Using CBD Effectively

CBD is not just a one-trick pony, or a one-form pony, for lack of better analogies. That’s a common misconception that needs to be corrected. Many people think that the whole-plant form reigns superior for consumption. CBD cannabis flower, the true whole-plant form, is beautiful. The host of plant chemicals contained inside can address a broad spectrum of conditions and side effects.

However – the best form of CBD is the form that works for you.

The narrow perception of CBD as solely a full-spectrum extract prohibits the perception of its diversity of application opportunities. These full-spectrum and full plant forms can be used with and in a diversity of forms now, more diversely in the future. And the best form of CBD is the one that feels right, and that you will use. The “perceived” right form isn’t right for you if you won’t use it.

Uncovering the right form for you is a bit of an art. And while I go into some of the details of the form factors below, it's helpful to go into a more specific approach to conditions and side-effects and evaluate the “right” form factor from there. 

As an all-natural remedy, CBD has been declared effective as both a topical and ingestible treatment. The condition you’re treating ultimately determines the best form to use. A topical application of CBD is best for localized or acute pain, which can be caused by a bonk or a bruise. Examples of topical products include body oils and lotions. Ingestible forms of CBD are best for chronic pain conditions. The following sections break down the basics of topical and ingestible treatments.

Topical applications of CBD can treat both external and internal issues. The external treatments don’t absorb beyond the top three layers of the skin. These options — ranging from lotions, salves, creams, and balms to oils — are prevalent in both the skincare and the pain markets. The list of benefits here is particularly long. The primary targets are inflammatory skin conditions, including dry skin, itchy irritations, dehydration, and rough patches and cracks. CBD is also an antioxidant and thus is touted for protecting skin from the signs of aging as well as addressing more difficult to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

Treating internal conditions topically is a little more complicated. The skin is the largest external organ; it serves as a protective barrier that either allows or prevents substances from reaching the bloodstream. Topicals designed to treat external (surface-level) skin conditions don’t need to penetrate below the outermost layer of the skin, but to take care of internal complaints, CBD must reach the bloodstream. That’s where transdermal agents come in.

Topical applications for internal benefits are known as transdermal agents (or transdermals). Transdermals require a penetrating agent — something that damages the skin in a microirritation. This microirritation allows the active agents to pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. Think of those pain relief patches that seem to change temperature. The “heat” is the penetrating agent (the cooling is there to mediate the heat sensation). The CBD market has only briefly approached transdermals, but a host of companies offer patches specifically for localized pain.

When choosing an edible/ingestible form of CBD, you have two important considerations:

  • Bioavailability (the amount of a substance that reaches the bloodstream)
  • Onset time (how quickly the CBD takes effect)

Sublingual applications (applied under the tongue) are the fastest-acting and most calibrated of CBD offerings next to smoking. Chewable tablets like mints; gums; and dissolvable strips, tinctures, teas and oral sprays all fall under the sublingual category because they’re in your mouth for a while. And the sublingual oil market is one of the most dominant categories in ingestible CBD.

Sublingual action is made possible through the medicine meeting the mucous membrane under the tongue. The membrane and connective tissue under the tongue contain capillaries (the smallest and largest concentration of blood vessels). On sublingual administration, the medicine dissolves and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the tiny network of blood vessels. The faster the medicine hits the bloodstream the faster the onset. The least obstacles in the way of the medicine reaching the bloodstream, means the largest amount of bioavailability.

Other forms of edibles (like chocolates, candies, or gummies) have the disadvantage of having to travel through the gut for absorption. The problem is that they encounter quite a few warriors (such as stomach acid) along the way, which challenges their bioavailability and onset time. Supplements like capsules and powders, and anything else you may swallow struggle with the same obstacles. On the flip side, they have the comfort of a more traditional supplement market.


When you start using CBD for your particular needs, finding the right dose is important. Titration is the process of determining the volume necessary for the intended impact. Really, diving into a bigger dose than necessary just ends up creating larger expense.

Across cannabis and hemp, ten milligrams is generally considered a baseline dose. Some theories attempt to correlate milligram dosage to body weight, but nothing has been formally agreed upon. Many brands, companies, and advisers alike continue to hang on to the ten-milligram standard.


Lastly, as with any wellness regiment, consistency is key.  I like to compare taking CBD daily to eating a salad.  You want to eat cleaner and feel better and so you commit yourself to eating more salads.  Day one you eat a salad.  Maybe you feel great day one - you are proud of your resolution.  But day one you haven't really solved for anything.  But - eat a healthy salad every day for 21 days and that is a different story.  After 21 days (the amount of time it takes to make a new habit) if eating salads you WILL FEEL BETTER.  CBD is the same.  You really must use it daily to reap the ideal benefits.   

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