Just a quick disclaimer; we don’t make health claims about CBD, we just share the research. You’ll always find references to scientific literature to substantiate what we share. This is for informational use only. Always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your healthcare regimen.
You may have heard about CBD through a friend or family member and thought, hey I’ll give that a try, only to find it falls short of your expectations. The way you use CBD and how it interacts with your unique complexion can determine how long it will take to work, and the effects you experience from it.
Thats what we’re going to cover in this article today; what factors are at play in your individual response to CBD, and how you can play around with using it.
How quickly and the effects from CBD depend on:
- What You are using it for
- Method of consumption
- How often you use it
- If you’ve ever used CBD (or cannabis) before
- How quickly (or slowly) you get rid of CBD
What You are Using it For
What you are using CBD for is the greatest determinant of how its going to work for you. Since we all use it for different reasons, we expect to get different results from it.
It all boils down to what you as an individual seek to get out of it. If for example you want to use CBD to manage pain, anxiety or insomnia then you might expect a fairly short time for CBD to start working.
Some people may experience immediate results from their first serving of CBD, whereas others it may take a week or even a month for their Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to respond. This is influenced by lifestyle factors, genetics and if you have used CBD (or cannabis) before.
On the flip side, if you are seeking support for a chronic condition such as diabetes or autoimmunity, then you would expect the time for CBD to work to be longer. We’re talking weeks, months or maybe even years.
Method of Consumption
This is perhaps one of the largest contributors to how long CBD will take to work. There’s more than one way to enjoy CBD, and different methods of consumption vary in the effects they produce and the time it takes for the effects to occur.
Of course, your unique biology will also effect your response to CBD, so you may also just want to play around and find what works best for you.
Drops can be taken sublingually, held under the tongue for 90 seconds. CBD is absorbed quickly by blood vessels in the mouth.
This way CBD enters the bloodstream directly, avoids the digestive system and initial breakdown by the liver, making it more bioavailable. About 12-35% of the CBD ingested is active and able to work its magic in the body (1).
Effects can kick in as quickly as 15 minutes, but can also take up to 30. The effects may last up to 6 hours (2), with the most noticeable effects occurring within 2 – 3 hours.
Capsules are all delayed onset forms of CBD, and take around 60 – 180 minutes to take effect.
CBD has to be absorbed from the gut into the liver, and is partially broken down before it enters the bloodstream. This means the bioavailability of CBD is lower (4 – 20%) (3), but the effects can sometimes last longer (~8 hours) (2).
Eating a fatty meal with CBD boosts its absorption and helps it last longer (4), which is why edibles are a great way to take it. Especially edibles containing butter or oils like MCT (coconut).
Topicals such as creams, lotions and balms are neither fast nor slow onset, but somewhere in between (~ 30 -120 minutes) (5). Their absorption depends on other ingredients (like terpenes) in the formula, since some can influence the rate of CBD absorption.
Topicals have a high bioavailability, since CBD doesn’t readily enter the bloodstream and is not processed by the liver.
That also means their effects are localised, so although the effects are concentrated, they are limited to one area. This is an advantage when treating a specific area of the body.
As a rule of thumb, body weight (and composition) may play a role in how long its takes CBD to take effect. It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that a larger person is likely to need a higher dose, or use CBD for a longer period of time to experience their desired effects. But thats not always the case.
CBD and other similar cannabinoids are stored in fat tissue around the body (6), which means it can accumulate. Now CBD doesn’t necessarily have to accumulate to exert an effect. But the accumulation of CBD may contribute to a spillover effect, which may last beyond the time its ‘active’ after dosing.
Activity of Liver Enzymes
The amount of time CBD lasts for, and the level at which it may accumulate in the fat tissue also depends on how quickly its broken down by the liver. Everyones liver enzymes work at different speeds, so they are likely to either be slow, fast or normal metabolisers of certain drugs. Every drug experience can vary between individuals based on genetic differences in drug metabolism.
So if you are a fast metaboliser of CBD, you may find you need either higher doses or to use it for a longer period of time to reach desired effects. On the flip side, lower doses or shorter introductions to CBD may suit those with slower metabolic enzyme activity.
The easiest way to find out which one you are is to experiment. See how you respond to CBD by playing around with doses, and tracking your responses and duration of use.
You can find our CBD tracker here.
Dosing is the most obvious factor in how long it may take CBD to work for you. Again, it depends on what you are using it for, whether it be a chronic or acute ailment. But generally speaking, If taking smaller doses, it may take longer for CBD to accumulate in the body.
Small doses can be effective for alleviating acute ailments in a lot of people, others may need to up the dose or take small doses for longer.
Larger doses may be better suited for chronic ailments, which is what the research suggests. Full spectrum CBD also has whats called a dose-response relationship. What that means is as the dose increases, the effects also increase in line with it (up until a point where it plateaus).
Effects may plateau at different doses for different people, and may depend on how accustomed to CBD they are already.
Frequency of Use
This ties into dosing quote closely, and really comes down to personal preference and experimentation.
There are several ways to use CBD, and how long it takes to work depends on how often you take it.
How often you take it depends on what you are using it for. Lets say you use it in response to a headache, and a single dose of 5mg gives you relief. Great, then thats an immediate result, and you might just choose to use it when and if you have a headache.
