How Long Does it Take CBD to Work?

What You’ll Learn in This Article

  • Method of consumption plays a critical role in how long it will take to feel the effects of CBD.
  • Upon entering the system, CBD interacts with a wide range of proteins in the body and central nervous system.
  • Topical CBD is applied directly to the skin and can be absorbed through the surface of the skin to interact with localized cannabinoid receptors.
  • The way CBD operates throughout the body – and is inevitably excreted from the body – depends on several factors that vary from person to person.
  • For those worried about THC showing up in their system, there are pure CBD isolates that contain no THC or other plant-based constituents.

So, you’ve heard about how cannabidiol (CBD) oil works wonders for chronic pain relief, anxiety, or for many other conditions. You finally sit down, unscrew the cap from the CBD oil bottle, and prepare to set out on a soothing journey guided by this non-intoxicating cannabinoid. After taking a few drops of CBD oil or applying a CBD-infused topical to the skin, you might start to ponder the following questions:

  • How long does it take for CBD to work?
  • How long will the effects of CBD oil last? 

More clinical research is required to answer these questions with unwavering confidence, but we can still look at how CBD interacts with the body to come up with well-educated estimates. 

How Does CBD Interact with the Body? 

CBD interacts with the brain and body through a number of different mechanisms of actions, creating a complex relationship that still merits further research before we can fully understand how this cannabinoid relieves certain ailments. 

Upon entering the system, CBD interacts with a wide range of proteins in the body and central nervous system. A key part of this interaction takes place within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), specifically affecting the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Unlike THC, which is the intoxicating cannabinoid that binds to these receptors and creates the stoned effect, CBD is actually an inverse agonist to the cannabinoid receptors. 

When cannabidiol is introduced to the ECS, it inhibits the absorption of anandamide, a natural cannabinoid molecule that regulates pain. The effect of CBD on the CB1 and CB2 receptors is indirect, as it increases levels of anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, the two most prevalent natural endocannabinoids in the body. Research has shown that CBD targets alpha-3 glycine receptors to suppress chronic pain and inflammation associated with dysfunctional glycine receptors, an important target for pain processing in the spine. 

CBD also interacts with other receptor proteins not directly related to the ECS, such as the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A and vanilloid receptor TRPV1. The widely perceived anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties of CBD could stem from the activation of these additional biological pathways. 

The relationship between CBD and the human body is rather complicated, but it’s a bit easier to understand how this cannabinoid moves through the body, as well as how long it takes CBD to get out of your system. Even this answer, however, is contingent on several factors, including the method of consumption, the quality of the CBD product, as well as the person consuming CBD.

The Method of Consumption Matters

Method of consumption plays a critical role in how long it will take to feel the effects of CBD. CBD can be utilized in many different forms, and each has an influence on the onset time, among other factors. 


As the most common method for CBD consumption, administering a couple of drops directly into the mouth is the quickest and easiest way to reap the benefits of this therapeutic cannabinoid. But quickly swallowing the oil also prevents CBD from immediately entering the bloodstream, sending it instead through the digestive tract and eventually onto the liver, where it is broken down before finally reaching the bloodstream. 

Studies show that when CBD compounds are metabolized by the liver, it undergoes what is called the “first pass effect,” where cytochrome P450 (CYP450) oxidases enzymes in the liver and reduce CBD concentration before the remainder is finally sent to the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body.

For ingestion of CBD edibles, the same principle applies. Let’s say, for example, you’re taking CBD gummies or adding a few drops of CBD oil into your favorite recipe. It will ultimately go through the same lengthy process and reduce the total CBD concentration found in plasma. With ingestion, it could be one to two hours before the effects of CBD finally set in. 


CBD oil can be consumed sublingually by placing a few drops of CBD under the tongue before swallowing. By using this method, CBD is absorbed by the mucous membranes located in the mouth, bypassing the digestive system and liver. Compared with ingestion, this process allows the consumer to skip over the initial metabolization process, where CBD molecules are broken down in the liver, allowing it to enter the bloodstream sooner than ingestion.  


