CBD & The Human Body
Science & Health
Ways to Consume CBD
There are various routes for CBD to get into your body. You have no doubt likely seen a dizzying array of products such as oils and tinctures, food and drinks, topical creams, e-liquids for vaping, and suppositories.
It’s easiest to think about four possible points of entry this way: Mouth, skin, lungs and the nether regions.
In this article, we will cover the various routes of administration for CBD and call out how quickly and effectively they each work, and why you might want to consider one over the other. They each have different rates of bioavailability, which is the rate at which and the degree to which the CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream.
The mouth is the easiest and most common way to introduce CBD into the body. There are two ways to do that, sublingually and ingestion, and they each have very different dynamics.
Sublingual is also a more powerful way to ingest CBD because it’s not being subjected to the enzymes of the stomach and liver.
CBD can be added to foods or drinks in oil or powder form. The advantage with edibles is the taste of the CBD can be masked. You can put it in juice, honey, sauces, smoothies and so on, or you can buy hemp-derived CBD-infused foods, drinks or candies.
Because CBD has to travel through the stomach and the liver before hitting the bloodstream some of its potency is lost. That said, for those who take CBD for digestive issues, this is the best method (along with capsules). Also, note it is better to take it on a full stomach so its effects won't get diluted since most of the CBD will be directly absorbed into the lining of the stomach if it's empty.
Similar to edibles, except you’re swallowing a pill with CBD instead of eating or drinking it. Since some don’t like the taste of CBD oil in any form, this is a good alternative. It’s also easier to be precise about dosing with a capsule.
This is because gelatin capsules melt in your stomach within minutes, allowing the whole of the serving of CBD oil to be absorbed. Capsule form also prevents the CBD from getting absorbed into your mouth or throat tissues.
It’s also more convenient for traveling since there’s no danger of spillage nor worrying about all the regulations around taking liquids in your carry-on.
As is the case with oral consumption, it must first travel through your digestive system before it enters the liver and then, ultimately, the bloodstream. This means there is a significantly reduced amount of CBD that enters your bloodstream. Again, this dilution is made even more extreme if you take CBD on an empty stomach so it should always be taken after eating.
Whether administered internally (either orally, sublingually or inhaled), CBD will ultimately make its way through to all areas of your body, including your skin. If overall skin health is your goal, you may choose one of these applications or, alternatively, you could go with a topical that would be applied to your skin externally.
CBD-infused creams are a completely different way to go than taking CBD orally because very little, if any, of the CBD in a skin product, will actually enter the bloodstream.
If experiencing muscle or joint pain, creams and ointments could be more effective since they contain special ingredients meant to help the product penetrate deeper into tissues to aid in pain relief. For skin in need of soothing, CBD-based salves may contain other calming and healing ingredients such as aloe.
CBD may have nourishing and healing benefits for the skin1. A study in the journal Skin Therapy Letter reported that its search “yielded reports on the therapeutic role of cannabinoids in the management of skin cancer, acne vulgaris, pruritus, atopic and allergic contact dermatitis, and systemic sclerosis.”
Creams are the way to go for those who have skin issues such as inflammation or just want cosmetic benefits. Because the skin does not readily absorb any substance on its surface, it’s best to use a potent product whether it’s a cream, lotion, balm or salve. Also, skin care products can be combined with essential oils such as rose or lavender or eucalyptus to create a whole aromatherapy moment.
Inhaling CBD oil via e-liquid through vaping is the fastest way to get CBD into your system; it takes just a few seconds or minutes. The reason this method is so speedy is that anything inhaled through the lungs gets sent straight to the bloodstream and brain.
The heat from the vaporizer converts the liquid into an inhalable form. However, CBD must be added to a base liquid made out of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or other materials for this to happen, so you are vaping not just the CBD but the base liquid as well.
This short time frame for uptake makes vaping appealing for those taking CBD for acute conditions such as pain2 or nausea3. Unlike edibles or drops, the dose can be adjusted immediately because the impact is felt immediately. Vaping has also been shown to be less harmful than smoking4.
CBD oil can be smoked out of a rig, which works like a traditional water pipe or dabbed, which is when you flash vaporize CBD on a hot surface and inhale it.
Smoking has the same effects as vaping but can irritate, inflame or even harm the lungs.
4. VAGINAL AND ANAL
Suppositories, sprays, and creams inserted through the vagina or anus through applicators are another way to consume CBD. CBD applied this way has a localized effect with some, but not a lot, of the CBD, also being carried to the rest of the body through local capillaries. Again, this method subverts the digestive system. Those looking for relief of menstrual pain5 or sexual pleasure6 may consider this route.
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- Marks DH., Friedman A., Skin Therapy Lett. 2018 Nov;23(6):1-5., PMID: 30517778
- Ueberall, M. A., Essner, U., & Mueller-Schwefe, G. H. (2019). Journal of pain research, 12, 1577–1604. doi:10.2147/JPR.S192174
- Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x
- The Guardian “Public Health England maintains vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking,” Dec 28, 2018.
- Piper, B. J., Beals, M. L., Abess, A. T., Nichols, S. D., Martin, M. W., Cobb, C. M., & DeKeuster, R. M. (2017). Pain, 158(7), 1373–1379. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000899
- Klein, C., Hill, M. N., Chang, S. C., Hillard, C. J., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2012). The journal of sexual medicine, 9(6), 1588–1601. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02708.x
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