What Does CBD Feel Like?

Illustration of a person meditating while feeling the effect of CBD tincture
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: October 31, 2023

“What does CBD feel like?” is one of the most common questions that appear in our mailbox.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive different answers, such as:

“CBD makes me feel relaxed.”

“CBD feels calming.”

“CBD feels like a godsend when you use it on the skin.”

But what does CBD really make you feel like?

What happens when you take CBD oil?

Because CBD is sourced from cannabis plants, some people mistakenly think that it can make you high. But the truth is, CBD itself is non-intoxicating, so you won’t experience a high. Cannabis is a broad term that covers different plants that belong to the Cannabis sativa L. genus. Both hemp and marijuana belong to that family, but they also have different phytochemical profiles.

Hemp-derived CBD oil contains 0.3% of THC or less, whereas marijuana-derived CBD oil carries significant amounts of this compound.

In this article, we’ll cover the effects of CBD in detail, comparing different forms and cannabinoid spectra.

What Does CBD Feel Like?

As mentioned above, CBD is non-intoxicating, so it won’t make you feel high. It does, however, have an effect on the mind and behavior, promoting feelings of calm and relaxation.

Depending on the time of the day, the dose, your weight, your metabolism, and the type of CBD product, the effects can be anywhere from mildly stimulating to sedating.

For example, CBD has been shown to reduce stress, improve focus, promote healthy sleep, and ease the pain. Topical formulations, such as CBD creams or gels, have been reported to provide relief from localized discomfort.

CBD has little to no affinity with the CB1 receptors in the brain — hence why you won’t get high. CBD is the modulator of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), helping the body achieve and maintain homeostasis, which is a fancy term for balance between important biological processes. The ECS is present in all mammals and spreads throughout all other systems and organs (1).

CBD signals the ECS to produce and maintain more of its endocannabinoids, which are natural neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors — producing the effects associated with cannabis. These compounds have a similar molecular structure to plant-based cannabinoids, explaining why CBD products are so useful in self-care. Endocannabinoid deficiencies have been linked with imbalances between the aforementioned functions, leading to the development of various disorders and diseases.

But when more cannabinoids occur in the bloodstream, the ECS can efficiently maintain homeostasis — translating into a range of positive effects, such as better sleep, peace of mind, a sense of balance, better stress management, higher pain threshold, and plenty of other health benefits.

Some of the effects of CBD can be felt directly after taking it, while others may need more time to show up. It all depends on how your ECS responds to CBD.

Hemp vs. Marijuana CBD Oil Effects

CBD is the same compound, no matter the source. However, the source of your CBD oil will affect its chemical profile and thus influence its effects.

Hemp-derived CBD products contain no more than 0.3% of THC. Cannabis plants that suit these criteria are considered hemp and classified as an agricultural commodity. It can be cultivated and processed for food, skin care products, and health supplements such as CBD extracts. Hemp-derived CBD oil will make you feel relaxed and in the zone, but it won’t get you high.

The effects of marijuana-derived CBD are different due to the presence of significant amounts of THC. This type of CBD comes from selectively bred marijuana strains that have different ratios between CBD and THC.

These ratios may be 20:1, 10;1, 5:1, 2:1, or even 1:1. Depending on the final composition, your CBD oil may cause you to experience mild-to-moderate intoxication, but you won’t be as high as after consuming regular marijuana.

That being said, hemp-derived CBD is the only type that’s legal in all 50 states. Marijuana-derived CBD oil can be purchased in states that have legalized marijuana.

Full-spectrum CBD vs. Other Spectrum Effects

If you see a CBD product labeled as full-spectrum, it means you’re getting an extract containing all beneficial compounds found in hemp, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds, including trace amounts of THC. The minor cannabinoids and terpenes amplify the benefits of CBD by allowing your body to process the compound more efficiently. This phenomenon is called “the entourage effect” and is the main reason why people prefer full-spectrum CBD over isolates.

If you don’t want to take even trace amounts of THC in your CBD product, opt for a broad-spectrum oil.

Broad-spectrum extracts contain cannabinoids and terpenes but without traces of THC. The intoxicating ingredient is removed after the initial extraction, reducing the chances of getting a false-positive result for THC on a drug test. Such products still evoke some of the entourage effects.

Another zero-THC option is CBD isolate. As the name implies, CBD isolate contains just pure CBD that has been separated from other substances. It takes the form of white crystals, which are usually powdered and infused into a wide range of products. However, unlike the above versions, CBD isolate loses the entourage effect and is less predictable when it comes to the effects of specific doses.

How Different Types of CBD Make You Feel?

One bottle of CBD oil

The type of CBD plays a significant role in determining how CBD makes you feel on top of individual factors and the cannabinoid spectrum.

What Does CBD Oil Feel Like?

When you take CBD oil sublingually (under the tongue), it absorbs into your bloodstream through the mucous membranes in your mouth, avoiding the first-pass metabolism in the liver. This allows the effects to kick in faster, usually after 15–20 minutes.

