How to Take CBD: Best Ways To Use Hemp Oil Effectively

an illustration of a man thinking of ways to take CBD through tincture, capsules, oil, or vape
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: September 30, 2021

If you’re considering the option of adding CBD to your daily routine, you’re probably also wondering about the best ways to take it.

Obviously, you may have questions about the efficacy of different forms of CBD, especially if this is your first time in this wellness segment. The abundance of different product types doesn’t make a choice easier.

In fact, some people may feel completely puzzled after browsing through CBD oils, capsules, edibles, vapes, concentrates, and skincare products.

Forget the number of product types — what about all these different formulas, strengths, and sizes?

Worry not. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know when choosing the best way to take CBD. This article touches on everything from different administration forms and their uses to handy tips for maximizing your product’s efficacy.

What’s the Best Way to Take CBD?

Truth be told, there’s no universal answer to this question. CBD can take many forms, and each has its pros and cons, so choosing the best way to take CBD boils down to mapping out your priorities and preferences.

You can find CBD in the following formats:

  • Oils/tinctures
  • Capsules
  • Edibles
  • Vapes
  • Topicals
  • Pet products

Before we elaborate on how to take CBD oil, let’s focus on how to choose the best way of administration for yourself.

How to Use CBD Oil: Important Factors

CBD oil extracts in bottles with a dropper and cannabis leaves

Different consumption methods deliver CBD to your body differently, affecting its absorption, onset, range of use, and convenience. Using CBD oil is about consistency rather than finding a quick fix for your health problems. Everybody is different, and so will be their response to different dosages.

It would be best if you also spent some time analyzing important factors that can affect your final decision, including your goals with CBD, lifestyle, age, gender, metabolism, and tolerance.

Long story short, you should ask yourself what you actually expect from using CBD.

This brings us to the first point.

Your Goals with CBD

According to scientists, CBD has more than 60 molecular targets, which would explain the wide range of health benefits it offers. Mapping out your goals with CBD is the first thing you should do before you start wondering about the best ways to take it.

Let’s put it this way: what do you want to achieve by using CBD?

Do you have a lot of pain to deal with and want to see if you could manage it with CBD?

Do you want to support emotional well-being?

Or are you just interested in optimizing your endocannabinoid system by making CBD part of your daily routine?

Many people find their best way to take CBD after some trial and error by experimenting with different product types and formulas. You can monitor your progress and assess the effects of your go-to method to help you get a bigger picture of your product’s efficacy.

Administration Method

Once you figure out the location of CBD’s target, choosing the best way to take it will become much easier. CBD has adaptogenic properties, meaning it can positively impact your body without directly affecting its functioning. It usually focuses on where the body needs it the most.

If you want CBD to travel through the bloodstream to produce its effects — to the brain, gut, and immune system — oral and sublingual products, as well as vaporizers, will be a good fit.

Otherwise, if the problem is located anywhere on your skin, or you suffer from localized discomfort such as inflammation flare-ups or injury pain, you could try a topical formulation; this way, CBD will target cannabinoid receptors in the skin, modulating the activity of the immune cells and reducing inflammation, pain, swelling, and post-exercise soreness.

Scheduling

As mentioned, your lifestyle is one of the key factors in choosing the best way to take CBD.

Do you need immediate symptom control, or are you okay with a product with a delayed onset but longer duration of effects?

Some methods, such as vaporization or sublingual use (under the tongue), need as little as a few minutes to kick in, whereas oral products like edibles and capsules will need more time to take hold — sometimes even up to 2 hours.

The acting time is between 15–30 minutes from the administration of CBD oil, lasting up to 4-6 hours.

Oral forms of CBD kick in after 40-120 minutes but last much longer — even 10 hours.

Vapes have the fastest acting time, but on the other hand, their effects are relatively short-lived; they usually stay with the user for 3-4 hours.

Many people choose different delivery methods for different times of the day. For example, those who take CBD to combat anxiety usually take CBD oil or vapes, while people with sleep issues often combine two forms, e.g., oils with edibles to clear their heads in the morning and easily fall asleep at night.

How to Take CBD Depending on the Product Type

a hand taking CBD oil from a bottler with CBD capsules and tinctures on a wooden tray with cannabis plant on pots and stethoscope

Here we cover the most common CBD formats, including their effects, duration, bioavailability, and optimal timeframe.

