What Are the Primary Forms of CBD?

Routes of Administration & Forms of CBD

CBD comes in many different forms and options, and these different options can work in different manners. In order for CBD to work as effectively as possible, it is important to understand these differences to best understand what type of products are best for you and your symptoms.

Hemp derived CBD products are broken down into one of three well defined categories; Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate:

  • Full Spectrum: A full-spectrum CBD product contains multiple cannabis plant extracts, including essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, INCLUDING THC (even if trace amounts)
  • Broad Spectrum: A broad-spectrum CBD product contains multiple cannabis plant extracts, including essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, BUT NO THC (0% THC)
  • Isolate: An isolate CBD product contains ONLY CBD, and contains no other cannabis plant compounds. (0% THC)

In addition to the Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate options, CBD products can also be broken down by their route of administration, or how they are used and consumed. Generally speaking, CBD products can be taken orally, taken via inhalation, or taken via topical administration.

CBD products that are ingested orally, and processed through the GI tract, include edibles (gummies, chocolates, drinks), oils, tinctures, and capsules. These products, all processed through the gastrointestinal system, can take time become metabolized and have systemic (whole body) effects. Most orally ingested products have a delayed onset of action (time for product to take effect) of anywhere between 30 minutes to 90 minutes from ingestion to onset. Products such as oils, that can be kept under the tongue and absorbed through the oral mucosa, can have a more rapid onset of action. The duration, or how long the effects last, of orally ingested CBD products can be anywhere up to 8 hours from time of ingestion. Ingested CBD products result in systemic, or whole body, effects, and are the most common route of administration.

CBD products can also be applied topically, to intact skin, in the forms of creams, salves, ointments, gels, etc. Topical CBD based products can be used to treat areas of local inflammation and pain, such as strains, sore muscles, or areas of arthritis. Additionally, some CBD based products can be used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema. Topical preparations typically have an onset of action of approximately 5-15 minutes after application, and can last from anywhere between 1-4 hours. Topical preparations result in minimal systemic (i.e., into the bloodstream) absorption and have their effects largely on local tissues and anatomic locations.

Finally, CBD products can be consumed via the inhalation route, where the cannabinoids are processed in the respiratory tract (lungs) and distributed into the blood stream. Forms of inhalation consumption include products that are vaporized, nebulized, aerosolized, or smoked. One of the biggest benefits of CBD based products administered via the inhalation route is that these products have a very rapid onset of action, within minutes if not seconds. This rapid onset of action and delivery into the blood stream can be useful for treating certain symptoms (acute muscle spasm, panic attack, etc). The duration of inhaled products is short compared to the others, with effects typically lasting for 1-2 hours.

As described above, these routes of administration can be used by themselves, or in combination with each other. Many of the most successful CBD based regimens involve combinations of products, used at different times, to help target specific symptoms or areas of the body.

Keep Learning

With each individual supported by their endocannabinoid system, we know CBD and other cannabinoids act as a means to keep the ECS in balance and function at its prime. Understanding how and why the body harmoniously interacts with this system will help guide you to better sustainable health!

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