CBD oil can make you feel:

  • Relaxed – CBD uses different receptors in your brain to improve your response to daily stressors and make you feel relaxed. This is a sought-after effect for people who live in a stressful environment or have a lot on their minds but don’t want to use stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks. At the same time, CBD acts on certain neurotransmitters that slow down neural activity and prevents your brain from becoming overstimulated (2).
  • Balanced – CBD can balance the activity of certain neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes to improve your physical and psychological well-being. It can ease nausea, indigestion, and vomiting. Some studies have also found that CBD can modulate appetite (3).
  • Pain-free – CBD can reduce inflammation and change the way pain signals are transmitted to the brain. This mechanism is responsible for easing swelling, redness, irritation, and different types of pain (4).
  • Elevated – the right amount of CBD can elevate your mood without mind alteration. When you take CBD oil, you can feel uplifted and sober at the same time.
  • Focused – CBD can help you become more resistant to distractions, increasing your attention span. Those who take CBD for focus-related issues find themselves more in the zone and more productive throughout the day.

Last but not least, high doses of CBD taken in the evening can prompt sedation and make you feel sleepy, and lower blood pressure, which is useful among people suffering from sleep deprivation.

What Does Vaping CBD Feel Like?

CBD vapes feel similar to CBD oil, except for the onset of their effects. Inhaled CBD makes its way to your bloodstream through the lung tissues, which shortens the time it needs to kick in. Depending on the terpene profile of your CBD vape pen, it may feel invigorating or more relaxing. The effects of vaped CBD usually linger for up to 4 hours. Some people like to microdose CBD through vaping in order to keep consistent CBD levels in the system.

What Do CBD Gummies Feel Like?

Eating a CBD gummy provides the same benefits as taking CBD oil because it contains the same active ingredient. However, gummies and other oral products (capsules) have a delayed onset because they need to pass through the digestive system first. Therefore, the effects may be delayed by up to 90 minutes depending on your weight, metabolism, and whether you take CBD before or after a meal. On the other hand, you can expect them to stay longer — up to 10 hours.

What Does CBD Cream Feel Like?

Topical products, like balms, gels, creams, and lotions, are formulated to target localized pain and other kinds of discomfort. They use a different mechanism than oral and sublingual forms because none of the CBD enters the bloodstream. Instead, CBD interacts with the CB2 receptors in the skin, producing soothing effects on the affected area. The onset and absorption rate of CBD topicals depends on the product’s fat base and additional ingredients.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD?

CBD has been acknowledged by international health agencies as safe and well-tolerated by humans. Studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of CBD concluded that the compound could be taken in doses as high as 1,500 mg daily for several weeks without any dangerous side effects.

However, there are a few mild side effects that CBD oil can produce, especially in high doses:

  • Dry mouth – this reaction is common among all cannabinoid-based products because cannabinoids interact with salivary glands in the mouth. By doing so, they inhibit saliva production, so while it’s not the worst side effect, the dry mouth feeling can cause mild discomfort. The best way to deal with it is to keep yourself hydrated or eat something that stimulates saliva secretion.
  • Biphasic effects – this means that low doses of CBD will produce different effects than high doses. In simple terms, CBD may give you more energy in small amounts, but large amounts of CBD can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure, making you feel sleepy.
  • Drug interactions – CBD affects your liver’s ability to process pharmaceutical medications, so if you take any pharmaceuticals, CBD could dampen its effects or lead to excess concentrations of the drug in the bloodstream — causing second-hand side effects. Consult your doctor before buying CBD to avoid these interactions.

So… What Does CBD Feel Like?

Depending on the dose, time of the day, and your overall health, CBD can make you feel relaxed, focused, calm, pain-free, and better rested.

Everybody is different, so the final effect profile will also depend on your metabolism, age, weight, and the type of CBD you’re taking. Full-spectrum CBD oil produces slightly different effects than pure CBD products.

The short answer is: CBD makes you feel relieved. Whether it’s a relief from worrying thoughts, pain, sleep problems, or excessive peer pressure, it can improve your life in a safe way because it modulates the core system that keeps your body in homeostasis.

Operating on over 65 molecular targets, CBD is a versatile health supplement; and most importantly, it doesn’t cause addiction no matter how much you take it. Nevertheless, we still advise you to take CBD responsibly, and if you take any medications, consult your doctor to avoid possible negative CBD-drug interactions.

What does CBD feel like to you? Let us know by leaving a comment!


  1. Zou, Shenglong, and Ujendra Kumar. “Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,3 833. 13 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3390/ijms19030833 [1]
  2. Blessing, Esther M et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,4 (2015): 825-36. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 [2]
  3. Parker, Linda A et al. “Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids.” British journal of pharmacology vol. 163,7 (2011): 1411-22. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x [3]
  4. Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 4,1 (2008): 245-59. doi:10.2147/term.s1928 [4]

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.