• CBD may be consumed through inhalation, ingestion, sublingual administration (under the tongue), and topical application.
  • CBD capsules or gummies are taken orally, while CBD vapes are administered through inhalation. 
  • CBD topicals are applied directly on the skin, while CBD tinctures may be taken sublingually or mixed into food.
  • Consulting a doctor is highly recommended before using CBD oil products. A physician can give advice on dosing and the method of administration. 

The desired method of consuming cannabidiol (CBD) primarily depends on an individual’s needs and preferences. CBD can be eaten, administered sublingually, applied on the skin, or inhaled through smoking and vaping.

Various life situations may also require a different approach to consuming cannabidiol. For those traveling, CBD gummies may be a better option compared to using CBD tinctures.

Using CBD Oil

There are several forms of CBD products available on the market today. Most CBD brands offer CBD in the forms of tinctures, edibles, topicals, and vapes. 

The proper method of consuming CBD depends on the product the user is taking. Below are some CBD products and their recommended routes of administration.

Ingesting CBD

CBD in the form of CBD capsules, gummies, tonics, and powder can be consumed by swallowing. 

Other CBD edibles that may be ingested orally include CBD-infused brownies, chocolates, and cakes. Some brands also offer CBD-infused beverages, including coffee, energy drinks, juice, and water. 

When CBD edibles are ingested, they go through the digestive tract, while the compound is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Cannabinoids, like CBD, have the longest time to take effect because of their low oral bioavailability(1)

Bioavailability is the rate and extent to which a substance is absorbed and made available for the body to use(2).

After ingestion, CBD has to go through additional layers of the digestive system. Once in the bloodstream, it needs to be metabolized by the liver(3)

This extra step reduces CBD potency before it can reach the brain(4).

Other Considerations When Ingesting CBD

  • Eating certain types of food while consuming CBD may affect the body’s ability to process cannabidiol

Since CBD is fat-soluble, researchers found that consuming the compound with fat-containing foods may increase its bioavailability(5).

  • Consuming a CBD product that contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may cause mind-altering effects for the user. 

THC is the psychoactive substance derived from cannabis plants(6).

  • CBD could interfere with how some medications are processed by general drug-metabolizing enzymes such as cytochrome P450(7)

Since these enzymes can be found in the liver, there is a high probability for cannabidiol to cause interactions with other drugs concurrently taken.

Sublingual CBD Administration

Taking CBD oil tinctures sublingually is a common way of introducing the compound to the body. Sublingual administration is when a substance is applied directly to capillary-rich areas under the tongue.

Applying CBD sublingually allows the compound to bypass metabolism, as it is delivered immediately throughout the body. Sublingual administration results in rapid absorption and instant bioavailability in the body due to its quick onset of action(8).

Other Considerations for Sublingual CBD

  • Experts often suggest keeping CBD oil in the mouth for at least thirty seconds or more before swallowing. During this time, users can increase absorption by swishing the product around the mouth to improve capillary contact.

Topical CBD Application

CBD transdermal patches, creams, salves, balms, and lotions are some of the CBD products that may be applied directly to the skin. 

Other CBD products that may be administered topically include face masks, massage oils, bath bombs, deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste.

Transdermal administration pertains to the delivery of drugs through the skin through patches or balms.

According to a 2018 study, transdermal patches are comparable to oral-dosage forms when it comes to efficacy since the transdermal route have the following advantages(9):

  • Improved bioavailability – The transdermal route does not come with the first-pass metabolism effect, which is the significant reduction of drug concentration before the medicine reaches its intended site of action. The effect is typically associated with oral ingestion.
  • Steady drug infusion – Over time, the compound will be infused steadily while minimizing the potential adverse effects of higher drug peak concentrations.
  • Localized target – Topical administration may be ideal for localized symptoms from dermatological conditions and arthritis.
  • Pain management – The transdermal route is useful in helping manage peripheral neuropathic pain

Topical CBD products diffuse across the skin to reach the muscles and nerves directly.

CBD Inhalation

The types of products that allow for the inhalation of CBD are vape pens and dabs. 

There are disposable and reusable CBD vape pens to vaporize and inhale CBD juice. 

Disposable vape pens are more affordable than reusable ones. They also do not require charging. 

However, disposable vape pens are wasteful and not eco-friendly since they are made of materials that are difficult to recycle. 

