CBD capsules ingestible CBD products for pain and anxiety relief
CBD capsules ingestible CBD products for pain and anxiety relief

What Is the Best Way to Take CBD?

8 hacks to make your CBD more bioavailable

By Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD

At Cornbread Hemp, customers often ask us: which is better for me, CBD oil or capsules? Why would someone choose CBD oil over capsules? Or vice versa. Put simply: what is the best way to take CBD? 

Like many questions we receive, the answer is: it depends. For starters, it depends on why you are taking CBD in the first place. Here’s a quick informational post, followed by eight tips on how to get the most out of your dose.

Why do you want to take CBD?  

People from all walks of life come to cannabidiol (often abbreviated as “CBD”) because of news reports that reveal the potential efficacy of CBD in many different problems and conditions. These reports range from skincare to prescription medications approved by the FDA. 

The FDA recently approved a prescription cannabidiol medicine to treat specific types of childhood epilepsy. However, the research into other uses for CBD is considerably less advanced and often pre-clinical in nature. That means the studies involve animal test subjects instead of humans. 

This is changing because cannabidiol may have many valuable uses for people. So it is being looked at in many conditions and for many symptoms such as anxiety, pain, asthma, and as an anti-inflammatory and anti-psychotic, just to name a few.

CBD has been used anecdotally for acne, arthritis pain, muscle spasticity, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, insomnia, nerve-associated pain, PTSD, OCD, substance abuse disorders, stress related conditions, and others.  

What does “anecdotally” mean?  Anecdotal evidence lacks scientific certainty because it is collected in a casual manner and relies heavily on personal interpretation. With cannabidiol, this means that claims of positive outcomes in these situations depends mainly upon personal experiences. 

When can you expect to feel results?

Whatever your reason for taking cannabidiol, you want it to act fast.  Drug commercials are full of products that promise to “act quickly” or “go to work in minutes” and fix the problem right away. This is what we expect and often take for granted.  

Unfortunately, medicines taken by mouth must dissolve, travel through the GI tract, and enter the bloodstream. This takes time. Natural products like cannabidiol do not come with a “time release formula” meant to start acting in your system right away. Not only does CBD need to enter your bloodstream in a natural way, it might also need to build up in your system over a few weeks before you realize it’s working. 

CBD oil bioavailability   

The effects of hemp-derived CBD oil depend upon its bioavailability. “Bioavailability” means the amount of cannabidiol that you absorb into your bloodstream. The dosage form of the CBD can greatly affect its bioavailability.  

Many folks take cannabidiol as an oil under the tongue, or sublingually. We call this “sublingual” because in Latin, “sub-“ means “under.” and “lingual” means “tongue.” When ingested in this way, capillaries in the mucus membrane absorb the cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream.

In this manner, the bioavailability is about 20 percent, which means that 20 percent of the amount of cannabidiol in the dose actually absorbs into the bloodstream. In a 25 mg dose, you can expect 5 mg of actual CBD to enter your system. 

Capsule bioavailability 

The biggest difference between CBD oil and capsules is the bioavailability. 

This is because CBD capsules taken orally are partially digested by the stomach and liver. Sublingual CBD oil bypasses this process by absorbing directly through the mucus membrane. 

Therefore, the bioavailability of a swallowed CBD capsule is anywhere from 6% to 13%. That means from a 25 mg capsule, you can expect to receive between 1.5 mg and 3.25 mg of cannabidiol into your system. 

Onset of action 

Whether you take CBD oil or capsules, you want to keep track of the onset of action, or the time it takes for it to start working. The onset of action for sublingual CBD oil can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. For capsules, the onset of action usually takes a full hour. 

Whether taken orally or sublingually, the effects of cannabidiol usually last about 6 hours. After that, most of the CBD has been metabolized or eliminated from the body.

How to get more bang for your buck

As more people come to cannabidiol as a wellness option to treat certain conditions and symptoms, they want to ensure they are getting the most out of their CBD. And if not, what can they do to improve their response. 

First, be mindful. The best way to ensure you get the most out of cannabidiol is to be mindful of a few things. CBD takes a few days to begin working, maybe even a few weeks depending on the person. 

Therefore, keep a journal of your cannabidiol usage. That journal should include: the issues you are looking to help with the CBD, the dosage of CBD, the frequency of the dose, and what time of day you’re taking it. It may be difficult to tell when the cannabidiol starts working, so you will have to evaluate your symptoms over time.

If using it regularly, try to find a good oral regimen and take it consistently at the same time of day. Consistency is good, but sometimes you might also need to shake things up to get things moving. 

Bio-hacking your CBD

Here are eight tips for improving the bioavailability of cannabidiol to make it more effective. Please keep in mind that these tips are anecdotal, so your mileage may vary. 

  1. Break-through dosing — In addition to your daily dose, you can give yourself an additional dose when experiencing an acute episode. This is called a break-through dose. 
  2. Smaller doses — Instead of taking a full dropper in the morning, try taking half a dropper twice a day. 
  3. Clean your mouth — Brushing your teeth before taking a sublingual dose may improve the bioavailability.
  4. A longer resting period — You may decide to hold a sublingual dose in your mouth for a longer period of time — as much as 60 to 90 seconds.  Try swishing it all through your mouth to increase surface contact with the mucus membrane. The more surface contact, the more capillaries to absorb the CBD into your system.
  5. Buccal dosing — You can choose to hold the dose between your cheek and lower gums. This is called a “buccal” dose.This may be an easier method for some people whose gag reflex might be triggered by trying to hold oil under the tongue for too long.
  6. Fats are good — Take CBD with a high fat meal or snack. One study demonstrated that the bioavailability was increased 14 times by taking the dose this way. 
  7. Be consistent — Keep your choice of snack or meal consistent so the absorption will be similar with each dose. Choose healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.
  8. A spoonful of oil — Some people say that taking your dose with an added spoonful of coconut MCT can actually help the CBD bypass metabolism in the liver. Therefore the amount of cannabidiol is not reduced by liver metabolism.

What is the best way to take CBD?

Whether you’re taking cannabidiol as an oil or capsule, these two simple steps can help you determine the best way to take CBD for you: 

  1. Monitor — Keep track of your reason for taking cannabidiol. Consider keeping a journal of your daily dosage, including time of day, amount taken, and how you feel. Evaluate your symptoms over time.
  2. Adjust — If you are not seeing the results you expect, change the dose, how often you take the dose, and/or the time of day of your dose. If you doubt that CBD is helping, stop taking it for a few days to see if symptoms return. 

Final thoughts on bioavailability

Choose wisely. Buy a reputable brand. Some of the cheaper brands are contaminated with solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides. Where the hemp is grown is important: American-grown hemp is good; Kentucky-grown hemp is considered better by many.

Also, the consensus is that full spectrum CBD products are more effective than THC-free CBD, as long as you don’t have a drug test hanging over your head.

Furthermore, off-brand CBD products might be diluted or filled with synthetic cannabinoids. To avoid this, look for a brand that offers USDA certified organic CBD products. 

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