Whether you’re smoking a high-CBD strain or taking a draw from a CBD vape pen, inhalation is often seen as an effective method of delivery for CBD because of how quickly it’s absorbed in the body. When CBD is smoked or vaped, cannabinoids are sent directly to the lungs, where they are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and put into circulation throughout the body. It reaches peak concentrations in plasma within 3 minutes after consumption, meaning the effects can be felt shortly after use. 


Topical CBD is applied directly to the skin and can be absorbed through the surface of the skin to interact with localized cannabinoid receptors. In some cases, CBD-infused topicals should be applied liberally to overcome the low cannabinoid absorption rate of the skin, allowing CBD to pass through the skin via the pores. When CBD is applied topically to the skin, the permeability of CBD is tenfold higher than THC, and peaks after 90 minutes. This method of administration is ideal for dealing with chronic pain in specific areas. 

You and Your CBD Dosage Matter, Too

The way CBD operates throughout the body – and is inevitably excreted from the body – also depends on several factors that vary from person to person. 

Body Weight 

The amount of body fat will influence the amount of CBD that would be deemed effective. Someone with a larger body mass will require more CBD in order to feel the effects. Body weight and mass also affect on how long the CBD remains in the system. Like THC, CBD is stored in the fat cells and gradually eliminated from the body through urine and feces. Does CBD have to build up in your system to work effectively? No, but it does get stored in the fat cells and can remain in the body well after the effects of CBD diminish. 


The metabolic rate of the individual also has some sway over how long CBD stays in the system. The body’s metabolism determines how long it takes to break down and synthesize compounds, which will affect how long it takes the body to process and metabolize the cannabinoid. 

Frequency of Use 

It’s not just the human body that influences how long it takes CBD to work, but also the quality of the CBD product and how often it’s used. Once the CBD oil is acquired, the next step is to find the optimal dosing regimen, including frequency of use. Perhaps you’ve wondered to yourself:

  • Should I take CBD oil in the morning or at night
  • What’s the right time of day to take CBD

The answers will depend largely on the type of product, amount of CBD inside of it, and the specific ailment that you are targeting. Most reputable manufacturers will provide instructions on how to properly utilize the product, but experimentation may be required to find the optimal dose for each individual and their specific needs.

CBD Dosage 

Settling on the ideal CBD dosage is an important part of the treatment process, and will also impact how long CBD stays in your system.  

Hemp-derived CBD products are not intended to give the user a stoned buzz or intoxicated feeling, so there’s no need to be conservative with the dosage amount. Still, it’s recommended to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it until the ideal effects are discovered.  


How Long Does it Take CBD to Get Out of Your System? 

We’ve covered the factors that determine how long it takes for CBD to work, but what about how long it takes to get CBD out of your system? Again, it depends on many of the aforementioned factors that determine the effectiveness of the cannabinoid itself. 

A 2007 study states that CBD can be detected up to 72 hours after smoking. Since the effects of CBD can be felt directly after inhalation, this method is appealing for those seeking immediate pain relief. In another study, volunteers were given soft-gelatin capsules containing cannabis extract containing 2.5 milligrams of THC and 1.35 milligrams of CBD. The research team found that CBD was only detectable in the blood for up to 360 minutes after ingestion.  

Some people may be apprehensive to try CBD over concerns that it could cause them to fail a drug test. It’s highly unlikely that CBD would show up on most drug screenings, as most tests specifically look for the presence of THC and THC metabolites. But even hemp-derived CBD can contain trace amounts of THC, so there’s technically a chance, albeit extremely slim, of receiving a false positive test result from taking an unusually large dose (estimates range from 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day) of CBD oil. 

For those worried about THC showing up in their system, look for broad-spectrum oil or products that contain pure CBD isolate. Broad-spectrum oil, as opposed to full spectrum oil, is refined to exclude the trace amounts of THC that may have been present in the hemp plant. Products with CBD isolate contain no THC or other plant-based cannabinoids. To find high-quality CBD, search for products that come with a certificate of analysis from a third-party testing lab to ensure that the information listed on the product label is accurate. Also, be on the lookout for products that claim to be hemp seed oil or hemp oil, which seldom contains any CBD at all.