When evaluating different consumption methods, the primary differences will be whether the product provides systemic or localized relief, the onset time, and the relief duration. Systemic relief affects the whole body, whereas localized relief only affects the area to which the product was applied. That said, many conditions benefit from a multi-pronged approach where you treat a problem with a mix of products.

You could combat rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, with one CBD product to reduce systemic inflammation and another CBD product to treat the local joints. The other benefit to this complimentary product approach is that some products provide instant relief for a short amount of time, while others have a longer onset time but provide relief for the entire day.

Below we will cover the different CBD consumption methods as well as the onset time and relief duration associated with each type of product.

Systemic Products

These products are a great way to get your desired daily dose of CBD. Many people find that a regular, daily dose of CBD is great for prevention and management. Alternatively, a larger dose can be used to treat flare-ups. The following products provide systemic relief for several hours – they are especially helpful for those suffering from anxiety, depression, and immune system issues.


cbdMD CBD Oil


A tincture is a liquid CBD concentrate that is applied under the tongue. Historically, tinctures were alcohol-based; however, we recommend a coconut/MCT oil-based tincture that allows the CBD oil to be easily absorbed by the body. The solution is absorbed by the arterial blood supply under the tongue within seconds, but the full extent of the effects can take up to an hour to be felt. Holding the liquid under the tongue allows for faster absorption through the bloodstream as opposed to processing through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Tinctures and gel caps provide the longest duration of relief. – anywhere from 4 to 8+ hours depending on the individual.

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CBD Gel Capsules

Gelcaps contain a CBD extract in an organic MCT coconut oil carrier. They are a form of ingestible CBD – very similar to tinctures – the primary difference is the form factor. Gelcaps provide sustained, systemic relief for several hours. The downside to gel caps is the hour-plus onset time – certainly the longest of any of the consumption options (because the CBD is not immediately absorbed under the tongue like a tincture). Many people like the gel caps because it feels like they are taking a normal pill, which they are already comfortable doing. The gel caps and tinctures are generally interchangeable – just be mindful of the slight difference in onset time.

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CBD Consumption Guide: Which Types of CBD Products Will Work for Me?

CBD isolate is a form of 99% pure CBD crystals that have been pulverized into a powder that is easily vaporized. The benefit to vaporizing CBD is that the effects can be felt instantaneously – isolate provides the fastest form of systemic relief. The effects of an isolate can last from 90 minutes to 3+ hours depending on the individual.

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Localized CBD Products

As the name indicates, these products only affect the area where the product was applied – as such, this class of products is often referred to as simply ‘topicals’. Some only impact the skin layer to which they are applied, while others penetrate into the muscle and joints underneath the skin.


PlusCBD Balm

Salves are CBD-infused topical creams that are applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain and inflammation, making them perfect for treating muscle, joint, and surface-oriented pain. The CBD goes to work immediately after rubbing the salve onto the affected area and relief can be felt in as little as 15 minutes. Salves provide relief for hours; simply re-apply as necessary.  Salves are best for those suffering from general aches, pains, soreness, and any form of arthritis.


CBD Consumption Guide: Which Types of CBD Products Will Work for Me?

Sprays are another form of CBD infused topical that is sprayed directly to the skin – this application method is preferred by those suffering from painful skin conditions like eczema, and psoriasis. These sprays are gentle and don’t leave behind the same oily consistency some salves leave behind – making them better suited for treating burns, rashes, and other skin irritation. Some sprays even act as beauty products to help reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin.

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CBD Bath Bomb

Soaks refer to CBD-infused bath salts that induce a calming and soothing effect. Oftentimes they are infused with aromatic essential oils to make your bath even more enjoyable. Soaks are best for those looking to relax their body and soothe their skin.

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Why is MCT coconut oil so important?

You may have noticed that many of the CBD products described above use MCT coconut oil as a carrier for CBD extract. This is because coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This is important because unlike other types of fats, MCTs don’t need to be broken down before they’re used for energy, and they don’t require any extra energy to digest or absorb. This makes the use of coconut oil especially helpful as a carrier for those who suffer from impaired fat digestion and gallbladder issues.

A Quick Note About CBD & Drug Testing

If drug testing is a part of the conditions of your employment, you might be concerned about the potential of CBD to cause you to test positive for THC. This isn’t an unfounded concern — however, there isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry way to answer it.

Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception.  There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, but there appears to be a small risk of a false positive for some users. Avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely.

If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you should consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. Find out how to pass a drug test here.