How to Take Your CBD
Finding Your Optimal Serving Sizes and Formats
So you’ve decided to join the growing revolution of people using cannabidiol (CBD) for relief and support with anxiety, arthritis, pain, menopause symptoms, insomnia and other health issues. Now comes the truly hard decision: tinctures, topicals, vaporizers, edibles… Which is best for you? And how much should you take?
If you’re overwhelmed by the wide variety of CBD products, you are not alone. Each method delivers CBD to your body in a different way, which affects what it can be used for and how often you’ll want to take it. Adding to that confusion is the fact that each of our bodies responds differently to CBD, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you design a cannabinoid treatment plan that fits your individual health goals — whether you’re choosing your first CBD product, or just optimizing your current routine.
Clarify Your Goals
With more than 65 different targets throughout your body, CBD has a staggering variety of therapeutic properties. Focusing on just one or two or those properties will help you find the best product and dosage quicker.
Ask yourself what you want CBD to improve. Do you want emotional support? Do you have a lot of arthritic pain? Are you just curious to see if life is somehow “better” with it?
Many people benefit from tracking their progress. You could use a score to rate your symptoms or try journaling about your current experience. Creating a baseline record will help you judge the effectiveness of your CBD treatment.
Where Does the CBD Need to Reach?
In order for this little molecule to be effective, it must get to where it’s needed. For most health goals, figuring out the location of CBD’s target will be straightforward.
If your target is located anywhere close to your skin or a mucous membrane (ie vagina), you could first try a localized product like a topical or suppository. This delivers the highest concentration of CBD exactly where you want it.
Otherwise, CBD needs to travel through your bloodstream to reach its target — whether that’s to your brain, immune system, or other locations. Vaporizers and oral products are best for this purpose.
What’s Your Time Frame?
How long CBD works in your body is a balance between how you ingest it and how quickly your body eliminates it. Some methods deliver a sharp, quick peak of CBD, while others offer a slow, steadier concentration.
If you’re looking for immediate, short-term relief, then inhaled products like a vaporizer might be ideal. On the other hand, if you want to maintain steady levels of CBD throughout the day, then an oral product would be more appropriate.
Many people benefit from a combination of delivery methods. Here are some examples of how people use CBD products:
1-3X daily oral supplement + vape pen as needed
1-3X daily oral supplement + topical as needed
Oral supplement a few hours before bedtime (lower doses can energize while higher doses encourage sleep)
Topical vulva spray as desired
Vaginal suppository as needed
Everybody’s Different: Finding Your Dose
How well each method works varies from person to person, and is influenced by many factors (covered in more detail below) so dosing is a highly individual process.
It’s always recommended to start with a very low dose to make sure you don’t react poorly to any of the product’s ingredients. Try one or two drops of an oral formulation, or a tiny puff off a vaporizer… this will be well below the recommended serving size listed on the product.
Then, wait until after the CBD has peaked and is leaving your system before trying a slightly higher dose. Wait at least an hour for vaporizers, and 6+ hours for an oral formula. You can take more sooner, but any effects you feel will be the cumulative result of both doses.
Even if you know how much CBD is in each serving, that value only represents the maximum amount that could be entering your body — most of that CBD will never reach your bloodstream or its targets.
But there are tricks that can help increase the amount of CBD your body absorbs.
- Before increasing how much you vape, experiment with different inhalation techniques.
- If you’re taking an oral formulation, try holding it under your tongue or swishing it around your mouth before swallowing.
For more tips and considerations, read about each ingestion method below.
CBD Sources & Quality
Once you find your optimal CBD method and dosage, be aware that it may change if you switch products. Some manufacturers are less trustworthy than others, so different CBD sources may have different effects.
What’s the best type of CBD to use? Scientists recently discovered that broad-spectrum CBD extracts (from cannabis or hemp plants) are much more effective than so-called “pure” CBD isolates. Researchers think broad-spectrum extracts work better because they contain a variety of molecules that are similar in size and shape to CBD — that all work synergistically together.
CBD: Can You Take Too Much?
If you’re worried about taking too much, just know that clinical trials have prescribed CBD doses up to 1,200 mg daily for months without observing any serious side effects . That’s more CBD than an entire bottle of Foria Basics , or 60+ suggested servings per day!
That said, we recommend speaking with a trusted medical professional before embarking on your CBD journey .
Although CBD is generally considered safe, it could lower your blood pressure. CBD can also interfere with your body’s ability to process certain pharmaceutical drugs. Both CBD and grapefruits inhibit cytochrome p450 , so take extra precautions if you are on a medication that comes with a warning not to consume with grapefruit . Topical or inhaled products could help minimize this interaction.
