What happened when I took CBD for a week to help with my anxiety
Steven Phan: You gotta lean back. No, tongue back!
Benji Jones: That’s me, trying CBD at a shop in New York City. Lately, I’ve seen this stuff everywhere: At the local health food store, but also at Urban Outfitters, Sephora, and CBD shops like this one. And if you look at some of the branding, it kind of makes sense.
CBD products claim to help with everything from anxiety to insomnia to muscle pain. It almost sounds too good to be true. And maybe it is. To find out, I set up a little experiment. For one week, I took CBD three times a day, while tracking my anxiety with a scorecard. I also chatted with an expert before and after to sort through the results. Here’s what I learned.
CBD is a distant cousin of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. They both come from the cannabis plant, but CBD isn’t psychoactive. Meaning it doesn’t get you high. Now, of course, getting high isn’t the only reason why cannabis is popular. People also use it to relieve pain, control seizures, and lessen anxiety. But as researchers like Dr. Yasmin Hurd are discovering, it’s likely CBD, not THC, that’s behind these benefits.
Dr. Hurd: “It can activate some serotonin receptors, and the serotonin system is associated with alleviating anxiety.”
Jones: Hurd has been studying the effects of CBD for over 10 years. And she’s found that it can reduce anxiety in people with a history of heroin addiction. Now, fortunately, I don’t have a history of addiction, but I do see a therapist for chronic anxiety. And CBD could still help.
Dr. Hurd: “Both under normal conditions and in people who have anxiety disorders, enough research has started to show that it does have an anti-anxiety effect.”
Jones: So, back at the shop, I tried all kinds of product. From sweets to lotions and sprays. And while Hurd couldn’t recommend a specific dose for me, she did say that 300 milligrams a day should be enough to feel something. Because participants in clinical trials typically take anywhere from 300 to 600 milligrams. So, those chocolates and sprays? They weren’t going to cut it. Instead, I went for something else.
Phan: The tinctures, right? This is where you really get into the higher-strength things.”
Jones: I decided to err on the side of caution and take 250 milligrams each day, broken out into three doses: 50 milligrams in the morning, 100 milligrams at midday, and another 100 milligrams at night. That way, it wouldn’t hit me all at once.
Jones: All right, today is the day! I have my CBD here. I’m kind of nervous. All right, here we go.
Now, mind you, this was a Wednesday. A workday. Side note: The reason I’m taking CBD this way is that there are tons of capillaries under your tongue. So, anything you put there can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. Whereas when you ingest CBD, like with that chocolate, a lot of it is broken down by your stomach. Which means you probably won’t feel much.
Anyway, several hours later, I took my last dose of the day.
If anything, I just feel extremely tired.
That was the first thing I noticed: that CBD was making me drowsy. Really drowsy. Which Hurd said is a pretty normal side effect at high doses. Though we’re not exactly sure why. But as I discovered the next night, it’s also great for hangovers.
I had some alcohol, and I’m certainly not going to have trouble sleeping. I think I’m going to eat a slice of pizza.
The next morning, I felt…great. And according to Hurd, that’s because CBD also has some anti-inflammatory effects. But what about anxiety, what I was really in this for? Each morning, I filled out the anxiety scorecard that Hurd gave me. It was a rough estimate of my daily emotional state, based on numbered responses to statements like, “I feel at ease.” But day to day, it was harder to figure out whether CBD was helping.
Just walking home on Friday night after three days of CBD, and I’m reporting that I’m mostly just tired and feeling lethargic. Not in a bad way; it kind of feels like I have a warm blanket around me, so I don’t hate it.
But over the weekend, I finally got the relief I was looking for, even more quickly than I had expected.
So, I happened to take CBD right before I had to do something stressful. It’s Sunday, but I had a task that I was not looking forward to. And I took 100 milligrams, and I pretty quickly felt my nerves calming down. And I was like, OMG, this is totally working, which is really great because I’m looking for that quick relief like everyone is.
Now, of course, this could have been a placebo. I mean, all of this could have been placebo. So, a few days later, I tried it again in a similar high-stress situation.
