By: Elements of Green

An eye dropper dropping a drop of CBD Oil into a glass bottle.

Millions of people around the world are now using CBD, also known as cannabidiol, and reporting that it helps them with anxiety, pain, inflammation, sleep problems, and more. However, some people report no effect at all from using CBD.  What is happening in those cases?  For some people, CBD does not seem to have an effect no matter what they do, and for those people another product may be appropriate.  But for most people, if CBD is not working there may be a fix which allows them to enjoy the benefits other CBD users receive from using it.

If you have used CBD in the past and not had a good effect from it, there are several possible reasons. This article asks the question: how long does cbd take to work. It goes through some of those reasons and may give you cause to try CBD again or to try a different CBD product. There are several reasons that CBD does not work for some users, and some users are affected by more than one reason. The main reasons are the perception of the user, duration of use, bioavailability, dosing, improper form factor, and use of bad products.

An illustration of the CBD compound.

Let’s start with a review of what CBD is and how it can help people. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a complex group of cell receptors found throughout our bodies. In the UK and Europe, CBD is generally extracted from hemp plants which have a minimal amount of THC, the component of cannabis which makes the user high.  What that all means is that a proper CBD product will have a lot of cannabidiol in it and minimal THC or no THC at all.

Expectations vs. Reality

The lack of THC can sometimes cause users to have an experience different from their expectations. When someone smokes or vapes a THC cannabis product, the effect is strong and nearly immediate. The user knows she has consumed cannabis, feels it immediately and often intensely. The same effect is true with THC cannabis edible products, though it occurs less quickly. CBD does not work like that. Some users get an immediate effect from vaping CBD flower, but most users take their CBD by tincture or oil, as an edible product, or as a cream or lotion on the skin. The effect of CBD is more gradual and subtle so a user expecting an experience similar to that of THC may not even notice the CBD when it is working.

Some People Need to Use CBD for Longer

A related reason users may not find that CBD is working for them is that it sometimes takes repeated use of CBD to gain the benefits of using CBD. You may ask yourself: How long does CBD take to work? Most CBD users see some effect within 30 minutes but it can take longer depending on the person, dosing, and bioavailability, all of which we cover below. For some users, CBD must build up in the body over time and it can be weeks before a beneficial effect is achieved. It all depends on the person, and each of us is different. For those users, CBD does not work like a painkiller or an antacid, where the effect is closely related to when they use the product.

CBD Oil in a glass bottle with a Marijuana leaf next to it.

How Your Body Processes CBD is Important

Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a product you ingest gets to where it can work for you. It is the reason humans cook much of our food, for example. Cooked food has the same number of calories as raw food, but the body absorbs more calories from the cooked food. Like with food, bioavailability also affects how CBD works in the body. If the CBD never gets to the endocannabinoid system, it cannot do anything for the user. CBD must work its way to the endocannabinoid system through the skin, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the stomach and liver, depending on how the user has ingested the CBD.

Those three factors, expectations, timing, and bioavailability, all are issues in the next few reasons CBD may not be working for you.

Dosage is a Huge Factor in Effectiveness

How much CBD you use can have a profound effect on whether it helps you. Some products have tiny amounts of CBD which cannot be expected to have an effect. Other products have CBD presented in a way that the body’s chances of absorbing it properly are small. One company even sells a CBD pillowcase which it says can withstand machine washing!  More common are dosages which are too small for an individual user. A heavier person needs a larger dose of CBD to see an effect than a lighter person.

An illustration of CBD Oil being poured into a eye dropper.

Bioavailability is also a factor in the effect CBD has on the body. How much food you have recently eaten if you use an edible product, your current health, and more can all affect how much of the CBD product you take is available to you.  Some people who are not seeing an effect from CBD can benefit from taking more of it. Bioavailability changes depending on how you take CBD.

Are You Using the Right Product?

How you take the CBD, the form factor, can be a huge part of whether it produces the desired effect. A cream or lotion is intended for localized pain and inflammation – it will not help with anxiety or sleep issues as well as an oil, tincture, edible, or vape. A tincture may be more helpful for general wellness applications like anxiety, but it may also be less effective for the localized pain which a lotion is designed for.

Are You Really Buying CBD?

For most people, the most likely reason that CBD is not working is that they are not taking a good CBD product! CBD is a relatively new category, and not all producers are making good products. Even more importantly, some producers which sell CBD products are using less CBD than they advertise or even selling products with no CBD at all!  A study last year by the Centre for Medical Cannabis in the United Kingdom found that 38% of the products they tested had less than half of the CBD advertised. It is incredibly important to get your CBD from a trusted source which ensures that the makers are conducting tests to ensure that you are getting the CBD that you are paying for. The test results are usually collected in a Certificate of Analysis. Our company,, is one company which requires these certificates from our suppliers. We insist on lab testing and we include the testing certificate on the description page of many of the products we sell.

Action Items

Now that we know the reasons CBD may not work for some people we can formulate a plan to make things right. If you have tried CBD in the past and it has not worked for you, you may benefit from completing some or all of the following action items.

Reset your expectations:  CBD is not like THC and it is often not like a painkiller or an antacid. The effects are more subtle and can often take time to occur. In most cases that time is within 30 minutes for a tincture or an hour or so for an edible, and the effect is more subtle than with THC cannabis. If you need a more immediate effect to feel like CBD is working for you, you might consider a vape product, which has a faster effect which is sometimes more noticeable.

A hand holding a small alarm clock.

Keep at it: While most people see at least some effect after a short time, some CBD users need the cannabidiol to accumulate in the body before they see an effect. This process can take several weeks for some people.

Change your dosage: There is no standardized dosage of CBD for most people and most applications. If you are using a product which only delivers 10 mg/day and you are a larger person or your body or the product allows for less bioavailability than other people, you are unlikely to see a desired effect. Consider gradually increasing the amount of CBD you take. CBD is well tolerated even in high dosages by most people, but keep an eye on how you feel. If you start achieving your desired effect, increasing the dosage is helping. If you start experiencing negative effects, it could be that CBD is simply not the right product for you.

Change your product: If you are using a CBD product which is intended for one use but you are seeking a different outcome, changing how you take the product can be a big benefit. If you tried a lotion without an effect, consider an oil or vape CBD product. If you find that edibles don’t work for you, consider a tincture. Another product consideration is purified CBD or full-spectrum CBD.  Some products have CBD as the only cannabinoid in it – not only has THC been removed, but other non-psychoactive cannabinoids have also been removed.  This is a good product for some people – there is a prescription CBD drug for some forms of epilepsy which uses purified CBD.  Most CBD products leave those other non-psychoactive cannabinoids in the formulas and many people report that these cannabinoids interact with CBD and with the body to create what is called the “entourage effect.”  The cannabinoids working together produce a better effect for those customers than CBD alone.  If you are using full-spectrum CBD you might consider switching to purified CBD and vice versa.

Change your source: The most common reason that CBD does not work for some patients is that they are not getting the product advertised.  If you are buying CBD from a source you do not trust you should change how you get your CBD.  Insist that each CBD company you buy from conducts lab testing on its products to ensure that you are getting the product you think you are.

With CBD receiving positive reviews from so many people who report good effects from using it, there is a pretty good chance that if it is not working for you, addressing the issues above may help you to get the best possible results from your CBD.