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, 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. 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 bloodstream 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 bloodstream, the absorption rate is relatively efficient. The effects of CBD taken sublingually can normally be felt within 15-20 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
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 particularly 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 bloodstream. 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 1-2 hours for them to kick in. But once they do, the effects can last for up to 8 hours.
Inhalation methods are excellent for those needing immediate relief. The CBD is delivered directly to your lungs where your body absorbs it into the bloodstream 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.
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 bloodstream.
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 per milligram is usually a downside to transdermal methods. This is because special emulsifiers and permeability enhancers are necessary ingredients for the CBD to fully absorb through the skin.
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%
Topicals: Does Not Apply
Transdermals: Approximately 70+%
Which CBD Delivery Method Should You Choose?
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. There is no best way of taking CBD for everyone. 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.