How long does CBD take to work?

When you decide to take CBD your first question might be ‘how do I take it?’. There are various ways to take it, depending on your personal taste and preferences. The second thing you might ask is ‘how long does CBD take to work?’.

You may be surprised at the differences between products and how long the CBD takes to work. It is certainly worth considering, especially if you are looking for a faster reaction.

A UK study found that most participants took CBD for pain relief. If this is the main reason for consumption then it’s vital to know how quickly it works. Surprisingly, it may not be the products with the fastest consumption that have the longest effect.

How Does CBD Interact With the Body?

CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It can interfere with certain endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, for instance, to inhibit pain. Or it can work with the receptors that control appetite, so your desire for food may be altered.

The way CBD works on the body is still not fully understood and is under-researched. However, depending on how it is consumed the time it takes to work will differ. It may also create a milder but longer-lasting response.

Does the Method of Consumption Matter?

The human body deals with CBD differently according to how it is consumed. There are various ways to consume CBD and these include:

  • The lungs – vaping or smoking
  • The mouth tissue – letting oil absorb under the tongue
  • The digestive system – eating CBD edibles
  • The skin – applying a topical cream

Consuming CBD through the lungs instantly transfers it to the bloodstream, so the result is achieved very quickly. Absorbing CBD sublingually (through the blood vessels in the mouth) is also fairly rapid.

Other products need to go through the stomach and then the liver to be metabolised. This slows the process down, so you’ll be waiting a while for the CBD to work.

Lastly, a cream or salve applied to the skin will not carry CBD to the whole body. It will, however, work locally, and many people use a cream to ease sore muscles. CBD creams are also a popular choice for people dealing with red or inflamed skin.

What is Bioavailability?

We also have to talk about bioavailability. This is how much of a drug or substance eventually finds its way to the bloodstream. It is closely linked to which way a product is consumed. This guide shows the difference in bioavailability when considering CBD consumption:

  • Vaping CBD - gently heating the CBD into a vapour allows a quick crossover from the lungs to the bloodstream. It provides a high bioavailability of 50-90%.
  • CBD oil – the most popular and well-known method takes CBD to the body quickly, with a bioavailability of around 75%
  • Smoking 15-50% - burning the hemp buds through smoking reduces the bioavailability to 15-50%
  • Edibles – taking CBD in food slows the absorption rate. Food has to travel through the digestive system and the liver, reducing bioavailability to 5-20%

Let’s take a closer look and see how long it takes for CBD to work in the main formats.

How Long Does CBD Take to Work Orally?

This depends on whether CBD is taken as an oil or tincture, or as food. An oil or tincture is dropped into the mouth and held there to be absorbed. The body absorbs it lingually through the oral mucosa. It doesn’t need to travel to the stomach or liver, so the body feels the effects much faster.

CBD taken as an edible – food or drink – has to travel through the stomach and digestive system. Therefore, it takes longer to be processed into the bloodstream.

Vaping and the Speed of CBD

Inhaling a CBD vapour into the lungs is an immediate and popular way to get CBD to your bloodstream. It passes from the lungs into the body and the effects are felt in a few minutes. It will stay with you for a couple of hours.

However, being a relatively new activity, the risks of vaping, in general, are unclear. Furthermore, vaping liquids might contain nicotine so be sure of the ingredients when looking to vape CBD. However, if you are looking for a fast intake of CBD, vaping may be your best option.

Read more in detail: Vaping Vs. Smoking CBD

How Long Does CBD Take to Work When Smoked?

Smoking hemp buds or flowers (strain) which contain CBD is also a speedy route to the body. In the same way as vaping, inhaled smoke and the CBD compound travels directly to the bloodstream via the lungs. The effect should last about at least an hour, possibly longer. As with vaping, the medical opinion is not in favour.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work?

A 2019 UK study found that the majority of people taking CBD select an oil or tincture. It’s easy to obtain - as well as a huge choice online, it can be found in high street stores. It is dropped under the tongue and absorbed.

