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Different Ways to Consume CBD: Smoking, Eating, Drinking, Applying to the Skin and Under the Tongue

February 10, 2021

Different Ways to Consume CBD: Smoking, Eating, Drinking, Applying to the Skin and Under the Tongue

There are a number of ways to consume CBD (cannabidiol) thanks to the countless CBD products on the market today. It can be a long and daunting journey finding one that suits your preferences but if you have  background knowledge it can be quite fun. These products can be inhaled into your lungs, rubbed on your skin, dropped under your tongue, or ingested in the form of “edibles”. Each method of consumption has a different delivery system used by the body in order to absorb and metabolize the CBD, resulting in various effects.

Both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD perform different functions in cannabis use, however, CBD has blown up since the federal legalization in the United States in 2018. CBD induces milder effects when compared to THC which is an attractive quality for  novice consumers. CBD is also believed to have a broader range of therapeutic effects, increasing its value in the industry as it expands the product potential and use of the marijuana plant.

The cannabis plant houses over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Most of these molecules can perform some sort of effect in the human body.  The psychoactive THC is a great example because it induces a very apparent sensation, commonly known as being “high”.  THC was discriminated against for many years. However, thanks to the legalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes, this healing plant can be grown, bought and consumed with ease.

Of all the cannabinoids found in cannabis products CBD and THC are the most well studied. Both molecules can cause a response in the body when taken individually; CBD usually to a lesser degree than THC. Interestingly though, when these two are consumed together the experience is completely different. When THC is consumed alone (especially in high doses) it can bring on uncomfortable side effects. The presence of CBD can counteract this, making you feel more calm and relaxed. THC is thought to be less potent when taken in conjunction with CBD, making full spectrum extract and flower/ buds a good choice of cannabis products if you're looking to experience the full potential of each cannabinoid.  This relationship between different cannabinoids and other chemical compounds is known as the entourage effect.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in cannabis and is the precursor to THC. It is non-psychoactive yet has all the healing properties of THC including anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects. THCA becomes THC over time or after being exposed to heat- this process is known as decarboxylation. The cannabinoid content located on the packaging of all cannabis products will often represent Total THC which is made up of both THCA and THC.

Hemp and Marijuana are used to grow CBD and are mostly differentiated by the amount of THC found in the plant. The product label will specify where the CBD was sourced by specifying the type of plant grown for the flower and extract material. Hemp plants grow larger and produce more biomass but less flowers whereas Marijuana (which includes cannabis sativa and indica) produces less biomass but more flowers. Looking at the cannabinoid profile of the two, hemp has a much higher CBD to THC ratio while most marijuana strains have a higher THC to CBD ratio. However, after years of cannabis hybridization cultivators have managed to create marijuana strains with extraordinarily high quantities of CBD. “Harlequin” and “Cannatonic” are two famous CBD dominant Marijuana strains that were bred specifically for their high CBD content that’s measured by a percentage (%).

Smokable CBD

Smoking CBD is great if you want to feel the effects of the product as fast as possible. It may be useful to those suffering from anxiety or panic attacks as it can induce a calm mood quickly. CBD can help aid against inflammation and smoking CBD could relieve inflammatory related discomfort and pain.  Once inhaled into the lungs, CBD is absorbed by the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body. There are various ways to smoke CBD for the fast acting benefits. Choosing the appropriate equipment and utensils is an important step. Below is some information on a few different smoking setups.

Different ways to smoke CBD

Joints, Bongs and Pipes.The classic way of smoking cannabis is to light-up the dried buds in either a pipe, water bong or rolled in smoking paper (joints) or tobacco paper (blunts). This method of consuming cannabis can feel ritualistic to many cannabis smokers. Some report that seeing the different colors from various greens to purples with crystals and orange hairs aid in this emotional connection. For others it may be the aroma that hits their nose when the buds are crushed and the terpenes are released, or perhaps the taste of the smoke as it passes over their taste buds and into the lungs. If the idea of smoking a joint appeals to you but you don't know a thing about rolling there is no reason to fret, you can buy pre rolled joints filled with either half a gram or a full gram of dried CBD flower.

