So, you’ve decided that you want to start using CBD oil products for your ailments. You’re probably now wondering “what type of product should I choose and what’s the best way to take CBD oil?” The goal of this article is to walk you through the most common CBD delivery methods and explain why you may choose one over another.
Some common methods we will discuss are Sublingual, Vaping, Oral, Topical, Transdermal, and Suppositories.
What Is Bioavailability?
Before we get into the delivery methods and the best way to take CBD oil, let’s discuss bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the absorption rate or portion of the actual product that gets into your blood stream. In this article, we speak about bioavailability in terms of percentages. The easiest way to understand how to interpret these numbers is with an example:
Let’s say that you are taking 25 milligrams of CBD using method X. When consumed, method X has a bioavailability of, say, 25%. That means that your body will only actually use 25% of the 25 milligrams ingested. In this case, 25% of 25 milligrams is 6.25 milligrams. Your body will only use approximately 6.25 milligrams of the 25 milligrams initially consumed when using method X.
As you will see, there is no method that has 100% bioavailability. 100% bioavailability is generally reserved for intravenous methods and is not applicable to how CBD is commonly used. It’s also worth mentioning that bioavailability is not exact. The numbers presented below are averages and a general range to go by.
Sublingual is one of the most common and preferred methods out there. Sublingual involves taking a CBD oil product by putting it under your tongue. Typically, you hold the product under your tongue for at least 60-90 seconds to allow the product to absorb into your blood stream through the mucous membranes located there.
One of the major benefits of this method is the ability to accurately and precisely dose the oil. The amount of CBD per drop varies widely across brands and one can find potencies anywhere from 0.3 milligram of CBD per drop to upwards of 5 milligrams of CBD per drop. This allows an individual to customize their dose to their exact needs.
Another benefit to this method is the bioavailability, which is reported to be around 20-30%. Since the CBD is going directly into the bloodstream, you do not have the loss typically associated with the oral methods that utilize the digestive tract. This also means the effects will kick in much faster than the oral method, though it may not last quite as long. The effects of sublingual drops typically last for between 4-6 hours.
The “earthy” taste of natural drops is often mentioned as the downside of this option. If you dislike the taste of your product, you can do things to mask the taste or consider purchasing flavored CBD oil drops.
Vaping or Inhalation
Oral is a convenient method for those that dislike the taste associated with other methods, such as sublingual use. Oral involves actually eating or immediately swallowing the CBD product. This includes gummies, capsules, gelcaps and edibles. Basically, anything that is not held in the mouth and under the tongue.
The oral method is convenient when you’re on the go and easier to measure the dosage. The amount of CBD in each gummy or capsule is commonly reported on the label of the product. Gummies and capsules are typically available in a potency range of between 5-30 milligrams of CBD each.
Typically, oral methods take longer to kick in. But once they do, the effects can last for up to 8 hours. The downside of the oral method is that the bioavailability is relatively low. The average absorption rate of 5% places oral delivery well below all other methods.
So you may need to take more milligrams of CBD in order to achieve the same effects produced by a more efficient method. Because of this, using the oral method is typically less cost-effective.
Topical application is a popular delivery method for localized pain relief. Topical CBD products are applied directly to the skin using a balm, lotion, salve, or cream. Some people even take their sublingual oils and rub them into their skin. Topicals are intended to provide direct, localized, targeted relief.
Topicals are not recommended for use for ailments that are generally not considered “physical.” For example, those suffering from neurological conditions or anxiety will likely experience no relief from a topical. Those undergoing drug testing can rest assured that the use of a topical will not trigger a positive drug test, due to the fact that any potential THC in a topical does not penetrate through the skin and get into the bloodstream.
Often confused with topical methods, transdermal is another method of applying CBD to the skin. The difference here is that the CBD applied transdermally actually absorbs through the skin and enters the blood stream. This means that the CBD not only works locally as a targeted pain reliever but it can also provide you with whole-body relief.
Transdermal products have the potential to help mental and neurological conditions in addition to localized relief. Transdermals are found most commonly as CBD patches, creams and lotions. The patches typically work for up to 8-12 hours and are then discarded after use.
Transdermal products absorb immediately into the blood stream, bypassing common issues that are associated with absorption through the digestive system. This also means that the bioavailability of this method is incredibly high, with reports putting it at around 70% at a minimum. The cost is usually a downside to transdermal methods since special emulsifiers and permeability enhancers are required for the CBD to fully absorb through the skin.
Finally, we come to CBD suppositories. Although not a common method, suppositories have the highest bioavailability with reports putting it at 80-90%. This method typically kicks in within 15-20 minutes and can last up to 8 hours. This method is beneficial for individuals who need to consume high doses of CBD, but cannot due to trouble swallowing, nausea or vomiting.
Summary of Bioavailability by CBD Delivery Method
To summarize, read below for the methods discussed and their respective bioavailability:
- Sublingual: 20-30%
- Vaping: 30-40%
- Oral: Approximately 5%
- Topical: Does Not Apply
- Transdermal: Approximately 70+%
- Suppositories: 80-90%
Which CBD Delivery Method Should I Choose?
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to use just one method. It’s incredibly common to use multiple CBD products as needed. For example, an individual with a chronic condition may use a sublingual oil daily as a preventative measure and use a topical, transdermal or inhalation method as needed when their ailment flares up. Staggering methods is also a viable option. An example of that would be taking a capsule when you get a flare-up and using a topical in the meantime while you wait for the capsule to kick in. The best way to take CBD oil may also take some time to discover since everyone has an individual experience.
Once you’ve decided which method(s) to use, head on over to our CBD recommendation tool to get personalized suggestions of products from reputable brands.
Please note that the listed bioavailabilities only apply to CBD. THC and other cannabinoids have different absorption rates and these numbers may not be applicable.