CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids—a specific type of healthy plant compound—that are found in cannabis. Unlike THC, another popular and well-studied cannabinoid, CBD is non-intoxicating. This means that it doesn’t come with the head rush of marijuana, but it also means that it takes longer to kick in than a hit of weed or an edible would.
This slower burn is due to the way CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). You can read a full explainer on the ECS here, but the gist is that it regulates a lot of body processes through a collection of receptors scattered throughout the nervous system. THC binds directly to these receptors—including ones located in the brain—setting off an immediate and palpable reaction in the body and mind.
CBD, on the other hand, seems to work primarily by blocking the enzymes that normally break down other cannabinoids that the body naturally produces (called endocannabinoids). It does slow slowly and steadily; the cumulative effects are really what people are after with this compound.
“The studies show that for CBD to get to a steady-state level in your bloodstream, it takes about two to six days,” explains Goldstein. “So taking one dose and ruling it out at that point is not scientifically valid.”
Before assessing CBD’s effectiveness, Goldstein recommends taking it daily for a minimum of two to four weeks. That being said, she says that “we are different in the way we absorb and metabolize and respond to these compounds.” This two- to four-week window should give most people an idea of how their bodies react to CBD, but you might need more or less time to gauge how it’s working.
“My analogy is that if I hit the gym tomorrow, I don’t have muscles the day after,” she adds. “We’re all so used to a pill that makes us feel better right away—but we pay the price in side effects. Natural takes longer, but it’s less harsh on your system.”