Advantages: Smoking the plant in its most natural form.

Disadvantage: The smell lingers after smoking.

Vapesare becoming a more common method of smoking CBD. Vape pens are small disposable or rechargeable batteries with a heating element and a cartridge loaded with CBD extract. Some are dosed and will turn off after a certain mg of CBD is released in order to control each dose. The extracts used have a higher concentration of CBD than the raw cannabis flower. These pens are pocket size and the vapor released per hit is minimal making them a subtle method of smoking in comparison to a joint or bong rip. Also, the actual pen doesn’t smell after being smoked- an attractive trait if you’re out on the go.

Advantage: Discreet and practical method of smoking CBD.

Disadvantage: There may be unwanted additives in the cartridge, reading the label is extremely important.

Dabs

Many different types of CBD concentrate are smoked with a “dab rig”. An example of a simple rig would be a piece of smoke equipment similar to a bong or bubbler with a metal or glass “nail” where you stack the concentrate and a butane torch to heat up the nail. A dab hit provides the most CBD per hit because it’s a concentrate of CBD that can be smoked in any quantity. Some examples of different CBD dab extract include wax, rosin, shatter, resin and crystals or diamonds. Depending on the extraction dabs are usually purly cannabinoids and can be seen as a cleaner way of smoking CBD than certain vapes that have additives and artificial terpenes.  

Advantage: This method of smoking provides a high dose of CBD per hit.

Disadvantage: Dab rig (smoking equipment) and actual dabs can be costly.

 

Different Types of CBD Extract

When smoking extract in either dabs or vapes it’s good to know what’s inside your concentrate. You have to look beyond the flower and into the extraction and refinement process of the product you're consuming in addition to the actual ingredients. CBD cartridges can have CBD isolate, Full spectrum CBD or Broad spectrum CBD. It’s important to know the difference between them.

CBD Isolate (distillate) is the purest form consisting of up to 99.9% CBD. With no other cannabinoids present this extract can be produced in the form of crystals or powder that is white to yellow depending on the purity. This compound is usually reconstituted with other ingredients like artificial terpenes, vegetable glycerin, MCT oil and others to produce the viscosity of the smokable liquid inside some vape cartridges.

With Full spectrum CBD the full cannabinoid profile is present including small amounts of THC up to 0.3%. With all the cannabinoids present, you gain the benefits of each one without feeling too overwhelmed by the psychoactive effects of THC. This is due to the previously mentioned “entourage effect” that occurs when the full cannabinoid profile is used.

Broad Spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD without any THC, it’s been removed during the extraction or refinement process . All the other cannabinoids are extracted from the plant including the natural terpenes.

“Live” is a term used in CBD extract to indicate that the plant material used for the extraction was taken directly after harvesting in order to keep the cannabinoids, including the terpenes, as fresh and tasty as possible.

Edible CBD

CBD beverages and edibles come in many forms, flavors and colors making them an entertaining way to consume CBD. If you’re a fan of candy, especially gummies, you’ll have a field day browsing the CBD edibles available. These delicious foods and beverages are a great way to feel the calming effects of CBD for those who don't want to  or can't ingest smoke or vapor into their lungs.

Be warned it's easy to overdo the recommended dose of cannabis edibles which can catch many novice partakers by surprise. First off, they taste so darn good which may lead some to overdoing it. Another reason is due to the late onset causing some to think it’s not working or not enough. The effects take some time to work, after passing the mouth and throat CBD has to endure the stomach and reach the digestive system and liver where it’s broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.

The long lasting effects of CBD edibles are great for those suffering from anxiety, pain and insomnia. It’s a discrete way to consume CBD and can be easily dosed as most CBD edibles are specifically calculated to provide a particular mg of CBD per gummy or beverage. This can be somewhere between 5 to 10mg per dose. The onset takes quite some time ranging from 30 to 120 minutes which is why it’s so common to over eat or drink cannabis edibles. If you stick to the manufacturers guidelines with the dosage, you can enjoy hours of relaxation. CBD edibles can last 4 to 6 hours.

