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Learn about the types of CBD products such as sublingual/tinctures, edibles, capsules, topicals, transdermal, inhalation, and more.

Under the Tongue / Sublingual (CBD Tinctures)

Oral-mucosal drugs are absorbed directly into the blood vessels in the mouth and under the tongue. If sprayed under the tongue, the patient should try to wait at least one minute before swallowing. Effects usually start after 15-30 minutes and peak around an hour and a half after administration. For consistency, it is best to avoid eating immediately before or after using a tincture.

Oral mucosal tinctures usually come in one of two forms: an under-the-tongue spray or a dropper with a marking at a specific volume (usually 0.5 ml or 1.0 ml). This allows for consistent, measurable dosing. Products should be labeled with the dose of cannabinoids per spray or per ml.

  • Onset: 15 minutes to an hour.
  • Dose: 2.5-10 mg CBD is a common starting dose.
  • Distribution: Absorbed into the bloodstream in the mouth, then distributes evenly.
  • Duration: After 6-8 hours, most of the CBD has been metabolized or eliminated from the body.

Edibles / Capsules

Ingested cannabinoids are absorbed through the intestines and sent to the liver. It takes about an hour to feel effects when taken on an empty stomach, or up to three hours with food. The longer-lasting effect of edibles and capsules make them suitable for many chronic conditions.

  • Onset: 1-2 hours.
  • Dose: Doses of CBD-rich products range from 5 mg to hundreds of milligrams.
  • Distribution: Absorbed through the gut and modified in the liver, then spreads fairly evenly throughout the body.
  • Duration: 1-5 hours


Topicals and rubs are one of the more common kinds of cannabis products. They can be used effectively for skin or joint issues, but will not be absorbed into the bloodstream. The presence of terpenes or non-intoxicating acid cannabinoids (THCA and CBDA) seem to increase skin permeation, but still not enough to get it into the blood. Large concentrations of terpenes in topical products may irritate and damage the skin.


Although transdermal products are applied to the skin, their effects are nothing like topicals. A transdermal patch is designed to release cannabinoids into the bloodstream at a constant rate.

Transdermal administration should confer an experience somewhat like sublingual use, although a transdermal patch could be designed to work for longer periods of time. It’s worth noting, however, that a transdermal CBD isolate failed to treat epilepsy in a clinical trial, whereas a sublingual CBD isolate was successful. Any company claiming to market a transdermal product should have public data demonstrating how well it is absorbed.

Inhalation: Smoking and Vaping (Cannabis)

When drugs are inhaled through the lungs, they are sent to the brain before getting metabolized by the liver. This makes inhalation the fastest method for administering cannabis. Usually, between 20-30% of the phytocannabinoids like CBD are absorbed this way. The heat from either smoking or vaporizing cannabis converts the acid cannabinoids into their neutral forms.

  • Onset: Seconds to minutes.
  • Dose: As little as a puff may be necessary. A typical CBD joint is 0.3 – 1.0 grams of cannabis.
  • Distribution: Affects the lungs immediately, then the heart and brain, then is distributed fairly evenly throughout the body.
  • Duration: Most effects subside after 2-3 hours.

Water Soluble

Cannabinoids are sticky, waxy chemicals. They like to mix with oil, not water. There are, however, a number of ways to get cannabinoids to dissolve in water, allowing for products like CBD-infused beverages. But the research in this area is limited. The processes that make cannabinoids soluble in water may also make it easier for your body to absorb CBD. This means that such products will have a quicker onset compared to an edible (as quick as 20 minutes) and the dose may be stronger over a shorter period of time.


Always consult your veterinarian to ensure CBD won’t interfere with your pet’s current medications or health considerations. The endocannabinoid receptors in humans and animals are very similar. With respect to dosing with oral applications, starting low at .5mg of CBD per pound of an animal’s body weight and one-two times per day is recommended. Transdermal methods can begin with 1mg of CBD for every 10lbs of body weight. Balms and salves can be applied as needed to address localized skin conditions and muscle/joint pain.

Bath and Body

Depending on the formulation of the product, research has begun to show that skincare products infused with CBD may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Onsets and durations of effect as well as therapeutic benefits of this category vary based on the type of product. Many follow the same guidelines for topicals, which is a relatively fast acting application for local, inflammatory skin conditions and pain management in soft tissues and joints.

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