CBD has hit the mainstream in a big way. Once an obscure alternative supplement, CBD oil is now an essential part of daily life for millions seeking support for anxiety, insomnia, pain, menopause symptoms, enhancing sexual pleasure, and more.
Navigating the jungle of CBD oils, tinctures, vapes and topicals, not to mention gummies and a whole array of snacks, can be intimidating. Adding to the confusion, CBD works differently depending on how you take it – and it affects different people in different ways.
So where to start? With an oil, a tincture, a vaporizer or a gummy? How about topicals? What do “broad-spectrum” and “full-spectrum” mean? And how much CBD should you take?
The First Step
“Can you take too much CBD?” is a common question. Technically, you can – but you’d have to try really, really hard. Clinical trials have prescribed up to 1,200 mg per day for months and recorded no adverse effects.
That being said, make sure to check with your healthcare practitioners before starting any new supplement regimen. Though CBD is considered very safe, it may pose a slight risk for people with low blood pressure. It also may interfere with the absorption of some medications, so ask your doctor before you start experimenting.
Once you get the go-ahead, you can narrow down your CBD options by asking a straightforward question:
What’s Your Goal?
CBD interacts with a wide range of targets in the body, which is why it’s used for so many different conditions. (You can read about the science behind CBD’s effectiveness here.) Picking a CBD product becomes much easier if you know what you want it to do.
Generally speaking, for health concerns that involve the whole body – like stress, or immune support – you want the CBD to get into your bloodstream, so an oral solution like an oil, a tincture, or a high-quality vaporizer may be your best bet.
If your concern is more localized, like menstrual cramps or menopause symptoms, you’ll want to keep the CBD close to where it needs to work – like with a topical or suppository.
Because CBD is well-tolerated and so hard to overdose, you can always experiment with using more than one product – like a topical with a tincture.
And start slowly, with small doses, and note how you feel. Some people find journaling valuable for determining next steps.
A Note On Broad-Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate
Many products, especially drinks and edibles, list CBD isolate in their ingredients. Isolate is CBD in its purest form – which sounds pretty good for a health product! However, isolate is produced by artificial, chemical means. Even more importantly, CBD has been shown to be much more effective as part of a whole-plant extract, with its natural cohort of other cannabinoids, terpenes, antioxidants and phenolics. This is usually called broad-spectrum CBD.
You may also see products labeled “full-spectrum CBD”. Although “full-spectrum” and “broad-spectrum” can mean the same thing, there’s an important exception: if you live in an area where cannabis is legal and you’re shopping at a licensed dispensary, full-spectrum CBD will likely contain some THC. It can get you high, or cause you to fail a drug test. If you’re concerned about this, buy online from a reputable seller or through a non-dispensary outlet.
On to your CBD options!
Find the Method That’s Right For You
CBD Gummies and Edibles
There are a lot of cute, tasty CBD edibles out there, from chocolate bars to gummy bears. They’re wildly popular. However, they may not be the best use of your time and money. They take a long time to take effect, and the digestive process often breaks CBD down before it reaches the bloodstream. This means you might not be getting the full amount of CBD listed on the packaging.
Many edible products also use CBD isolate, which just isn’t as effective as broad-spectrum hemp extract. And as snacks go, they’re really expensive.
If you want an oral product that’s more effective (if not as delicious), consider the following instead.
CBD Oils, Tinctures, Tonics and Capsules
These products are best for long-term relief of persistent symptoms, like chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia. They are more likely to contain broad-spectrum CBD than edibles, and can be more effective and work faster – if you remember to swish.
The mucous membranes in your mouth are highly permeable, so if you swish CBD oil in your mouth and/or hold it under your tongue, it will absorb directly into your bloodstream. (If you buy capsules, chew them first.) This means the CBD will take effect more quickly than if you just swallow it.
When consumed orally in this manner, CBD is also active in your system for a long time – 1-6 hours. It will be most effective with consistent, daily, long-term use, so it has time to help bring your system into balance.
CBD Topicals, Creams, Lotion and Lube
These products are most frequently used on specific areas, for support for arthritis, joint pain, skin conditions – and sex. (More on that in a second.)
CBD creams and topicals interact with your body’s endocannabinoid receptors right where you put them. Applied topically, CBD doesn’t pass into the bloodstream unless it comes in a transdermal patch, so the effects stay local. If you’re using topicals on your skin, not your mucous membranes, the pain-relieving effects can be noticeable but also limited.
When applied to the mucous membranes, though, it’s a different story – which is why we developed Awaken and our Intimacy Lubricant. Much like the tissues of the mouth, the tissues of the vulva, vagina and rectum are highly absorptive – so the CBD goes to work where it’s needed for enhanced pleasure and relief of discomfort.
You might want to pair topicals with an oral solution, for systemic as well as local support.
Although suppositories aren’t a common method of taking medicine in North America, more and more people are discovering their value for relieving menstrual cramps, menopause symptoms, painful sex, and even lower back pain.
This is because CBD inserted into the vagina and anus has a strong local effect on muscles, inflammatory cells, and pain-perceiving nerves, owing to the high permeability of vaginal and rectal tissue. It works quickly and stays where you put it – mostly. Some CBD may end up in the bloodstream, particularly when inserted rectally, and this will vary from person to person.
Also known as vapes or vape pens. In a vaporizer, a battery-powered coil heats a liquid containing CBD to the boiling point, and then the steamy vapor is inhaled. Although the jury’s still out on whether vaping is 100% safe, it’s widely considered to be much less hazardous than smoking – provided you buy your vape from a reputable manufacturer. Cheap black-market vape pens can cause serious health problems, though vaping illnesses are mostly associated with THC vapes.
Vaporizing works very quickly – the CBD hits your bloodstream within seconds and crosses the blood-brain barrier shortly after that. Vaping CBD is best for short-term relief of pressing symptoms, like anxiety, or for a mood boost in the bedroom. It also doesn’t last very long, so you might want to pair it with an oil, tincture or tonic for long-term relief.
Adding CBD To Your Wellness Regimen
When beginning to take CBD, be patient and start slow. Be aware of how your body reacts. Always be mindful of quality and care in craftsmanship, and know that good CBD isn’t cheap, and cheap CBD isn’t good. With these things in mind, and a targeted plan, this natural herbal medicine may be just the thing for what ails you.