Because of its wide range of therapeutic benefits, CBD has quickly become one of the most widely used plant-derived therapeutic agents in the world. As a result, the CBD market has developed and branched out in many different directions – different delivery methods, different types of CBD (isolate vs. full-spectrum), and all sorts of equipment, designed for smoking or vaporizing it.
This gives customers more choices, but unfortunately, it can also lead to massive confusion and information overload.
In this article, we’ll try to simplify things a bit for you and help you choose the right intake method and dosage. We’ll explore the pros and cons of various delivery methods and will try to condense all the factors that may confuse you into only a few key considerations that can be quickly made.
What is the Best Way to Take CBD?
There are two main ways to take CBD – Ingesting it and inhaling it. Topical, or skin absorption is also possible and we’ll talk briefly about it as well.
Taking CBD orally is the more convenient of the two methods. It’s also simpler and more choice-limited – as you’ll see in a bit, ingestion doesn’t have the high number of different sub-categories that inhalation does. For ingestion, CBD is commonly incorporated into ‘edibles‘. Gummies, cake pops, and chocolate bars are the most popular. Another popular choice is straight CBD oil, which you simply administer using a dropper.
This creates the possibility for a different absorption route, called sublingual absorption. When CBD gets absorbed through the stomach, as much as 90% of it is wasted, giving us around a 10% bio-availability. With sublingual absorption, that figure is increased about two-fold, to about 20%. CBD oil capsules are also popular and help to avoid the bitter taste of CBD oil.
Some of the CBD contained in edibles still gets absorbed through the membranes of the mouth, which is partly responsible for the wide range of bio-availability reported by different studies – between 5% and 15%. Still, that figure is pretty low.
However, we should remember that people still report experiencing all the benefits of CBD, even when they take it in a modest dose, in the form of edibles. So don’t let the low absorption figures dissuade you away from gummies or other edibles.
CBD absorption in the body can be increased as much as 4-fold by inhaling it, instead of ingesting it. The typical bio-availability reported in studies on inhalation is around 50% or more. However, inhalation is a bit more of a ‘hassle’ and often requires equipment, like vaporizers, bongs or pipes, However, this can be a benefit and not a drawback – it creates a process, or a ‘ritual’ involved in the experience and brings a hobby-like aspect to the therapeutic process.
The flavor of the smoke is also pleasant and some people may like it more than the oral drops, which often leave a bitter sensation in your mouth.
There are multiple methods of inhaling CBD. They can be divided into two categories – inhaling vaporized concentrates, which are extracts from hemp flower, or smoking/vaporizing the actual flower bud. All CBD inhalation methods are the same ones used to smoke or vaporize regular, high-THC cannabis flowers or extracts.
The only thing that’s different is the plant strain that is used – high CBD cannabis can have a CBD content as high as 20% and THC content as low as 0.3%. Cannabis varieties, grown for the purpose of making you high are the opposite – up to 20% THC and very low CBD content.
Concentrates contain up to 85% CBD by weight. This is about four times higher than the CBD content of a very potent dry flower material. Concentrate vaporizing is well suited for people looking to take very high doses of CBD, which is often done for treating medical conditions. If you’re a beginner and are just looking for some relaxation, or to give CBD a try, you may want to go with smoking flower, which will give you a quick way to see how CBD benefits you. Later, you can switch to concentrates.
Concentrates have to be heated to about 400, at which point they vaporize and can be inhaled. This is done by the use of dab rigs or other dab devices. Those devices have a small cup, called a nail, which you heat with a torch until the proper temperature is reached. You then put the concentrate in, and inhale as it vaporizes. The vapor is usually bubbled through water to cool it down, just like in a bong.
Because concentrates are, well…concentrated, a very small amount is typically used. A dab the size of a rice grain is all that is required to administer a significant dose, around 20 to 50 mg.
Concentrates can also be absorbed through the skin and act locally as a pain-reliever. We’ll talk a bit more about this later in the article.
Smoking vs Vaping Hemp Flower
Smoking is probably the most common way to take CBD. It’s simple, easy and doesn’t require much equipment. After purchasing CBD hemp flower, it can be simply rolled in a joint and smoked. Bongs and pipes are commonly used, because they don’t involve rolling, and can filter the smoke through water, which increases the smoothness and pleasantness of the smoke. The process of smoking burning material, however, does pose some health hazards, which is the main reason a lot of people switch to vaporizing, edibles, concentrates, or topical administration.
Dry herb vaporizers are a popular choice – they don’t produce the typical burning-material smoke, because the temperature they reach is electronically controlled, and designed to stay around the 400 range. This is enough to vaporize the CBD, but not enough to burn the material The temperature of burning, smoke-producing material is much higher – up to 1500.
Skin absorption through the use of creams is also possible, offering mainly localized, pain-relieving benefits. Concentrates and liquid CBD oil can also be absorbed through the skin by simply rubbing them.
Summary: The Pros and Cons of Different Methods and Which One to Choose
Edibles and CBD oil capsules/drops are quick, easy, and convenient. They can be taken anywhere, any time, without any equipment and there is no smell. However, the absorption is low and a lot of the CBD doesn’t reach the bloodstream.
Inhalation offers a faster-acting, more bio-available way to take CBD. You can either smoke the dry flower material after rolling it or smoke it in a bong or a pipe. However, smoke inhalation is not healthy. Electronic vaporizers reach a lower temperature, which enables the CBD to be evaporated without producing a lot of tar, carbon dioxide, and other harmful chemicals present in smoke. Vaporizing concentrate is another way to further reduce the harm, and it also enables you to take very high doses easily.
Topical administration offers localized, pain-relieving benefits – it’s worth trying if you have a localized, chronic-pain condition, like back or joint pain. For topical application, you can use special CBD-containing creams and lotions, or you can simply apply regular CBD oil or CBD concentrate.
What Dosage to Take
25 mg a day is a good starting point for most people. Keep in mind that CBD may need a few days to build up in your system before you fully feel its effects, so it’s important to keep taking it for at least a week or two. After this period, you can adjust your dosage accordingly. Keep in mind that many, but not all CBD products put the total dose contained in the package on the label. So, a 500 mg jar of 50 gummies will contain 50 gummies, each containing 10 mg of CBD.