Disposable vape pens are also more expensive than rechargeable vapes. Because disposable vape pens are not reused, vapers have to keep buying new ones.

Meanwhile, reusable or rechargeable vape pens allow users to change the cartridges. Rechargeable vape pens may also be reused, making them cost-efficient.

However, a reusable vape pen’s battery may get drained. Thus, frequent charging is needed.

Typically, a rechargeable vape pen is also more expensive upfront compared to a disposable vape pen. 

Most CBD e-liquids formulations are made with solvents, such as vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.

Meanwhile, dabs are concentrates that have high CBD content and can be bought as crystals, shatter, or wax. CBD dabs require a specific dabbing device to heat the product and prepare it for inhalation.

When inhaling or vaping CBD, the compound goes through the lungs, directly passing the bloodstream. Inhalation is one way of getting active ingredients circulating in the body.

However, the use of vaporizers is often associated with lung injuries(10). Individuals with certain medical conditions are advised not to vape CBD since it can harm their health.

It is best to avoid cheap vape pens as they are often of bad quality and can be harmful when used. It is recommended to check user reviews of the product first and avoid the ones with reports of overheating, stuck oil, and weak battery life.  

Users are advised to avoid vape products that contain propylene glycol, as high doses or prolonged exposure to the substance can result in toxicity(11).

Getting the Right CBD Dosage

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) has not approved any other medical use for cannabidiol except for Epidiolex, a CBD-derived product(12). Having no approval from the FDA means that official dosing guidelines or instructions are unavailable.

Several factors impact how cannabidiol affects the body, such as genetic predispositions, tolerance, biochemistry, metabolism, and overall health care.

It is recommended to take a low dose first to assess the different effects of CBD. The dosage may be slowly increased until the desired outcomes have been achieved.

Most CBD brands include recommended dosages for all of their products. Users may opt to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosages for the products to ensure safety and efficacy.

Most CBD oil tinctures come with droppers. A full dropper contains approximately 1 mg of CBD oil, which is equivalent to twenty drops. However, these can vary slightly among manufacturers.

In a recent clinical trial, researchers gave four groups of test subjects the following: 150 mg of CBD, 300mg of CBD, 600mg of CBD, and placebo(13). 

Results showed that 300mg of CBD may help alleviate the anxiety of individuals under stressful situations, like a public speaking test.

According to the researchers, CBD yields acute anxiolytic (antianxiety) properties with an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in humans(14).

Choosing the Best CBD Products

The FDA only recognizes one CBD product: Epidiolex(15). The drug is used in treating two unique types of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

This lack of regulation has resulted in some CBD brands intentionally mislabeling(16) or making misleading claims about their products.

As consumers, it is crucial to research CBD products carefully before purchasing. Here are some things to note when shopping for CBD:

  • Confirm the composition of a product by viewing its third-party lab results before buying it. Some brands allow users to readily access their reports, while others need to prompt them first via email. Check if the amount of CBD listed matches the report and ensure that there are no detected contaminants.
  • Ensure that the desired CBD product contains cannabidiol. If it lists hemp oil or hempseed oil on the label, the product does not have CBD. MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) coconut oil, however, can be used with CBD.
  • Choose non-GMO, organic hemp grown in the United States. Since hemp in the U.S. is subject to regulation, it should not contain more than 0.3% THC.
  • Select the type of CBD product for specific needs. Topicals are ideal for skin conditions and targeted pain relief

Knowing the Difference Between CBD Types

Full-spectrum cannabidiol is made using an extract that has all of the naturally-occurring compounds of cannabis. CBD is one of the cannabinoids, but there are also others, including flavonoids and terpenes.

On the other hand, CBD isolate is the type that contains only pure CBD. Manufacturers can separate cannabidiol from cannabis through an extraction method usually performed in a lab.

Pros and Cons of Full-Spectrum CBD and Isolate

Both full-spectrum CBD and isolates have advantages and disadvantages.

People choose isolates, especially when they take a large dose of CBD regularly. Those who are subject to random drug tests may also find isolates a better option.

However, these scenarios do not mean that full-spectrum CBD products are not ideal. Legal, full-spectrum cannabidiol is made using industrial hemp extract, which usually has low THC concentrations. Anything with 0.3% THC concentration and below is not enough to result in psychoactive effects upon consumption.

One significant advantage that full-spectrum CBD has over isolates is having all cannabinoids present in its extracts. Researchers speculate that full-spectrum CBD extracts may have higher therapeutic potential than CBD alone(17).

