Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid from the cannabis sativa plant that has become increasingly popular for medicinal use. All the buzz around CBD means that the market is saturated with related products. The wide range of available products—from edibles to topical ointment—may make it difficult to choose the right one for you.

CBD is available in oral, sublingual, and topical products.

Below is a list of 4 things you should look for when choosing a CBD product to help with chronic pain.

1. Immediacy and length of effect

Immediacy refers to how quickly CBD takes effect. Most products on the market take a few minutes to a few hours to work, depending on the dose, type, and symptoms you are trying to relieve. Generally, the slower CBD is absorbed by the body, the longer it will last:

  • Oral CBD products, such as a capsule or edible, may take from 20 minutes to 2 hours to take effect and can last between 4 and 6 hours. Oral CBD products are digested and then absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach walls.
  • Topical products, such as lotions or creams, may take up to an hour to take effect and can last up to 5 hours. Topical products contain a compound that can penetrate the layers of the skin and deliver the CBD to the bloodstream.
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) CBD products, such as via a dropper or spray, may take 20 to 40 minutes to take effect and can last between 4 and 6 hours. Sublingual CBD products are absorbed by the mucous membranes under the tongue.

Additionally, vaporizing CBD oil may have an almost immediate but short-lasting effect (and therefore may require more frequent dosing).

2. Concentration of CBD

The amount of CBD in a product should be displayed on the packaging and is generally shown in milligrams. When choosing a product, a person should take into consideration body weight, metabolism, the desired effects, and how long they have been using CBD.

3. Ease of use

For the most part, CBD in any form is easy to use. CBD oils, edibles, capsules, and topical lotions are generally self-explanatory and discreet. If you choose to vaporize CBD you will need a piece of equipment, called a vaporizer, that turns CBD oil into an inhalable form and may require some instruction before use.

4. Taste

Taste may be very important to some people. CBD oil on its own tastes like hemp, which has been described as having an “earthy” or “grassy” quality to it. In many cases, CBD products, such as tinctures and oils, have been flavored to mask this taste.

If you want to avoid any flavoring, CBD pills or capsules have no taste at all.

Whichever product you choose, it’s important to talk to your doctor about CBD’s role in your pain management plan.

Learn more:

Complementary Health Approaches and Marijuana for Chronic Pain

Treatment Options for Chronic Pain