CBD: All the Consumption Forms & Differences

With the various CBD products for sale, how do you find which one is best for you — or your pet?

Ways to Take CBD

There are several ways to use CBD. Depending on how quickly you’d like to experience effects, what you can afford and what you like best, you might want to mix and match to find your favorite way to take CBD. Each consumption method has varying bioavailability, which is the proportion of a drug or other substance which circulates through the body in order to create an active effect. Bioavailability determines the time to onset, duration, and percentage of CBD that is absorbed into your system.

CBD Oil Tinctures

Tinctures are designed for sublingual absorption, or application under the tongue. When taking a tincture, it’s best to hold the liquid under the tongue for 60-90 seconds until it completely absorbs. If it’s simply swallowed, it will be consumed and processed as an edible. CBD tinctures are made by mixing a specialized CBD oil with a carrying agent such as MCT oil (a high-fat oil). Because the oil is still in liquid form, tinctures usually come with a graduated dropper for easily measured dosing.

Benefits of CBD Tinctures

  • CBD tinctures are quick to absorb into the bloodstream when taken sublingually
  • Tinctures allow the consumer to easily adjust their dose based on needs
  • Tinctures tend to be a very affordable option for both beginners and experienced CBD users


  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Onset: 5 – 20 minutes
  • Bioavailability: 12 – 35%

CBD Topicals

From lotions to lip balm, CBD topicals are anything that you apply directly onto your skin. Usually in a cream or wax form, these are great options for adding CBD-based products to your beauty regimen. CBD topicals take effect by interacting with the receptors on top of the skin.

Benefits of CBD Topicals

  • CBD topicals are less expensive since they have less CBD in them
  • CBD topicals are incredibly easy to use but the effects are debatable, depending on whether you get a topical lotion or a transdermal product


  • Duration: 2 – 4 hours
  • Onset: 10 – 20 minutes
  • Bioavailability: low and variable

CBD Transdermal

Transdermal products can vary from patches to specifically formulated lotions with emulsifiers. The core difference here is that the CBD will penetrate through the skin and be absorbed into the bloodstream. As a method, transdermals have a higher bioavailability and last longer than most other forms.

Benefits of CBD patches and CBD transdermal products

  • CBD transdermal products can be longer-lasting, generate a potentially deeper impact.
  • CBD transdermal products are easy to use and can be absorbed through your skin.


  • Duration: 6-8 hours
  • Onset: 20-60 minutes
  • Bioavailability: 80-100%

CBD Edibles

Although often associated with THC, edibles are a great way to consume CBD. CBD edibles are any food item with added cannabidiol, from candies to pastries. CBD gummies, gum, and other edibles are absorbed through the stomach during digestion. Because of the way edibles are digested, your body takes in less CBD than other forms, but the effect can last longer.

Benefits of CBD Edibles

  • They’re tasty and come in flavors to match whatever you’re craving
  • Edibles pass through the digestive system before they’re absorbed into the body to feel the benefits longer than other methods of CBD delivery.


  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Onset: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Bioavailability: 4 – 20%

CBD Pills

CBD capsules and pills are another form of edibles containing powdered cannabidiol that is swallowed and absorbed through digestion. They’re tasteless, and the effects last longer than other forms.

Benefits of CBD Pills

  • CBD pills and capsules have a set amount of CBD in them, so you don’t have to measure anything
  • It’s very easy to use CBD pills, especially since most people have swallowed similar vitamins, supplements, or medications
  • Because CBD pills are absorbed when digested, the effects tend to last a long time

CBD Vaping

Vaping or smoking CBD has become increasingly popular, but consumers should be informed and cautious when selecting products due to the recent vaping health crisis. Vape pens have become popular because of their ease of use, rapid onset of effects, convenience and portability.

Benefits of CBD Vape Pens:

  • Fast-acting, allowing easy adjustment of dose based on needs
  • Higher bioavailability, often translating to more potent effects compared to edibles or tinctures


  • Duration: 45 – 60 minutes
  • Onset: Immediate
  • Bioavailability: 30 – 50%

CBD for Pets

Your animal friends don’t have to be left out of the loop with the emerging benefits of CBD. There are several CBD products for pets, the most popular being oils.

Benefits of CBD for Pets

  • CBD supplements can easily be added to your pet’s food if you use the oil and tincture forms
  • CBD for pets is typically formulated with the proper dosage for safety, however, you should always get your veterinarian’s approval beforehand

The Bottom Line

There are many ways to take CBD. When choosing between products, it’s important to find a product that is high quality, that you enjoy taking, and that helps you achieve your lifestyle goals.


Photo by Kimzy Nanney on Unsplash

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Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficiency of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners.  Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any products.  The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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