What’s the Best Way to Take CBD Oil?

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 

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

Inhalation methods are excellent for those needing immediate relief. The CBD is delivered directly to the lungs where the 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 abortive relief (i.e. individuals suffering from migraines, anxiety and panic attacks).

Typically, the user will take “hits” from their vaping device until they feel the level of relief they desire. The effect should then last for about 3-4 hours. The bioavailability of vape products is slightly higher than sublingual, with reports estimating 30-40%. Another benefit to this method is the wide availability of flavors that lets the user pick and choose to their taste.

Oral

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

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.

Transdermal

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.

Suppositories

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.

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 absorption mg of so mg?

    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 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. What I really need to know:
    Do i need higher MG than the 100, 200 mg bottles. I want to be able to just stay upright for more than 5 minutes without unbearable pain. H E L P.

    • 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. Just ran across this arrival but if any these products have coconut , latex, any kind of nuts even peanuts then I can’t taje 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 Chron’s disease and autoimmune diseases anxiety so before I’d ever put this in my mouth I need to know this 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 Cbc Oil. It Helps to know tremendously! Again Thank You!

  8. Very good information, just started using it under the toung 3wks ago. I have a auto immune disease called MYASTHENIA GRAVIS, using 250mg twice a day morning & night. I think its to early to give an opinion yet, should I go up on the mg ???? 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 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.

    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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