Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring and non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis plants.
CBD became popular and widely-available after the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 legalized CBD products derived from hemp. The ingredient has a growing reputation for being able to alleviate symptoms of physical ailments and mental illnesses. While more research is needed to understand the full benefits, CBD is known to make you feel relaxed and calm, and most people feel focused and clear-headed after consuming it.
Unlike THC, which is the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis that makes you feel intoxicated or stoned, CBD does not create these effects. Most hemp-derived CBD products do technically have a little bit of THC in them, the Farm Bill requires that these products contain no more than 0.3% THC to be considered legal. 0.3% isn’t even close to the amount necessary for mind-altering effects.
If you’re new to CBD oil and other types of CBD products, read on to learn about proper storage methods and shelf life, plus the answer to the most important question of all: “how long does CBD last?”
How Long Does It Take CBD to Work?
CBD isn’t “one size fits all.” The desired effects of CBD may be noticed immediately, several hours later, or after several weeks of daily use. Those effects are highly dependent on the method of administration, the amount of CBD you’re taking, and the medical condition you’re treating.
We asked Kristina Risola, Cannabis Health Coach and Mental Health Counselor, exactly how long it takes for CBD to work. Risola said that when cannabidiol is taken to treat physical issues, it can take four to six weeks of regular use before noticing long-lasting health benefits. You may notice minor improvements on the first day, but consistency is crucial if you want to reap all of the benefits.
Some patients find that CBD can ease some types of pain, especially topical pain, relatively quickly. However, many chronic pain conditions are caused by inflammation, and CBD oil cannot reduce inflammation overnight. Four to six weeks allows the body’s endocannabinoid system – the system that cannabinoids interact with, and which regulates most important bodily functions – enough time to level out and reduce pain.
On the other hand, CBD treats symptoms of mental health issues rather rapidly. Whether you’re dosing daily or as needed, cannabidiol can ease panic attacks, PTSD flashbacks or generalized anxiety within two minutes to several hours. Remember, everyone reacts differently to CBD oil and other CBD products.
You may be wondering how long the effects last; the answer will vary based on what symptoms you’re addressing and the method of consumption. Most cannabis products are not an in-your-face experience. Their more-subtle impact can make it difficult to observe the onset of relief.
Here’s one way to figure it out. Before taking CBD oil, take note of how you‘re feeling. Are you anxious, nauseous, itchy, stressed or battling insomnia? When the CBD kicks in, you should see signs of improvement from those afflictions.
Risola suggested actively tracking your symptoms in a journal, so you can better understand the benefits of CBD that you’re receiving. Her advice: “If you feel like you aren’t experiencing any relief, discontinue the use of CBD for seven days. Within a week or so, you’ll know if CBD had been aiding you in symptom management all along.”
How Long Do The Effects of CBD Last?
When trying to understand how long the effects of cannabidiol last, it’s important to realize that the type of CBD that you’re using and how it’s administered make a huge difference, as do factors like metabolism, exercise, diet, dosage and frequency of use.
Generally speaking, short-term CBD effects can last for as little as two hours or as long as eight hours. The exact duration is different for each individual, of course. But here’s an idea of what you can expect from each of the popular methods of administration.
CBD Flower and Vaporizers
CBD flower, and vape liquid used in vaporizers or vape pens, deliver the most rapid effects. The smoke or vapor reaches your lungs immediately, where the cannabidiol is quickly absorbed and sent into the blood stream. This rapid absorption is also why inhaled CBD wears off faster than other forms of cannabidiol.
Risola told us the effects of inhaling CBD, either by vaping or smoking flower, have an onset time of 1-5 minutes, and the relief can last anywhere from 1-4 hours. An individual’s tolerance and body chemistry can also determine how long the effects of CBD last.
CBD Oil and Tinctures
CBD oil and tincture are different, although the words are often used interchangeably. Tinctures are alcohol-based and oils are oil-based.
