EducationHow long does CBD (cannabidiol) take to work

How long does CBD (cannabidiol) take to work

7 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

How long does cannabidiol (CBD) take to work
When new patients take cannabidiol, otherwise referred to as CBD, they can sometimes expect the effects to kick in immediately. When this fails to happen, they may be confused, and wonder how long they will have to wait before feeling anything noticeable. 


While you can't overdose on CBD, higher doses may cause unpleasant effects such as drowsiness, nausea, or GI disturbances. Understanding how long it takes for CBD to work provides guidance on dosing CBD and helps one to understand how their body responds to CBD. This article discusses the factors that affect how long it takes for CBD to work, highlighting all considerations.

What does CBD feel like?

CBD is non-intoxicating and will therefore not cause a cerebral buzz or the 'high' feeling that is associated with recreational cannabis use. On the other hand, CBD has been shown to have the potential to offer relaxation and anxiety relief when consumed. These effects may be felt as soon as the CBD gets into the bloodstream, or they may take multiple days before any noticeable change is felt. 

How one patient experiences CBD can be different from how another does. Some may even feel energised and uplifted after consuming CBD, especially when the CBD product is broad spectrum. The method of administration also plays a huge role in the timing of onset. For example, vaping CBD will provide a more immediate effect than consuming an edible or capsule. 

The effects of CBD can be subtle and slow-acting, but are usually long-lasting. Depending on the type of product administered, people may feel relaxed and calm throughout the day.

How is CBD metabolised?

Again, that is totally dependent on the way the CBD product is taken, and the type of CBD product itself. When ingested in food or drink form, much of CBD’s metabolism happens in the liver through oxidation. CBD is broken down into different metabolites. These include 7-hydroxy-CBD and 7-carboxy-CBD. From the liver, CBD metabolites are carried through the bloodstream to different parts of the body. CBD that is ingested orally undergoes the first pass effect, where a large proportion of the CBD may be excreted before it has the chance to reach the bloodstream.

When inhaled, or taken sublingually, the digestive system is bypassed, and the CBD enters the bloodstream much faster. In this case, most of the CBD is instantly bio-available.

What is CBD bioavailability?

CBD bioavailability refers to the extent to which CBD is effectively absorbed into the bloodstream following ingestion. This measure is influenced by the formulation of the CBD product, an individual's physiological factors, and the method of administration.

How long for CBD to work?

The effects of CBD are most often felt when CBD or its metabolites hit the bloodstream. This process largely depends on the CBD formulation, the way it is taken, and your own biological response. For example, one may have to wait a bit longer to receive potential pain relief after consuming CBD as compared to how long one would have to wait before they start feeling relaxed. 

But most importantly, the administration route determines how soon you will begin to experience the effects of CBD. The section below explains this in detail.

CBD tinctures (Sublingual)

CBD tinctures are an easy and discreet way to consume CBD. You just need to place a few drops beneath the tongue (sublingually) and hold it there for about half a minute before swallowing. 

This area is well vascularised, and the CBD is easily absorbed through the mucous membranes and into the blood capillaries without having to go through the digestive system. It is important to hold the tincture for a while before you swallow, otherwise, the CBD will go directly to the digestive system and will take a longer time to act. When ingested sublingually, the effects of CBD are felt in about ten to twenty minutes.

CBD edibles (Ingestibles)

Edibles are one of the more popular ways to consume CBD, especially for patients that are averse to the idea of inhalation. However, edibles have a long onset of action since the edibles have to pass through the digestive system before the CBD reaches the liver, and then the bloodstream. 

This also means that a lot of the CBD is lost in the process of metabolism. Up to 50% of the CBD is lost in the process of metabolism in the liver. This is called the first-pass effect. It takes between half an hour to two hours for the CBD reach the bloodstream after it has been ingested. 

This duration varies based on one’s metabolism rate, the content in one’s stomach, and the formulation of the CBD product itself. At the same time, the effects of CBD edibles last for a longer duration than when taken through inhalation or sublingually, usually 4 to 6 hours. 

CBD flower (inhalants)

Inhaling CBD is one of the fastest ways to get CBD into one’s bloodstream. For most people, the effects are felt within the first five minutes or soon after the first puff. The options for inhalation have exploded over the past few years, with the vast majority of patients preferring to go down the vaporisation route these days. Vaporising CBD is easy, discreet, and does not come with the health concerns that smoking brings.

CBD creams and salves (topicals)

Topicals are an easy way to administer CBD. And fortunately, the skin has a rich supply of endocannabinoid receptors that will take up the CBD once it has been applied. With this method, the CBD does not have to go through the process of digestion. Once the CBD has been applied to the skin, it has to be rubbed in a circular motion to give room for maximum absorption. Most patients report relief within the first twenty minutes after applying topical CBD.

Does Diet Affect CBD Bioavailability?

CBD is fat-soluble and does not get absorbed easily through the GI tract. A 2021 study investigated the effect of food on CBD bioavailability and found that fatty foods increase CBD absorption. 

It may be useful to consume CBD together with foods containing slightly higher amounts of fat. The effects of CBD may be felt sooner when CBD is consumed on an empty stomach because the process of digestion will be swifter. However, most of the CBD might be excreted, having fewer lipids to bind to.

Metabolism Rate and Physiology Affect How Long it Takes for CBD to Work

Lastly, it's important to note that every patient will respond to CBD at least slightly differently. This is dependent on one’s unique metabolism rate and other physiological factors. The rule of thumb is to always start slow and go slow as you observe how your body responds to CBD. While intoxication or overdose is not possible with CBD, overdoing it may trigger some unpleasant effects.


How long it takes for CBD to work varies based on a number of factors. The administration method affects how soon CBD gets to the bloodstream. When CBD is inhaled, it passes through the lungs and into the bloodstream almost immediately. When taken sublingually, CBD once again reaches the bloodstream quickly.  

On the other hand, CBD edibles have to go through the digestion process before they reach the bloodstream. This process usually takes between half an hour to two hours and is, therefore, the slowest.

The purpose of consuming CBD is also an important consideration when determining how long it takes for CBD to work. Those taking CBD for mild symptoms will be likely to experience relief sooner than those consuming CBD for severe symptoms, such as seizures.

Before starting any CBD regime, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider, who can inform you on the best course of action, including if CBD will be both safe and effective for you.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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