Take CBD As Oil

When you place CBD oil drops under the tongue, it absorbs through the sublingual membrane in the mouth, avoiding the first-pass metabolism in the liver. That’s because most of the CBD doesn’t pass through the digestive tract.

The therapeutic effects of CBD oil usually manifest themselves within 30 minutes after administration. Its peak bloodstream levels are reported between 1–3 hours. This is the best way to take CBD if you’re looking for precise dosing, relatively high bioavailability, and fast-acting effects.

If you want to get the most out of your supplementation with CBD oil, we recommend consuming it on a full stomach, as CBD oil dissolves in fats. This way, your daily servings can increase the bioavailability of CBD 5-fold. Most high-quality CBD oils are suspended in MCT oil, which boosts its absorption and provides the added benefits of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and trace minerals.

You can increase the surface area of absorption by swishing CBD oil around your gums — this will allow the CBD to reach more vessels.

Eat CBD Gummies Or Edibles

Oral CBD products like capsules and gummies have a delayed onset because they need to pass through the liver and gut before reaching the bloodstream. They usually start acting after 40 minutes, with peak bloodstream levels between 1–6 hours.

Both CBD gummies and capsules contain a fixed amount of CBD, which ensures consistent amounts of CBD in your system. Edibles are also the best way to take CBD if you want to schedule up your supplementation and don’t mind taking things slowly.

The bioavailability of oral CBD is lower than from sublingual products. Only 20% of the ingested content ends up in your bloodstream, which is the top limit if you combine CBD with a carrier oil.

If you want to boost the absorption rate of CBD edibles, you can chew them before swallowing so that part of their CBD content absorbs directly into the bloodstream.

When you take CBD capsules or gummies, it has the highest risk of interacting with medications. That’s because CBD is processed in the liver and inhibits the functioning of the Cytochrome P450 system of enzymes responsible for drug metabolism.

If you take any medications, consult your doctor before buying any CBD product.

Can You Take CBD Gummies on an Empty Stomach?

Yes, you can take CBD gummies on an empty stomach, especially if you want to speed up their onset.

Should You Eat CBD Gummies with Food?

Eating CBD gummies with food, especially with a hearty meal, is a good way to improve their bioavailability because CBD is fat-soluble. On the other hand, the effects may have an even greater delay, as consuming CBD with food will slow down its metabolism.

Use CBD On Skin

CBD doesn’t reach the bloodstream when you apply CBD on the skin unless you use a transdermal patch. Instead, CBD interacts with your skin’s endocannabinoid receptors that occur in your muscles, immune cells, and nerves responsible for pain signaling.

There’s no such thing as the best time to take topical CBD. You should apply it as need it to ease localized discomfort. The absorption rates of topical CBD vary depending on the product’s formulation and additional ingredients. The effects usually take several minutes up to an hour to show up.

CBD topicals are the best way to use CBD for on-the-spot issues, but long-term supplementation requires adding an oral, sublingual, or inhaled form.

Speaking of inhalation…

Vaping and Smoking CBD

Inhalation delivers CBD through the lung tissue, which ensures the highest bioavailability of all consumption methods. Up to 56% of inhaled CBD ends up in your bloodstream.

You can either smoke or vape CBD products. For smoking, people usually choose CBD hemp flower or concentrates; they consume it like regular cannabis, either as a joint or packed in a bowl.

Vaping is the best way to take CBD if you want to combine high bioavailability with a relatively safe consumption method. Since vaping doesn’t trigger combustion — it only heats your material to certain temperatures to release CBD-rich vapor — you don’t inhale harmful carcinogens with the beneficial compounds.

This way, you can maximize the efficacy of your CBD use. That being said, it requires a big learning curve and calls for higher initial costs than smoking. High-quality vaporizers can be expensive if you don’t want to buy cheap plastic stuff. Another concern about vaping is the addition of propylene glycol, whose safety profile hasn’t been established with long-term use.

Mix CBD with Foods or Drinks

Mixing CBD with foods and drinks is best suited for people who are apprehensive about the taste of unflavored CBD oils. Hemp extracts leave a sharp, botanical aftertaste that can be earthy or grassy depending on the strain of the source plant. When you add a few drops of CBD oil to your foods or blend it with coffee, tea, or other beverages, you can mask the unpleasant taste — but this will cost you some of its bioavailability since the CBD will have to travel through the GI tract.

