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6 Popular Ways To Consume CBD + The Pros & Cons Of Each

Emma Loewe
Author:
Updated on June 27, 2022
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Last updated on June 27, 2022
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The wellness world moves quickly: It's two years after regulations on hemp-derived CBD loosened, and we already have CBD-infused activewear, pet water (pet water!), and tampons in our hands.

With so many versions of the compound now available, it can be fun to play around with new ones from time to time. But it's important to remember that even though this plant medicine is non-intoxicating, it's still a medicine and should be consumed slowly, cautiously, and with the blessing of your doctor. It's also worth noting that every form of CBD has its pros and cons, and some tend to be more effective than others. So for the sake of your stress relief—and your wallet—here are a few things to know about each.

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Capsules

Pros:

When consuming a CBD capsule product, you'll have a better idea of how much of the compound you're actually taking.

Compared to oils or vapes, capsules are less of a guessing game. This is why doctors will oftentimes recommend starting with capsules to find your ideal dose. "If I'm going to use a product, I want my patient to get exactly the same amount every single day," functional medicine doctor Robert Rountree, M.D., explained on the mbg podcast. "I like the stability of the capsules. And I like the consistency of the capsules."

When creating our own hemp product, mbg landed on capsules for this reason. They deliver a controlled amount of cannabinoids (our hemp multi+ is full-spectrum, meaning it contains CBD and other beneficial hemp plant compounds) and deliver a relatively similar experience each time.* And for more product recommendations, check out our cbd capsule roundup.

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Cons:

When you consume a CBD capsule, it needs to pass through the digestive tract before making its way into the bloodstream. Along the way, it loses some of its potency. This means you might need to take a higher dose of it at the start in order to feel its full effects.

"When you take CBD by mouth, only about 6% gets into the bloodstream—so it's low," says Dani Gordon, M.D., a double board-certified medical doctor and author of The CBD Bible. "It still works for many people, but it is low, and because of that, you often need larger doses than something that's absorbed more easily."

Oils

Pros:

Some research suggests that taking CBD oil sublingually (placing it under the tongue and allowing it to dissolve) allows it to enter the bloodstream faster, making it quicker to kick in than a capsule.

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Cons:

It can be difficult to gauge dose when consuming an oil out of a dropper. Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a California-based physician and author of the upcoming book Cannabis Is Medicine, has also found that taking CBD in oil form can lead to digestive side effects like gastric upset or diarrhea, depending on the person and the product.

Vape pens

Pros:

Like oils, vape pens deliver CBD to the bloodstream faster so you can feel its effects almost immediately.

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Cons:

There's a lot we don't know about the long-term health effects of vaping, as shown by recent investigations into e-cigarettes and lung health. Those with preexisting lung conditions should definitely not vape, and the rest of us might want to hold off until we know more about it—especially in the age of COVID-19. Plus, integrative medicine doctor Amy Shah, M.D., previously told mbg, "The cartridges used in vape pens may contain chemicals such as polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol, which can be irritants and may cause allergic reactions when inhaled."

Creams

Pros:

Topical CBD cream has been shown to reduce joint swelling and pain in studies on arthritic mice, but more research still needs to be done to validate its effect on humans. Anecdotally, some people find success applying CBD products to stiff muscles or using it as a relaxing all-around massage oil.

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Cons:

Topicals don't go deep enough in the body to enter the bloodstream, so they won't have the same benefits on mood as an oral CBD product.

Gummies

Pros:

They're gummies! Need I say more?

Cons:

"When you're buying a gummy, you just don't know what's in it," says Rountree, who recommends getting your sugar fix elsewhere. If you are going the gummy route, at least make sure the product you're taking has been third-party tested for pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and volumes of THC higher than 0.3%.

Drinks

Pros:

These days, you can find a wide array of yummy CBD-infused drinks, and adding the compound to your morning, afternoon, or evening beverage can make for a nice ritual.

Cons:

Like with capsules, the CBD in beverages needs to pass through the digestive system before it can get to work. Many drinks also contain very low doses of CBD so by the time the compound makes it to the bloodstream, there may not be enough of it left to have any kind of effect.

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability 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 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. 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.