Not going to lie, I actually feel a little bit more calm. It kind of puts me into a dissociative state, where I’m slowing down a little bit. I actually get physical pain in my heart region when I’m anxious, which I know sounds terrible. But just 30 minutes after taking my 100-milligram dose for the evening, I feel an absence of that. I will say that I’ve also been listening to the “Lion King” soundtrack, so there are confounding variables. But yeah, I feel a lot better right now.
At that point, I had just one day left.
All right, I’m about to take my last dose of CBD! I must say, I’m kind of excited to stop having to take this three times a day. I think part of it is scheduling and remembering. But also, yeah, I’ve also just been so much more tired. I don’t feel like my anxiety was just washed away. I felt like there were a few times where it really helped in certain instances. And, overall, kind of lowered the intensity of how I was feeling because I felt lethargic. But yeah, I don’t want to be tired anymore.
Afterward, I looked over my anxiety scorecards. And sure enough, it showed that I was feeling slightly less anxious on my last day, compared to my first. Especially when I looked at statements like this. Yeah, that’s a big one for me. I wanted to run these results by Hurd.
Dr. Hurd: “How do you feel?”
Jones: Um, to be honest, I don’t feel that different. I think that the biggest change that I noticed is…I was just tired all the time. I feel this kind of slo-mo lethargia that makes me feel, like, a little bit disassociated with reality. And I think that is what made me feel a little less anxious at times.
Dr. Hurd: So, perhaps…taking it at night only might be best because it can make you a bit sleepy, and everyone has a different sensitivity. If you take it at night you get past the initial sedative effects… and then you don’t have to worry about taking other things like caffeine to try to stay awake.
Jones: And what about those moments of instant relief? Was that in my head, or could CBD act that fast?
Dr. Hurd: “Yeah, absolutely. It can act that quickly. For us, in our studies, people did — shortly after getting CBD — report reduced anxiety.”
Jones: But if there was one takeaway from our conversations, it was this:
Dr. Yasmin Hurd: Ironically, even though it’s now this huge fad in our society, we still don’t have a very good handle on how it’s working.
Jones: In other words, we don’t know: what size dose you should take, how, exactly, it changes your brain, or how it impacts different people in different ways. That’s because until late 2018, nearly all CBD was classified as an illegal substance. Which made it really difficult for scientists to study. And while research is starting to catch up… in some ways, it’s too late.
Dr. Hurd: It’s one of the first times in history that the public is determining whether something is medicine, not scientists and physicians.
Jones: As for me, will I continue using CBD? Yes — but likely only for those moments when I need instant relief. Because, while it seems to benefit a lot of people … I’m not yet fully convinced. But also because, this bottle? It costs more than $130! And if I’m going to spend that much, I want to be absolutely sure it works.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on August 20, 2019.
How long does it take CBD oil to work?
In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) oil has skyrocketed in popularity. Knowledge about how it works in the human body, however, has accelerated at a snail’s pace. If you’ve ever wondered, “How long does it take for CBD oil to work?” or “How long will the effects of CBD oil last?” you’re not alone.
In this article, we’ll answer these questions and cover how different consumption methods will alter your CBD experience.
How does CBD interact with the body?
CBD interacts with the brain and body through a number of mechanisms. Upon ingestion, CBD interacts with a wide range of proteins in the body and central nervous system. A key part of this interaction takes place within the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — specifically the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.
When cannabidiol is introduced to the endocannabinoid system, it inhibits the absorption of anandamide, a natural cannabinoid molecule that regulates pain. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
CBD also interacts with other receptor proteins not directly related to the ECS, such as the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A and vanilloid receptor TRPV1. Any potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of CBD could stem from the activation of these additional biological pathways.
Bottom line: The relationship between CBD and the human body is complicated. The method of consumption, the quality of the CBD product, and individual body chemistry all determine how this cannabinoid moves through your body and how long it takes to leave your system.
