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How long does it take CBD oil to take effect?

How long does it take CBD oil to take effect?

CBD is a natural substance that can bring many benefits to the human body and can be absorbed in different ways, both internally and externally. 

Depending on the route of administration used, the time it takes for the effects of CBD to appear, its duration and potency may vary.

 In this article, you will discover the differences between the different ways of absorbing CBD and you will be able to choose which route of administration is best suited to your situation and discover which products are available.

CBD oil absorption

CBD oil is applied internally.  Through the pulmonary route, sublingually or ingested, to obtain a systemic effect, that is in a generalized and distributed way throughout the body. 

In contrast, through the external route, the effect is concentrated in the area of application without generating systemic effects, unless the transdermal route is used, through which the substance enters the bloodstream and the effect is generalized throughout the body.

Legality of CBD Oil Absorption Uses

According to each country's regulations, there are products that can be used completely legally and others that remain in legal limbo, as their use is not regulated, but are marketed under other types of registration. 

In general, external use is regulated in Europe and only cosmetic products containing CBD in its isolated or synthetic form can be sold, although there are countries that allow the production and distribution of cosmetic products containing broad-spectrum CBD extracts, i.e. , by maintaining the presence of other components and phytocannabinoids including THC (at a concentration of less than 0.2%).

Internal use, however, has different nuances:

  • Inhalation of the flowers is not regulated, although it is widely used, as CBD flowers can be sold as collector's products.

On the other hand, the use of CBD oils for vaping is permitted, although it is being regulated gradually, as it is a much more current product and until a few years ago it was almost unknown. 

  • The sublingual and ingested route is not regulated in Spain, although the WHO has declared CBD a completely safe substance suitable for human consumption, as can be seen in the countries of North and South America where its use is permitted, as well as in other EU countries. Furthermore, in Portugal it is possible to find CBD products for ingestion in the pharmacological field, so their safety is more than declared, although their use is not yet permitted.


CBD by inhalation: rapid onset effects

Through the inhalation route, the effect appears immediately, reaches its maximum power after a few minutes (2-5) and gradually decreases until it disappears after 2-3 hours.

Consequently, it is the best option to obtain the effect more quickly, although it does not guarantee long-lasting effect. In the therapeutic field, inhalation is used as a form of rescue, since CBD can be administered at the right time and in the right quantities for each situation. 

Opting for vaporization allows bioavailability (which would be the absorption capacity) to be increased by up to 50%, compared to 30% for the smoked form, which also leads to the production of carcinogenic substances.


Sublingual CBD (CBD oil under the tongue): moderate onset effects

Using the sublingual route, the effect does not occur immediately, but usually begins after 20-30 minutes and remains stable for around 6 hours before gradually disappearing. 

Taking CBD oil sublingually is the best way to ensure a stable and long-lasting effect, and it is the best way to take CBD in a therapeutic environment on a constant basis and obtain a continuous effect. 

When absorbed through the sublingual mucosa, CBD enters the bloodstream without passing through the digestive system, meaning bioavailability can reach up to 40% and a possible pharmacological interaction is avoided.

CBD edibles (gummies and capsules): slow-onset effects

Through ingestion, CBD enters the digestive system, so the effect can take between 1 and 3 hours to appear, depending on each person's metabolism, the food eaten before or after and the type of product consumed. The duration of the effect is long and can reach up to 8 hours, although it is unstable.

The digestive system through the liver absorbs CBD, where interactions with drugs can occur (which are absorbed through the same channel), so the ingested route is the least recommended at a medicinal level, and due to the transformations of digestive juices, bioavailability decreases by up to 5-10%.


CBD Topicals: Rapid Onset Localized Effects

As mentioned above, through the topical route the effect of CBD oil is not systemic, but concentrated in the superficial area of the application area

The skin has a limited absorption capacity, so cosmetics usually have a low concentration and, depending on the type of product (oil, ointment or cream) and the components that accompany the CBD (essential oils and other ingredients), the effect may take 15-20 minutes to appear and last 2-3 hours. 

The external route represents a completely safe way to use CBD oil, although its properties cannot be used systematically. Medicinally, it is a good complementary treatment to reinforce and concentrate the effect on a specific area.


Time of onset of CBD effects under specific conditions

In each situation, it is possible to choose different tools and combine different ways of using them, in order to optimize a therapeutic effect for both acute and chronic symptoms.

How long does it take CBD oil to work for joint pain?

