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How Long Does It Take For CBD Oil To Work?

Dr Abraham Benavides


Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

We’ve come a long way since the start of the cannabis revolution. 

Instead of the most common questions being what is CBD? Does CBD oil really work? People are now asking another question:

How long does it take for CBD oil to work?

Join us below to find out the answers you need. We’ll share what exactly affects the effects of CBD.

But if you want a super quick answer: depending on the consumption method it could be minutes to hours! 

Here’s the top line summary: On average, edibles take 90 minutes to feel the effects. Sublingual or “oromucosal” methods in general work faster than this due to mixed absorption and avoiding “first pass” metabolism.

Why’s there such a variance? Keep reading to learn more!

How CBD Works In The Body

First things first: This isn’t going to be a boring hemp plant biology class (pinky finger promise).

But to understand how any active compound (such as CBD) works, we do need to dig deeper. 

The goal here is to learn more about the unique connection CBD shares with the human body.

The truth is… 

The effects of CBD oil are not that easy to put into strict frames. And the same goes for THC, among other cannabinoids. 

Edibles can take 1-6 hours to reach peak concentrations, and then last for up to 20-30 hours.

Yet, that’s what makes the science and magic of cannabis so incredible. It’s such a personal and intimate experience.

Understanding The Effects Of CBD: Scientific Insights

Cannabidiol is one of almost 150 active cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. Since these come from plants, they are often referred to as phytocannabinoids.

Each cannabinoid interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system (aka ECS). The body is known to make cannabinoids on its own that regulate many functions, and so they are called endocannabinoids.

Moreover, each cannabinoid has its pathways of activating the receptors across the ECS and various other receptors that researchers are still learning about.

Quick Mental Floss: Did You Know..?

The ECS has been evolving along with human anatomy for over 600 million years!

Ultimately, the ECS is one of our internal biological systems.

Other internal systems include but are not limited to:

  • the respiratory system,
  • the immune system,
  • the digestive system.

What makes the endocannabinoid system unique in terms of action and influence on human well-being?

It’s all about homeostasis.

The endocannabinoid system ensures that all other biological systems function properly, in balance.

CBD Interaction Pathways: Sustainable Wellness Gateways

Some of the main reasons why the effects of CBD are complex and unique?

CBD interacts with the body through a wide number of mechanisms, some of which are still not fully known.

Yup, how long does CBD stay, as well as how long does CBD take to get out of the body isn’t a single-folded process.

CBD works through a vast range of proteins. 

Generally termed “G-protein-coupled receptors”, these are a class of receptors that are very active and can be broken down into many subcategories, including CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Partially, CBD-human body interaction happens within the endocannabinoid system. That’s thanks to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system. The proper activity of these receptors relates to the regulation of:

CB2 receptors are found mainly in nerves within the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, and the central nervous system but to a smaller extent than CB1. They are thought to decrease inflammatory and pain responses.

The activity of CB2 receptors relates to the proper function of our digestive system and immune system.

The role of the ECS on the brain-gut axis keeps intriguing more and more scientists.

On the other hand, there are interactions between CBD and:

  • vanilloid receptor TRPV1
  • serotonin receptor 5-HT1A

These receptors are not a direct part of the endocannabinoid system. Yet, they do have their unique ways of interacting with CBD.

The TRPV1 receptor plays a fundamental role in pain signaling. It also has to do with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function.

The 5-HT1A receptor is

involved in the mechanism of action of anxiolytic, antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.”

Which, in plain English, means it manages the way medications that target anxiety, depression, and psychosis work within the body. 

This is highlighted in a 2019 article published by the Psychopharmacology Institute.

The Relationship Between CBD And The Body: A Short Wrap Up

The bottom line: this relationship is, oh well, complicated. And just as fascinating.

But like Fredrik Backman said:

Everything is complicated if no one explains it to you.

The war on marijuana has lasted for too long. Thus, the science of cannabis has also been negatively affected and blocked from progressing.

Fortunately, things are changing! Slowly but surely.

But no,  we do not yet know everything about how CBD works in the body or exactly how long CBD stays in the body. 

Some recently available data compared the half-lives of CBD in single vs. chronic CBD use, resulting in about an hour to half-day vs 2-5 days. 