Ways to take CBD
Oral – Swallowed
Pathway to targets: When CBD is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and travels throughout your body.
Time-frame: This is the slowest route for CBD to reach its targets, but also the longest period of time that it’s active. Peak bloodstream levels are reported anywhere between 1-6 hours. Best for long-term supplementation.
- Food. Food affects your body’s ability to absorb CBD, and more cannabinoids are absorbed on a full stomach . CBD is fat-soluble, and consuming with a healthy dose of fats can increase the amount of CBD that reaches your bloodstream 3-fold — which is why Foria Basics contains MCT coconut oil.
- Pay attention to THC. Swallowed products are first metabolized by your liver before circulating through your body (first-pass metabolism). If your CBD product contains THC (i.e it’s a “full-spectrum CBD”), it could be converted to 11-hydroxy-THC , which is a strong intoxicant. Many people find that CBD helps counterbalance the “high” associated with THC, but if you are sensitive to THC, look for CBD from a hemp source.
- Prescription drug interactions. As mentioned earlier, CBD could interfere with the processing of certain drugs by cytochrome p450. Because cytochrome p450 is most concentrated in the liver, ingested CBD is more likely than inhaled CBD to cause drug interactions.
- Time in your mouth. Everything above applies to CBD that is swallowed immediately. However, while it sits in your mouth, it can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. See below.
Oral – Sublingual or “Buccal”
Pathway to targets: CBD can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream from capillary-rich areas underneath the tongue, along the gums and cheek. From here, it avoids first-pass metabolism and is sent throughout your body.
Time-frame: This route gets CBD into your bloodstream faster than swallowing. Under the tongue (sublingual) is generally quicker than against the cheek (buccal). However, because most of the CBD will eventually be swallowed, peak bloodstream levels range from 0.5 – 5 hours.
- Food. When evaluating an oral spray, researchers discovered that the total amount of absorbed CBD increases 5-fold if the person has recently eaten . Chewing helps increase blood flow to your mouth, which could help increase absorption.
- Increase surface contact. It’s often suggested to keep CBD oil in your mouth for 1.5 minutes or more before swallowing. During this time, increase absorption by vigorously swishing the oil around your mouth and even between your teeth — this increases the surface contact between the oil and your capillaries. (If you’ve tried oil-pulling as a tooth-and-gums cleanser, this will be familiar.)
Types: Vape pens, dabs, high-CBD cannabis
Pathway to targets: When CBD is inhaled, it passes to the lungs where it rapidly passes into the bloodstream. Inhalation avoids first-pass metabolism.
Time-frame: This is the quickest way to get CBD circulating through your system, but it also is effective for the shortest period of time. Peak bloodstream levels are within 10 minutes.
- Inhalation technique. Based on studies with THC, inhalation can get anywhere from 2-56% of this molecule into your bloodstream based on your inhalation technique. Try this: use the vaporizer for the first half of your inhalation, then finish your inhalation with a deep breath of fresh air — get those molecules deep in there! (This technique will also minimize irritation if the vapor is a bit too hot, by mixing in cooler air.) On exhale, any vapor that you can see is lost, so instead of exhaling fully, start a partial exhale until you see vapor — then inhale all the way back in and repeat a few times until you see less vapor on the exhale.
- Vapor Pen Hardware. Avoid cheap, disposable vape pens, and watch out for any that list “propylene glycol” in the ingredients. Look for higher-quality vape pens with ceramic heating elements, for a cleaner vapor.
Types: Creams, oils, lotions
Pathway to targets: Topical CBD diffuses across your skin and reaches local targets, like muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves. Very little, if any, enters the bloodstream — unless it is designed for transdermal activity.
Time-frame: Varies, depending on the target.
- Often paired. Topicals are great for on-the-spot treatment and arousal. But for long-term health goals, people often get the best results when they pair topicals with oral or inhaled CBD products.
Vaginal & Anal
Types: Suppositories, lubes, creams in applicators
Pathway to targets: CBD applied to the mucosal tissue of the vagina and anus have the strongest effect locally at muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves — similar to the way topicals work. However, because these areas are rich in capillaries, some CBD could be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Time-frame: For local targets like sexual pleasure or menstrual cramps, Foria’s Relief Suppositories with CBD and Awaken Arousal Oil with CBD are active within minutes (and possibly up to an hour) after application. Absorption into the bloodstream is highly variable and has only been studied rectally. Any molecules entering the bloodstream through the rectum should peak within 2-8 hours .
