Most CBD oil users have no clue that:
There are ways to increase the bioavailability of CBD and potency of your CBD oil.
If you’ve been struggling to find clear information on how to use CBD oil, the tips in this guide will help you find the most effective ways.
We analyzed over 40 scientific articles to look for dosage guides and optimal methods of use. Plus, we reviewed over 50 CBD oils to see what doses and methods worked best for us.
The results we found are a must-read for anyone who wants to maximize the benefits that CBD oil has to offer.
Table of contents:
You can take CBD oil only in two different ways:
- Orally (this includes both oral ingestion and sublingual ingestion), and;
- Through vaping it.
Both of these methods have their pros and cons, which we’ll talk about next.
The Benefits of Using CBD Oil Orally
The biggest benefit of using CBD oil orally is that you can take CBD closest to how nature intended it to be taken.
To take CBD as nature intended it to be taken, you need to use a full-spectrum CBD oil that contains a wide variety of cannabis-derived:
- Terpenes, and
This isn’t some woo-woo stuff.
Various studies indicate that the compounds found in the cannabis plant (including CBD) are more effective when taken together.
Cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids influence each other’s pharmacological effects. Sometimes they enhance each other’s beneficial effects, other times they mitigate each other’s (negative) side-effects. CBD, for example, has been shown to reduce THC's negative side effects like anxiety and paranoia.
And according to some studies, some effects attributed to cannabinoids occur only when they're taken together with other cannabis-derived compounds. This specific effect is called ‘the entourage effect' by researchers.
Although hundreds of studies have found that CBD as an isolated compound is greatly beneficial for your health …
To increase the potency and reduce the side effects of CBD, there's a strong scientific and theoretical foundation for taking CBD as part of a full-plant extract that contains many additional cannabis-derived compounds.
There's even practical evidence supporting the theory that CBD is more potent and produces fewer side effects when taken with other cannabis-derived compounds.
A recent study found that epilepsy patients who used CBD in the form of a full-plant extract CBD oil reported an effective dose of CBD (in mg) that was 4-times less than patients that used a purified CBD product. The study also found that patients using full-plant extract CBD oil reported fewer side effects.
If for epilepsy patients a full-plant extract CBD oil is 4-times more potent than a purified CBD product, there's a chance that researchers will find similar results for other conditions.
What's the bottom line?
Various studies indicate that CBD is more potent when taken as part of a whole-plant hemp extract.
Currently, CBD products that qualify as ‘full-spectrum' or ‘whole-plant-extract' are all products that are intended to be taken orally. Therefore the biggest benefit of taking CBD oil orally is that IF you take a full-spectrum CBD oil, you take CBD as nature intended it to be taken: together with all other cannabis-derived compounds.
Now, when talking about taking CBD oil orally, we include any method of taking CBD oil that goes through the mouth, and this also includes taking CBD oil sublingually.
Swallowing CBD oil and taking it sublingually are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to get the best effects from your CBD oil, these methods should be used in combination with each other.
How to Take CBD Oil Sublingually and the Benefits of This Method
To take CBD oil sublingually, drop a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue and leave them there for at least 60 seconds.
The mucous membrane beneath your tongue stands in direct connection with your bloodstream. Any substance that easily dissolves in saliva can be taken sublingually, and directly diffuses into the bloodstream.
The CBD inside CBD oil is thought to, at least partially, pass through the mucous membrane beneath your tongue.
There are two main benefits of taking CBD oil sublingually before swallowing it, as opposed to simply swallowing it.
1. First Benefit of Taking CBD Oil Sublingually: Avoiding the ‘First-Pass-Effect'
In theory, the main benefit of taking CBD oil sublingually is the following:
You partially avoid the ‘first-pass effect’.
The first-pass effect refers to the metabolization and degradation of drug-compounds and other substances in the gastrointestinal tract and liver before they reach the bloodstream. In the case of CBD, metabolization in the gastrointestinal tract and liver leads to loss of potency.
When you swallow CBD, before entering your bloodstream and giving you its beneficial effects, it goes through the gastrointestinal tract and liver. The gastrointestinal tract and liver are hostile environments for CBD because they host many different enzymes and acids that are specialized in breaking down compounds like CBD.
Any time CBD passes the gastrointestinal tract and the liver, the bioavailability, and effectiveness of the drug/substance is significantly reduced. This is what's called the ‘first-pass effect'.
When you take CBD oil sublingually, a part of the CBD doesn’t have to go through the gastrointestinal tract and liver. This means that the amount of CBD that's broken down and degraded before it reaches your bloodstream is significantly reduced.
However, different studies showed that there was no significant difference in peak plasma concentrations of CBD when taking CBD sublingually compared to simply swallowing CBD in the form of an oral solution/capsule.
