EducationHow long does CBD take to work?

How long does CBD take to work?

5 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

How long does CBD take to work?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabis compound that has recently flourished in health and wellness industries across Europe and many other parts of the world. Available in oil, edible, topical and flower form, CBD products are administered internationally to potentially help manage a wide array of health concerns or conditions, from reducing seizures, pain, and inflammation to improving sleep, anxiety and skin conditions.


Because CBD is available in so many product forms and concentrations, the amount of time it takes to produce effects can vary. So, as part of our CBD series, we’ve designed this article to explain the factors that influence CBD absorption rates, by answering the question ‘How long does CBD take to work?’.

So, how long does CBD take to work?

There is a huge range of factors that can and will influence the amount of time it takes for patients to feel the therapeutic effects of CBD. And so, there is no easy way to answer the question ‘How long does it take for CBD to kick in?’. 

Researchers have demonstrated that individual biological factors, or individual variation, like genetics, metabolism, body weight and BMI all influence the associated speed and effects of CBD. Like most medications or wellness products, dosage amounts, delivery methods, and possible drug interactions are also all shown to influence the rate of cannabidiol absorption.

One study tracked the pharmacokinetic speed of low-dose cannabidiol in the treatment of mild to moderate musculoskeletal pain over a two-hour period. This American study, published in 2021, found that patients with arthritis pain, back pain, neck pain, muscle aches, and dysmenorrhea experienced a potential 20-fold reduction in their pain levels from their baseline Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS) score within two hours of being treated with CBD.

Twenty minutes after administration, the NPRS scores reported by patients had reduced from ‘moderate’ with an average baseline of 5.33, to ‘tolerable’ with an NPRS score of 2. The scores continued to decrease to 1.25, then 0.44, until their final recording of 0.25 or ‘very mild’, was recorded after two hours. This study suggests that CBD possibly reduced the levels of pain felt by patients dramatically within twenty minutes of administration, and their pain levels continued to decline for at least two hours after receiving a 5 mg dose of CBD.

Timeframes for different CBD products

The method of administration, or type of CBD product taken, may affect the speed of CBD’s absorption into the bloodstream. This in turn impacts the speed at which paitents feel the effects of CBD. 

A 2022 study published in Frontiers reported peak plasma CBD concentrations were achieved between 3 and 10 minutes after inhaling CBD, indicating that using CBD in an electronic vaporiser may provide relatively rapid relief.

The Arthritis Foundation has also published information regarding the speed of different CBD products. They state that ingestible CBD products, like food, drinks and tablets, can take longer to be felt, but users tend to feel their effects for longer than with other administration methods. Typically, users start to experience the effects of CBD between 1 and 3 hours after consumption. Unlike ingesting, sublingual methods bypass the digestive system, and CBD oils or liquids are absorbed through membranes in the mouth. This causes cannabidiol to metabolise much faster, causing users to experience the possible effects in around 15 to 45 minutes.

The speed of CBD creams has also been investigated. Some sources state that the topical administration of cannabidiol can cause patients to report calming or pain-relieving sensations within around 10 to 20 minutes, whilst others indicate they may feel a difference within a matter of minutes. 

One thing that impacts this is the other ingredients in CBD creams. Excipients such as beeswax are commonly used as a thickening agent, which changes the density of the product and therefore, their speed of absorption. Thinner, gel-like CBD topicals are able to soak into the skin much faster than thicker balms, with some users reporting relief with CBD gels to be almost instantaneous.

Expected effects of CBD

The effects of cannabidiol have been displayed in a number of ways, from reducing anxiety or stress levels, seizure frequency and skin inflammation, to improving sleep and pain scores in patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. Depending on the application method, short-term effects of CBD are generally reported to last between 2 and 6 hours after administration.

Certain possible effects like relieving pain, stress, and reducing itchy sensations may be felt within a number of minutes according to anecdotal evidence, and may continue to last for a number of hours in some cases. Again, this depends on dosage and administration technique, but this has still enabled CBD to gain a reputation as a potentially rapid form of relief.

However, it is important to note that although typically deemed safe by most medical agencies, including The World Health Organisation, there are some associated side effects of CBD usage. 

The most commonly reported side effects of CBD are categorised as minor and can include feeling fatigued or drowsy, irritable or dizzy. Other, more serious complications can occur when CBD is taken alongside other medications that are metabolised similarly, and on occasion, CBD use has been linked with an increased probability of liver damage.


Although according to Harvard Medical School “For adults CBD appears to be a very safe product”, there are a number of precautions or safety considerations that should be taken into account when starting your CBD journey. Firstly, and most importantly, we’d recommend having a conversation with your doctor registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis to limit the likelihood of drug interactions with other medications or health supplements you may currently be taking.

Here at Releaf, we’d suggest creating a list of any questions you may have, taking into account what factors are at the top of your priority list, such as speed, delivery, dosages, side effects and price. 

Check out the rest of our CBD series so that you can learn more about cannabidiol and answer any other questions you may have. This will help your doctor in having an informed discussion.

At Releaf, we believe that access to medical cannabis is important. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

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.

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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