What’s the Best Way to Take CBD Oil?

One of the first questions that new users often ask is “what’s the best way to take CBD oil?” With so many different CBD products to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones may be best for you.

The goal of this article is to educate you about the different CBD delivery methods. We’ll walk you through the most common product types and explain why you may choose one over another.

What is Bioavailability?

Before we get into the delivery methods and the best way to take CBD oil, it’s important for you to understand the concept of bioavailability. Bioavailability is the absorption rate or percentage of CBD that actually gets into your bloodstream. The easiest way to understand bioavailability is with an example.

Let’s say that you are taking 10 milligrams of CBD oil drops taken under your tongue (i.e., sublingually). Sublingual drops have a bioavailability of about 25%. That is, your body will absorb and use 25% of the CBD that is consumed. In this case, 25% of 10 milligrams is 2.5 milligrams. So your body will only actually use about 2.5 milligrams of the 10 milligrams that were taken sublingually.

As you will see, there is no CBD delivery 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 estimates of bioavailability are not exact. The numbers presented below are averages and a general range to go by.

CBD Oil Drops (Tinctures)

Sublingual use is the most common and popular method of users. It involves taking CBD by placing drops under your tongue. You should hold the drops under your tongue for at least 60 seconds. This allows the product to absorb directly into your blood stream through the mucous membranes in the bottom of your mouth.

One of the major benefits of this method is the ability to dose accurately and precisely. You can calculate the number of milliliters or drops needed to achieve your exact desired dose in milligrams of CBD. Our CBD dosage calculator can help you with the math so you can customize the serving size for your specific needs.

Another benefit of sublingual drops is the bioavailability, which is reported to be around 20-30%. Since the CBD is going directly into the blood stream, the absorption rate is relatively efficient. The effects of CBD taken sublingually can normally be felt within 5-20 minutes and last for between 4-6 hours.

The “earthy” taste of natural CBD oil drops is often mentioned as the downside of this option. If you dislike the taste of your product, there are some things that you can try to mask the taste. You can also purchase flavored CBD oil drops if taste is a major consideration for you.

CBD Gummies and Capsules

Gummies and capsules are popular ways of taking CBD orally. Anything that involves eating or immediately swallowing the CBD product are considered oral methods. 

Oral delivery methods are convenient when you’re on the go. It’s also easier to know how much CBD you are taking. The amount of CBD in each gummy or capsule is commonly listed on the label of the product. Gummies and capsules are commonly available in a potency range of between 5-30 milligrams of CBD each. Oral methods are also popular with users who dislike the taste of the sublingual drops.

The downside of the oral method is that the bioavailability is relatively low. This is because they go through the digestive tract before being absorbed into the blood stream. The average absorption rate of 5% places oral delivery well below all the other methods. 

That doesn’t mean that they can’t be effective. But the lower bioavailability means that you will need to take more milligrams of CBD orally to achieve the same effects produced by the more efficient methods. Because of this, taking gummies or capsules is typically less cost-effective.

It takes longer for CBD taken orally to take effect than sublingual drops. Depending on your metabolism, it can take up to an hour for them to kick in. But once they do, the effects can last for up to 8 hours. 

Vaping (Inhalation)

Inhalation methods are excellent for those needing immediate relief. The CBD is delivered directly to your lungs where your body absorbs it into the blood stream immediately. Generally, there is no wait time for these products to kick in. This makes them an excellent choice for those needing fast, abortive relief. This commonly includes users who suffer from migraines and those prone to anxiety and panic attacks.

You typically take “hits” from your vaping device until you feel the level of relief desired. The effect should then last for about 3-4 hours. The bioavailability of the inhalation method is slightly higher than sublingual drops, with reports estimating it at 30-40%. Another benefit to this method is the wide availability of flavors available for popular CBD vape products.

CBD Topicals

Topical CBD products are applied directly to your skin using a balm, lotion, salve, or cream. Some users even take their sublingual oils and rub them into their skin. Topicals are intended to provide direct, localized, targeted relief to specific areas of the body.

Topicals are not recommended for conditions 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. That’s because that any potential THC in a topical CBD product does not penetrate through the skin and get into the blood stream.

CBD Patches and Transdermal Creams

Often confused with topical methods, transdermal is another method of applying CBD to your skin. The difference here is that the CBD applied transdermally actually absorbs through your skin and enters the blood stream. This means that the CBD not only works locally but it can also provide 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 and transdermal creams. 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. A higher 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.

Suppositories

Finally, we come to CBD suppositories. Although not a common method for taking CBD, suppositories have the highest bioavailability with reports putting it at 80-90%. Suppositories typically take effect in 15-20 minutes and can last up to 8 hours. This method is beneficial for users who need to consume higher doses of CBD but cannot take it sublingually or orally due to trouble with swallowing, nausea or vomiting.

