How Long Does It Take for CBD to Work?

If you’re new to CBD, then you might have some questions about what to expect. Aside from the possible benefits, one question we often hear is, “How long does it take for CBD to work?” 

We’ve gathered all you need to know about how CBD interacts with the body so that you can have a reasonable expectation of how long its effects will take to occur. 

What is CBD?

CBD is a chemical compound found in and extracted from cannabis and hemp plants. Also known as CBD, this chemical belongs to a family of compounds called cannabinoids. Native to cannabis and hemp plant groups, cannabinoids can interact with our bodies when consumed to induce a range of potential effects. 

CBD is best known for its potential health benefits. Research tells us that CBD holds significant health potential, with evidence that it may be able to improve the symptoms of anxiety, pain, sleep, and inflammation (1, 2, 3, 4).

How does CBD interact with the body?

CBD interacts with a body a little differently from most cannabinoids, affecting different receptor types. Typically, cannabinoids exert their effects on the body by binding to cannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2. CBD, however, can only weakly bind to CB1 and CB2, meaning that cannabinoid receptors are not an effective means of action. Instead, CBD’s effects occur by the cannabinoid binding to non-cannabinoid receptors and acting on other receptor pathways. 

The receptor that CBD binds to will determine the effects that you experience. If a CBD binds to a serotonin receptor, then you might feel reduced anxiety, whereas if it binds to a glycine receptor, then you might experience reduced inflammation (6, 7). 

Method of consumption matters

The way you choose to consume CBD will alter how quickly you will feel its effects. Different consumption methods go through different biological systems with varying forces that impact how quickly CBD reaches your bloodstream to induce its effects. 

As well as affecting the speed of delivery, different consumption methods will also determine CBD strength. This is known as the bioavailability of a consumption method. The higher the bioavailability percentage, the higher the amount of CBD that actually reaches the bloodstream. A high bioavailability percentage means that you will experience stronger effects from the CBD. 

Ingestion

Ingesting CBD is likely to leave you with a longer wait time to experience the full effects. Because of the slow absorptive nature of the gut, you should expect edible products to hit their peak at roughly 1.5 to 4 hours after ingestion (8). 

CBD edibles might last a while, but they are not the hardest-hitting product available. Because CBD degrades in the strongly metabolic gut, you can expect a relatively low amount of CBD to reach your bloodstream when you eat it, with a bioavailability hovering around 6-20% (9). 

Inhalation

Inhaling CBD smoke or vapour will transport the cannabinoid’s effects to you quickly. This speedy delivery is because inhalation passes smoke and vapour through the lungs, which contain extremely permeable tissue that allow CBD to get to your bloodstream faster. With CBD inhalation you can expect to feel peak results as early as three minutes after consumption (10).

The effects of inhaling CBD are also likely to be strong. Smoking CBD can result in a bioavailability of roughly 31%, while vaping can reach a whopping 70% (11, 12). 

Sublingual

Applying CBD under the tongue can be a way to take CBD with slightly quicker and stronger effects than edibles. Placing CBD oil under the tongue rather than swallowing it might not seem like much of a difference, but the structure of the tongue may provide a quicker delivery. The underside of the tongue contains a mucous membrane that can absorb CBD and transfer it to the blood more effectively than if it had to go through the gut. You can expect to feel CBD’s peak effects at around 2 hours after consumption (13). 

Transdermal

Transdermal CBD products are designed to reach your bloodstream by travelling through your skin, and the time it takes for you to feel the effects of CBD will depend on the specific make-up of the product. These typically have additional ingredients added to them to help CBD penetrate your skin. Transdermal patches can take a few hours to a day to induce their peak effects on the body. 

Due to the nature of CBD, it cannot reach the bloodstream through the skin alone. CBD is lipophilic, meaning that it can’t dissolve in oil. Our skin has an oil layer and to cross it, CBD must be “carried” across through additional ingredients like those found in transdermal CBD products. 

The key benefits of transdermal CBD are that it allows for easy delivery while avoiding the gut, which degrades CBD and leaves you with a lower bioavailability. An effective transdermal CBD product should leave you with stronger effects than an edible CBD product (14). 

Topical

While they are placed on the skin like transdermal CBD products, topical CBD differs in that it is not designed to reach the bloodstream. Topical CBD products like lotions and shampoos are meant to induce a local effect on the area of the skin that they are applied to. Because of this, you may feel local effects from topical CBD relatively quickly. 

How dosage affects duration

Because of how different consumption methods metabolise CBD, the time it takes for CBD’s effects to be felt in the body will be roughly the same regardless of the dose. The biggest difference you will experience from a higher dose is the strength of those effects. There may be some slight time added to the duration due to the additional metabolism required. 

The bottom line

When it comes to CBD, the method you use to consume it will have the most significant effect on how long it will take to work. Some methods will leave you waiting a few hours before you experience the peak effects of the cannabinoid, while others can deliver you results in minutes.

Sara Niedler PhD Medically reviewed for KLORIS by Sarah Neidler, PhD