CBD Isn't A Quick Fix: Here's How Long It Could Take To Feel Its Effects
Why you should take CBD daily for 2 to 4 weeks before ruling it out.
CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids—a specific type of healthy plant compound—that are found in cannabis. Unlike THC, another popular and well-studied cannabinoid, CBD is non-intoxicating. This means that it doesn't come with the head rush of marijuana, but it also means that it takes longer to kick in than a hit of weed or an edible would.
This slower burn is due to the way CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). You can read a full explainer on the ECS here, but the gist is that it regulates a lot of body processes through a collection of receptors scattered throughout the nervous system. THC binds directly to these receptors—including ones located in the brain—setting off an immediate and palpable reaction in the body and mind.
CBD, on the other hand, seems to work primarily by blocking the enzymes that normally break down other cannabinoids that the body naturally produces (called endocannabinoids). It does slow slowly and steadily; the cumulative effects are really what people are after with this compound.
"The studies show1 that for CBD to get to a steady-state level in your bloodstream, it takes about two to six days," explains Goldstein. "So taking one dose and ruling it out at that point is not scientifically valid."
Before assessing CBD's effectiveness, Goldstein recommends taking it daily for a minimum of two to four weeks. That being said, she says that "we are different in the way we absorb and metabolize and respond to these compounds." This two- to four-week window should give most people an idea of how their bodies react to CBD, but you might need more or less time to gauge how it's working.
"My analogy is that if I hit the gym tomorrow, I don't have muscles the day after," she adds. "We're all so used to a pill that makes us feel better right away—but we pay the price in side effects. Natural takes longer, but it's less harsh on your system."
Other best practices for incorporating CBD into your routine:
Make sure you have the right dose.
Another common mistake Goldstein sees people make with CBD is they take too low of a dose. We usually absorb only about 4 to 20% of the cannabinoids we ingest, and most trials on CBD have administered doses of 100 milligrams or higher. For comparison, some CBD products on the market contain 10 milligrams of cannabinoids per serving or less.
Start with a lower dose of cannabinoids, and if you still don't feel any effects after the two- to four-week window is up, you may want to move up to a more potent product with the help of your doctor.*
Make sure it's full-spectrum.
CBD works best when paired with other cannabinoids. In a full-spectrum hemp extract, you'll find CBD and an array of other non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBGA, CBDA, and CBC. Teamwork makes the dream work when these compounds are concerned, and they are often more effective at reducing stress and promoting balance in the body when consumed together.* "I feel like the plant has meant for us to use its compounds in conjunction with each other," says Goldstein. So, look out for a full-spectrum CBD or hemp extract (it should be marked as such on the label) versus an isolate product.
Keep track of how it makes your body feel.
Start a symptom-and-relief journal, and take a minute every day to jot down notes on what dose of CBD you took and how it made you feel. When your two- to four-week trial period is up, this will make it easy to look back and spot any changes that may have occurred.
Cannabinoid medicine is not a quick fix, but it's one that can potentially relieve a lot of stress, anxiousness, and aches and pains when taken consistently over time.*
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.