Many people’s first experience with medical cannabis is with CBD oil. CBD products typically have few side effects, are easy to use and don’t produce the psychoactive effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When it comes to the best way to use CBD oil, it depends on the form you’ve been prescribed and what condition you're using it for.
Since the vast majority of CBD products have yet to be TGA approved, there are no official guidelines around the dosages and potential effectiveness of CBD oil for different conditions. You might also have some safety concerns about CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC, and whether CBD has any side effects.
In this post we’ll explore what we know about CBD oil and the best ways to take it, as well as what to be aware of when using CBD oil.
How Can You Take CBD Oil?
How you choose to consume CBD oil depends on what you’re using it for, and what you’re comfortable with. Some people prefer the faster onset that vaping provides, while others prefer the simpler and longer-lasting method of ingesting CBD oil by dropping it under the tongue. Other options include capsules, lozenges and topical creams.
If you’re interested in fast relief, vaping may suit you best. When we talk about vaping and CBD oil, we’re referring to vape carts, or cartridges. CBD vape carts are pre-filled cartridges containing CBD concentrate. You use vape carts with a vape pen, which are essentially batteries that heat the oil in the cart, activating the chemical compound. It’s easier to administer precise doses when vaping. For example, a three second inhale might be equal to 5 mg.
A slower acting, but more discreet and simple way of consuming CBD oil is sublingual administration. This refers to dropping the oil directly under the tongue, where it will dissolve into the tissue and enter your bloodstream. Alternatively, you can also ingest CBD via a capsule or lozenge, which may simplify the process even further.
Oils or capsules can take between 30-90 minutes to take effect. The effects can last from 12–24 hours, although most will start to wear off after about 8 hours. The exact length of effect will vary from person to person.
Finally, there are topical CBD products – creams and lotions that you would typically use for skin-related conditions and pain management. This option may be useful if you experience localised pain. Being able to directly apply CBD to a painful area may offer faster relief, but the evidence for this so far is mostly anecdotal.
How to Choose the Right Dosage of CBD Oil
Since there are very few TGA-approved CBD products, there are no official dosage guidelines. This means that your doctor will assess your needs and tailor your dosage according to your condition and comfort level. How much CBD you take will also depend on the administration method.
Like any medication, the right dose of CBD is different for everyone, but a good rule of thumb is to start small and make sure your body has ample time to adjust to the medication. It’s best to speak with your doctor about your condition and how CBD may affect it – from here you can work out a dosage plan.
The Potential Benefits of CBD Oil
How CBD may benefit different conditions is an area of emerging research, but the main conditions being explored are around pain management and anxiety.
In some cases, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved CBD-based medications such as Epidyolex, a TGA-approved CBD mouth spray for managing rare forms of childhood epilepsy. For other conditions such as anxiety and chronic pain, there are no TGA-approved CBD products, but there are some promising studies and anecdotal accounts.
There have been several studies on CBD for pain relief. A 2021 survey of 2,701 people with fibromyalgia – a condition that causes chronic pain throughout the body – found that CBD generally reduced their pain. CBD might also help with endometriosis or chronic pelvic pain. Cannabinoid receptors have been found in the endometrium, meaning CBD can act on these receptors, potentially reducing pain and inflammation related to endometriosis.
As to how CBD may benefit anxiety – the exact mechanism isn’t yet fully understood, but there have been several encouraging studies. One review of major studies found that CBD may have some anxiety-relieving properties.
Meanwhile, a randomised, controlled trial from 2019 found that CBD may reduce anxiety in people experiencing social anxiety disorder. Finally, another 2019 study showed some evidence for treating anxiety and improving sleep quality.
Tips For Using CBD Oil Safely
Any medication can cause side effects, and CBD oil is no exception. Thankfully, CBD oil is usually well-tolerated, and if you do experience side effects they will likely be minor. Some side effects of CBD oil include dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue and diarrhoea. If you experience any of these it’s important to talk to your doctor about it.
One of the main things to be aware of when starting out with medical cannabis is whether your product contains THC. As the name implies, CBD is the primary ingredient of CBD oil – but some CBD oils, such as full-spectrum or broad-spectrum oils, will contain trace amounts of THC.
If you’ve been prescribed full-spectrum CBD oil, you’ll want to know when and if you can drive after taking your medication. Unfortunately, Australia’s laws around THC haven’t quite caught up with its widespread medical use. In all states except Tasmania, it’s illegal to have any THC in your system while driving. This is despite the small amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD oil being extremely unlikely to cause any psychoactive effects.
Another place you might encounter random drug tests is your workplace. We recommend carefully reading your employment contract for specific drug-use policies, and going over these with your doctor before you start taking your medication. Australia’s employee rights around medical cannabis use aren’t clear enough to protect someone if they were to test positive for THC at work, so it’s best to play it safe.
Everyone processes medication differently, so it can be hard to say with certainty when THC will have fully left your system. If you drive regularly or know that you’ll be facing random drug tests at work, it’s best to avoid full-spectrum entirely and stick to isolate CBD oil.
What’s The Best Way to Store CBD Oil?
CBD oil can degrade if not stored correctly. There’s a reason CBD oil and other oils, such as olive oil, come in dark glass bottles – the dark glass helps protect the oil from light exposure and harsh temperatures. Making sure the lid is on tightly when you’re not using your CBD oil is also important, as the lid keeps the oil free from contaminants and stops it from degrading due to excess oxygen.
Along with keeping your CBD oil in its original container, you’ll want to store it at 16–21°C in a dark place such as a cupboard or pantry. We recommend keeping CBD oil away from sources of heat or cold, including windows, stoves and air conditioners. It’s also a good idea to clean the dropper from CBD oil bottles to keep bacteria from contaminating your oil.
What’s Right For You?
CBD oil can be consumed in a variety of ways – knowing the advantages of each can help when you speak to a doctor about what might be best for you. Depending on your condition, you might want to take CBD oil directly via a dropper, or you may want to try vape carts, capsules or creams.
Always speak to your doctor about the legalities around THC if you’ve been prescribed full-spectrum CBD oil, as this can be a difficult area when it comes to medical cannabis treatment. Whether CBD is working for you is something to discuss as well. If you're not getting the relief you need, your doctor may adjust your dosage.
CBD oil is an exciting, relatively new treatment option. Staying informed can help make sure you get the most out of your treatment while making sure you stay safe.