happens through signaling the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to maintain healthy levels of the body’s natural cannabinoids and ensure proper communication between neurons that send pain signals to the brain.

On top of mitigating the pain response, CBD can reduce inflammation by acting on the CB2 receptors in the immune system. The activation of these receptors results in a stronger anti-inflammatory reaction — easing physical discomfort.

If you want to support the proper functioning of your nervous and immune systems, it’s best to take CBD oil in an oral or sublingual form — and save the CBD cream for flare-ups.

The time it takes for CBD oil to work for joint pain depends on what you want to address. While the effects on flare-ups can be noticed almost right away, leveling your endocannabinoid deficiencies usually needs more time and consistency.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Lower Blood Pressure?

A 2017 study examined the effects of CBD oil on the blood pressure of healthy individuals before and after experiencing a stressful event. The study authors concluded that taking a single dose of CBD oil may lower blood pressure before and after a stressful situation.

Again, the time it takes for CBD oil to lower blood pressure mainly depends on the method of consumption. CBD oils and vapes will be the best products if you need a fast-acting product.

How Long Does CBD Oil Take to Work for Anxiety?

CBD is known for its anxiolytic properties. It acts on the serotonin receptors, regulates the functioning of neurotransmitters controlling fear, and slows down an overacting nervous system by modulating the shape of the GABA receptor.

Like lowering blood pressure, CBD can take more or less time to work, depending on how you administer it. Vaping CBD will produce calming effects within minutes after inhalation; CBD oils and sprays should ease stress anxiety after 15–30 minutes; oral products aren’t recommended for anxiety unless you use them to improve general stress response and don’t mind the delayed onset.

Conclusion: How Long Does CBD Need to Work?

As you can see, how long CBD needs to work depends on several factors — but the method of consumption is the main driver behind its onset.

If you’re aiming for the fastest-acting effects and the highest bioavailability, then CBD vapes will be your best bet. CBD oils and tinctures are better suited for people seeking dosage precision and don’t mind waiting a few minutes more to experience the calming and analgesic effects of CBD. Finally, oral products such as gummies and capsules may be useful for consistent supplementation if you want to provide general support for your endocannabinoid system.

Don’t forget about CBD topicals; these products work best for localized problems. Their onset depends on the formulation and the amount of fat used in the base.

Experiment with different formats and pick the one tailored to your needs and lifestyle; you don’t have to limit yourself to just one type of CBD; sometimes, combining two products provides the best results.

How long does it take for CBD oil to work in your case? What products do you use? Let us know in the comments below!

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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