How to Use CBD Oil for Pain

If you are in pain and want CBD to work quickly, you may think that, as with other medications, simply taking more of it more rapidly will help it work faster. However, CBD is metabolized by the body in many different ways, so how fast it works depends on how you take it, what kind of CBD you are using, and even on your own body composition. CBD works from your bloodstream outward, so there are a number of different factors at play. In order to figure out how fast CBD will work for pain, here are some things to keep in mind.

CBD Bioavailability

Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a substance is actually available to be used by the body, as opposed to how much you consume. The bioavailability of CBD depends on how you use it, and here are some of the most common methods:

Oral consumption of CBD

CBD capsules, edibles, or beverages are consumed by the mouth and reach the bloodstream through the digestive system. Our digestive and metabolic processes break down many CBD compounds and it takes longer for CBD to become effective through the gastro/digestive system. So when we take CBD by mouth, it takes longer to reach the blood stream and take effect. Studies show that oral CBD requires 30-180 minutes to take effect, and only 4-20% of the CBD we consume actually reaches the bloodstream.

Sublingual use of CBD

CBD tinctures, lozenges, and sprays target the sublingual gland beneath the tongue. Because sublingual CBD has a more direct path to the bloodstream, and is only broken down by the enzymes in your saliva, it is both faster and more effective than oral consumption. CBD taken sublingually has an effect from between 5-30 minutes, and 12-35% of the CBD consumed enters the bloodstream.

Vaporizing CBD

When vaporized, CBD enters the bloodstream through the lungs. This is the fastest, most efficient way to feel the effects of CBD, and to have the most potent effects. When vaporized, CBD takes 30-600 seconds to take effect, and 34-56% of the CBD consumed is bioavailable in the bloodstream.

Topical creams and ointments

CBD can also be taken topically, and massaged into the affected area. In this instance, most CBD never reaches the bloodstream at all, instead being absorbed directly by the skin’s CBD receptors in the target area. Topical application for targeted pain relief can take 40-120 minutes to take effect, but evidence also suggests that topical CBD oil can have a cumulative or preventive effect. In other words, daily application of CBD oil to a targeted site may lessen symptoms of pain or inflammation on an ongoing basis, or prevent symptoms altogether.

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Other Factors That Influence How Quickly CBD Oil Alleviates Pain

There are a variety of other factors that are particular to each individual, that influence the way that CBD oil affects your body, and how quickly. These are just some of them:

The state of your endocannabinoid system

Your body is full of cannabinoid receptors, with two distinct subtypes. CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain, central nervous system, lungs, liver, and kidneys. The CB2 receptors are located primarily in your immune system and in your skin and stem cells.

Our bodies produce substances that naturally bind to and activate these receptors (called endocannabinoids), but we are only just beginning to learn how this system works. It appears to help promote homeostasis, and allow us to protect and heal ourselves against a range of problems and disruptions.

The number and health of your cannabinoid receptors affects how much, and how quickly, CBD products will affect you. For example, studies show that exposure to cannabinoids stimulates more receptors, so that in many people their 3rd or 4th use of CBD is more effective than their first. In addition, this system can be affected by your diet and lifestyle choices.

Stress, pesticides, plastics, and alcohol are shown to impair your endocannabinoid system, while omega-3 fatty acids, chocolate, and certain herbs can enhance it.

The contents of your stomach

Conventional wisdom is that eating CBD products on an empty stomach enhances the effect and makes CBD oil treat pain faster. However, eating CBD on an empty stomach reduces its bioavailability, because the digestive system is more active in breaking down the CBD. It reaches your bloodstream faster, but reduces the potency. It is more effective to take CBD with a small amount of food rich in medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides. The presence of these fatty acids can help CBD bypass some metabolic processes and protect its bioavailability.

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Your body weight

As with many medications, the speed and potency of a dose may depend on your body weight. Every product and method has different dosage recommendations, and it is always best to follow your physician’s advice. Start with the lowest possible dosage and increase it gradually until you have the optimal desired effect.

Drug interactions

Again, as with many medicines, CBD’s effectiveness can be enhanced or hampered by interactions with other drugs and medications. A number of drugs are metabolized using the same methods as CBD, and therefore may interact with it, including:

  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Antivirals
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Beta-blockers
  • NSAIDs
  • and more

If you are concerned about CBD and drug interactions, speak with your physician and make informed medical choices.


When using CBD oil for pain relief, you can choose from a variety of delivery methods. Some of them take effect very quickly, or are more potent overall. Some people prefer topical CBD for the long-term relief of localized pain, while some prefer to use CBD systemically, to have a wider range of whole-body benefits.

You can also combine different delivery methods to have the speed and potency that work best for you. Because there is no known risk of overdosing on CBD, it’s simply a question of discussing it with your doctor and making the best choice for your pain management.

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