The method of consumption matters
The method of consumption plays a critical role in how long it will take to feel the effects of CBD. CBD is available in many different forms, and each has an influence on the onset time, among other factors.
The most common method for CBD consumption involves administering a couple of drops directly into the mouth. Swallowing the oil will prevent the CBD from immediately entering your bloodstream, sending it instead through the digestive tract and eventually on to the liver, where it is broken down before finally reaching the bloodstream.
Studies show that when CBD compounds are metabolized by the liver, it undergoes what is called the “first pass effect,” where enzymes in the liver reduce CBD concentration before the remainder is finally sent to the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body.
When ingesting CBD edibles, the same principle applies. Let’s say, for example, you’re taking CBD gummies or adding a few drops of CBD oil into your favorite recipe. It will ultimately go through the same lengthy process and reduce the total CBD concentration in your bloodstream. With ingestion, it could be one to two hours before the effects of CBD finally set in.
Bottom line: Ingesting CBD via a tincture or a CBD oil-infused edible will result in a longer onset (up to two hours) and possibly weaker effects.
You can consume CBD oil sublingually by placing a few drops of CBD under your tongue and rubbing it into the tissue there with your tongue or finger for at least 30 seconds to a minute before swallowing. This will allow the mucous membranes in your mouth to absorb the CBD, partially bypassing the digestive system and liver, for much quicker entry into the bloodstream. Effects may be felt within seconds. Just like when you ingest THC edibles though, you’ll get a second onset of effects a couple of hours later when the CBD that wasn’t absorbed sublingually makes it through your digestive system.
Administering a couple of drops of CBD oil directly under the tongue is the quickest and easiest way to reap the potential benefits. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Bottom line: Expect to feel the effects of sublingual administration within 30 minutes. Any effects you feel should last an hour or more but be bolstered at about two hours.
Whether you’re smoking a high-CBD strain, puffing on a hemp flower pre-roll, or taking a draw from a CBD vape pen, inhalation is often seen as an effective method of delivery for CBD because of how quickly it’s absorbed in the body. When you smoke CBD flower or vape CBD oil, cannabinoids go directly to your lungs where they rapidly enter your bloodstream and circulate throughout your body. CBD reaches peak concentrations within three minutes after consumption, meaning the effects can be felt shortly after use.
Inhalation is often seen as an effective method of delivery for CBD because of how quickly it’s absorbed in the body. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Bottom line: Smoking CBD flower or vaping CBD oil is one of the fastest ways to experience the effects of CBD. Any effects you feel will set in almost immediately and last roughly an hour or slightly longer.
When it comes to easy, effective CBD dosing, transdermal patches have a lot going for them. Based on the same principles as nicotine or birth control patches, CBD patches deliver a long-lasting dose very efficiently. The cannabinoid readily diffuses into our skin, through our skin cells, and into the bloodstream, especially when it’s helped along by permeation enhancers. Patches can help with localized skin and muscle issues but they are right up there with smoking when it comes to getting as much of the CBD you consume into your bloodstream as possible. It’s also a discreet option that delivers a steady dose over hours.
CBD patches deliver a long-lasting dose very efficiently. Photo by: Shutterstock
Bottom line: Using a transdermal CBD patch is an efficient, effective way to enjoy the cannabinoid’s effects, which set in within an hour and last for several hours, depending on the patch’s formulation.
When you apply topical CBD products directly to your skin, the CBD is absorbed and slowly interacts with localized cannabinoid receptors. In some cases, CBD-infused topicals should be applied liberally to overcome the low cannabinoid absorption rate of the skin. With topical application, any CBD effects you feel will peak after about 90 minutes. This method of administration is often used for chronic pain in specific areas.
Topical CBD is applied directly to and can be absorbed through the surface of the skin. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Bottom line: Applying CBD oil topically isn’t likely to have a profound effect, but it may help address mild discomfort in specific areas of your body.
The way CBD interacts with and leaves your body depends on several factors that vary from person to person.