- Vaginal differences. Absorption across the vaginal wall will vary with your age, vaginal pH, and where you are on your menstrual cycle.
- Anal placement. Whether or not rectal suppositories deliver CBD into the bloodstream is highly variable between individuals. If the suppository also contains THC in a general cannabinoid formula, placement of the suppository into the lower rectum (closer to the sphincter) can help avoid first-pass metabolism and the risk of a more “stoned” feeling.
Everything we’ve been discussing — the pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol — is a complicated subject that scientists are still actively piecing together. There are no established guidelines for the best way to use CBD to achieve your health goals. Prepare for a truly unique experience that deserves patient and loving experimentation. We wish you success on your journey!
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If you’re overwhelmed by the wide variety of CBD products, you are not alone. Each method delivers CBD to your body in a different way, which affects what it can be used for and how often you’ll want to take it. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you design a CBD treatment plan that fits your health goals.
Does CBD oil work for chronic pain management?
Many people use cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve pain. Understanding CBD can help overcome the stigma associated with it.
CBD oil is derived from the cannabis plant. People report using this oil for relief from pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.
There is limited evidence from human studies to support the benefits of CBD oil, due to restrictions on the use of and research on cannabis. As cannabis is becoming legalized in various regions, research is gaining momentum and shows some promising results.
In this article, we look at how CBD oil works and how people use it to relieve chronic pain.
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CBD is one of more than 100 compounds found in cannabis, called cannabinoids. Many plants contain cannabinoids, but people most commonly link these compounds to cannabis.
Unlike other cannabinoids — such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — CBD does not produce a euphoric “high.” This is because CBD does not affect the same receptors as THC.
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that receives and translates signals from cannabinoids. It produces some cannabinoids of its own, which are called endocannabinoids. The ECS helps regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses, and pain.
When THC enters the body, it produces a “high” feeling by affecting the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors. This activates the brain’s reward system, producing pleasure chemicals such as dopamine.
Does CBD make you high?
CBD is an entirely different compound from THC, and its effects are very complex. It does not produce a “high” and does not impair a person’s functioning, but it influences the body to use its own endocannabinoids more effectively.
According to a 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics, CBD influences many other receptor systems in our body and will influence the ECS in combination with other cannabinoids.
For example, CBD can increase the body’s levels of anandamide, a compound associated with regulating pain, which can reduce pain perception and improve mood.
Cannabidiol may also limit inflammation in the brain and nervous system, which may benefit people experiencing pain, insomnia, and certain immune system responses.
For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.
Different varieties of cannabis plants — such as hemp and marijuana — contain different levels of chemical compounds.
How people breed the plant affects the CBD levels. Most CBD oil comes from industrial hemp, which usually has a higher CBD content than marijuana.
Makers of CBD oil use different methods to extract the compound. The extract is then added to a carrier oil and called CBD oil.
CBD oil comes in many different strengths, and people use it in various ways. It is best to discuss CBD oil with a doctor before using it.
According to the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), some evidence suggests that cannabis or CBD could have modest benefits for chronic pain.
While CBD is a promising option for pain relief, research has not yet proven it safe and effective, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved CBD for treating pain.
A 2020 review reports that CBD could have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation, but that these effects are condition-specific.
More evidence is needed to determine the therapeutic potential of CBD and to determine safe and effective dosages for pain.
Based on the current research, here are some possible benefits of CBD oil:
Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to the nerves. This type of pain is common in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, injuries such as herniated discs, and infections such as shingles.
A 2017 review found that CBD helped with chronic neuropathy pain in humans. The researchers looked at 11 randomized controlled trials with 1,219 patients.
However, a 2018 Cochrane review concluded that the potential benefits of cannabis-based medicine might be outweighed by its potential harms.
This research looked into the effects of cannabis-derived medicines, including CBD, for chronic neuropathic pain. It looked at 16 studies and 1,750 participants.
More research is needed to understand the role of CBD in chronic neuropathic pain management, including the risks, benefits, and ideal dosages.
A 2016 study in the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to see if CBD could help people with arthritis manage their pain. Researchers applied a topical gel containing CBD to rats with arthritis for 4 days.
Their researchers noted a significant drop in inflammation and signs of pain, without additional side effects.
People using CBD oil for arthritis may find relief from their pain, but more human studies need to be done to confirm these findings.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the entire body through the nerves and brain.
Muscle spasms are one of the most common symptoms of MS. These spasms can be so strong they cause constant pain in some people.
