Methods to ingest CBD

Luckily there is a lot more processing of CBD happening around the world so that people can make ingestion decisions that fit their lifestyle or medical need.  Here is a breakdown of the most common ingestions methods for CBD.

Oral – Swallowed

Types: CBD oil, tinctures, edibles, capsules, powder

Pathway to targets: When CBD is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and travels throughout your body.

Time-frame: This is the slowest route for CBD to reach its targets, but also the longest period of time that it’s active. Peak bloodstream levels are reported anywhere between 1-6 hours. Best for long-term supplementation.

Other considerations:

  • Food. Food affects your body’s ability to absorb CBD, and more cannabinoids are absorbed on a full stomach. CBD is fat-soluble, and consuming with a healthy dose of fats can increase the amount of CBD that reaches your bloodstream 3-fold — which is why Wicked Root contains MCT coconut oil.  
  • Pay attention to THC. Swallowed products are first metabolized by your liver before circulating through your body (first-pass metabolism). If your CBD product contains THC (i.e it’s a “full-spectrum CBD”), it could be converted to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a strong intoxicant. Many people find that CBD helps counterbalance the “high” associated with THC, but if you are sensitive to THC, look for CBD from a hemp source.
  • Prescription drug interactions. As mentioned earlier, CBD could interfere with the processing of certain drugs by cytochrome p450. Because cytochrome p450 is most concentrated in the liver, ingested CBD is more likely than inhaled CBD to cause drug interactions.
  • Time in your mouth. Everything above applies to CBD that is swallowed immediately. However, while it sits in your mouth, it can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. See below…

Oral – Sublingual or “Buccal”

Types: CBD oil, tinctures, tablets

Pathway to targets: CBD can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream from capillary-rich areas underneath the tongue, along the gums and cheek. From here, it avoids first-pass metabolism and is sent throughout your body.

Time-frame: This route gets CBD into your bloodstream faster than swallowing. Under the tongue (sublingual) is generally quicker than against the cheek (buccal). However, because most of the CBD will eventually be swallowed, peak bloodstream levels range from 0.5 – 5 hours.

Other considerations:

  • Food. When evaluating an oral spray, researchers discovered that the total amount of absorbed CBD increases 5-fold if the person has recently eaten. Chewing helps increase blood flow to your mouth, which could help increase absorption.
  • Increase surface contact. It’s often suggested to keep CBD oil in your mouth for 1.5 minutes or more before swallowing. During this time, increase absorption by vigorously swishing the oil around your mouth and even between your teeth — this increases the surface contact between the oil and your capillaries. (If you’ve tried oil-pulling as a tooth-and-gums cleanser, this will be familiar.)

Inhalation

Types: Vape pens, dabs, high-CBD cannabis

Pathway to targets: When CBD is inhaled, it passes to the lungs where it rapidly passes into the bloodstream. Inhalation avoids first-pass metabolism.

Time-frame: This is the quickest way to get CBD circulating through your system, but it also is effective for the shortest period of time. Peak bloodstream levels are within 10 minutes.

Other considerations:

  • Inhalation technique. Based on studies with THC, inhalation can get anywhere from 2-56% of this molecule into your bloodstream based on your inhalation technique. Try this: use the vaporizer for the first half of your inhalation, then finish your inhalation with a deep breath of fresh air — get those molecules deep in there! (This technique will also minimize irritation if the vapor is a bit too hot, by mixing in cooler air.) On exhale, any vapor that you can see is lost, so instead of exhaling fully, start a partial exhale until you see vapor — then inhale all the way back in and repeat a few times until you see less vapor on the exhale.
  • Vapor Pen Hardware. Avoid cheap, disposable vape pens, and watch out for any that list “propylene glycol” in the ingredients. Look for higher-quality vape pens with ceramic heating elements, for a cleaner vapor.

Topical

Types: Creams, lotions, salves

Pathway to targets: Topical CBD diffuses across your skin and reaches local targets, like muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves. Very little, if any, enters the bloodstream — unless it is designed for transdermal activity.

Time-frame: Varies, depending on the target.

Other considerations:

  • Often paired. Topicals are great for on-the-spot treatment and arousal. But for long-term health goals, people often get the best results when they pair topicals with oral or inhaled CBD products.

Everything we’ve been discussing — the pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol — is a complicated subject that scientists are still actively piecing together. There are no established guidelines for the best way to use CBD to achieve your health goals. Prepare for a truly unique experience that deserves patient and loving experimentation. We wish you success on your journey!