The studies showed there was less variability in peak plasma concentrations of CBD when taking it sublingually or in the form of an oromucosal spray compared to simply swallowing an oral solution that contains CBD.
This indicates that although CBD's availability isn't significantly increased when taken sublingually, you'll get more consistent results when taking it sublingually.
2. Second Benefit of Taking CBD Oil Sublingually: Quicker Effects and More Consistent Results
Another benefit of taking CBD oil sublingually is that because the CBD enters your bloodstream quicker, the effects will be felt quicker compared to when you simply swallow it.
If CBD has to go through the gastrointestinal tract and liver, the time before it reaches your bloodstream can be up to 4 hours.
Various studies found that taking CBD sublingually resulted in faster effects when it's simply ingested orally. However, both methods were slower to produce effects compared to smoking/vaping CBD and taking CBD in a pro-nanoliposphere formulation.
Keep in mind that when taking CBD oil sublingually, it’s still recommended to swallow it after. This way you ensure that you get the benefits of all the compounds found in your CBD oil, even the ones that might not be very susceptible to sublingual absorption.
For a current list of CBD oils that we recommend taking orally/sublingually, click the link below:
Methods for Increasing CBD's Bioavailability
When you take CBD oil through oral ingestion, there are ways to increase CBD's bioavailability.
When you use these methods, you'll get stronger effects from the same dose and therefore will get value for your money.
1. Dietary Lipids Increase Bio-Availability of CBD Taken Orally
Although most CBD oil manufacturers add edible oils to their formulations, when taking CBD oil through oral administration (sublingual and swallowing), we recommend taking your CBD oil with a teaspoon of olive oil (or any other healthy and edible oil for that matter).
Recent research has shown that CBD has a higher bio-availability when taken together with other dietary lipids (like olive oil).
Swallowing CBD oil without the sublingual method doesn’t have any benefits. That’s why you should always take your CBD oil sublingually before swallowing it.
2. Taking CBD Orally in a Fed-State Increases Bio-Availablity
One study found that taking CBD orally in a fed state compared to a fasted state increased both:
- Total maximum measured plasma levels of CBD, and;
- The time CBD stayed in the blood.
This indicates that for optimal absorption of CBD, you should take CBD oil after eating a big meal that contains at least some fat.
3. Unheated CBD Has Better Uptake and Metabolism vs. Heated CBD
A study which looked at the differences in peak plasma concentrations of CBD when taken in the form of two different extracts:
- Heated cannabis extract, and;
- Unheated cannabis extract,
found that peak plasma concentrations of CBD were 4-times higher when the cannabis extract was taken in its unheated form.
The unheated CBD extract contained:
- A much higher concentration of CBDA than the heated CBD-extract, and;
- A lower CBD concentration than the heated CBD-extract.
In other words the CBDA:CBD ratio was higher in the unheated CBD extract.
CBDA is the precursor of CBD. It's the acidic form of CBD. And although CBDA is associated with health benefits as well, 95% of CBD research is about CBD and NOT CBDA. The health benefits associated with CBD don't automatically extend to CBDA.
That said …
According to this study, you can increase the CBD concentration in our blood, when there's more CBDA in your CBD oil.
Currently, it's thought that CBDA only turns into CBD when it gets exposed to heat and decarboxylates.
Based on this study we must then either conclude that:
- CBDA turns into CBD through a physiological process in the human body.
- CBDA massively increases the bioavailability of CBD.
Further research should confirm the results of this study and determine what mechanism causes unheated CBD-extract to result in such a significantly higher concentration of CBD in the blood.
When talking about CBD oils, unheated CBD extracts are very rare, but cold-ethanol-extracted CBD oils and subcritical CO2-extracted CBD oils sometimes are sold in their unheated form.
Other names for this type of CBD oil are ‘raw CBD oil', ‘raw CBD extract'.
The Benefits of Vaping as a Method to Use CBD Oil
First, it's important to mention:
Although some CBD oils can be vaped, most edible CBD oils are not suitable for vaping.
That’s because edible oils, in general, aren’t suited for vaping.
When you inhale edible oils over an extended period, you risk getting exogenous lipid pneumonia. This is an inflammatory lung disease that in some cases causes severe damage to your lungs.
That’s why when you vape CBD oil, you have to make sure that your CBD oil is specifically manufactured to be vaped.
One simple way to make sure that your CBD oil is, in fact, vapeable, is to look for ingredients like vegetable glycerin (VG) and/or propylene glycerol (PG). Both VG and PG are ingredients used to make CBD oil vapeable.
In general, unless explicitly stated that your CBD vape oil is edible as well, I don’t recommend ‘eating’ your CBD vape oil.
Although both VG and PG are considered safe for consumption (within certain limits, for PG it’s 11.4 mg/lbs of body weight or 25 mg/kg of body weight per day), PG is not a natural substance and I personally would avoid eating it if I can.