Compounds taken this way can bypass the intestines and cross over through the myriad of blood vessels in the mouth. They then reach the jugular vein and get to work from there.

You can encourage faster absorption sublingually by rubbing the oil drops into the skin under your tongue. Expect to feel the impact within 30 minutes of taking CBD oil.

However, some of the oil will inevitably find its way into the digestive system. So, there will be a second, milder impact once it is absorbed through ingestion approximately two hours later.

This shows that it takes around 30 minutes for CBD oil to work when taken as drops. If you know how long the effects last, you’ll be able to time your next dosage accurately.

How Long Does CBD Tincture Take to Work?

A CBD tincture works in the same way as a thicker, pure oil. It may not be as potent, though, as it will be carried in another liquid, like coconut oil. But you can expect to feel the benefit after 30 minutes.

As they often taste much nicer than oil, you may be encouraged to swallow them rather than keep them under your tongue. Remember, this will affect the time it takes the CBD tincture to work.

DO CBD Gummies Work Quicker?

CBD gummies fall into the edible category for CBD. Regular sweet, gummy bears are combined with CBD for a juicy treat. They are a quick, easy and fun way to take CBD. Being an edible, they have to be chewed, swallowed and metabolised through the digestive system.

By combining CBD in a gummy – or other food – you help to avoid the first-pass process. This is where some of that CBD is processed and broken down by the digestive system. Therefore, it never reaches the bloodstream.

However, taking CBD in gummies, or food, will bypass the first pass process so that much more CBD reaches the bloodstream. Also, as you chew gummies, a little of the CBD will cross the oral mucosa and be absorbed much faster. Therefore, you might get a small boost before the main edibles get to work an hour or two later.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Salves to Work?

Applying CBD via a topical salve or cream is yet another way to feel the benefits of CBD. This is a good choice if you are not looking for a systemic, or whole-body response. So, if you have aching muscles after a workout, a salve may be for you.

A salve combines the reported anti-inflammatory properties of CBD with other botanical elements known to alleviate discomfort. Applied directly to the affected area, the salve is absorbed by the skin to warm and work on sore areas.

The skin does not take CBD directly to the bloodstream via a topical cream. However, it will reach and interact with cannabinoid receptors within the skin and localised nerves. This is a slower method of absorption so perhaps apply a topical salve generously, especially for pain relief. Expect to feel the effects anytime from a few minutes to 90 minutes after applying.

CBD in Skincare – Does it Work Quickly?

Many skincare products now contain CBD as it is well regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties. People using it believe it helps to reduce swelling and soothe irritated, red skin. This makes it a popular addition to skincare products tackling problems such as acne.

These products are not designed to create a physical response, like CBD oil or capsules. They are used over time, as part of a daily skincare routine. Expect to see long term results when used regularly, perhaps over a few months.

Does Anything Else Affect How Long CBD Takes to Work?

Yes, several factors could alter the time it takes for CBD to work. These include:

  • Strength of CBD – a stronger dose will have a greater impact, making you feel it’s working faster
  • Male or female – the sexes have different metabolisms and CBD may travel through the body at different rates
  • Bodyweight – lighter bodies may absorb CBD faster, particularly through edibles
  • Food intake – taking CBD edibles on an empty stomach is likely to produce a faster reaction than when combined with food.


CBD impacts the body at different speeds depending on how it is ingested. The fastest route is by vaping which produces an effect in just a few minutes. Taking CBD oil comes next, and it’s the most popular method. It takes around 30 minutes and people top up during the day, knowing when they need a boost.

Edibles take a couple of hours as they work their way through the digestive system, but it could be faster on an empty stomach. And topical salves will take effect anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, to provide sustained relief at the source.

Choosing how to take CBD is entirely up to you. Consider what you want the CBD to do, what strength you need, then enjoy the physical results.


If you liked reading this, be sure to check our other blog: The Ultimate Guide To CBD

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