Such estimates range widely and need to be studied further. In addition, the pharmacology of CBD and its metabolites are not fully understood and could be biologically active, theoretically raising the concern of drug interactions, transaminase elevations, or long-term effects that need further study.

So far, CBD has generally shown a low risk of significant drug interactions. However, always talk to your healthcare provider first to determine if it’s OK to take CBD or if you have any health concerns.

However, we do have a clearer idea of the pathways through which CBD works.

Thus, we are becoming more aware of the other factors that affect and shape the CBD experience for each user.

These factors are strictly unique to each individual and include:

  • A person’s body chemistry, genetics, and body composition
  • Method of consumption
  • CBD products’ quality
  • The dose consumed
  • Dosing schedule.

Yes, these factors all have to do with learning how long it takes for CBD to work.

Nonetheless, these are points that give you some insight into answering the next common question of how long does CBD stay in your system.

How Long Does CBD Take To Work: The Meaningful And Practical Answers You Need

The short answer to this question is:

Now, let’s assume you’ve taken the right dose of CBD for your needs. Also, assuming you’re taking high-quality CBD that has been third-party lab tested to assure safety, potency, and quality.

The time it takes for CBD to work depends greatly on how you’ve taken it.

You see, how  CBD oil works depends much on the personal approach you apply.

How to develop the right approach then?

Start by learning how each method of consumption affects the action of CBD, aka

Your CBD Consumption Method Matters

Each consumption method affects the onset time and duration of the effects differently.

The thing with CBD is, bioavailability varies with consumption method.

Simply put, bioavailability relates to absorption rates.

The concept of bioavailability refers to the amount of CBD that actually gets to enter your bloodstream upon consumption.

CBD’s absorption rate is part of a process known as pharmacokinetics. This term denotes how your body processes a particular compound.

Why is it so important to know more about CBD’s bioavailability?  

CBD-infused edibles, CBD pills, and CBD capsules have the lowest bioavailability.

According to research, only about 13 – 19% of the total amount of CBD consumed orally will be absorbed by the body.

Yet, people can try to combine their favored oral CBD consumption method with foods high in healthy fats to boost absorption by up to 2.5-3 fold.

As a rule of thumb, remember that a different CBD consumption method = a different CBD absorption rate.

The more quickly CBD enters your bloodstream, the faster you will experience its effects.

Below is an easy-to-digest breakdown of the different consumption methods, along with the expected time for CBD to work.

Sublingual (CBD Oil Tinctures)

Sublingual use refers to taking a few drops of CBD oil and placing them under your tongue via a tincture. It is also scientifically referred to as oromucosal, meaning some CBD is being absorbed in the mouth.

You hold these drops under the tongue for around 60 seconds before swallowing. 

The area beneath the tongue is full of blood vessels. Meanwhile, the tissue covering these vessels is thin.

Thus, consuming CBD oil sublingually allows it to get absorbed into the bloodstream rapidly through the mucous membranes in your mouth.

Expected time to work:

  • You can feel the first onset of effects of CBD oil within 30 minutes or so.
  • Also, expect a lighter second onset, assuming you swallow some of the oil. This should occur a couple of hours later as the CBD oil will make its way through the digestive tract.

This method somewhat bypasses the digestive system and liver, also called “first pass” metabolism, allowing significantly faster absorption. However, the majority is still believed to be metabolized via first pass. 

Vaping & Smoking

Expected time to work:

Note that both smoking and vaping CBD deliver quicker effects as opposed to ingestion methods.

However, the effects are also shorter-lasting when compared with oral consumption, transdermal and topical methods.

Vaping is the fastest method to feel how CBD works as it enters the bloodstream immediately. Vaping also offers a more efficient delivery method than smoking while greatly reducing tar:cannabinoid ratio to about 10:1.

It’s as simple as choosing to take a draw from your vape pen—bonus points for the ease of controlling the desired dosage.

Alternatively, you can opt for the good ol’ inhalation methods, aka you may roll and smoke a high CBD strain.

Either way, CBD directly enters your lungs, bypassing the digestive tract. It flows rapidly into the bloodstream, reaching peak concentrations quite fast. 

