Cannabis and its extracts, like CBD oil, can be consumed in an astounding number of ways. Most options fall into a few general categories, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. You’ll experience different effects if you use CBD-rich flower; swallow a gelcap, drop CBD oil under your tongue, or apply topically. Everybody processes cannabis and cannabinoids a little differently. The diversity of human experience means that finding your ideal form of cannabis consumption may take some experimentation.
The critical differences between ways of using cannabis pertain to these questions:
Onset: How quickly will cannabinoids begin to work?
Dose: What’s a reasonable starting dose?
Distribution: Which parts of the body will be most affected?
Duration: How long will the effects last?
Of course, the dosage required depends on the quality of the product and the reason for its use. The doses we describe below are based on initially managing the psychoactivity of THC.
Onset: 1-2 hours.
Dose: The threshold for mild psychoactive effects is 3 mg THC in most new users. Quantities of CBD-rich products range from 5 mg to thousands of milligrams.
Distribution: Absorbed through the gut and modified in the liver, spreads reasonably evenly throughout the body.
Duration: Effects subside after about 6 hours in most people. Other products may last up to 12 hours. Ingested cannabinoids are absorbed through the intestines and sent to the liver. It takes about an hour to feel effects when taken on an empty stomach or three hours with food. People should not re-dose edibles for at least three hours after ingestion.
On the way to the liver, cannabinoids will interact with receptors in the gut, so the effect on conditions like inflammatory bowel disease will be more pronounced. Once in the liver, three enzymes will start to modify THC and CBD in “first-pass metabolism.” THC is primarily converted to 11-OH-THC, which appears to cause a more potent high than THC. This, along with the long duration of edibles, is why new users should become comfortable with being high before using edibles containing more than 5 mg of THC. The longer-lasting effect of capsules makes them suitable for many chronic conditions.
TINCTURES (under the tongue/sublingual and oral mucosal)
Onset: 15 minutes to an hour.
Dose: 2.5-5 mg of CBD is a typical starting dose. This could cause a slight energetic boost in new users.
Distribution: Absorbed into the bloodstream in the mouth, then distributes evenly.
Duration: After 6-8 hours, most of the CBD has been metabolized or eliminated from the body.
Oral-mucosal drugs are absorbed directly into the blood vessels in the mouth and under the tongue. If sprayed under the tongue, the patient should try to wait at least one minute before swallowing. Effects usually start after 15-30 minutes and peak around an hour and a half after administration. For consistency, it is best to avoid eating immediately before or after using a tincture.
Oral mucosal tinctures usually come in one of two forms: an under-the-tongue spray or a dropper with a marking at a specific volume (usually 0.5 ml or 1.0 ml). This allows for consistent, measurable dosing. Pay close attention to the labels on these products. Products should be labeled with a dose of cannabinoids per spray or ml. Tinctures involve a solvent like ethanol or sesame oil. Some of the adverse side effects attributed to cannabis extracts may be ingesting large amounts of the carrier oil.
Topicals and rubs are one of the more common kinds of cannabis products. They can be used effectively for skin or joint issues, but will not be absorbed into the bloodstream. The presence of terpenes or non-intoxicating acid cannabinoids (THCA and CBDA) seem to increase skin permeation, but still not enough to get it into the blood. Large concentrations of terpenes in topical products may irritate and damage the skin.
Although transdermal products are applied to the skin, their effects are nothing like topicals. A transdermal patch is designed to release cannabinoids into the bloodstream at a constant rate. If it has THC, the user can experience psychoactive effects. Transdermal administration should confer an experience somewhat like sublingual use, although a transdermal patch could be designed to work for more extended periods. However, it’s worth noting that a transdermal CBD isolates failed to treat epilepsy in a clinical trial, whereas the sublingual CBD isolate was successful. Any company claiming to market a transdermal product should have public data demonstrating how well it is absorbed.