So, you’ve decided that you want to start using CBD oil products for your ailments. You’re probably wondering, “What now? What type of product do I choose? What’s the best way to take CBD Oil?” The goal of this article is to walk you through the most common CBD delivery methods and explain why you may choose one over another.
Some common methods we will discuss are: Sublingual, Vaping/Inhalation, Oral, Topical, Transdermal, and Suppositories.
What is Bioavailability?
Before we get into the delivery methods and the best way to take CBD oil, let’s discuss bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the portion of actual product that gets into your bloodstream/system. In this article, we speak about bioavailability in terms of percentages. The easiest way to understand how to interpret these numbers is with an example:
Consider Product A, dosed at 25mg CBD, using method X. When consumed, method X has a bioavailability of, say, 25%. That means that only 25% of the 25mg ingested will actually be used by your body. In this case, 25% of 25mg is 6.25mg. Your body will really only be using 6.25mg of the 25mg initially consumed when using method X.
As you will see, none of the methods mentioned will have 100% bioavailability. 100% bioavailability is generally reserved for intravenous methods and is not applicable for our use. Note that the above is just an example as the bioavailability will rarely be exact. The numbers displayed will be averages or a general range to go by.
Sublingual is one of the most common and preferred methods out there. Sublingual generally requires taking a CBD oil product and dropping it under your tongue. Typically, one would hold the product there for at least 60-90 seconds to allow the product to absorb through the mucous membranes located under the tongue. One of the major benefits to this method is the ability to accurately and precisely dose the oil. The amount of CBD per drop varies widely across brands and one can find potencies anywhere from 0.30mg CBD per drop to upwards of 5mg CBD per drop. This allows an individual to customize their dose to their exact needs.
Another benefit to this method is the bioavailability, which is reported to be around 20-30%. Since the CBD is going directly into the bloodstream, you do not have the loss typically associated with the oral methods that utilize the digestive tract. This also means the effects will kick in much faster than the oral method, though it may not last quite as long. Generally, sublingual is recognized as one of the most cost effective methods for long-term use by individuals with chronic conditions. Taste is often mentioned as the common downside of this option and attempts at masking the taste with flavors are often made.
Inhalation methods are excellent for those needing immediate relief. The CBD is delivered directly to the lungs where it is immediately absorbed into the body and bloodstream. Generally, there is no wait time for these products to kick in. This makes them an excellent choice for those needing abortive relief (i.e. individuals suffering with migraines, anxiety and panic attacks). Typically, the user will keep using their method of inhalation until they feel the level of relief they desire which should then last 3-4 hours. The bioavailability of these products is slightly higher than Sublingual, with reports estimating 30-40%. Another benefit to this method is the wide availability of flavors that lets the user pick and choose to their taste.
Oral is a convenient method for those that dislike the taste associated with other methods, such as sublingual use. Oral involves actually eating or immediately swallowing the CBD product. This includes gummies, chocolate bars, capsules and gelcaps. Basically anything that is not held in the mouth and under the tongue. The oral method is convenient to travel with and dose, since your dosage is largely set by the amount of CBD contained within the individual gummy or capsule you are taking. Typically, oral methods take longer to kick in. But once they do, the effects last quite long, up to 8 hours. With that said, there are some downsides to the oral method. Bioavailability of this method is quite low, with an average of 5%. This places oral delivery well below all other methods. So you may need to take a significantly higher dose in order to achieve the same effects produced by a more efficient method. Since you may need to consume more CBD to reach the same effect as another method, this can lead to an increase in long-term cost. Typically, we see gummies and capsules using common set potencies of 10mg, 15mg, 25mg, and 30mg.
Topical application is a popular delivery method for localized pain relief. Topicals are applied directly onto the skin using a balm, lotion, salve, cream, etc. Some people even take their sublingual oils and rub them into their skin. Topicals are intended to provide direct, localized, targeted relief. Topicals are not recommended for use for ailments 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 use of a topical will not trigger a positive drug test, due to the fact that any potential THC in a topical does not penetrate through the skin and get into the bloodstream. See this relevant article to see why.
Often confused with topical methods, transdermal is another method of applying CBD via the skin. The difference here is that the CBD applied via transdermal methods actually absorbs through the skin and ends up in the bloodstream. This means that the CBD not only works locally as a targeted pain reliever but it can also provide you with whole body relief. Not only will this method work on a physical condition, but it also has the potential to help mental and neurological conditions. Transdermals are found most commonly as patches, but there are creams and lotions available on the market. The patches typically work for up to 8-12 hours and then are discarded after use. Transdermal products absorb immediately into the bloodstream, bypassing common issues that are associated with absorption within the digestive system (as seen with the oral method). This also means the bioavailability of this method is incredibly high, with reports putting it at around 70% minimum. A downside to transdermal methods is usually the cost, since special emulsifiers and permeability enhancers are required for the CBD to fully absorb through the skin.
Finally, we come to suppositories. Less commonly used, this method is one of the highest bioavailability methods available with reports putting it at 80-90%. This method typically kicks in within 15-20 minutes and can last up to 8 hours. This method is beneficial for individuals who need to consume high doses of CBD, but cannot due to trouble swallowing, nausea or vomiting.
Summary of Bioavailability by CBD Delivery Method
To summarize, here are all of the methods discussed and their respective bioavailabilites:
- Sublingual: 20-30%
- Vaping/Inhalation: 30-40%
- Oral: Approximately 5%
- Topical: Does Not Apply
- Transdermal: Approximately 70+%
- Suppositories: 80-90%
Which CBD Delivery Method Should I Choose?
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to use just one method. It’s incredibly common to use multiple methods as needed. For example, an individual with a chronic condition may use a sublingual oil daily as a preventative measure and use a topical, transdermal or inhalation method as needed when their ailment flares up. 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 in the meantime while you wait for the capsule to kick in. The best way to take CBD oil may also take some time to discover, since everyone has an individual experience.
Once you’ve decided which method(s) to use, head on over to our Recommendation Tool to get personalized suggestions of products from reputable brands.
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.