However, if you didn’t find relief, then perhaps a larger dose would be needed, or using it on a daily basis to prevent a headache occurring may be a more attractive option.
Thats what many people choose to do initially, is to take it like a multivitamin, twice daily; once in the morning and once at night. This way regular doses may prevent the onset of symptoms, like a headache or anxiety.
Chronic conditions like insomnia or metabolic issues may require a regular dosing regimen, to supply a cumulative dose of CBD over time. See research below to see what has been studied so far.
Generally researchers give CBD 1-2 times a day.
In summary, the ways to use CBD are:
- In response to acute onset symptoms
- On a daily basis to prevent acute onset symptoms
- On a daily basis for general health and managing chronic conditions
Past Cannabis Use
Whether you have previously used cannabis (or CBD) may affect you response to it. Generally, people who have used cannabis have stimulated their ECS by doing so. For these people, their ECS is ‘awake’ and responsive to stimulation from external sources. This may mean they respond quicker to CBD.
Whereas for people who have never used cannabis before, it may take them longer to ‘wake up’ their ECS and to start experiencing meaningful effects from CBD.
For those people, it may be good to start with an ECS activation protocol, which slowly and gently introduces external cannabinoids to the ECS.
Days 1 – 4
Days 5 – 10
Days 10 – 14
AM: 5 mg | PM: 7.5 mg
AM: 10 mg | PM: 12.5 mg
AM: 15 mg | PM: 17.5 mg
This is only based on anecdotal experiences, no studies (I’ve seen) on this yet comparing new to existing cannabis users and their response to CBD.
Leaving the System
Studies have shown that the time it takes CBD to leave the body can vary from as little as 10 hours for acute dosing of an oral spray, 31 hours after smoking and 2-5 days for chronic oral dosing (7). This is a perfect example of the unique constitution of each individual, as well as how long its used for and its form creating those differences.
How much body fat someone maintains is likely to play a role in how quickly CBD leaves the system. How long they have been using it for may influence how much is stored in their fat tissue.
The activity of metabolic enzymes called cytochrome P450 in the liver that break down CBD can vary genetically, and some people may get rid of it faster than others.
Type of CBD
There’s more than one type of CBD out there, and what type you use is likely to affect how it works for you.
Generally, full or broad spectrum CBD are the most effective and require smaller doses for most people to reach their desired effect. They also contain other cannabinoids which help CBD work its magic, which result in a more profound response.
CBD isolate on the other hand is 99.9% pure CBD. There’s nothing else to it, just CBD. There are no studies (to my knowledge) comparing the absorption rate of the two.
You could argue that CBD isolate could be absorbed quicker since its a single compound, and take effect quickly. But you could also argue that terpenes in full and broad spectrum extracts synergise with CBD to boost absorption.
Until studies are done on this, its just pure conjecture. Full and broad spectrum CBD are the superior choice all round though.
People who have been using CBD at high doses for a long period of time may experience a ceiling effect. In other words, they may experience diminishing returns from doses of CBD that once provided a meaningful effect. This is purely anecdotal in my experience.
However, there have been no studies long enough with CBD to say whether there isn’t a tolerance like effect after say 2 – 5 years of sustained use.
I can only say from my personal experience that I get better results from CBD when I use it for periods of time and then take a break. I like to take a few months off from it, let my body clear out the cannabinoids, hit the sauna and do plenty of exercise, and support my livers detoxification pathways.
This is common practice for many herbs, which are used on a periodic basis with a ‘wash out’ period of a few weeks to months before starting again.
For other people however, long term use may provide them with the experience they prefer.
Below are a few examples of how long it has taken for CBD to produce a clinically meaningful effect. The type of CBD used is also listed, as well as its form. One caveat to bear in mind, is that these are still preliminary research studies, with low amounts of study participants. Larger studies of longer duration will provide greater strength for CBD’s efficacy.
Research investigating the effects of CBD isolate taken orally as capsules revealed that it takes effect from 80 – 140 minutes (measurements were only taken after 80 minutes, it may take effect sooner) (10).
CBD isolate capsules significantly the amount of sleep in patients with chronic insomnia after just 4 weeks (13).
Parkinsons patients with REM sleep disorder improved restful sleep with CBD isolate after 6 weeks (14).
Psychiatric patients taking CBD capsules improved their subjective sleep scores by 28% after taking CBD for 3 months (15).
CBD rich whole plant extract oral spray, with maximum dose of up to 120mg/day significantly reduced pain and ratings of spasticity severity compared to placebo after 2 weeks (16).
CBD isolate significantly decreased resistin and increased glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide compared to placebo after 13 weeks. This hints at a role for CBD in LDL cholesterol and insulin secretion (19).
Smokers receiving inhaled doses of 400 μg CBD per application reduced cigarette consumption by up to 40% after 1 week compared to placebo (20).
Giving CBD isolate capsules to regular cannabis users resulted in significantly fewer depressive and psychotic-like symptoms after 10 weeks, and had improvements in attentional switching, verbal learning, and memory (21).
IBD (Ulcerative Colitis)
Whole plant CBD capsules significantly improved Mayo scores (of remission), in addition to patient reported quality of life measures after 10 weeks (22).