How Long Does It Take For CBD Oil To Work? How Fast Acting Is CBD?

When you’re seeking relief, you want it both fast acting and long-lasting. So it’s understandable that people want to know how long it takes for CBD oil to go to work. The answer, however, depends on how you take it.

The medicinal and therapeutic benefits of CBD (cannabidiol) are well-documented. Both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence abound, resulting in a huge spike in the popularity of the extract. CBD is useful for conditions ranging from arthritis to seizure disorders, but with so many options available on the market right now, how do you know what’s right for your condition? Ultimately, it may depend on how quickly you need it to work.

Should you try CBD gummies? A vape? Tinctures? Different methods of administration have different onsets of effect, or the amount of time until they begin to work.

How long does it take for CBD oil to work? It depends on the method of ingestion. Photo: A generic bottle of CBD oil sits atop a stack of flat rocks with a candle and flowers in a meditative looking display.
How long does it take for CBD to work? It depends on the method of ingestion.

Let Ministry of Hemp walk you through the most popular forms of CBD and how quickly (or not quickly) they work so you can decide what’s best for your situation.

CBD oil tinctures

Easily portable and fast-acting, CBD tinctures, also known as sublingual drops or hemp extract, are gaining ground in the popularity contest with edibles. Extracts are combined with a carrier oil, usually coconut-based MCT oil or hemp seed oil, and flavoring to provide a fast-acting, easy to consume supplement.

Placing a few drops under the tongue introduces CBD to the bloodstream quickly. The area beneath the tongue, or the sublingual area, is full of blood vessels and the tissue covering them is very thin allowing CBD to be absorbed into the bloodstream almost immediately. Effects are generally felt quickly, making tinctures an ideal treatment for anxiety and other mood disorders. Many users report long-lasting effects from regular ingestion of tinctures.

Many tinctures have added flavor, commonly peppermint, citrus, or other strong flavors, to mask the naturally occurring hemp taste that some people find objectionable. 

Vaping Cannabidiol

Taking CBD through a vape pen is the quickest way to feel the effects.

The benefits of vaping CBD include fast absorption, customized dosing, and a relaxing experience.

There are a couple different types of vapes available, pen-style and tank-style, and while the mechanism in each works differently, the gist is the same. CBD extract is heated to become a vapor, then inhaled. Inhalation introduces cannabidiol directly into the bloodstream through your lungs, resulting in rapid, almost instant, onset of effect. This method is ideal for people with acute conditions who need the effects immediately.

However, vape pens can be cumbersome to use and carry around and may attract unwanted attention in public spaces. There are also some lingering health concerns about the potential side effects of vaping. Since most studies center on vaping nicotine-based products, it’s hard to determine if CBD vaping poses the same or similar risks.

People who live with anxiety or panic disorders may benefit from carrying a vape pen. The rapid onset makes them a great choice to use as a rescue when feelings of anxiety or panic surface.

Capsules, gummies & other edibles

Edibles are one of the most popular forms of CBD on the market. After extraction, CBD oil is added to food or capsules to make it more palatable.

Whether it’s a tasty gummy or an easy to swallow CBD capsule, many users appreciate the ease, discretion, and palatability of edibles. No one is going to think twice about someone eating a gummy or taking a capsule, which makes them a good choice if you plan to be out and about and don’t feel like fielding a thousand questions about why you take CBD. It’s also easy to control the dosage.

Supplements in softgel capsules spill from a white plastic bottle onto a featureless white surface. Ministry of Hemp selected the best CBD capsules and softgels available for sale online.
CBD capsules and edibles may take longer to work, but can also offer long-lasting effects.

One drawback is the time it takes for the supplement to make its way into your bloodstream and begin working. Anything we swallow enters the stomach and, like food and drink, goes through the laborious process of digestion. Enzymes in the stomach break down what we ingest to make it easier to for the intestines to process. Chemicals like CBD are filtered through the liver where they then enter the bloodstream where they begin their work.

It doesn’t take long, usually 20 minutes to an hour, depending on your metabolism and how recently you ate. Edibles are a great choice to start your day, as an addition to your vitamin regimen or for treatment of headaches or other pain, but if you’re using CBD to treat acute conditions, edibles may not be your best option.

CBD Topicals

CBD lotions, massage oils, and creams are a great choice for skin conditions, muscle pain, or joint pain.

The question of how long it takes for a CBD topical to work is a complex one. What little research that exists suggests cannabinoids can be slow to pass through the skin, taking as long as 5 hours to go into effect. But many everyday users of CBD topicals report a much quicker onset. One expert, Keith Butler from LifePatent, told us he thinks CBD may have a unique ability to rapidly cross the skin into the body. But right now we just don’t know enough to scientifically separate the placebo effect, or the effect of other ingredients commonly found in these topicals, from the effect of CBD.

a person applies a salve to their elbow. CBD topicals can go directly to work where they're needed most.
Topical CBD products bypass the digestive system to go directly to work where they’re needed most.

Regardless of how quickly topicals actually work, many CBD consumers find that they offer a valuable form of relief. We recommend applying the topical before the pain becomes especially severe, and reapplying as needed throughout the day. You may want to combine them with other forms of CBD for maximum relief.

How long does it take for CBD to work? It depends … 

CBD is both versatile and effective in managing a multitude of conditions. The fact that it’s available in several different forms allows you to tailor your treatment to your specific condition.

We expect that in the near future, there will be more research into how long it takes for CBD to work. We’ll have a better understanding of how different forms of CBD work differently. In the meantime, mix and match methods and find what works for you.

For more information on how our bodies are uniquely suited for CBD check out our CBD resource guide!

Kit O’Connell contributed additional reporting for this article.

Kristi Pahr

Kristi is a freelance writer and mother who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She’s frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Find her on Twitter.

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