How to take CBD oil
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is an extract of the cannabis or hemp plant used as a natural remedy to promote wellbeing and backed by an increasing amount of evidence suggesting it may help treat various health conditions.
What’s the best way to take CBD?
There’s a vast array of CBD products on the market – including e-liquids for vaping, chewable gummies, capsules and creams – all of which we’ll explore in more detail below. However, if you’re looking for a balance of ease, efficiency and safety, choose a good quality CBD oil.
CBD oils are bottled solutions made from carrier oils such as hemp or olive oil plus the active ingredient. They generally come with a dropper or pipette built in to the cap of the bottle allowing you to take measured doses.
The best way to take CBD oil is sublingually, which simply means ‘under the tongue’. The capillary-rich membrane absorbs the CBD more directly into the bloodstream, meaning a shorter wait for any beneficial effects and a greater percentage of CBD made available than simply swallowing the oil or adding it to food or drinks.
To take CBD oil sublingually, place the required amount under the tongue and hold it there for a minute or two before swallowing.
How to choose a good CBD oil
There are many good brands of CBD oil on the market but – until better regulation comes in – there are also some to avoid.
A recent study by the Centre for Medical Cannabis called the best products “very high quality and… good options for today’s consumers” but found that many contained far less CBD than claimed on their labels, or illegal amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Many CBD brands currently sold in the UK also use imported hemp where a low cost-price is more important than quality and traceability. That’s why it’s important to choose a trustworthy brand of CBD oil, that can demonstrate rigorous processing standards and the provenance of its ingredients.
Jersey Hemp grows and harvests its own hemp on site and processes it under the supervision of its scientists and agricultural experts. Every batch of oil is tested by an independent laboratory, with the results displayed on its website.
The Centre for Medical Cannabis called Jersey Hemp “one of the most compliant, high quality and accurately labelled products that we tested” so it’s definitely one to consider if you’re thinking of trying CBD oil for the first time or looking for a more reliable product.
5% v 10% CBD oil
As we'll discuss below, it’s important to find the right dosage of CBD for you, which means being aware of how much of the active ingredient is contained in the oil you’re taking. Many CBD oils come in both 5% and 10% solutions. Neither is better per se, but you’ll only need half as much of the 10% solution compared with the 5% to get the same dosage of CBD.
If you’re looking for an optimum CBD oil, it’s also worth considering full-spectrum CBD oil. This is CBD made from the whole hemp plant. If it’s a good quality brand, it still won’t contain any detectable amount of THC but it will provide a whole range of extra cannabis compounds, known as cannabinoids, along with other substances found naturally in the hemp plant, including anti-oxidants such as flavonoids and aromatic oils called terpenes.
It’s possible these substances may contribute to the theoretical ‘entourage effect’, whereby the different compounds are said to enhance the effect of the CBD itself. Certainly, getting extra anti-oxidants into your diet can only be a good thing.
Other ways to take CBD
If you’re not keen on taking CBD sublingually, there are plenty of other ways to consume it, each with their own pros and cons. The oil itself can be swallowed directly or added to food or drinks and there are gummy sweets, lozenges and capsules you can eat, and creams to apply to the skin.
CBD taken orally or with food and drink
You can use a dropper to administer CBD oil directly into your mouth and swallow it immediately or add it to food and drink. However, letting your CBD take the digestive route will slow down any effects compared with taking it sublingually (see How long does CBD oil take to work?) and will also reduce the amount of CBD that finally reaches your bloodstream. If you choose a quality CBD oil, it’s still a good way to go but there are some other things it's worth being aware of.
CBD coffee is currently a popular trend but there is some evidence that CBD can start to degrade in solutions about 71°F, which may mean losing even more of the active ingredient if you like your latte more than lukewarm.
CBD oil can also be added to meals but research suggests that it may be better absorbed when taken with high-fat foods, which may not suit everyone’s regime.
If you already enjoy vaping, you may feel that using e-liquids containing CBD is for you. It’s certainly the method that gets the CBD into your bloodstream the fastest, and with the least amount lost along the way. However, there are still significant question marks over the safety of vaping itself so it's not recommended.
CBD gummies and lozenges
Chewable gummy sweets and suckable lozenges can be a pleasant way to consume CBD and, given that they spend a certain amount of time in your mouth before being swallowed, may benefit from some absorption through the mucous membranes, as with sublingual application. A high proportion of the CBD will still be swallowed, though, meaning it's subject to digestive processes that can reduce the amount eventually absorbed.