The “entourage effect” concept is the belief in which cannabis compounds all contribute to the overall pharmacological effect of the plant(18). Although some experts may debate its validity, the data from the studies suggest that taking cannabis compounds together is more beneficial than consuming them individually.

Another potential advantage of full-spectrum CBD is the possibility that cannabidiol may counteract the adverse effects of THC(19).

Although researchers are unsure how CBD exerts its properties, they believe it interacts with specific receptors in the body. This interaction with the receptors is also attributed to CBD’s ability to negate THC‘s effects(20).

A study in 2015 showed that a full-spectrum CBD extract appeared to be more efficacious and potent than pure CBD(21).

Broad-Spectrum CBD vs. Full-Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum in that they have various cannabinoids present in the extracts. Since it contains these compounds, broad-spectrum users may also benefit from the entourage effect.

What sets broad-spectrum CBD apart from full-spectrum is that it does not contain THC. This kind of CBD extract is best for people who wish to benefit from most cannabinoids except THC, which may show up in drug tests.

FAQs

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, is a compound derived from Cannabis sativa plants. It is considered to have therapeutic and anti-inflammatory benefits for various medical conditions, such as epilepsy and chronic pain in multiple sclerosis(22).

How Was CBD Discovered?

Cannabis plants are some of the earliest crops in the world. One of the first records of cannabis use dates back more than five thousand years ago(23).

Since its discovery, cannabis has been used for textiles and food in many places worldwide. Traditionally, people used the seeds for nutrition, the resin and flowers for medicine, and the hemp fibers for fabrics.

The therapeutic use of cannabis was first recorded by a Chinese emperor named Shen Nung more than two thousand years ago(24). Medical use of cannabis was likewise known in ancient cultures throughout Greece, Assyria, India, and Africa.

When hemp was introduced in Europe, Europeans used it to make clothing, ropes, and building materials. Medical interest in cannabis grew in Southern Europe during Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt when the plant’s health benefits were observed in the soldiers(25).

Cannabidiol was first extracted by scientists in 1940, while THC‘s discovery came two years later(26).  

By 1980, the Reagan administration spent millions of dollars to prove that marijuana caused brain damage to its users. While these studies failed to achieve their purpose, the researchers learned about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in humans.

Today, researchers continue to learn more about the capabilities of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids. They want to understand how CBD works and what medical conditions it could possibly treat.

Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?

Using CBD carries with it some risks. People can experience dose-related liver damage when taking CBD(27). Individuals with high levels of a particular enzyme are advised of the potential damage that consuming CBD may cause to the liver.

CBD use has also been occasionally linked to sedation and somnolence (drowsiness). However, these side effects are more likely experienced earlier in the treatment and may weaken over time(28).

In another study, researchers reported that the most common adverse reactions to CBD use were fatigue and drowsiness(29).

Due to the difference between THC levels, marijuana and hemp plants are regulated individually under the law.

Although hemp used to be an illegal substance, the government removed its categorization under the 2018 Farm Bill(30). The legislation legalized CBD hemp and its derivatives, as long as they did not contain more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol.

Medical marijuana is not yet legal in all areas in the United States. There are also unique laws concerning marijuana use, depending on the state.

What Are the Differences Between Marijuana and Hemp?

Marijuana and hemp each offer different uses because of their composition. Since marijuana has higher THC content, it is often used for recreational purposes.

Besides CBD products, hemp is grown to produce clothing, carrier oils, and hempseed-based goods. Since hemp grows faster than most crops, many farmers consider it a sustainable way of producing textiles and paper.

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to use CBD oil and obtain the benefits of CBD. Some of the most common delivery methods include ingestion, sublingual, and inhalation.

No official guidelines are available on CBD’s use since the FDA does not fully recognize the compound. 

Cannabidiol dosage depends on each individual since the compound affects everyone differently. The best advice is to initially take a low dose and slowly increase it until the desired effects are felt.

There are three types of CBD oil, each offering unique properties and benefits. Users should choose the best type for their needs.

Before purchasing any CBD product, it is essential to consult a doctor to be aware of any potential complications. 

Physicians can inform users of any possible interactions CBD can have with their current medications.