Also, CBD vape oils sometimes contain other ingredients like flavorings that can be made of chemicals, that I personally don't recommend eating.
The First Benefit of Vaping CBD Oil: Immediate Effects
The main benefit of vaping CBD vape oil is that you’ll feel the effects of the CBD very fast and sometimes even immediately. The downside of vaping CBD oil is that the effects won't last as long compared to when taken through oral ingestion.
The Second Benefit of Vaping CBD Oil: Higher Bioavailability
Another benefit of vaping CBD vape oil is that it has a higher bio-availability than eating it, meaning, theoretically, you’ll need fewer milligrams of CBD to feel the same effect.
In practice, however, this effect is dampened by the fact that CBD vape oils never full-plant hemp-extracts. This means that with CBD vape oil, you won’t experience the ‘entourage effect’ of CBD to its maximum potential.
Earlier we saw there's scientific evidence supporting the idea that CBD is more potent taken together with all the other hemp-derived compounds. Currently, there are no true full-spectrum CBD vape oils.
The Third Benefit of Vaping CBD Oil: Discreetness
Another benefit of vaping CBD vape oil is that it’s discreet. When you vape CBD vape juice with a regular vape pen, no one will associate your vaping with CBD use. Vaping has become a somewhat of a socially accepted behavior, and CBD doesn’t have a particular smell, which means you can easily stay under the radar while you’re puffing away on your CBD vape juice.
The Downsides of Vaping CBD Oil
The main downside of vaping CBD vape oil is that there aren’t many CBD vape oils that are full-plant extracts.
Full-plant extract CBD oils contain many other beneficial compounds that are found in the hemp plant (other cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids). With CBD vape oil, it’s hard to benefit from the aforementioned ‘entourage effect’ that makes CBD more potent.
Another downside is that although vaping produces quick effects, the effects don't stay as long compared to taking CBD oil through oral ingestion.
For our current recommended CBD vape oils, check out the article below:
How Much CBD Oil Should You Take? CBD Oil Dosage Guidelines
First things first:
Commercially produced CBD oil is not medicine. There's no scientific evidence that indicated that commercially-produced CBD oil can cure anything.
There's some scientific evidence that CBD, the main compound inside CBD oil, can provide relief with symptoms of various conditions.
There are no official dosage guidelines related to effective CBD use. All we can do is look at CBD doses used in studies, scrutinize anecdotal reports and look at our own experiences with CBD oil.
It’s also important to note that because different methods of CBD oil consumption come with different levels of CBD bioavailability, an effective dosage is also highly dependent on the method of use.
Add to that the fact that there are large differences between individuals in:
- The metabolism of CBD, and;
- Other physical characteristics like weight and body mass,
and you’ll quickly understand why it’s difficult to give a general dosage guideline for effective CBD oil use.
That said, based on the latest scientific research, we can come up with guidelines that have at least somewhat of a scientific basis.
The Maximum Known Dose of CBD That’s Considered Safe
Currently, it’s unknown whether you can overdose with CBD.
The maximum dose of CBD ever taken in a study, without any serious side effects is 1500mg of CBD.
Taking 1500mg of CBD means clearing a big bottle of CBD oil in a gulp. CBD oil is not meant to be taken in that way, usually, you drop 10-20 drops of CBD oil under your tongue. No one will ever recommend finishing a big bottle of CBD oil in a single gulp.
CBD Dose for Epilepsy
One study that looked at the effects of CBD on patients with epilepsy found that 200-300mg of CBD taken daily had a positive effect on the occurrence of convulsive crises in 7 of 8 patients.
One survey-based study that looked at CBD use among epilepsy patients found that 73% of patients that used CBD, used a daily dose between 10–25 mg/kg. If you weigh 70kg, this amounts to 700-1500mg of CBD. As you can see this is a very high dose and for most people, it’s financially impossible to use such large doses of CBD, without their health insurance backing them up.
Important to note here is that the patients in this study used purified CBD or CBD Isolate. A recent study that looked at the differences in effects and doses between epilepsy patients that used CBD-rich Cannabis extract vs. purified CBD products, found that CBD-rich Cannabis extract not only was more effective in treating epilepsy symptoms …
But was more effective with a dose that's 4-times smaller than the reported average effective dose for purified CBD products.
The average daily dose reported by the patients for purified CBD was 25.3 mg/kg/day, while the average daily dose of CBD equivalent reported for CBD-rich Cannabis extract was only 6.0 mg/kg/day.
As you can see, it’s still quite expensive to take CBD at a daily dose of 6.0 mg/kg/day in the form of a CBD-rich Cannabis extract. But it’s quite a bit cheaper than taking CBD at a daily dose of 25.3 mg/kg/day in the form of a purified CBD product like CBD Isolate.