CBD will then quickly make its way to be metabolized by the liver.

Important Note:

Research highlights that smoking CBD has a lower bioavailability rate than vaping – about 31%.


Expected time to work:

  • The effects are usually set within an hour and a half after applying the transdermal patch. Unfortunately, there is very limited data on tissue distribution in humans.
  • Depending on the formulation, the effects may last for an estimated 48 hours. This was the amount of time CBD was detectable in research after topical application.

Mind that this method has a rather slow absorption rate. Yet, it does deliver a continuous, consistent CBD dosage. 

It is unclear exactly how much CBD is systemically absorbed and what that relevance may be, including bioaccumulation of cannabinoids and their metabolites.

One of the benefits of transdermal administration is that it avoids the need to break down in your liver to be absorbed. Although, ultimately, the liver is responsible for the metabolism of cannabinoids.

But cannabinoids have an extremely hydrophobic nature as they are fat-soluble. In other words, they don’t get along with water.

That’s why their diffusion across the aqueous layer of the skin remains limited. 

Permeation enhancers are now progressively used as a means to increase absorption rates with transdermal patches. This is highlighted in a preclinical 2003 study.

All in all, CBD patches work on the same principle as nicotine patches. 

People looking for a precise, slow-acting, long-lasting dose of CBD may enjoy the effects and benefits of the transdermal application.

A 2015 study on transdermal CBD for arthritis-related pain and inflammation provides valuable food for thought.

Where a team of researchers concluded that transdermally applied CBD:

has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.”

Note that the results of this study are based on animal models, which don’t always reflect the same results in human studies. 


Expected time to work:

  • Following the application of the preferred CBD topicals, concentration should peak after about 90 minutes.
  • Onset of effects and human tissue distribution is still unclear

With a topical CBD product, the cannabinoid has to be absorbed through the skin. Yet CBD interacts with the skin receptors slowly and somewhat more poorly as compared to other delivery methods.

CBD topicals are generally preferred by people looking to feel relief in a specific area of the body. However, these products should be applied liberally as while skin is covered with cannabinoid receptors; topical products have a much lower absorption rate than other methods. 

The effects can address mild discomfort in the specific body area where the product has been applied.

Up-to-date, the available research confirming the benefits of topical cannabinoids is still limited but promising.

Did You Find Your Dosage Sweet Spot?

When it comes to how long it takes for CBD oil to work, the dosage matters much more than you might realize. 

Now, delivery methods and different forms of CBD aside. However, you do need to make sure to find what amount of CBD works best for you to minimize side effects and maximize its potential.

This dosage can be completely different from someone else, and of course, it differs across consumption methods.

Chances are, if you still haven’t reached that sweet spot, you might not be taking enough.

Then again, mind that “the best” dose for person A will not necessarily be the best for person B.

As long as you choose to start low and go slow, it’s merely a matter of time to hit that extra sweet CBD spot. 

It may take several weeks to figure out your personal best dosing and feel the full effects. Your provider may be able to help you determine propriate dosage, or recommend further testing and/or another medication to be safe and prevent long-term complications or consequences. 

Best to see a provider first to rule out anything serious like skin cancers or autoimmune conditions that can have irreversible consequences if not caught early. Don’t delay!

After that’s checked out, don’t be afraid to experiment. Just make sure to increase the dosage carefully, patiently, and gradually.

Also, remember that finding the right dosage for you is not something set in stone. Instead, it is a dynamic process.

At a certain point, you may choose to decrease the CBD dosage rather than increase it.

Listen to your body and journal down your experiences. This makes it much easier to reflect on them and act accordingly.

Related Read: CBD Oil Dosage

Below is a full list of the important factors that influence the best dosage. These vary from person to person and shape the unique CBD experience.


The body’s metabolism determines the time needed to break down and synthesize any compound.

So, metabolism affects how long it takes to feel the effects of CBD. Also, it has to do with how long does CBD remains in the body, genetics, and your tolerance level.

As a rule of thumb, metabolism rates relate to absorption rates, determining whether you will feel the effects of any CBD product faster or slowly. 

Note that a high metabolism (assuming all else being equal) should equate to a faster excretion of CBD from the body. 


