After a couple of years of writing and talking about cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most common questions I get asked is: “How long does it take for CBD to start working?”
Some people complain that CBD didn’t work for them, because they didn’t feel anything. But was that because they didn’t wait long enough to feel CBD’s effects? Why does it take some people weeks or even months to get any benefits from CBD? And why, for others, does CBD seem to work like magic after the first use?
Let’s dive into the question that everyone who’s interested in CBD seems to be asking: How fast will CBD work for me?
How Does CBD Work?
Before we can talk about the effectiveness of CBD, it’s important to start with some of the basics about how CBD works in the body. CBD is a naturally occurring compound, technically called a phytocannabinoid (a cannabinoid that comes from a plant), found in Cannabis sativa, including the hemp variety of the plant.
Thousands of species of mammals, humans included, are equipped with something called an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is made up of two types of receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found all throughout the body.
The ECS plays a role in a long list of the body’s processes such as:
- Pain perception
The main goal of the ECS is to maintain internal balance in the body. This is also known as homeostasis, and it keeps all systems working efficiently.
Phytocannabinoids, like CBD, and naturally occurring endocannabinoids that our bodies produce, interact with the ECS receptors to spur physiological changes. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t stimulate ECS receptors so much as it modifies them and the surrounding systems to promote balance. This is part of the reason why researchers believe THC is responsible for that classic marijuana head high, while CBD doesn’t have the same effect.
While there’s still much to be researched, CBD is thought to modify CB1 receptors, helping keep them from getting overstimulated or overactive. This is in part why CBD can tone down THC’s psychoactive effect.
CBD is also thought to increase natural levels of endocannabinoids by inhibiting reuptake. In other words, allowing these endocannabinoids to be more bioavailable for use in the body.
Using CBD to Balance the ECS
With this basic understanding of the ECS and how it works to maintain balance in our bodies, let’s get back to the original question: Does CBD work immediately or do CBD levels need to be built up before feeling its effects?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t exactly simple.
Some CBD products can offer more immediate relief from anxiety, pain and more. But taking CBD daily and allowing it to build up in your system can help maintain balance in the ECS in the long term. So, while you could feel the effects of CBD immediately, you may not enjoy its full potential until it’s had a chance to build up in the body.
Here’s an example: You can take Tylenol to help manage the pain from a twisted ankle, but it’s not doing much to address the root cause of that pain. But if you continually work on balance training and building up the small muscles in your foot, you could avoid twisted ankles altogether.
And to make things even more complicated, there are many factors to consider when addressing the question of whether CBD works immediately. Various facets of your life and properties of your CBD product will influence how quickly and how strongly CBD works for you, like;
- Body weight
Plus, there are people out there who may never feel the effects of CBD. A “healthy” person could have a pretty balanced ECS naturally, in which case CBD may not make a material difference in their lives at all.
Does the Way You Consume CBD Make a Difference?
Researchers are still making sense of the ECS and how CBD interacts with it. But one thing is certain: The consumption method used to ingest CBD makes a big difference for how quickly a person will feel its effects. This is because different consumption methods allow CBD to absorb into the bloodstream and brain faster than others do.
- CBD vaporizers: Inhaling CBD via a CBD vaporizer is the fastest way to absorb it into your body. When inhaled, CBD goes from the lungs directly into the bloodstream, traveling to the brain quickly.
When consumed this way, the effects of CBD can be felt within minutes. The downside of vaping CBD is that the effects don’t last as long as other consumption methods do.
- CBD tinctures: These are sort of the middle-of-the-road option when it comes to how quickly the body can access CBD. Not only are tinctures very versatile (you can easily add a tincture to your coffee, smoothie or food), but they also act fast. Not as fast as a vaporizer, but the effects tend to last longer than when vaping CBD.
A couple drops of CBD tincture applied sublingually (under the tongue and held for a few seconds) can be effective typically within about 15 minutes for most folks. This is because the mouth’s mucous membranes do a great job of absorbing CBD, so it goes directly into the bloodstream without having to pass through the digestive system to get there.
- CBD edibles: There’s no doubt that CBD edibles take the longest of all the consumption methods to kick in. When eaten, CBD must make its way through the digestive system and then the liver to finally metabolize. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours, depending on all sorts of factors including how full you are and how fast your metabolism works. While it may take longest to kick in, the effects of CBD edibles tend to last the longest (up to four hours or more).
So, to answer the question, CBD can work immediately depending on your individual body, symptoms and consumption method. But CBD can also be effective with regular use as levels increase, helping your body achieve homeostasis.
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