True or False: the Most Effective Way to Take CBD Is Under Your Tongue
As a wellness journalist who lives in hemp-obsessed California, I’ve had the opportunity to taste-test a lot of CBD products. Throughout my time test-driving tinctures and oils, I’ve been told (both from reading the label and from having face-time with creators of these products) that going “sublingual”—aka putting some drops under my tongue and letting them sit for a few seconds before swallowing—is the most effective way to take CBD. But is that advice actually legit?
To find out—because there’s been relatively little rigorous research on CBD to date and I’m a skeptic by nature—I reached out to a doctor and a scientist for the 411. As I suspected, this isn’t a topic that has been studied in depth. Yet there is some reason to believe that certain CBD products may truly be more bioavailable when absorbed under the tongue than if taken through food or drink.
According to Timothy Birdsall, ND—a member of hemp education platform Prima‘s medial advisory group—when you take certain substances sublingually, they can enter directly into your bloodstream, where they’re immediately shuttled to your tissues. Think of it as a shortcut to digestion, which is a longer process in which the substance needs to be ingested, broken down by the stomach, absorbed by the small intestine, and metabolized by the liver. “Not only do many compounds lose potential bioavailability during [the digestion] process, but the time to onset is delayed,” adds chemist Jessie Kater, senior vice president of manufacturing for Curaleaf and Curaleaf Hemp.
Sublingual delivery isn’t always a better option for all substances, points out Dr. Birdsall—some B vitamins, for instance, need to be “activated” by the liver in order to do their jobs—but for certain vitamins and medications, it can be a super effective delivery method.
How does this apply to CBD? Surprise, surprise: It’s hard to say. “There has been very little scientific research on the sublingual absorption of CBD,” says Dr. Birdsall. The research that does exist has some inconsistencies, adds Kater, since there are so many factors that affect absorption—such as the quality of the CBD or the pH and consistency of the formulation. Plus, many of these studies focus on formulas that contain both CBD and THC—a psychoactive compound found in cannabis that’s supposed to be absent from CBD-only products—so it’s unclear whether their findings would also apply to a product that contains predominantly CBD.
Even so, Kater says that “most of the literature supports the notion that CBD has better bioavailability when consumed sublingually versus orally… [and] MCT oil-based tinctures are thought to provide better uptake than a traditional oil.” But, again, there’s no evidence that this applies to the exact CBD oil or tincture that you, specifically, have in your cabinet. As mentioned before, every formulation is different, and those small differences matter when it comes to bioavailabilty.
Long story short: You may as well try holding your CBD oil or tincture under your tongue before swallowing it—you could find that you feel it working slightly faster. Anecdotally, says Dr. Birdsall, experts recommended that you hold it there for at least 60 seconds. (A word of warning: There will be drool.) Your other option is to try a product that’s specifically created to be absorbed sublingually, like Kin Slips, which are kind of like those breath-freshening films that dissolve in your mouth.After all, if there’s one thing that can be said about the wild west of CBD, it’s that experimentation is key—whether you’re looking for your perfect dose or your perfect delivery method.
CBD oil under the tongue
Since CBD found its way into high street shops and online stores, the choices have improved. You can choose from products such as drops, sprays, capsules and gummies. You can also choose how to take it. CBD can be swallowed, placed under the tongue, vaped, rubbed into your skin or applied rectally.
Whether it’s CBD drops or CBD paste, placing it under the tongue is also known as “the sublingual method” and it is the most common way to take CBD. Despite its popularity, it is also the method that can cause the most confusion or raise questions.
Placing substances under your tongue understandably sounds a bit odd because it’s not something we often do. So, what is it about this method that makes it so widely used?
How do I best take CBD under the tongue?
The beauty of taking CBD in this way is that once you’ve tried it, it couldn’t be easier.
Simply, open your mouth and lift your tongue. Place the suggested number of drops under your tongue using the dropper that comes with the oil. Then allow the oil to sit under your tongue for between 90 seconds and 2 minutes.
It is up to you whether you keep your mouth open and your tongue raised or close your mouth. The important part is that the oil must remain in contact with the membrane under your tongue for the full time.
Do I swallow it?
Once the time has passed you can swallow any residue that is left in your mouth. This prevents any cannabidiol from being wasted. Because some CBD oils can leave a strong taste, many people choose to complete the 90 seconds and then take a large swig of water to wash down any remaining oil.
Benefits of taking CBD sublingually
The word ‘sublingual’ refers to the large blood vessel found under your tongue. When liquids are placed there, they can cross the thin membrane and enter your bloodstream. The speed with which this happens has played a key part in this method’s popularity.
Many CBD consumers report that once they are used to it, taking it under the tongue is quick and easy. It requires very little effort and can be completed in a couple of minutes without having to use any special equipment. Drops can be placed under your tongue, discreetly whether you are at home or at work.
As an extra bonus, taking CBD under your tongue means that a greater amount of it will be used by your body. This results in a greater effect from less oil, meaning that you could save money when compared to CBD products that are only eaten or swallowed.