CBD capsules and soft gels
CBD hard capsules and soft gel capsules are another convenient method of taking CBD. On one hand, they contain a measured dose, on the other they'll go through the same digestive processes as swallowing any form of CBD.
CBD oil can also be administered via creams and cosmetics applied to the skin and there is initial evidence that topical CBD creams may help with localised complaints such as arthritis.
How long does CBD oil take to work? What's the fastest method?
Where digestion is involved, there are many factors that can affect the speed at which CBD reaches the bloodstream, and there are no definitive answers in terms of any methods of consumption. However, by looking at the science that does exist, along with what has been reported by users, it's possible to come up with relative estimations. It's certainly true that some methods, such as vaping and sublingual application, are faster and more efficient than others.
It’s also worth being aware that while there are fewer of the cannabinoid receptors with which CBD interacts in the skin, using a topical cream for pain symptoms may reach them more directly and may treat specific areas more efficiently.
Read a more detailed analysis of how quickly different methods of CBD consumption take affect, and how long they last, in our dedicated article.
How long CBD takes to enter the bloodstream via each method
- CBD vaping liquids – the quickest way to absorb CBD; as fast as 5-15 mins
- CBD oil, taken sublingually – minutes rather than hours; perhaps 15-30 mins
- CBD oil, ingested – may be as fast as 30 mins but generally hours rather than minutes; can vary widely depending on what you’ve eaten and when
- CBD lozenges – there may be a degree of more rapid absorption through the membranes in the mouth before ingestion
- CBD gummies and capsules – similar to ingested oil
- CBD creams – may reach targeted areas more quickly than ingesting CBD; the Arthritis Foundation says effects may be felt within 15 to 45 mins; some evidence suggests they may peak at around 90 mins
Determining the right dosage of CBD oil can depend on a whole range of factors including age, weight, particular body chemistry, the ailment you are aiming to treat and any side-effects you may experience.
Start with a low dosage, perhaps 10 mg. Take this for a few days, making a note of how you feel, then if there are no prohibitive effects and you think you require more, up it by the same amount again. Repeat this process until you find the optimum dosage without adverse effects.
To determine how much CBD oil you are using, check the packaging carefully. Bottles come in different volumes with different concentrations of CBD measured as a percentage but some brands may only display the bottle size and the total amount of CBD it contains.
If you need to calculate a dosage yourself and don't know the percentage strength, remember that a single droplet from a dropper is approximately 0.05ml. So a 10ml bottle contains 10ml/0.05ml = 200 droplets. If it contains 500mg of CBD, there is therefore 500/200 = 2.5mg of CBD in each droplet. You can adjust this based on the volume of your bottle and the amount of CBD it contains, remembering that the size of a droplet remains the same.
If you know the strength of the oil, it's much easier – simply half half the percentage to find the approximate amount of CBD per drop in mg.
To get an idea of the amount of CBD that might work best for you, use the Jersey Hemp dosage calculator.
Also be aware that the UK’s Food Standards Agency recommends as a precaution that healthy adults do not take more than 70mg of CBD per day.
How does CBD make you feel and is it safe?
Trustworthy brands of CBD oil will contain no more than a trace of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, so will not get you high. However, many people do use CBD to improve their general sense of wellbeing and there is scientific evidence that it may help with a number of different conditions including pain, anxiety, sleeping disorders and some cancer symptoms.
CBD is generally considered by both users and researchers to have a low level of significant side-effects. However, the most common is dry mouth, experienced by 11% of 2,400 users surveyed in 2018, with tiredness/fatigue, diarrhoea, appetite changes, mood changes and nausea also regularly reported.
A number of significant international agencies, including the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the United Nations, have recently made changes to their recommendations to say that CBD does not pose discernible risks to users or that its narcotics status should be downgraded to allow for further medical research.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency advises as a precaution that people in vulnerable groups, such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, do not use CBD and that healthy adults limit their intake to 70mg per day unless advised by a doctor.
You should also speak to your doctor if you are on existing medication and are thinking about taking CBD.
CBD can inhibit the metabolisation of certain drugs, leading to increased levels in the body and accentuated side-effects. It works in the same way as grapefruit, which should not be taken with some types of medication, so any drug labelled with a 'grapefruit warning' should not be used alongside CBD without medical advice.
CBD may also inhibit other enzymes that metabolise drugs that do not come with a grapefruit warning, so it's important to talk to your doctor before combining any supplements or medication with CBD.
The author of this article is not a medical expert and nothing in this article constitutes medical advice or gives rise to a medical practitioner/patient relationship. You should seek specialist medical advice where required. Never disregard professional medical advice or refrain from seeking it because of something you have read here.