How to Give CBD to Pets

Similar to humans, pets have endocannabinoid systems that interact with plant-derived cannabinoids. In simple English, you can give CBD oil to your pet and expect similar health benefits as you can experience consistent supplementation.

CBD for pets comes in two main forms:

CBD Pet Oil

CBD pet oil contains the same hemp extract as humans, but it is also often infused with flavorings redolent of bacon or peanut butter to make the product more appealing for fussy dogs and cats.

CBD Pet Treats

CBD pet treats are healthy snacks that you can give your dog or cat to support their endocannabinoid system. Like CBD capsules, they offer a fixed dose of CBD in each serving — but they’re definitely more enjoyable. If your furry friend refuses to take CBD oil — even in the flavored variants — CBD pet treats should do the trick.

How Much CBD Should I Take?

a doctor taking CBD oil dropper with CBD oil extract, stethoscope, hemp leaves and seeds

Finding your optimal CBD dosage usually takes some time because no two individuals are the same. What works for your friend may not necessarily work for you, so it’s important to take into account factors such as your:

  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Tolerance to CBD
  • Severity of symptoms
  • Unique body chemistry

A good rule of thumb is to start with a shallow dose (5 mg) to make sure you positively react to the product’s ingredients. Then, please wait for the CBD levels to reach their peak and evaluate how you feel. If you don’t notice any positive change after that dose, increase it by another 5–10 mg and continue until you find the sweet spot.

CBD may need some time to level endocannabinoid deficiencies in your body, so you may not feel its effects right away. Give yourself a week or two to monitor your progress and decide if CBD works for you.

How to Boost Absorption of CBD Oil

Once you’ve figured out your effective dose of CBD, you may want to find a way to boost its absorption. Some of the CBD you take will never reach the bloodstream.

There are some tips that you can use to increase the absorption of CBD in different products:

  • CBD oil: if you take CBD under the tongue, hold it there for 60 seconds and swish it with your tongue around the gums. Doing so will increase the contact area and allow CBD to reach more capillaries.
  • Vapes: try different inhalation techniques before increasing the amount of CBD. Try pulling the air slowly into your lungs and exhale gradually; it’s not a good idea to exhale the entire content at once.

Now that you know how to take CBD oil and what you can do to boost its absorption let’s focus on the parameters that can help you find a high-quality product in the sea of mediocre hemp extracts.

Shopping for CBD: How to Spot a High-Quality CBD Product

Finding the best way to take CBD is one thing, but mark our words, even the fanciest technology won’t make up for a sub-par product. Here we explain what to look for when shopping for CBD online.

U.S.-Grown, Non-GMO Hemp

Look for products made from local hemp. Hemp plants cultivated in clean soil and without synthetic growth boosters are the best CBD source because they are high in nutrients and free of harmful contaminants. And if the hemp is organic, it’s even better.

CO2 Extraction

There are at least a few ways to extract CBD from hemp. By far, the golden standard is CO2 extraction, where the pressurized carbon dioxide runs through the plant material in extraction chambers, acting as a liquid and gas at the same time. This extraction method doesn’t require solvents or additional heat, making it safe and ensuring consistent potency throughout the product line.

Full-spectrum CBD

Whole-plant extracts contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, as well as trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%). Studies suggest that these compounds work synergistically to produce a better therapeutic effect. This concept is known as the entourage effect and has been described by renowned neuroscientists and cannabis experts such as Raphael Mechoulam and Ethan Bud Russo.

Third-party Lab Testing

The FDA doesn’t regulate the manufacturing and labeling of CBD products, so the user becomes responsible for researching the vendor regarding transparency and quality of its products. Reputable manufacturers can ensure Certificates of Analysis from third-party laboratories to prove their CBD oils contain the advertised amount of CBD and are free of contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents.

Final Thoughts on How to Take CBD Oil

Understanding the pharmacokinetics of CBD — how it interacts with your body — should help you find the best way to take CBD in your situation. There are no official guidelines on how individuals should take CBD oil, so it all depends on your preferences and how you want to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Health goals are also important because some forms of CBD work better for general support while others are better suited for localized problems. Bioavailability, in turn, will determine the efficacy of your chosen method, so it’s also worth taking it into account.

No matter how well a particular CBD format looks in theory, always make sure to check its quality; there are too many fly-by-night companies out there. Follow the steps from our buyer’s guide to make a well-informed decision.

What’s the best way to take CBD, in your opinion? I can’t wait to read your thoughts in the comments!

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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