While all there are many compelling reasons to take CBD oil under your tongue, it can still take some getting used to. The first few times you try can be tricky, it’s not always easy to tell exactly how many drops you’ve used or if your dropper is positioned correctly.
If you do find this a problem, there are ways around it:
1. Stand next to a mirror or ask a friend to help you position the dropper correctly and count out the drops. Once you’ve tried it a couple of times it gets easier and becomes quick and convenient.
2. Alternatively, there are brands who have packaged their oils specifically to make them easier to use. CBD sprays are a great way to apply the oil directly under your tongue with no fuss. Others have specially designed droppers or have marked them in ways that make it easier to apply specific amounts without any guesswork.
Why does CBD oil burn under my tongue?
When CBD is in your mouth you may notice an intense, bitter flavour. Because many high-quality oils get the best effects from using more of the hemp plant, they can be intensely grassy and bitter. While unpleasant, this alone won’t do you any harm. A mouthful of water will help with any strong flavours.
However, if you get any reaction that is worse, stop using it immediately and consult a doctor. This may only happen in two situations:
If you have chosen poor quality oil. Unfortunately, some oils that make it into the hands of customers have not passed the same quality checks that we apply to all our products. Contamination by chemicals or other products could result in an unsafe oil.
If you are allergic to any product contained within the oil. This is very unlikely as great care is taken to choose natural ingredients with low risk of reaction, however, it is always worth carefully checking the labels of any products before their use.
How does it compare with other methods of taking CBD?
From the 5 methods that exist on how to take CBD, placing the oil under the tongue is one of the most effective. It isn’t as effective as vaping, but because it is so simple it is still more popular.
The effectiveness of each method can be measured by the length of time it takes for you to feel an effect, and how much of the active ingredient reaches your bloodstream. The distance of this journey and the obstacles faced directly affect how effective each method is. Once CBD reaches your bloodstream it is unlikely to be broken down further and it will be transported to your body tissues.
CBD under your tongue
When you put oil under your tongue it is absorbed directly into the blood vessels. Because the vessels there are very close to the surface it allows the CBD’s journey to the bloodstream to be quick and uneventful. Substances taken this way are absorbed quickly, take effect in about 15-25 minutes and because they don’t have to pass through the liver you can expect as much as 35% to reach your bloodstream.
Eating CBD is the least effective way to take it
If you swallow CBD it travels through your digestive system and your body automatically starts to break it down. This process can be slowed down by mixing the active ingredients with other substances such as fat, but the difference is relatively small.
Most food and drink must take a ‘first pass’ through the liver, this removes toxins and breaks food into its component parts. Only about 4% of the original amount of CBD will make it through this and reach the bloodstream to be transported to cells for use. Because of the time it takes for your digestive system to process food, it can take between 30 minutes and 2 hours for that small amount of CBD to get to work.
CBD applied topically doesn’t travel in your bloodstream
Rubbing a balm or cream into your skin, unlike the other methods, doesn’t give you a whole-body effect. This is because it only goes to the cells, tissues and small blood vessels close to where you’ve applied it. It can have a localised effect within 25 – 45 minutes and up to 45% can reach the target area.
Vaping CBD is the most consistently efficient method?
Vaping is when specially prepared CBD oils are heated in a vaporiser until they form an inhalable vapor. The CBD can cross the thin, moist membranes in your lungs into your bloodstream. This means that the effects can often be felt within 10 – 20 minutes and up to 56% of the CBD can reach your blood for use in your body.
Taking CBD rectally can give inconsistent results
Inserting CBD rectally is often regarded as a quick and effective way of taking it. However, the speed of its effect and how much reaches your blood, depends on which of the rectal blood vessels absorb it and how the CBD is prepared. The effect of this method can also be reduced by health issues such as constipation and haemorrhoids.
It is currently seen to be a better method than eating CBD, but until CBD has been specifically prepared for rectal use it is not as consistently effective as taking it sublingually or with a vape.
The most effective method of taking CBD
While vaping CBD e-liquid is the most effective method, it comes with extra steps. You need to buy a vape, keep it topped up and use it only where their use is allowed.
Dropping CBD under your tongue may not be the most effective method but it is a close second. It also has an advantage in how quick and easy it is.
Another advantage of taking CBD oil orally is that it stays in your system for up to 8 hours. When you vape, the effect is faster but CBD stays in your system for only up to 2 hours.
|Method used||Uptake into your bloodstream||Time to take effect|
||4 – 20%||30 minutes – 2 hours|
|Under your tongue (sublingually)||35%||15 – 25 minutes|
|Rectally||8 – 50%||20 – 60 minutes|
|Inhaled or vaporised||Up to 56%||10 – 20 minutes|
|Rubbed into the skin (topically)||Can be up to 45% but stays localised (enters local tissue & small blood vessels only).||25 – 45 minutes|
Why should I go under the tongue?
CBD is commonly taken under the tongue because it is effective, convenient and can save you money. If you are just starting to use CBD oil it is an ideal consumption method. With a little bit of practice, you will soon be able to deliver a precise amount wherever you are.