Body fat influences the amount of CBD you need to feel an effect. The larger the body mass, the more CBD required to feel potential effects. Bodyweight and mass also affect how long CBD will remain in your system. Like THC, CBD is stored in fat cells and gradually eliminated from the body through urine and feces.
The metabolic rate of the individual also has some sway over how long CBD stays in the system. The body’s metabolism determines the time needed to break down and synthesize compounds, which affects how long it takes the body to process and metabolize the cannabinoid.
Your body’s metabolism affects how long it takes to process and metabolize cannabinoids. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Frequency of use
It’s not just your body that influences how long it takes CBD to work, but also the quality of the CBD product and how often it’s used. Once you acquire CBD oil, the next step is to find the optimal dosing regimen, including frequency of use. The answers will depend largely on the type of product, amount of CBD inside it, and the specific ailment you are targeting. Most reputable manufacturers will provide instructions on how to properly use the product, but experimentation may be required to find the optimal dose for you and your specific needs.
Settling on the ideal CBD dosage is an important part of the treatment process, and will also impact how long CBD stays in your system. Hemp-derived CBD products are not intended to give the user a stoned buzz or intoxicated feeling, so there’s no need to be conservative with the dosage amount. Still, it’s recommended to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it until the ideal effects are discovered.
If you’re brand new to CBD, start with a few puffs of a smokeable product, 1 milliliter of oil or tincture, or 10 milligrams of CBD if you’re consuming an edible product. Wait to see how you respond before consuming more.
How long does it take CBD to get out of your system?
We’ve covered the factors that determine how long it takes for CBD to work, but what about how long it takes to get CBD out of your system? Again, it depends on many of the aforementioned factors that determine the effectiveness of the cannabinoid itself.
CBD can be detected up to 72 hours after smoking. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A 2018 review of existing CBD studies found that the estimated half-life of CBD was two to five days for those who took a daily oral dose. Other delivery methods delivered varied half-lives. Since you may feel the effects of CBD immediately after inhalation, this method is appealing for those seeking immediate, potential pain relief. The same study found that the half-life of smoked CBD was 31 hours.
How CBD affects drug test results
Some people may be apprehensive to try CBD over concerns that it could cause them to fail a drug test. It’s highly unlikely that CBD would show up on most drug screenings, as most tests specifically look for the presence of THC and THC metabolites. But even hemp-derived CBD can contain trace amounts of THC, so there’s technically a chance — albeit extremely slim — of receiving a false-positive test result from taking an unusually large dose of CBD oil (estimates range from 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day).
For those worried about THC showing up in their system, look for broad-spectrum oil or products that contain pure CBD isolate. Broad-spectrum oil, as opposed to full-spectrum oil, is refined to exclude the trace amounts of THC that may have been present in the hemp plant. Products with CBD isolate contain no THC or other plant-based cannabinoids. To find high-quality CBD, search for products that come with a certificate of analysis from a third-party testing lab to ensure that the information listed on the product label is accurate. Be careful not to confuse hemp seed oil or hemp oil, which seldom contain any CBD at all, with CBD oil. These products will provide a hearty dose of omega-3 fatty acids, but they won’t provide any potential pain-relieving or anti-anxiety effects.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take for CBD oil to work orally?
Consuming CBD oil via sublingual administration will deliver any effects within 30 minutes. CBD edibles have the longest onset time, and it may take two hours to feel any effects.
How soon does CBD oil work for anxiety?
It depends on how you consume it. For the quickest potential anxiety relief, smoke high-CBD hemp flower, vape a CBD oil vape, or administer CBD sublingually, taking care to rub it in.
Does CBD oil actually do anything?
That depends on the person, the quality of the CBD oil, and the consumption method. If you’ve used a CBD product in the past and it did nothing, check whether it came from a licensed brand or retailer that performs third-party lab tests. If this is the case, the dosage might be at play. Unlike THC and most other cannabis products, CBD is non-intoxicating and you can experiment with large increases in your dose with little risk. If you take any prescription medication, be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before trying CBD in any form.
How long does it take for CBD oil to work for pain relief?
