The simplest way to start taking CBD is probably sublingual drops (sometines called tinctures). These usual contain CBD or full spectrum CBD-rich hemp oil suspended in a carrier oil such as MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride oil made from coconut oil) or hemp seed oil. (It’s a little confusing because hemp seed oil itself does not contain any cannabinoids.) The carrier oil allows the manufacturer to vary the dose of CBD in the oil.
The dose on the bottle refers to the total amount of CBD (or in some cases the total amount of cannabinoids) in the whole bottle. You use an “eye dropper” (included) to place several drops under your tongue and hold it there for a minute or two. This allows the oil to be absorbed more quickly and much more completely than taking a CBD pill. The bottles usually contain 30ml or 60ml of liquid. Sometimes the dropper is marked in increments of 1/4ml up to 1ml for a dropper almost full. Sometimes the label tells you to place a certain number of drops under your tongue. This may be a little tricky at first because it’s hard to feel the drops, especially if the oil is at room temperature. Once you get the hang of counting drops you can look at the dropper and get that much oil into the dropper in future doses.
You can get effects quickly from this method of administration. CBD taken this way has an onset time of around 20 minutes (compared with up to 2 hours for pills). It is also absorbed more completely. Studies have found from 12-35% of the CBD is absorbed when taken sublingually 1, compared with between 4-20% orally 2.
Drops are available in several varieties. Full spectrum drops contain the “full spectrum” of substances in the hemp plant, including all cannabinoids. These drops can contain small legal quantities of THC. There are online accounts of people failing workplace drug tests when using full spectrum drops. CBD isolate drops contain only CBD itself dissolved in oil. These are safer it you are subject to drug testing, but they may not work as well. CBD seems to work better if other cannabinoids and terpenes are present. “Terpsolate” or “iso-terp” drops are usually CBD isolate with terpenes added back in. They may be more effective than isolate drops. A few companies even sell drops with CBD isolate and other cannabinoids added back in (but apparently no THC).
[We also have instructions for you to save some money and make your own CBD isolate drops and Terpsolate Drops with some minor cannabinoids added by starting with MCT oil and hemp CBD isolate powder.]
Dosing is tricky. Most people seem to use the drops 2-3 times a day. Most people using these over-the-counter drops usually take a much lower dose than the doses described in drug studies (1/10th as much at times). Experts often advise beginners to “start low and go slow.” Project CBD is a great place to get more ideas about dosing CBD, keeping in mind that they cover both THC (still illegal in many locations) and CBD. Check out sources here.
1 Heustis, M.A. (2007) ChemInform 38(47) 2 Schoedal, K.A. & Harrison, S.J. (2012) Current Pharmaceutical Design 18(12)