True or False: the Most Effective Way to Take CBD Is Under Your Tongue
A s 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.
Here are 6 products that CBD experts use themselves—including a tonic you can put under your tongue. No matter which CBD option you choose, make sure it doesn’t *just* contain hemp seed oil.
CBD101: Why should I take CBD oil under the tongue?
There are so many different ways to take CBD. We examine the benefits of the sublingual method.
What are the benefits?
Placing small drops of CBD under the tongue is also known as the sublingual method. When liquids are placed under the tongue they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the blood vessels there.
This is a capillary-rich area, making this one of the fastest ways to take CBD.
Oils can take effect in about 15 to 25 minutes because they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver and stomach.
How do I take it?
Decide on your product and how many drops you want to take. Open your mouth and pop the dropper under your tongue before releasing a few drops of oil.
Allow the oil to sit under the tongue for a few minutes before swallowing.
After a while, if there is a taste or residue left in your mouth, you can wash it down with water to clear out any remaining oil.
Sprays can also be taken the same way and some people find these much easier to dose consistently.
How much do I take?
There is no right or wrong amount of CBD to take. Each person prefers a different amount of oil or tincture.
It is worth noting the effect that it has on you, the dosage and the product itself. Do you prefer a tincture or oil? Is it a low strength or higher strength product?
By recording the effects of the products you’ve taken, you can assess how affective it is for you and adjust the dose accordingly.
Is this is the best way to take CBD?
There are now more ways than ever to take CBD, from tampons to tinctures to topicals. If you look at what type of pain you are looking to get some relief from, it could tell you what you need.
It’s also worth looking at any difficulties you may have with ingesting a product in a certain way. If you have issues with orally taking products or with the taste, then maybe capsules or patches could work better for you.
Oils and tinctures are a good place to start your CBD journey before experimenting with other consumption methods.
Can’t I just eat it?
Edibles are a great way of incorporating CBD into your daily routine and an even better way to have a sneaky treat.
However, if you are looking for quick absorption of CBD oil into the system then edibles may not be the best choice.
The food has to travel to the digestive system to be broken down by the body. It has to be passed through the liver which is known as the ‘first pass’ which will remove toxins and breaks it down further.
This means less CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream and it takes longer to do it.
Which is better, a tincture or an oil?
A CBD tincture is an alcohol-based product. The alcohol is added to help extract the natural compounds of the plant then is also added to the product.
Tinctures normally have a flavouring added to disguise the taste like vanilla or mint. They can also easily be added to foods and drinks.
There may also be vitamins, herbal extracts or supplements like curcumin added to give the product a bit of an extra boost.
Oils contain CBD as a base, rather than alcohol. This makes them more viscous and often come with that distinctive ‘hempy’ taste that is less suited to foods than an alcohol-based tincture.
While oils are much more potent than tinctures, they also tend to be more expensive.