While CBD may very well be the ultimate wellness supplement should we consider its safety? Many experts say “Yes”. CBD has been touted to help with everything from pain and anxiety to multiple sclerosis and opioid addiction but for now, it’s has been proven to help treat two rare forms of epilepsy. Even less is known about which forms of CBD one should use; such as a pill, capsule, tincture, or aerosol.
In dozens of states, health food stores, pharmacies, and even supermarkets and restaurants are carrying CBD products. That includes pills, oils, balms, vaping devices (like e-cigarettes), and edibles, including gummy bears, honey, coffees, and alcoholic beverages, among others.
But how does one choose among the different forms of CBD? Experts say there are pros and cons to each, and settling on the one that works for you may require reviewing the products and doing a little trial and error. After reading this, you will understand how to take CBD safely and which method is best for you
Should you Inhale, Spray, Apply, or Eat CBD?
It may seem challenging for those looking for treatment as discovering what dose might work best for you varies based on specific conditions. So much remains unknown about CBD, including how it works. Even with so many unknowns about CBD’s effectiveness, growing anecdotal evidence look promising for those looking for relief.
Remember if you want to try CBD to treat health problems, talk with your doctor first, especially if you’re seeking relief from a serious health problem that could be helped by more proven medical care.
Some people get CBD by smoking the flowering parts of the hemp plant, like the way people may smoke marijuana in rolled cigarettes. But increasingly CBD is available via e-cigarette vaporizer devices, or “vape pen”. The device heats up a small portion of concentrated CBD oil until it boils, allowing you to inhale the vapor.
For problems such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia, “the quickest way to deliver CBD to the brain is by vaping it,” Kaminski says. “The next quickest way is by using a tincture. Eating it, and especially a topical will take long before there is an effect.”
Pro: Inhaled CBD tends to enter the bloodstream faster than other forms—in as quickly as 30 seconds or less. The quick action means it should affect the body sooner, which could be especially useful to ease immediate pain or anxiety, for example.
Vape pens are easy to use and can go undetected because they produce little smoke. (Note that Oregon and certain other states have laws that prohibit vaping in the same places where smoking cigarettes is prohibited.)
Con: The CBD cartridges used in vape pens can contain a solvent called propylene glycol, which is also used in e-cigarettes containing nicotine. At high temperatures, propylene glycol can degrade into formaldehyde, a chemical that can irritate the nose and eyes and could increase the risk of asthma and cancer. Look for CBD vape pens that advertise “solvent-free oils.”
Also, controlling dosing can be particularly difficult with vape pens. How much CBD you absorb depends on how hard and long you inhale. In addition, labels on vaping devices can be especially confusing. You might get a vape oil that says it has 1,000 mg of CBD, but it’s not clear if that’s how much is in the whole bottle or in each inhalation. It can be hard to guess what your dosage really is under some of those situations. Finally, even if you’re using a vape pen without propylene glycol, it’s important to know that the long-term safety of smoking CBD in any form, including vaping, is unknown.
Note: Consider trying the lowest dose first—in this case, a single inhale—then wait a few minutes and see whether there is an effect, such as pain relief or reduced anxiety. If not, try another. And avoid holding your breath after inhaling, because that can irritate the lungs.
Tinctures (Drops or Sprays)
Tinctures (usually in oil form) are taken by dropper or spray, straight into your mouth. The CBD used in these forms is extracted from marijuana or hemp plants using pressurized carbon dioxide gas or a solvent such as ethanol. The solvent is then removed under vacuum. The remaining CBD is diluted with an oil, such as sesame or coconut oil, to improve the taste and preserve the cannabidiol.
Pro: Tinctures are shown to be the second-quickest form to absorb CBD after smoking. According to Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the State University of New York, CBD tincture’s onset effects can be noticed in 15 to 30 minutes. The quick action could make it especially useful in treating pain or anxiety.
Con: It also could be challenging with tinctures to determine how much CBD you’re getting, either from the bottle dropper or from each spray, especially if the bottle shows only total CBD content and doesn’t list the per-dose amount. If needed, ask a retail salesperson for help or get out your calculator to calculate the amount of CBD per dose. The price per bottle could be more for a product with a higher CBD content per dose.
