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This question might have popped into your mind when discussing medical cannabis treatments. The answer to this question is far from absolute because there are several factors to consider. However, we can still come up with a sound theory from what we currently know.

 CBD’s mechanism of action in the human body 

CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant, has several interactions upon entering the body. However, its key interaction is in the endocannabinoid system, a system in the human body that affects several key biological processes [1].  

There are diverse types of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and each of them has a certain strength of affinity to the endocannabinoid system’s receptors. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which elicits a psychoactive effect to the user, CBD offers potential effects on the endocannabinoid system without the high [2].  

CBD also interacts with several receptor proteins such as serotonin-receptor 5-HT1A and vanilloid receptor TRPV1 [3, 4]. The encompassing potential effects of CBD is attributed to its ability to interact with the several biological pathways of the body, such as the endocannabinoid system and receptor proteins.


How long until CBD takes effect?

CBD’s response rate differs for each patient because there are different factors that dictate how fast the effect will come and go. These factors include dose, body weight, CBD concentration, method of consumption and individual biological factors [5]. The one thing that seems to be uniform on average is the method of consumption.  

The time-frames presented below for each type of consumption is not definite. The proposed response rates are merely representations of anecdotal evidence and biological standards collected for this particular topic.  

  1. Inhalation: Inhalation is the fastest route to feel something almost immediately. Because inhalation is a direct administration of a vapour to the lungs down to the bloodstream, the effect typically comes in minutes [6].  
  1. Topical: The topical application applies CBD on a localised area of the skin. The response rate would depend on the type of condition the patient is trying to treat. If it’s the inflammation of the joints, it would just take a couple of minutes or an hour. If it’s stress-related, the body would need more hours to get acquainted with CBD. Some even sleep it out [7]. 
  1. Sublingual application: In the sublingual application, the user drops a tincture of CBD oil under the tongue. Some report the effect to be “almost right away,” but realistically, the method typically renders effect anywhere from 15-60 minutes [8].
  1. Oral: This method refers to the swallowing of a pill or edible and would usually take effect after 90 minutes or so. The oral method takes longer than usual because the capsule has to go through the several processes involved in the digestive system before the bloodstream absorbs it. This type of consumption extends the CBD effects up to 6 hours or so [7].    

During a consultation, a doctor should prescribe their patient with the CBD product that best responds to that patients individual requirements.


Disclaimer: CanView does not endorse the use of Medicinal Cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any Medicine, Medicinal Cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user, and should only be prescribed to patients by a Health Professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes, and is of a general nature. If you are interested in accessing Medicinal Cannabis please talk to your doctor and request a referral to a Medicinal Cannabis clinic.  


 1. Zou, S and Kumar, U. 2018. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System.

2. Holland, K. 2020. CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? 

3. Resstel, L. et al. 2009. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. 

4. Muller, C. et al. 2018. Cannabinoid Ligands Targeting TRP Channels.

5. Huestis, M. 2007. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics.  

6. Pahr, K. 2020. Beginner’s Guide to CBD

Royal CBD. N.D. How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work? 

8. G. W. Guy and M. E. Flint. 2003. A single centre, placebo-controlled, four period, crossover, tolerability study assessing, pharmacodynamic effects, pharmacokinetic characteristics and cognitive profiles of a single dose of three formulations of cannabis based medicine extracts (CBMEs) (GWPD9901), plus a two period tolerability study comparing pharmacodynamic effects and pharmacokinetic characteristics of a single dose of a cannabis based medicine extract given via two administration routes (GWPD9901 EXT).