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How Should You Take CBD? Topical vs. Ingested CBD

How Should You Take CBD

For many health-conscious individuals, cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to synthetic drugs.

These include conventional medications for a number of common conditions like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), sleep aids, painkillers, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

This shift in consumer interest is likely due to the high rate of side effects from these drugs. In case of opiates, for instance, come with side effects like sedation and respiratory depression — to say nothing of its significant abuse potential.

On the other hand, cannabinoids like CBD are all-natural compounds with no observed serious side effects other than possible dry mouth from disproportionate dosing.


What is CBD, and how does it work?

CBD is a non-psychoactive primary cannabinoid, meaning it does not make you high like THC does, but does occur in abundance in both marijuana and hemp.

CBD and THC are found in different parts of the cannabis plant; THC can be found in the flowers or leaves while CBD is typically located in the stems or seeds.

Through its modulatory effects on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD has been shown to be beneficial for anxiety, mood, chronic pain, and inflammatory disorders, in that it reduces the severity of common symptoms of these conditions.

This is achieved through its interaction with CB1 and CB2 within the ECS, which affect the brain’s sensitivity, uptake, and response to key neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

It’s worth noting that CBD is not an approved cure, medication, or course of treatment for any illness. However, it has been shown to have significant value as a preventative form of health supplementation against a range of neurophysiological conditions common to Americans.

For many new users of CBD products, there’s some confusion as to which method of consumption is best, and why. In this post, we go over the respective pros and cons of topical and ingested CBD use, as well as the suitable use cases for each.


Applying CBD Topically

Topical CBD application is becoming an increasingly popular way for people to use CBD products.

While taking CBD oil by mouth is the most common way of using it, many people find that they don’t like the taste, or that swallowing the oil is hard due to nausea or vomiting.

For these reasons, topical CBD application is often seen as a preferred way of taking it — particularly by athletes.

The benefits of a CBD roll-on or recovery balm are certainly not lost on individuals leading active lifestyles or are particularly prone to sports injuries.

Topical CBD products are great for localized pain relief and inflammation because they work on skin cells, instead of systematically throughout your body. So, if you have a bone or joint pains, topical CBD application is probably better for you than ingestion.

There are some safety precautions to take into consideration before applying CBD to the skin. One of the biggest safety concerns is making sure you use only high-quality CBD products that perform well and are safe for topical application.

First, look for a CBD product that contains 100% natural ingredients. There are many products on the market that contain fillers and other ingredients that do not provide any benefit to your skin or body.

Look for a product that is water-soluble because this allows it to absorb into your skin more quickly and easily which drives greater absorption of CBD into your body. However, this is a double-edged sword because a topical CBD product that has water in it may have a lower concentration of cannabinoids when compared to dosing with an isolate.

If you are unsure if a product contains 100% natural ingredients, the best course of action is to contact the product manufacturer and ask them how they ensure quality control of their market offerings.


Use Cases for Topical Application

Topical application of CBD is best for localized, targeted relief from pain or inflammation without the use of synthetic compounds like diclofenac (e.g. Pennsaid, Voltaren) which can cause anything from ulcers to internal bleeding.

CBD has shown impressive viability as a natural alternative to NSAIDs because of its anti-inflammatory properties, making it a good choice for use cases such as:

  • Arthritis and common forms of tendonitis like tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, which can not only interfere with athletic performance but everyday activities as well. Because of inflammation in the joints, actions like reaching, stretching, and bending can become challenging or even impossible based on severity.
  • Pulled Muscles tend to produce acute pain at the moment of injury, and chronic swelling for up to weeks at a time after the fact. This can get in the way of essential activities even off the field or outside the gym, like walking or driving.
  • ACL or MCL injuries, which are common to runners and combat athletes like wrestlers or boxers. Tears of the anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament could put an athlete out of action for up to two years. As bad as that is, there’s no reason the chronic pain and inflammation that can accompany the injury should affect the recovery process to make things worse.



Topical vs. Ingested CBD


Oral, Sublingual & Inhaled Dosing of CBD

While more active individuals can benefit from topical CBD application, oral consumption is likely more than enough for sedentary individuals. Of course, this isn’t to say that oral consumption doesn’t come with its own advantages.

The preferred method of administration depends on what you need to achieve with your CBD. Dosing directly to the bloodstream can be done orally, through inhalation, or sublingually (held under the tongue). The most notable fact of ingestion is that CBD’s effects will take longer to present themselves, but will last longer once they do.

Oral consumption is regarded by many patients as being the most efficient way of achieving relief from a wide variety of ailments. There are several products available in this category, including beverages, edibles, and capsules. Oral consumption enables you to achieve peak plasma concentrations much faster. It is also thought to be more effective for regulating symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

Inhalation is the most common method of using CBD, which might explain why it works best when used for pain relief. The therapeutic potential of inhaled CBD is more immediate, but will not last as long. The positive effects are almost instantaneous, which makes inhalation particularly useful for acute pain conditions. It’s also the fastest way to experience relief from symptoms of anxiety attacks and insomnia. The downside of inhalation is that it doesn’t last as long as other methods of application, and may irritate the lungs depending on the formulation quality.


Use Cases for Ingesting CBD

While topical CBD is best for localized relief from pain or inflammation, ingested CBD is best for more therapeutic purposes, like calming the symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders as well as melting away stress at the end of a, particularly hectic day.

Real-world use cases for ingested CBD include:


  • Generalized Anxiety (GAD) or social anxiety and its accompanying phobias are often characterized by symptoms such as shortness of breath, shaking, or inability to focus, which can seriously impair workplace or on-campus performance for college students.
  • Sleep Dysfunction, of which the most common disorders are insomnia, night terrors, and restless legs syndrome (RLS). Whether rooted in past traumas or poor diet, CBD can indirectly reregulate sleep dysfunction by increasing wakefulness during the day. This works as an active measure against daytime drowsiness and narcolepsy while promoting better sleep cycles and restoring homeostasis.
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