Risola told us that when CBD oil is swallowed, what happens next isn’t much different than what happens when consuming CBD edibles or CBD capsules. The CBD moves through the digestive system where it’s broken down (taking longer for edibles and capsules, naturally). It’s then metabolized in the liver before being moved into the bloodstream, which will carry it to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors.
Ingested CBD shouldn’t be taken on an empty stomach, because its bioavailability is maximized when the stomach is already hard at work digesting food. CBD oil can start to show its effects about an hour after ingestion, and can last for 4-8 hours when swallowed.
CBD oil tinctures, by comparison, have a faster onset because they contain alcohol: 15-30 minutes. The CBD-rich tincture is almost completely absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth and beneath the tongue when administered sublingually by a dropper placed under the tongue. The effects usually wear off in 3-6 hours.
You can use sublingual administration with CBD oil too, although it takes longer to work and may not be quite as effective. “When you use CBD oil sublingually, your mucus membranes will absorb some of the medication; however, the majority of it will mix with your saliva and be swallowed,” Risola said.
Edibles come in a variety of forms, with gummies being one of the more popular types. They’re sold in both sweet and savory flavors. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love homemade or store-bought CBD-infused cupcakes, brownies, and chocolates. They’re not always easy to find, but are more available than in the past.
For people who aren’t fond of desserts, you can consume other foods and toppings that are infused with CBD. Some examples are bread, barbecue sauce, and even pizza. Again, they’re not easy to find but worth the effort.
Homemade edibles are often made with CBD ‘cannabutter’ or ‘cannaoil.’ The recipes usually include marijuana, but you can substitute the same quantity of CBD flower.
Once you’re finished, you’ll be able to cook any food that lists butter or oil as an ingredient. Depending on how strong you want your edibles, you can mix your cannabutter or cannaoil with butter or vegetable oil in order to reduce the potency. If you’re interested in making your own, there are tons of recipes you can find online.
Edibles provide the longest-lasting relief any form of CBD can deliver, anywhere from 6-8 hours. But it can take 30 minutes to three hours before any signs of improvement are noticed. If you’re in need of immediate relief, edibles might not be the right form of CBD for you.
Risola said, “When it comes to CBD, especially edibles, most people feel relaxed and calm. You’re not going to experience any impairment or intense psychoactivity. You’re just going to feel better and ‘normal.’ Most users describe it as feeling stable again – something they craved for a long time.”
CBD topicals are a very different method of using cannabidiol. They won’t provide full-body relief, since CBD is unable to penetrate the skin to reach the bloodstream. Topicals like lotions, salves and balms are designed to treat localized external pain, such as muscle or joint pain.
After applying topical CBD to an area of your body you should feel the effects within five minutes to an hour, and they should last for 4-6 hours.
The relief provided by transdermal CBD patches can last longer than traditional topicals. Patches may offer pain relief for up to 72 hours.
Be aware that you will only experience pain reduction in the area where the topical or transdermal is applied. All of the other forms of CBD, by comparison, provide relief for a wide array of medical conditions throughout the body. You may be vaping CBD for chronic pain, for example, and discover that it also helps with stress management.
Your Body Influences How Long CBD Works, Too
There are several biological factors that influence how long the effects of CBD will last: frequency of use, dosage, how much exercise you get, and how well (or fast) your metabolism and digestive system work. You might believe that body weight should also have an influence. But a 350-pound man may require a mere five milligrams of CBD to feel better, while a 110-pound woman might need 30 milligrams.
We asked Risola about the different factors. She said that CBD effects vary based on your individual endocannabinoid system, so when you’re dosing orally, exercise, metabolism and tolerance affect the timing of cannabidiol’s onset and impact.
If you have a fast metabolism, there’s a high probability CBD will kick in quicker and last longer for you. Your metabolism will also influence how long CBD stays in your system, since fast metabolisms clear it out of the body much faster.
For those with healthy metabolisms, oral CBD could take effect in 20-30 minutes. People with slow GI systems could take the same exact dose, but it might be a full four hours before they experience substantial relief.
