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Article: How To Tell If Your CBD Is Working

How To Tell If Your CBD Is Working

How To Tell If Your CBD Is Working


Cannabidiol (CBD) and other natural products derived from the cannabis plant have taken off in recent years. Whether you are new to using CBD or you are within the first few weeks of trying out CBD products, you may be unsure as to how to tell if it's working for you or not. So, what should you be looking out for? And when should you be looking out for it?

Tips before we get started

  • In order to ensure that it is truly the CBD that’s working, try not to change too many things in your health regimen at once. This may make it difficult to accurately assess what is actually working for you. 
  • Whether or not your CBD is working will depend on what you are using it for. Your best bet is to start with the lowest dose and slowly build it up over time.
  • Assess your routine to make sure it has been optimized. If you are supposed to be using it everyday, have you been good about keeping up with it? 
  • Review the proper instructions on how to take certain formulations. For instance, CBD oils that are taken by mouth should be held under the tongue prior to swallowing. 
  • Try keeping a log or a journal to document any changes you may have experienced. But, log both the things you feel and don’t feel. This may help you gauge your progress better in the long-run.

Are you choosing the right CBD product?

If you have been taking CBD for a while or you are looking into trying it for the first time, be sure to spend some time researching various CBD products, formulations, concentrations, and brands. Depending on what you intend to use it for, there can be different products that work better for you. Brands that are transparent with their sourcing and manufacturing processes are a great place to start. If you are interested in learning more about how to select quality products, check out the link to the importance of clean CBD products.

When should CBD start working?

When first starting out with CBD, it can take a while for its effects to kick in. This is due to various factors including which formulation of CBD you are using, what you are using it for, and genetics. Differences in endocannabinoid tone, or the overall state of the endocannabinoid system within an individual, can cause it to take longer for some to see effects compared to others. Don’t feel frustrated if it takes you a few days up to a few weeks to start noticing the difference. For a deeper dive into some of the reasons its not working for you, read Link to 5 reasons CBD may not be working for you

How long does CBD last?

The efficacy, duration, and onset of CBD products will range depending on the formulation and other factors that influence the absorption or distribution within the body. For example,  if you are taking CBD orally, the time it takes to effect may be shortened or lengthened depending on the dosage, if it was taken with food, or your body weight. Depending on the formulations, the duration of effects can vary from anywhere between 30 minutes to quite a few hours.

Summary Table 

Formulation Notes
Oils or tinctures
  • If you are new to CBD, start with a ¼ dropper. Hold it under the tongue and hold for at least 30 seconds before swallowing 
  • If you are not new to CBD or do not take it regularly, start with ½ dropper and follow the same steps above
  • Rapid onset (<30 minutes) if taken properly but some may dislike the taste if formulation uses strong smelling carrier oil
Edibles (gummies, capsules, or softgels) 
  • Often best to take after a meal or snack for the best absorption 
  • Easy to dose but may take longer to work 
Topicals (ointments, creams, lotions, or transdermal patches)
  • For creams and ointments, directly apply to the area affected 
  • For transdermal patches, apply on areas of skin or on joints
  • Difficult to dose but provide effects specific to a region of the body 

When should you adjust your CBD dose?

If you are just starting out with CBD, increasing the dose may not necessarily be the answer. Sometimes decreasing the dose may actually be the trick! In general, it’s important to be patient and play around with how much you take in order to find what works best for you. However, if you start to experience negative side effects like reduced appetite or fatigue, it may be a good time to tone down the dose.

What are potential negative side effects to look out for?

Although CBD has a variety of therapeutic benefits, it can also cause adverse side effects like all natural products. The main things to look out for include feelings of drowsiness or fatigue and stomach upset. It also has the potential to interact with other supplements and medications so if you are taking any be sure to discuss with a health care provider prior to initiating CBD.

When should you talk to someone?

If you are worried or have questions at any point while taking CBD products, you should not hesitate to reach out to a medical professional or an integrative medicine specialist to address your concerns. Don’t forget to acknowledge that everyone is going to experience slightly different things and that is perfectly normal. If you are unsure who to talk to, you can schedule a time to chat with our medical team (for free–yes, you read that right!) regarding CBD or other natural products.

When is CBD not the right choice for you?

CBD is a great natural product that has a number of different uses. However, the reality is that it may not work for everyone. Some individuals have differences in their endocannabinoid tone or their genetics that decrease their responsiveness to CBD products. Therefore, don’t fret if you have given CBD a try without avail, there are many alternative natural products out there that may work better for your individual needs.

The most important thing when it comes to starting CBD is to be patient. It will take time to find and grow accustomed to a regimen that works best for you. 


  • VanDolah HJ, Bauer BA, Mauck KF. Clinicians' Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019;94(9):1840-1851. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003
  • Millar SA, Maguire RF, Yates AS, O'Sullivan SE. Towards Better Delivery of Cannabidiol (CBD). Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2020;13(9):219. Published 2020 Aug 28. doi:10.3390/ph13090219
  • White CM. A Review of Human Studies Assessing Cannabidiol's (CBD) Therapeutic Actions and Potential. J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;59(7):923-934. doi:10.1002/jcph.1387

This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Kimberly Ma. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidate at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in Storrs, Connecticut.

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