There seems to be an endless number of ways to use CBD today, from edibles and vapes to nasal sprays, oils, and lotions. Some of the most popular are edible products such as gummies, as well as oils extracted from cannabis or hemp plants. Which of these options is the right way for you to consume CBD?
What is CBD?
Cannabinol (CBD) is a compound that can be isolated from cannabis or hemp. When it is consumed, it interacts indirectly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is an extensive cell-signaling network found in the body that is involved with a range of complex processes, such as memory, sleep, appetite, mood, and motor control. It functions in everyone regardless of cannabis use, as it uses self-produced endocannabinoids as well as exocannabinoids, such as those found in cannabis.
Studies have indicated that when CBD is present, parts of the ESC respond, including in the brain, certain muscles, and the digestive system. When this occurs, users may experience a reduction in nausea, inflammation, and pain, although more research is needed to explore exactly how these mechanisms work.
What are CBD gummies?
Gummies and other CBD-containing candies are part of a broader range of products known as edibles. As the name suggests, this simply means food or drink to which CBD has been added. Edibles can also refer to products that contain other active chemicals found in cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, this article will focus on products without psychoactive components (i.e., products that won’t get you high).
Edible products are arguably the most popular method of consuming CBD, with one 2019 survey showing that 35% of people consider edibles their usual method of using CBD. Within this category, there is an enormous range of options, from drinks and baked goods to gummies and other candies. Despite this, gummy and candy products remain popular as they are discrete, fun, and come in a variety of flavors.
Most CBD gummies come in multipacks, with each gummy containing a specific dose of CBD. These are typically made in a very similar way to non-CBD gummies, using sugar, a thickening agent (e.g., gelatin), and flavoring that is combined and shaped into the desired form. CBD extract is then added before the candies start to firm to create the final product.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is a highly versatile product that underpins many of the CBD consumption methods available. The same 2019 survey indicated that 30% of people reached for CBD oil as their usual choice. However, CBD oil-based skincare products made up a further 21% of users.
CBD oil is beneficial as it can be taken alone, either swallowed or under the tongue. If you’re not a fan of the taste, it can be added to most of the foods and drinks you consume during the day, from your breakfast coffee to the sauce of a classic mac ‘n’ cheese dinner. It typically comes in a small bottle with a dropper for measuring the dosage.
How do they differ in usage?
Fortunately, this one is fairly self-explanatory. Gummies are typically eaten, while oils may be swallowed, placed under the tongue (sublingually), or applied directly to a target area. The packaging should also contain instructions for preparation and use.
This comes down to a number of factors, including the amount you want to consume as an individual. This is also affected by your gender, weight, and natural metabolism. As mentioned earlier, the container should specify the amount of CBD in a particular serving size. This is usually per gummy or per drop/mg for oils.
For someone who wants to be able to measure a specific amount of CBD and is comfortable using a dropper, CBD oil is probably your best bet. If you’re happy with a consistent amount of CBD, gummies are the way to go.
Rate of absorption
This is one of the factors that can differ significantly between oils and gummies. As gummies have to go through the digestive process to make the CBD available, this can reduce the amount of CBD that can be used by the body (also known as bioavailability). Most edibles have a fairly low bioavailability compared to other CBD products, at around 10-15%.
Oils taken sublingually are able to access the blood vessels under the tongue, allowing them to enter the bloodstream much more rapidly than gummies. As they do not have to pass through the digestive system, they also have a higher bioavailability, with up to 35% accessible for use.
If applied to a specific external area, CBD oils have a significantly reduced bioavailability, with only a very small percentage able to reach the bloodstream. If your intention is only for a particular area, this likely won’t be of concern to you though. It’s best to gently massage the oil into the skin to increase the rate of absorption, but it’s important to check with your doctor to be sure the oil is safe for the application area.
There are three key time points when measuring the effect duration of CBD products: initial effect, peak effect, and end of effect. CBD oils and gummies differ at each of these, with oils typically taking effect and wearing off more quickly than edible products.
One review indicated that edible CBD products such as gummies take between 30 to 90 minutes to have an initial effect, as they have to be digested before being processed by the liver. However, they reach their peak within 2 to 4 hours and taper off several hours after that.
When taken under the tongue like a tincture, CBD oils can take around 15 minutes to kick in, although the effects peak around 30-45 minutes after use and wear off after 2-3 hours. Depending on the application area, oils applied externally may take as long as 90 minutes to be effective.
Unfortunately, two factors limit the accuracy of these estimates. Biological variability between people can cause significant differences in effect times, and studies that measure these time points are limited.
Gummies are great for on-the-go people as they are discrete and easy to carry around, but it’s important to keep them separate from other candies as they could be difficult to differentiate from their non-CBD counterparts.
As most CBD oils use a dropper for measurement, they can be a little more inconvenient, but this is easily resolved by preparing ahead or reserving it when you have a bit more spare time.
What product type should I choose?
CBD products are often categorized based on the other compounds they contain. The one you choose should reflect the purpose you’re using it for, whether that’s trying to reduce pain or inflammation, or for recreational effects. Regardless of the product selected, it should state the concentration in percentages of THC and CBD, as well as any other active components if they make up more than 5% of the cannabinol content.
Full-spectrum products contain all of the naturally occurring active components of cannabis, including THC and CBD. These are thought to have an “entourage effect,” where the compounds all work together to cause the body’s response to cannabis.
Broad-spectrum products are similar in that they include a wide range of active elements, but they specifically do not contain THC.
CBD isolate restricts this further, containing only one cannabinoid—CBD. The purification process extracts CBD in a solid, crystal state, which can be resuspended as an oil.
This can be difficult to weigh up between different companies, product versions, and extract types, but one comparison method is to use cost ($USD) per milligram of CBD. This gives a clear indication of bang for the buck, regardless of other factors affecting product selection.
A market review indicated that the average oil is slightly cheaper than the average gummy. Oils range from around $0.08-$0.16 per milligram of CBD, with premium options exceeding $0.20. Gummies were a little more expensive on average, at approximately $0.10-$0.18. Therefore, if you’re looking to stretch your dollars, oils might be the option for you.
Best for beginners
With clear instructions and pre-measured doses, gummies are a great way to begin using CBD. Many people start with edible products as they’re convenient and look similar to other foods or drinks they’ve had before.
Although they may be slightly unfamiliar, CBD oils are also a good choice for newbies. There are thousands of recipes, guides, and tutorials online, so with a little practice, you’ll be an oil expert.
The bottom line
With seemingly endless CBD products available, which one is best for you? If you’re just getting into using CBD and don’t want to mess around with doses and droppers, gummies might be the best choice for you.
However, if you know what you’re after and want to explore different dosages and methods of incorporating CBD, oils are a great way to go.
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