Exercise is renowned for speeding up the body’s metabolism, so those who exercise on a regular basis will probably experience better results from CBD. Those who don’t exercise, however, are likely to have a sluggish digestive system, and cannabidiol may not provide the relief they’re expecting.
Frequency of use will influence how long CBD lasts as well. CBD is not addictive like opioids, but the body can still develop a tolerance to it; regular users often find that they need higher doses to achieve the effect they’ve become accustomed to. The frequency of use also plays a role in how long CBD stays in the body after consumption. Those who use cannabidiol more than once a week often find that their body never fully clears CBD from their system, because the substance’s half-life may be as long five days.
That last nugget may have you wondering about the possibility of failing a drug test due to regular use of cannabidiol. The good news: it’s highly unlikely.
What About Drug Tests?
At-home drug tests, and the cheap ones used by many companies, don’t even check for CBD. Generally speaking, the only places that test for CBD are contracted labs, hospitals, and drug and alcohol outpatient facilities.
So even if CBD is constantly in your system due to regular use, it usually won’t show up on an ordinary drug test. And if your employer sends urine or blood out to a lab for testing, CBD still shouldn’t matter. Very few companies are worried about the use of a substance that doesn’t impair you in any way.
THC could potentially be a bigger problem. CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC to be considered legal, but since THC does cling to fat cells, it’s possible that minimal amount of THC could still show up on a drug test for marijuana. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unheard of either. The way to completely avoid this potential issue is to use CBD isolate or broad-spectrum oil, instead of the more common full-spectrum CBD.
Full-spectrum products contain all of the natural components of the hemp plant, including the miniscule amount of THC native to hemp. Broad-spectrum cannabidiol has had the THC removed, and everything except cannabidiol has been removed from CBD isolate. Neither is going to be as effective as full-spectrum CBD oil, but since they contain no THC they won’t show false positives for pot use, either.
How to Store Your CBD
Ryan Andoos, co-owner of Route 27 Hempyard, tells us that the best place to store CBD is in a dark, cool, dry place. If you expose your products to heat, light or air, the cannabinoids can mutate and the CBD can break down, losing some of its potency.
CBD flower should be stored in airtight glass jars, since you don’t want your supply to get moldy or develop any type of pathogens. Tinctures and oils will be safe in a dark glass jar or bottle, ideally dark blue or gray. Cannabidiol itself is very stable as long as it’s stored properly.
On average, CBD flower has a shelf life of six months to two years. CBD tinctures and oil, however, won’t even start to degrade for 1-2 years.
Risola stores her flower in “Boveda packs” inside her glass jars. Boveda packs maintain the proper moisture level of CBD buds, and for people willing to go the extra mile, many online stores sell this product. While the packs aren’t necessary, you may find comfort in treating your CBD with a little extra TLC.
When you have eggs or dairy in your CBD-infused edibles, they will go bad after the expiration date on the ingredients used. This limitation is why many users prefer long-lasting edibles; you can save your gummies or lollipops through an apocalypse and they won’t hurt you.
There is no need to worry if your stash is beyond its shelf life, assuming you stored it properly. When CBD is past its prime, it won’t make you sick. You will, however, require a larger dose due to its reduced potency.
How Much CBD Should You Take?
When you are starting to use CBD for medical conditions, you’ll certainly want to know how much you should take, since you don’t want to overindulge or take too small of a dose. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate CBD, so there no government recommendations that can guide you. But don’t fret; you can’t overdose on CBD.
The method isn’t important whether you’re taking CBD oil, vaping or consuming edibles; what matters is the dosage. The best way to gauge your first dose is by starting with small increments.
Don’t overdo it at first. Try taking 1-5 mg your first time and then you can assess how you feel once the CBD kicks in. If you don’t experience improvement, increase your dose in increments of five milligrams until you’ve found what works best for you.
Many users consume more than 50 mg of CBD every day with no negative side effects. Cannabidiol works differently for everyone, so you’ll benefit the most by taking your time.
Eventually you’ll find the dose and form of CBD that provides the benefits you need.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.