In the case of joint pain, it is possible to act immediately on acute symptoms, mainly through inflammatory and topical use, and it is necessary to carry out more treatment for weeks and integrate sublingual and topical routes, in order to observe more stable improvements that can be maintained even when the effect of CBD decreases.


How long does it take CBD oil to work for chronic and neuropathic pain?

For more chronic or neuropathic pain, it is necessary to use the sublingual route continuously to achieve stable improvements, although relief from acute pain spikes can be achieved through inhalation. It may take a few weeks to see significant improvements, although the calming effects will be noticeable from the first few days.

How long does it take CBD oil to have an effect on sleep?

Depending on each person's situation and the reasons that may cause sleep problems, different options can be chosen: 

  • People who have difficulty falling asleep will get the best effect when using the inhaled route and the dosage can be adjusted as needed. 
  • For people who have problems with insomnia, light and non-regenerating sleep or night waking, the best option is to use the sublingual route. The relaxing effects of CBD can be seen in the first few days of treatment, while for more serious or long-lasting problems, more time will be needed, such as weeks or months.


How long does it take CBD oil to work for anxiety?

An anxiety attack and a panic attack can appear punctually and quickly, which is why the quickest route available is necessary, represented by inhalation

However, an acute crisis can be caused by a more chronic and generalized state of anxiety, so the sublingual route would represent the best option to reduce the intensity and/or frequency of future acute crises and promote a general improvement in mood after a few weeks.


Appearance times for the effects of CBD extracts

How long does it take CBD oil to work against skin irritation?

There are oils that only contain CBD in its purified, isolated form, while others are made with a highly concentrated CBD extract that also retains the presence of other phytocannabinoids and terpenes, called full-spectrum oils for this reason.

The effect of CBD is reinforced by the presence of other compounds, so it will manifest itself more effectively in full-spectrum products, while with products that use CBD in its pure form the effect will be less powerful or a higher dosage will be required (or both ). (17) 

For this reason, there are also so-called broad-spectrum oils in which CBD is accompanied by terpenes and other phytocannabinoids, with the total exclusion of THC, of which there is no trace.


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7 - Chayasirisobhon S. (2020). Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis. The Permanente journal, 25, 1–3

8 - Kupczyk, P., Reich, A., & Szepietowski, J. C. (2009). Cannabinoid system in the skin – a possible target for future therapies in dermatology. Experimental dermatology, 18(8), 669–679

9 - Eagleston, L., Kalani, N. K., Patel, R. R., Flaten, H. K., Dunnick, C. A., & Dellavalle, R. P. (2018). Cannabinoids in dermatology: a scoping review. Dermatology online journal, 24(6), 13030/qt7pn8c0saswan, S. M., Klosner, A. E., Glynn, K., Rajgopal, A., Malik, K., Yim, S., & Stern, N. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 927–942

10 - Mlost, J., Bryk, M., & Starowicz, K. (2020). Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment: Focus on Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(22), 8870. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21228870

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Author information

Neuropsychologist | Specialised in treatments with Medical Cannabis

Tommaso Bruscolini

Tommaso Bruscolini (Rimini, Italy) is a neuropsychologist and phytotherapist based in Barcelona, where he has been running his private practice since 2014, both in person and online, where he formulates and produces different preparations with all kinds of medicinal plants, as well as making personalised recommendations.

A member of the Official College of Psychologists of Catalonia and qualified as a Health Psychologist, he is a specialist in Neuropsychology, the branch that studies the brain and its neurological function. Tommaso complements his training with studies in Phytotherapy and Herbalism at the Guild of Herbalists of Catalonia and two Masters, one in Nutrition and Herbal Dietetics and the other in Mindfulness.

In recent years she has specialised in Medical Cannabis, through private training and collaborations with different entities in the world of Medical Cannabis, coordinating for a year a clinic specialising in cannabinoid medicine, carrying out consultations, writing articles, talks, training courses as well as carrying out consultations and patient follow-up.

He currently collaborates with several entities of the cannabis sector in Spain, among other things he is the coordinator of the therapeutic area of the magazine DolceVita España, consultant in the SmokingMap portal, collaborator of the Unión de Pacientes por la Regulación del Cannabis (UPRC) and Alpha-Cat certified technician to perform cannabinoid analysis.

What fascinates him most about the Cannabis plant is the possibility it has to change the current medicinal and therapeutic paradigm towards a more holistic vision as it acts on our body, mind and mood, in a synergic way.

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