If you’re using a topical product for potential localized pain relief, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to feel a difference. Again, buy products from licensed brands and retailers that perform third-party lab tests to ensure you’re getting a legitimate product.
How Long Does It Take CBD to Work, Anyways?
W e probably don’t have to tell you that CBD is everywhere these days: people are putting it in their coffee, pouring it into their cocktails, rubbing it on their skin, and blending it into their post-workout smoothies. Researchers are learning more about CBD every day, but there’s still a lot about it that we don’t know. and that can be really confusing if you’re a CBD newbie.
One of the biggies: How long does it take for CBD oil to work? Because who hasn’t been in the situation where it seems like one person takes CBD and turns into a zen mother earth goddess right away, while you’re sitting over here waiting for something (anything!) to happen to take your morning anxiety away. (What’s that saying? A watched mug of CBD coffee never kicks in?)
Turns out, CBD isn’t one-size-fits-all. Various factors—such as the amount you take, the form you take it in, and where you got your CBD from—can all impact how long it takes to work, says Brooke Alpert, RD, the founder of Daily Habit, a line of CBD powder.
For example, if you’re putting your CBD product in a coffee that has almond milk or sugar or anything else that might need to be digested, your CBD will kick in more slowly than it would if you put a few drops directly under your tongue. “I look at it the same way I talk to people about their sugar consumption,” Alpert explains. “If you have juice or put a little bit on your tongue, it’s going to be an immediate reaction versus when it’s in fruit where you have fiber, which slows down absorption.” (Generally speaking, CBD oil added to a coffee or smoothie will probably take around 30 minutes before you start to feel anything.)
It’s worth noting that the research on taking CBD sublingually (science-speak for under your tongue) is mixed: As Well + Good has previously reported, many studies on the subject have included both CBD and THC, so it’s hard to generalize the findings to products that are just CBD-based. However, chemist Jesse Kater previously told tell Well+Good that “most of the literature supports the notion that CBD has better bioavailability when consumed sublingually versus orally.” That supports anecdotal evidence that CBD starts working almost immediately when taken under the tongue. Alpert agrees to an extent, saying that it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to kick in when taken sublingually.
Charlotte’s Web co-founder Jesse Stanley adds that CBD products often come in different strengths and thus the amount of CBD that works for your bestie may not work for you. “You might need to try a few strengths until you find what works for you,” he says. (Good to know!)
“Every day consistency is key,” he adds. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He encourages people to think of CBD as a dietary supplement and notes that it can take up to four to six weeks to “fully realize the benefits of CBD,” especially if you’re taking it to alleviate anxiety, pain, or for stress relief. “We are all unique in our needs and bodily systems. Some people experience rapid and very noticeable benefits while others notice benefits over time and daily use, which is common for many dietary supplements,” Stanley says.
The most important factor, Alpert says, is quality. There is so much variance among CBD products, and that can also impact how long it takes before you start feeling any effects. “This is where people are getting frustrated with CBD, because they’re like, ‘Well, I got a CBD gummy from my local bodega and I didn’t feel anything,’” Alpert says. Some things Alpert and Stanley say you should consider when shopping for any CBD product:
- The origin of the hemp: ”Hemp is a powerful phytoremediation crop, which means it cleans the soil, so you’ll want to find out that it’s grown using responsible farming practices in soil that is pre-tested for toxins or heavy metals,” Stanley says.
- Is the product full-spectrum? Both Stanley and Alpert recommend looking for full-spectrum products, which means that all the different compounds in the hemp—the foundation of every CBD product—work together to “further heighten [your] body’s response to CBD,” according to Stanley.
- Transparency: Look for third-party testing that shows you what’s in there, Alpert recommends. “All CBD is not created equally and it’s really important that whatever you’re buying actually has what it needs to have in order for it to be effective.” Reputable companies shouldn’t hide or obscure that info in any way.
The reality: Trial and error is the name of the game when it comes to finding the correct amount CBD that will actually work for you. With a little research, you’ll hopefully find the right amount for you that gives you the results you’re aiming for.
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