The time it takes for CBD to kick in and how long the effects last depend on various factors. The way you take CBD plays a big role in the speed and duration of the effects. For example, you can inhale it, swallow it, spray it into your mouth, or apply it in the form of a gel onto your skin.
However, each consumption method has its own factors that affect the uptake of CBD in the body, making it difficult to make accurate predictions- simply taking your CBD along with a meal can make a big difference, and furthermore the fat content of the meal also impacts the effects.
Lately, there's a lot going on in the pharmaceutical industry: liposomal formulations of CBD, for example, are in very high demand. Although it´s generally believed that this will improve both how soon and how long you´ll experience the effects of CBD, as well as the bioavailability, there still aren’t enough studies conducted to back this up. However, it's questionable if proving these benefits will be possible since there are so many variables not only in the consumption method but also with each CBD user. After all, every person is different.
Nonetheless, there are still a couple of statements that can be made about when the effects of CBD kick in and how long they will last depending on how you take it.
1. Inhalation (Diffusor)
The fastest way to feel an effect is by inhaling CBD through your mouth using a vaporizer such as a diffuser pen, or by smoking cannabis flower. By absorbing CBD through your lungs, you can expect to start noticing effects within a couple of minutes. At the latest, it should have reached its highest plasma concentration after half an hour. From here on, the effects will slowly start to decrease again which is one of the main downsides to inhaling your CBD: It loses effect relatively quickly.
Generally, the effects are said to last between 2 to 4 hours. Since inhalation is the fastest way to take CBD, it's especially beneficial in acute situations when you need quick relief.
2. Oral ingestion (capsules)
The longest you´ll have to wait for your CBD to kick in is when you swallow it in the form of CBD oil or a capsule. It goes through your stomach and travels to your liver where it then enters your bloodstream and starts to take effect.
It takes approximately 1-2 hours before your blood has the highest concentration of CBD (as shown in this study). While you may start feeling the initial effects earlier than this, it still takes about 30 minutes until the CBD is fully active.
Taking CBD orally has one great advantage: The effects will last for a good 6-8 hours. This makes it one of the best ways to take CBD for “plannable” situations such as getting a good night's rest.
You can also accelerate the time it takes for CBD to kick in by taking liposomal formulated CBD. You can read what liposomal formulation is all about here.
3. Absorption through the oral mucosa (lining of the mouth)
If taking CBD orally isn't your cup of tea and inhalation is out of the question, then there's still another way you can speed up the process: There are special CBD mouth sprays that have recently been developed. These are sprayed into your mouth and are partially absorbed by your oral mucosa (the lining of your mouth). The CBD that gets directly absorbed in your mouth doesn't have to take the long way through your stomach and liver and can flow directly into your bloodstream.
You can also apply a few drops of CBD oil directly into your mouth instead of using a spray. However, this may take a certain level of discipline as you´ll have to keep the drops in your mouth for a while, (in most cases under your tongue) which, depending on the carrier substance, isn't a very pleasant taste experience, to say the least.
The effective duration is a bit shorter than when ingesting CBD orally; the effects will last for approximately 4-6 hours.
Similar to mouth sprays, the first CBD nasal sprays are in the development stage but are not available in Germany just yet.
4. Topical application
Apart from taking CBD through your lungs, stomach, and mucosa, there's also another organ that can absorb cannabinoids such as CBD: Our skin.
The efficiency with which the active substance of CBD is absorbed by the body is comparable to that of consuming CBD orally. Similar to consuming CBD through our mucosa, topical application means that it doesn't have to take the long route through our stomach and liver to reach our bloodstream. Our skin has its very own endocannabinoid system, and CBD can already start to work just a few minutes after application.
Topical (i.e. external) CBD treatments, for example in the form of a CBD gel on your skin, are great for treating localized symptoms such as dermatological pains, arthritis, or even any pain in your joints after exercise.
There are also studies on treating arthritic joint pain with CBD that show promising results. For such cases, the transdermal application, which is the absorption through your skin, seems to be superior to orally ingesting CBD. Topical gels generally seem to have lasting effects for about 2-4 hours after application.
5. Additional consumption methods
There are also other, more exotic methods of getting CBD into your bloodstream. As previously mentioned, CBD nasal sprays will be an option, and also more creative methods are popping up, such as tampons and suppositories (you´ll have to look this one up yourself).
Even though this post doesn’t go into much detail on these more creative methods, it doesn't mean they are any less effective or helpful than the others. In fact, CBD tampons seem to be quite a clever solution to PMS complaints. Since there still isn't enough information out there on the matter, we´ll have to save this topic for another time.