This article was medically reviewed by Anthony Fanucci, Pharm.D.
While research regarding CBD is promising, the information we have on how to correctly use CBD is fairly limited. In fact one complaint I hear often is, “I tried CBD and nothing happened.”
In 2018 the Farm Bill was signed into law. The bill federally legalized hemp across America, ushering in a new era of Cannabidiol (CBD) interest. The FDA approved a CBD-rich drug for severe epilepsy, Epidiolex, that same year. People who were once adamant they would never use cannabis began to consider trying CBD for the first time.
Tried it and nothing happened? Let this be your CBD troubleshooting guide. I’ll explain why CBD may have not worked and give you some tips on how to enhance your experience.
Common Issue #1: Method of Consumption
The way you consume CBD really matters.
People can feel intimidated by the idea of smoking CBD flower. The idea of trying CBD in an easy to consume format like CBD gummies, then, becomes extremely appealing.
However when you consume CBD in the form of an edible (infused into a food), CBD goes through something called “first pass metabolism.” This term refers to the fact that orally ingested CBD is partitally broken down and absorbed in your digestive tract before it can provide any beneficial benefits. You end up losing CBD in this process, which means it may feel less potent or have a reduced impact. Oral bioavailability of CBD is currently estimated to be between 13-19%. It also takes longer for orally digested CBD to kick in (onset time).
I didn’t think CBD worked for me because I had only ever tried CBD gummies. Little did I know that, due to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) CBD edibles didn’t work for me. I wasn’t digesting or absorbing the CBD properly.
CBD oil administered under the tongue, however, did work for me. That’s because sublingually administered CBD doesn’t go through first pass metabolism. Sublingual digestion begins as soon as CBD comes into contact with capillaries in the mouth. Less CBD is lost in the process, resulting in a more “potent” effect.
In other words: if you ate a CBD gummy or cookie and it didn’t work for you, you may want to try using CBD oil (tincture) under your tongue.
Common Issue #2: Full/Broad Spectrum Products vs. Isolate
The second biggest issue that can affect your CBD experience is based on what kind of CBD you’re consuming. There are three general types of CBD products:
- Full spectrum products: Containing all of the cannabis plant’s 400+ unique compounds including cannabinoids such as Cannabidiol (CBD) as well as terpenes, aromatic compounds with their own therapeutic properties.
- Broad spectrum: The same as full spectrum, but typically without any Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive cannabinoid that can get you “high.”
- Isolate products: Like the same implies, CBD isolates are extracted from plants so that the remaining product is CBD without any other cannabinoids or terpenes.
Research has shown that CBD isolates are only effective up until a certain point. Full spectrum products, however, are less likely to taper off in effectiveness after a certain point, making them far more potent than many other options (such as Isolates.)
If you’re seeking the maximum health benefits associated with CBD (such as help with pain, anxiety or sleep), you may want to opt for full or broad spectrum products whenever possible.
Common Issue #3: Terpenes Matter
Terpenes lend their own unique effects to cannabinoids. If you’re not feeling the effects of CBD one possible explanation is you have an isolate product with little to no terpenes.
If you have taken CBD and nothing happened, you may want to review what dose of terpenes your product contains. You can do this by viewing a product’s lab results, also known as a Certificate of Analysis (COA). You may be able to optimize your CBD experience by looking for products that contain your favorite terpenes.
Common Issue #4: Dosing
If you’ve tried CBD and nothing happened, it may be because of the dose. We still don’t have the research we need to make solid determinations about how CBD should be used. This is especially frustrating because it requires people to titrate their CBD doses.
Titration is the process by which a patient experiments with a drug until they find their “just right” dosage. This process is absolutely necessary to being able to experience CBD correctly, and yet so many people I know aren’t keen on it.
CBD affects everyone differently. It’s also bi-phasic, which means larger doses can have the opposite effect as smaller ones. Small doses of CBD, then, can feel stimulating for others while larger doses may feel sedating.
The best way to find your dose is through trial and error, based on your doctor’s recommendations. Some consumers will take CBD, write down their dosage, wait two hours then document how they feel. Repeat until you find desired effects. This means you feel relief without feeling too sedated.
Common Issue #5: Drug Interactions
CBD has some notable drug interactions. Until we have a more thorough understanding of how CBD interacts with these drugs researchers advise, “…consideration should be noted when co-administering with other drugs using the CYP3A4 pathway.”
The CYP pathway referred to here is a group of enzymes responsible for metabolizing conventional drugs. CBD can interact with these enzymes, thereby affecting the rate of drug breakdown in your body. If you take a regular prescription consult your doctor before trying CBD.
Common Issue #6: Sublingual Dosing
I have seen too many people who seemed excited to try sublingual CBD swallow it almost immediately. That’s not how it works, folks! In order for CBD to take effect sublingually you normally have to hold it under your tongue without swallowing for at least one minute. I personally keep it there for a full two minutes before swallowing.
If sublingual CBD oil hasn’t worked for you, time how long you keep it under your tongue.
Common Issue #7: Quality
Be sure you always buy CBD products that have been tested by an external third party lab and have COAs available. Ensure they have (and pass) tests for microbials, heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and mold. Organic is always better whenever possible.
I hope these tips help you find the CBD experience you’re looking for. So many people continue to tell me they tried CBD and nothing happened. Hopefully this guide will help change that.
This article was medically reviewed by Anthony Fanucci, Pharm.D.
Janelle Lassalle is a writer and content creator that specializes in cannabis. She’s also an insanely passionate advocate and expert in all things CBD. You can find her work featured in a variety of publications such as Healthline, The Huffington Post, Leafly, Forbes, and High Times. Check out her portfolio, or follow her on Instagram @jenkhari.