Summary of Bioavailability by CBD Delivery Method

To summarize, here are the most common CBD delivery methods and their respective bioavailability estimates.

  • Sublingual drops: 20-30%
  • Oral: Approximately 5%
  • Inhalation: 30-40%
  • Topicals: Does Not Apply
  • Transdermals: Approximately 70+%
  • Suppositories: 80-90%

Which CBD Delivery Method Should I Choose?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. It may take some experimentation for you to discover the methods that best fit your needs. We hope that our explanation of the different delivery methods helps you shorten this process.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to use just one method. It’s very common for users to regularly use multiple CBD products as needed. For example, you can take a sublingual oil each day as a preventative measure and use a topical as needed.

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 cream while you wait for the capsule to kick in. 

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.

Sarah Jorczyk

Sarah Jorczyk is an advocate for CBD products and one of the Administrators of the CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook. She strives to educate the public, and promotes the use of safe products while helping others throughout their CBD journey. You can also find a variety of her content, including reviews and educational videos, on the group's youtube page.

21 Comments
  1. When you state 20mg/day, is that milligrams taken or milligrams after absorption? Thank you.

    • 20-25 milligrams is about the average that people take per serving based on what users have told us in our Facebook group. That is the stated number of milligrams on the bottle and the amount that your body actually absorbed is less than that depending on the bioavailability or absorption rate of how you take it.

  2. My son will not keep it under his tongue. He likes the taste and insists on swallowing it immediately. It’s to help with anxiety so I think sublingual would be the best way for him to ingest. Would the absorption percentage increase if I added his recommended dosage to water and had him swish it in his mouth for 30-60 seconds? He loves to swish.

    • The key to higher absorption is getting it into your bloodstream more directly and avoiding the “first pass metabolism” that occurs if it has to first go through the digestive system. So any method that will allow more of the product to be absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth will generally have higher bioavailability than immediately swallowing it.

  3. Do i need higher milligrams than the 100 or 200 mg bottles? I want to be able to just stay upright for more than 5 minutes without unbearable pain.

    • Based on what users have told us, the average daily serving size for users is around 20mg per day. Some need more and some need less to get the results they are looking for. But the point is that a 100mg or 200mg bottle won’t last very long. They also lack in potency so you have to take much more in comparison to a higher potency product. Generally, most users start with a 500mg – 1000mg bottle and then may buy even larger bottles if the brand works for them.

  4. If any of these products have coconut oil, latex, any kind of nuts or even peanuts then I can’t take it due to my allergic reactions. So I’d need to know this! I’m in chronic pain, had open heart surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chrons disease, anxiety and autoimmune diseases. So before I’d ever put this in my mouth I need to know the chemicals that I’m allergic to.

  5. Most helpful. Thank you for your selfless time and effort.🌷

  6. I was diagnosed with COPD I want to try CBD pills cause I don’t even take cough medicine taste. Everyone is different but so many people say it helped them. Do I just try the pills. I don’t have a cough are phelm I can’t walk distance shortness of breath and steps. And excerbations flare ups. Thank you.

  7. Thank you. I am beginning to understand CBD oil. It helps to know tremendously! Again, thank you!

  8. Very good information. I just started using it under the tongue 3 weeks ago. I have an autoimmune disease called myasthenia gravis and I’m using 250mg twice a day morning and night. I think it’s to early to give an opinion yet. Should I go up on the milligrams? Any information would be helpful.

  9. Would it be redundant to take CBD both transdermal and sublingual?

  10. So for the greatest per % absorption rate; suppositories would be the best delivery method? Although a little expensive.

  11. Help me understand this element of your article. You stated…another benefit to this method is the bioavailability, which is reported to be around 20-30%. Since the CBD is going directly into the blood stream, 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. How would the effects of ingestion method last longer if you have less bioavailability?

    • When you choose to ingest the cannabis product, it has to go through the entire digestive tract and is further metabolized by the liver. Its a much longer process and not all of it immediately hits your blood stream as it’s metabolized. It can be thought of like a natural “time release” effect by the body. Much of the cannabinoids are lost, hence the bioavailability, but they are sent into the blood stream slower than sublingual (which is immediately sent into the blood stream, skipping first pass of the liver, so no natural “time release”). This is why it tends to last longer.

  12. Excellent summary and explanation for the different methods. Thank you for making the info so clear.

  13. Well said summary.

  14. Very comprehensive and thorough. When I had these questions I did a bit of searching myself and found almost exactly what you have summarized here. Well done and thank you.

  15. Thank you for sharing such informative information. This has been a huge help. I’m new to CBD with a few questions. I have a little better understanding on how I may try to dose differently now. Thanks again!

  16. Thanks, good article and very helpful.

  17. Very clear and ways to understand. Thank you!

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