By: Nick Marshall

Despite so many options to choose from when taking CBD, from oil-based tinctures to gummies, there’s a significant variation in speed of absorption, duration and effectiveness across products. So what is the benchmark for assessing how long it takes for CBD to work and how long CBD lasts? This is a fundamental question that many oil-based or edible formulations struggle to answer. Find out what we know from recent scientific research about how long it takes for CBD oil to work and the factors that affect absorption. 

How Long Does it Take CBD to Work?

The key challenge with any formulation is that CBD is a lipophilic substance that doesn’t mix with water. As a result, a large amount of CBD is flushed directly from the body through normal digestion. That’s where formula comes into play.

A 2020 study by Colorado State University measured the time it took for various CBD formulations to work. Whereas it took the tincture and powder suspension over 3 hours to reach maximum concentration, the water-dispersible emulsion achieved “Tmax” in 0.7 hours. That would suggest that water-based emulsions, such as our SmartSorb solution, can increase bioavailability and speed up the time it takes to be impactful. 

Body mass may play an important role. A larger fat-free mass contributes to a faster time to maximum concentration, largely because of the correlation between fat-free mass and blood volume. In those oil-based formulations that were absorbed more slowly, a person’s body size and composition exerted an even greater influence on how long it takes CBD to work. 

This approach is supported by scientific research on other lipophilic molecules such as Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamins D and E, both of which suffer from poor bioavailability despite being naturally present in our diet and in our body’s cells themselves. The study in question found that the bioavailability of water-soluble Coenzyme Q10 was 2.4 times higher than standard capsules. We took this rigorous scientific research into consideration when developing our SmartSorb product technology to improve the bioavailability of CBD and allow it to work faster.

Why Do I Need Fast-Acting CBD?

Although CBD performs well as a regular daily supplement to boost long-term wellbeing, there are times you want the rapid effect. For example, you may want to act quickly to support calmness and focus before a work presentation or interview, remain active during a workout or help ease your mind before sleep when the clock is ticking.

What Does CBD Feel Like?

Because of the way CBD interacts naturally with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, there is no lightning strike of sensation and absolutely no psychoactive effects or high. Rather, CBD affects the body in much the same way as vitamins or natural health supplements, complementing and enhancing mechanisms already at work in the nervous system and immune system. By binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, CBD is thought to inhibit or moderate the effects of various neurotransmitters and proteins that influence sleep patterns, stress responses, and more. 

For example, cannabinoids are thought to have the potential to affect normal inhibitory pathways, delivering an analgesic effect rather than stimulating sensation. In other words, much of the focus with CBD is on what the user doesn’t feel rather than what they do. You may be less likely to experience that habitual stressful and worried feeling that can creep up on you during your workday or the swelling and soreness that’s often triggered after increased activity. 

How Long Does CBD Last?

Body size and lean mass are significant factors in how fast CBD is absorbed and how long CBD remains in the bloodstream. People with higher lean mass may have higher blood circulation and volume, which dilutes the concentration of CBD. On the other hand, since CBD is lipid-soluble, people with higher fat mass tend to accumulate CBD in the body’s fat tissue, allowing the CBD to remain in the system longer. In either case, the 2020 Colorado State University study established that the emulsion-based CBD preparation recorded the fastest time to maximum concentration. 

Beyond the study in question, the terminal half life of CBD in the body varies enormously, ranging from 6 to 32 hours. However, research suggests that water-dispersible CBD lasts longer and is absorbed more readily into the body. In another study in 2020 funded by the American Society for Microbiology, water-soluble CBD was found to be 4.5 times more bioavailable than the lipid-soluble form, with a time to maximum concentration of 90 minutes. 

On the above evidence, there are limitations on establishing a magic number for how quickly CBD works and how long it lasts. But there is solid research that points to the preparation itself as a crucial factor in effectiveness and what to expect when you consume CBD.


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Phytotherapy Research - “Evaluation of pharmacokinetics and acute anti‐inflammatory potential of two oral cannabidiol preparations in healthy adults

Harvard Health Publishing - Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t 

Harvard Health Publishing - CBD products are everywhere. But do they work?

Northwestern Medicine - What Research Says About CBD Oil.

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