Just like THC, CBD is stored in fat cells. Gradually, the body eliminates CBD and any other cannabinoids through urine and feces.

Ultimately, body fat the amount of CBD a person needs to take to experience the desired effects.

People with a higher body mass index might require a higher amount of CBD to reach that sweet spot we discussed above.


Age relates to metabolic rates. As we grow older, metabolism tends to slow down, all else being equal.

However, it’s also important to remember that an overweight teenager will likely have a slower metabolism than an individual in his 50s who is exercising regularly, which is supplemented by a balanced and healthy diet.

Older adults tend to take more medications than the younger population does. This affects the rate of CBD metabolism by interactions with the same enzymes responsible for degrading both.

What Kind Of CBD Did You Take?

Yup, there isn’t just one kind of CBD extract out there. 

The content and method of production of the CBD product you choose can potentially influence the effects of CBD. 

Your best bet? Question everything.

What are the rest of the active ingredients on the label of your favorite CBD oil?

Does it consist of natural compounds, such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil, among other healthy carrier oils? Or are there ingredients of murky origin?

What about the cultivation and extraction methods applied? Is it third-party tested?

Related Read: How CBD Oil Is Made 

Does the product contain other cannabinoids and compounds from the Hemp plant, including terpenes and flavonoids?

According to the entourage effect theory, the active compounds of cannabis work better together in synergy.

Picture this as the difference between a solo song performance vs. an orchestra music performance. It might be a good idea to experiment with some CBD products and assess the entourage effect for yourself.

Do mind that the entourage effect is still only a hypothesis, and more research is needed.

Some good food for thought about the entourage effect by Mowgli Holmes – geneticist and founder of a cannabis genetics company Phylos Bioscience. In an interview for Scientific American he shares:

“But you have thousands and thousands of people reporting the same thing. It gets hard to ignore.”

Diving into this further, here are the most common types of CBD extracts summarized:  

Full-spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD comes in many forms, including tinctures, lip balms, and more.

Full-spectrum CBD oil products contain all of the naturally occurring compounds from the plant.

This includes terpenes and trace amounts of THC (below 0.3%) and varying levels of other cannabinoids and flavonoids.

Broad-spectrum CBD

Similar to full-spectrum CBD oil, but the major difference is that THC is virtually fully eliminated from the end product.

CBD Isolate

Unlike full-spectrum CBD oil, CBD Isolate products contain only pure, isolated CBD with no terpenes or other cannabinoids.

CBD Due Diligence Is Essential

Remember that the growing CBD market is still largely unregulated. In addition, not all CBD products are created equal in terms of quality. 

So, if you take something that’s mislabelled, you might not feel the same effects of CBD as you might have done with another brand.

While CBD is considered safe to use and with minimum side effects, low-quality products are unfortunately very common. 

Only opt for CBD that comes with a Certificate of Analysis.

This is the only way you can be sure what gets into your body. Moreover, by doing so, you will avoid falling victim to scams, mislabeling, and contamination issues which are still omnipresent in the booming CBD industry.

How Long Does It Take CBD To Get Out Of Your System?

According to available research, CBD stays in your system for between 2 – 5 days. This study examines how long CBD remains in the blood.

A study published in the Journal of Pain Research highlights that CBD in urine is detected only over 24 hours.

But then again, this depends on many strictly individual factors. For some people, CBD may remain intact for weeks.

Further study is needed to look into CBD and its metabolites to determine what biological, long-term, or clinical significance they might pose.

Wrapping Up: The Secret Keys To Master Your CBD Routine 

So, to answer how long it takes for CBD to work, you need to ask yourself how you’re taking it, the dosage, and how often.

The bottom line: It isn’t just about how long does it take for CBD oil to work or how long CBD stays in your body.

It’s so much about WHAT does it take for CBD oil to work?

The answer is consistency.

Remember that working with CBD supplements requires patience. If you’re struggling with this, try a dosing journal so you can track your CBD journey. 

You can try doing this for a few weeks until you note desired effects, and you can share this info with your provider.

To feel the effect, be open to exploring it. Your personal experience will keep progressing and shaping over time.

Have a blissful CBD ride!