One report found that short-term use of CBD oil could reduce the levels of muscle spasms a person feels. The results are modest, but many people reported a reduction in symptoms. More studies on humans are needed to verify these results.
The same report studied CBD use for general chronic pain. Researchers compiled the results of multiple systematic reviews covering dozens of trials and studies. Their research concluded that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.
A separate study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports these results. This research suggests that using CBD can reduce pain and inflammation.
The researchers also found that subjects were not likely to build up a tolerance to the effects of CBD, so they would not need to increase their dose over time.
They noted that cannabinoids, such as CBD, could offer helpful new treatments for people with chronic pain.
CBD currently has a range of applications and promising possibilities.
- helping people quit smoking
- managing drug withdrawal
- treating seizures and epilepsy
- treating anxiety
- reducing some effects of Alzheimer’s disease
- reducing antipsychotic effects for people with schizophrenia
- potentially combating type 1 diabetes and cancer in the future
Although more research is required to confirm the benefits of CBD oil, it is shaping up as a potentially promising and versatile treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved one form of CBD, called Epidiolex, to treat two rare forms of epilepsy and to treat seizures caused by a rare condition called tuberous sclerosis complex.
More generally, marijuana-derived CBD products are not yet legal at the federal level but are legal under the laws of some states.
People should check their state’s laws and those of any place they intend to travel. They must keep in mind that the FDA do not approve or regulate nonprescription CBD products. As a result, labeling may be inaccurate.
The FDA does not regulate CBD for most conditions. As a result, dosages are currently open to interpretation, and people should treat them with caution.
Anyone who wishes to use CBD should first speak to a doctor about whether it will be beneficial or safe, and how much to take.
The FDA has approved a purified form of CBD for some types of epilepsy, with the brand name Epidiolex. People using this medication should follow the doctor’s advice about doses.
Most people tolerate CBD oil well, but there are some possible side effects.
According to a 2017 review in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the most common side effects include:
- changes in appetite
- weight gain or weight loss
In addition, using CBD oil with other medications may make those medications more or less effective.
The review also notes that scientists have yet to study some aspects of CBD, such as its long-term effects on hormones. Further long-term studies will be helpful in determining any side effects CBD has on the body over time.
Consult a doctor before using CBD, as it may interact with certain over-the-counter dietary supplements and medicines, as well as some prescription medications — especially those that warn against consuming grapefruit .
CBD might also interfere with an enzyme called cytochrome P450 complex. This disruption could affect the liver’s ability to break down toxins, increasing the risk of liver toxicity.
The patient information leaflet for Epidiolex cautions that there is a risk of liver damage, lethargy, and possibly depression and thoughts of suicide, but these potential side effects are true of other treatments for epilepsy, too.
One study in Frontiers in Pharmacology, suggested cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory effect may reduce inflammation too much. A large reduction in inflammation could diminish the lungs’ defense system, increasing the risk of infection.
Almost all research on CBD oil and pain comes from adult trials. Experts do not recommend CBD oil for use in children, as there is little research on the effects of CBD oil on a child’s developing brain.
However, people may use Epidiolex for children ages 2 and above who have rare forms of epilepsy.
People should not use CBD oil when pregnant or breastfeeding.
People should use caution when taking CBD products by mouth alongside high-fat meals. High-fat meals can dramatically increase the blood concentrations of CBD, which can increase the risk of side effects.
The FDA does not regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs or dietary supplements, so companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. That means it’s especially important to do some research and find a quality product.
While many studies have suggested CBD oil is helpful for pain, more research is necessary, especially long-term studies with human subjects.
However, CBD oil does show promise as a treatment for pain. Some scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that it can help people manage chronic pain in various contexts.
CBD oil is especially promising due to its lack of intoxicating effects and a possible lower potential for side effects than many other pain medications.
People should discuss CBD oil with their doctor if they are considering using it for the first time.
What precautions would you advise if someone wants to try CBD oil to treat pain?
Users should follow legal channels to obtain CBD.
The science is emerging to support its use, especially in a time where most people want to avoid addicting opioids while treating chronic pain.
Because of the changes in social acceptance for the use of the marijuana plant and the urgency to address the opioid crisis, there is funding for clinical trials.
A 2017 study found CBD was effective for chronic neuropathy pain. It may have a role in reducing inflammation as well.
An individual should talk to a doctor first, start with the lowest doses possible, read the information available, and be an informed consumer.
Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
Last medically reviewed on November 3, 2020
Cannabidiol or CBD oil has become popular for pain treatment. This article looks at how it works, how to use it, and the benefits and risks of CBD oil.