  1. Bruni, N., Della Pepa, C., Oliaro-Bosso, S., Pessione, E., Gastaldi, D., & Dosio, F. (2018). Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(10), 2478. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23102478. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222489/
  2. Sietsema W. K. (1989). The absolute oral bioavailability of selected drugs. International journal of clinical pharmacology, therapy, and toxicology, 27(4), 179–211. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2654032/
  3. Echo Connection. How Does the Body Absorb CBD? (October 2017). Retrieved from https://echoconnection.org/cbd-absorbed-body/
  4. Ibid
  5. Zgair, A., Wong, J. C., Lee, J. B., Mistry, J., Sivak, O., Wasan, K. M., Hennig, I. M., Barrett, D. A., Constantinescu, C. S., Fischer, P. M., & Gershkovich, P. (2016). Dietary fats and pharmaceutical lipid excipients increase systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis and cannabis-based medicines. American journal of translational research, 8(8), 3448–3459. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5009397/
  6. Huestis M. A. (2007). Human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & biodiversity, 4(8), 1770–1804. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbdv.200790152. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2689518/
  7. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/
  8. Koland, M., Sandeep, V., & Charyulu, N. (2010). Fast Dissolving Sublingual Films of Ondansetron Hydrochloride: Effect of Additives on in vitro Drug Release and Mucosal Permeation. Journal of young pharmacists : JYP, 2(3), 216–222. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-1483.66790. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964757/
  9. Bruni, N., Della Pepa, C., Oliaro-Bosso, S., Pessione, E., Gastaldi, D., & Dosio, F. (2018). Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 23(10): 2478. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222489/
  10. Chand, H. S., Muthumalage, T., Maziak, W., & Rahman, I. (2020). Pulmonary Toxicity and the Pathophysiology of Electronic Cigarette, or Vaping Product, Use Associated Lung Injury. Frontiers in pharmacology, 10, 1619. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.01619. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6971159/
  11. Lim, T. Y., Poole, R. L., & Pageler, N. M. (2014). Propylene glycol toxicity in children. The journal of pediatric pharmacology and therapeutics : JPPT : the official journal of PPAG, 19(4), 277–282. https://doi.org/10.5863/1551-6776-19.4.277. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341412/
  12. US Food & Drug Administration (2020, Oct. 1). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  13. Linares, I., Zuardi, A., Pereira, L., Queiroz, R., Mechoulam, R., Guimarães, F., & Crippa, J. (2019). Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Brazillian Journal of Psychiatry. 41(1): 9-14 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30328956/ 
  14. Ibid
  15. FDA. Op cit.
  16. Bonn-Miller, M. O., Loflin, M., Thomas, B. F., Marcu, J. P., Hyke, T., & Vandrey, R. (2017). Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA, 318(17), 1708–1709. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.11909. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5818782/
  17. Russo E. B. (2019). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Frontiers in plant science, 9, 1969. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.01969. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334252/
  18. Ibid
  19. Niesink, R. J., & van Laar, M. W. (2013). Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC?. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, 130. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3797438/
  20. Ibid.
  21. Pharmacology & Pharmacy (2015, Feb. 10). Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Retrieved from: https://file.scirp.org/pdf/PP_2015021016351567.pdf
  22. Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 2009. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161644/
  23. Bridgeman, M. B., & Abazia, D. T. (2017). Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 42(3), 180–188. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312634/
  24. Tomida, I., Pertwee, R. G., & Azuara-Blanco, A. (2004). Cannabinoids and glaucoma. The British journal of ophthalmology, 88(5), 708–713. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjo.2003.032250. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1772142/
  25. Cacciola, G., Chianese, R., Chioccarelli, T., Ciaramella, V., Fasano, S., Pierantoni, R., Meccariello, R., & Cobellis, G. (2010). Cannabinoids and Reproduction: A Lasting and Intriguing History. Pharmaceuticals, 3(10), 3275–3323. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3103275. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034092/
  26. Pertwee R. G. (2006). Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. British journal of pharmacology, 147 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S163–S171. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0706406. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1760722/
  27. Meissner H, Cascella M. Cannabidiol (CBD) [Updated 2020 Jul 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556048/
  28. Ibid.
  29. Huestis, M. A., Solimini, R., Pichini, S., Pacifici, R., Carlier, J., & Busardò, F. P. (2019). Cannabidiol Adverse Effects and Toxicity. Current neuropharmacology, 17(10), 974–989. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159X17666190603171901. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7052834/
  30. Hudak, J (2018, Dec. 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/
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