Sublingual and buccal application of CBD are specific oral forms of consumption. However, these applications are very different to typical edibles in that they are dropped under the tongue and kept there for 90 seconds providing quick absorption to the bloodstream. The onset time for these types of products is much shorter, between 5-10 minutes as opposed to hours. These products can come in the form of alcohol extractions known as tinctures as well as oil based extracts that are usually diluted into a base. Some of these base oils facilitate the absorption of CBD for example MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil. In case you have any dietary restrictions it’s strongly advised to check the label for the ingredient list and extraction process or reach out to the manufacturer if the supplier does not have that information.

A great way to consume CBD at home is to include it in your cooking. Various cooking and baking oils, butter, honey and more CBD infused cooking ingredients can be bought or homemade. These can be useful in any kitchen as they can be adapted to almost any recipe, salad dressings, sauces, pies and muffins, the options are limitless if you like cooking, baking and CBD.

Topical CBD

CBD topicals can be applied all over the body for various purposes. CBD soaps, serums, sprays, creams and salves are lathered on the body and absorbed through the tiny pores found ubiquitously on the surface of the skin. This type of absorption doesn’t invoke a psychoactive experience on the person using the products.  Even when full spectrum extract is used in the formula the skin is unable to absorb the THC in a manner that would induce a high. This is because the cannabinoids are metabolized differently in the skin in comparison to the liver or the lungs. 

CBD skin care products like pain salves are believed to have some degree of soothing and restorative benefits on the skin and muscles. These products are absorbed directly where they are applied providing localized pain relief that can help with chronic muscles and joint pain.  There is, however, a lack of regulations around CBD in the cosmetic industry that's concerning for the end consumer as they may end up paying top brand prices for skincare and cosmetics that have incorporated poorly extracted and refined CBD.

Cosmetic products use CBD isolate and extract as star ingredients because of the potent antioxidant properties to act against skin damage. This type of damage can include too much exposure to environmental factors like harsh UV light from the sun, dry air and pollutants. CBD is believed to reduce inflammation and soothe the skin making it an effective ingredient for sensitive skin creams, sun cream and burn cream.

CBD is an adaptable cosmetic ingredient found in moisturizers, serums, balms, facemasks and bath bombs. Although the research on the benefits of CBD in cosmetics is fairly limited it’s frequently incorporated in anti aging serums, acne creams, eczema lotions for its potential healing properties.

CBD is soluble in oil and not water allowing it to mix well with olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter and other hydrating oil based ingredients. CBD can be great for massage oils when mixed in conjunction with other herbal extracts for various functions including lavender, chamomile, cayenne and peppermint.

Transdermal patches send CBD to a specific area on the body. Once applied the CBD is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. This can be useful for people with chronic pain as the patch will release CBD into the system over a long period of time. They can last as long as 12 hours and are a discrete way to use CBD. Patches can be as effective as taking CBD orally but they target a specific location instead of the whole body.

The Choice is Yours

When browsing the different CBD products available to you it’s always useful to speak to a budtender first as they are helpful and knowledgeable with regards to cannabis and which product would be the best match for what you're looking for. Reading the ingredient list and knowing about the extraction method used can prevent you from spending money on products that you may later realize are not what you are looking for. Edibles can benefit those who need to be more tactful about their CBD consumption and don’t mind the delayed onset. If you want to target a specific location, a transdermal patch may be best. If you are seeking a quick effect you can smoke or use the sublingual method as these allow the CBD to be absorbed into the bloodstream and sent throughout the body rapidly. Topical application of  CBD is not absorbed into the bloodstream; it's absorbed by the pores on the skin directly where it’s applied providing localized pain relief as well as other benefits to the skin.