Note: Drop a dose of the tincture under your tongue (sublingual) and hold it there for 30 seconds before swallowing or apply a single spray of the tincture on the inside of your cheeks. Doing so speeds up the effects of the CBD. If you put the tincture on the top of your tongue, you’re likely to swallow it sooner, sending it into your digestive tract, which will absorb the CBD more slowly. If you add a CBD tincture to foods or drinks, it could take up to 30 minutes for it to enter your bloodstream.
It is suggested that you start with a small dose, perhaps 10 mg, to see how sensitive you are. But don’t be surprised if you don’t feel any effect until you reach, say, 30 mg per dose. And ongoing conditions such as chronic pain are likely to better respond with daily doses, he says.
Also, shake the bottle well before using because CBD often gets stuck on the side of the bottle.
Topical Rubs and Balms
Topicals are rubbed directly onto sore muscles or joints, where they may ease pain by reducing inflammation, Earleywine says. CBD balms typically include extracts mixed into a fat, such as beeswax or coconut oil. That recipe not only makes it easier to spread the product on your skin but also allows the CBD to penetrate.
Pro: Topicals aren’t absorbed into the entire body, as other forms can be. That could make them safer—which could be important if you use CBD on a regular basis—considering how little is known about the long-term safety of CBD and other cannabis products.
Con: To be effective, products probably need to have a lot of CBD—which can make them expensive. For example, Hemp Garden in Manhattan sells a topical called Full Spectrum that has 500 mg of CBD per 4 ounces for $50. Another company, PlusCBD Oil, sells its Extra Strength topical in a smaller but still concentrated dose of 1.3 ounces that contains 100 mg of CBD for $52. The company sells a less concentrated version for $32.
Note: In a retail store, ask whether you can sample the product first. Some people start feeling effects almost immediately after rubbing it on. Others say they notice relief later in the day and return to buy the products. Some don’t get any relief at all.
Edibles and Pills
When eaten or consumed in a drink, CBD from hemp may have an aroma or a flavor of “newly cut grass”. But flavors in some cocktails or coffees might overpower CBD so that it’s undetectable, while other food products, such as cookies and brownies, may try to feature it. Most pills will be tasteless.
Pro: In some states finding CBD-infused food and drinks at a retailer, restaurant, or café can be easy. At Inday, an East Indian-inspired restaurant in Manhattan, as a promotion, customers could order CBD-infused ghee (clarified butter) to be added to any dish. In San Diego, cocktail lovers can order “The Mr. Nice Guy”—a vodka and mezcal mixed drink that includes CBD—at the restaurant Madison on Park.
Kickback, a maker of bottled CBD-infused cold-brew coffees and ice teas, sells its products in California, New York, and Texas.
Hemp Garden sells gummies and caramel candies infused with CBD. These sweets may have a longer shelf life if kept in a cool, dry location, so they don’t degrade, plus they’re easy to take along with you in a bag or purse. Other baked foods, such as brownies and cookies, may have a shorter shelf life and need to be placed in a refrigerator to keep the CBD oil fresh, says Backes, an expert in cannabis science and policy.
Con: Edibles might seem a fun way to take CBD, but it’s a particularly inefficient method. That’s because eating or drinking your CBD means it will enter the bloodstream through the digestive system, so it will take a while—30 minutes or longer—before you feel it. Plus, the food it’s in, as well as other foods you consume, could affect how the body absorbs it, and undermine its potential effect.
Note: You can also consume CBD in pill form. Like ingesting CBD in an edible, pills can take upward of 30 minutes or more to digest before you experience an effect. One benefit though is that the per-pill CBD dose should be clearer on packaging than for other forms. Online start-ups like Envy Hemp provides convenient daily capsule packs for those who are always on-the-go with clear dosage information directly on the packaging.
And for chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, where you might be trying to maintain consistent CBD levels in your body, pills may be an easier solution.