Further studies should show whether you can achieve the same beneficial results for other conditions like anxiety and pain, with 4-times less CBD when taken in the form of CBD-rich Cannabis extract compared to when taken in the form of a purified CBD product.
CBD Dose for Psychosis
There haven’t been any large-scale studies that looked at the effects of CBD on psychosis in humans. And the few studies that looked at the effects of CBD on psychosis found limited evidence for its use.
For example, in a case study, a 19-year old woman with schizophrenia got a successful treatment with a dose of 1200 mg/day of purified CBD.
In another study that compared the effects of CBD vs. a traditional antipsychotic named ‘amisulpride’, researchers found that a daily dose of 200mg CBD, increased stepwise by 200mg per day to a daily dose of 200 mg four times daily (total 800 mg per day), was as effective as the traditional antipsychotic medicine amisulpride. CBD also had a superior side-effect profile (fewer side-effects).
Although the researchers in this study don’t explicitly state that they used purified CBD, I think it’s safe to assume that unless stated otherwise, when talking about CBD, researchers use a purified form of CBD instead of a CBD in the form of a full-plant extract.
Again, these doses of CBD are high and unless your insurance company covers your CBD purchases, it might be financially impossible to supply yourself with these large amounts of CBD.
CBD Dose for Anxiety
A 2015 study that reviewed the results of 25+ human experimental, clinical, epidemiological and chronic studies found that the current evidence strongly supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders at oral doses ranging from 300mg to 600mg.
There’s especially strong evidence for CBD reducing experimentally-induced-anxiety like public speaking tests, and for reducing social anxiety disorder.
Important to note here is that the respondents used a purified form of CBD and not a full-plant extract. This means, unfortunately, no dose recommendations can be given with regards to taking CBD in the form of a full-plant extract for anxiety.
But IF the study that compared the effectiveness of full-plant extract CBD products vs purified CBD products in epilepsy patients is in any way indicative for anxiety as well (a full-plant extract CBD product needing 4-times less of CBD compared to a purified CBD product for the same effects), the recommended dose of full-plant extract CBD oil to treat anxiety would be equivalent to 75mg to 150mg of CBD.
CBD Dose for Pain
Most studies that found painkilling effects with cannabis-based medicines used a combination of both THC and CBD. Unfortunately, the doses used in these studies can therefore not be translated to recommendations for a CBD-only dose.
There is however one recent study that found painkilling effects of CBD in some kidney transplant patients, with an initial dose of 100 mg/day and a progressive increase up to 300 mg/day (spread out over the day in smaller doses).
An interesting note here is that this same study found that more CBD is not always better. One of the patients experienced stronger painkilling effects with lower doses of CBD (it’s unclear how much lower than 300 mg/d).
CBD Dose for Sleep
Studies that specifically looked at the effects of CBD on sleep in healthy patients are rare. Most studies that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep had subjects that suffered from conditions like PTSD or Parkinson’s Disease and therefore the results of these studies bear little relation to the average person who’s looking to use CBD for sleep.
That said, there’s one study done in 1981 that looked at the effects of CBD on sleep in otherwise healthy insomniac volunteers.
The researchers tested 3 doses with purified crystalline CBD: 40mg, 80mg, and 160mg of CBD. The volunteers reported significantly less dream recall with all 3 doses of CBD (compared to placebo), which could indicate fewer sleep disruptions. With the dose of 160mg CBD, all volunteers significantly increased the numbers slept.
Important to note here is again that the researchers used a purified form of CBD, and it’s possible that you’ll get the same effects of 160mg of purified CBD when you take fewer mg of CBD in the form of a full-plant Hemp-extract.
CBD Dose for General Health
Studies that look at the effects of CBD always look at the effects of CBD on a specific condition or the effects of CBD on the symptoms of a specific condition.
That said, CBD has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant characteristics. You don’t need a specific condition to reap the benefits of CBD oil. Anyone can benefit from food with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Our unscientific and unofficial recommendation for taking CBD oil for general well being is 25mg of CBD daily, in the form of a full-plant extract/full-spectrum CBD oil.
Now that you've learned what's the best way to take your CBD oil, and learned what dosages of CBD oil potentially work best for specific conditions (based on the latest scientific articles), you have a better chance of using your CBD oil effectively.
If you're still looking to find a potent CBD oil, the CBD oils in the article have all submit their oil to third-party analysis and offer certificates of analysis checking for contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides, sometimes even on a batch-by-batch basis:
If you're interested in a more convenient (but less potent) way to use CBD, check out our list of:
If you want to read up on the potential benefits of CBD oil, check out the article below where we review the most important scientific articles about the effects of CBD on health:
If you want to read a full consumer's guide on what CBD oil exactly is and what types of CBD oils are being sold (including their pros and cons), check out:
If you want to learn more about how CBD Oil could be beneficial specifically for pain or anxiety, check out the articles below: