How Long Does CBD Stay in Your System?

By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

These days, it is everywhere you look. It’s on shelves in the drug store, television screens, roadside billboards, and, of course, the internet. Your parents might have asked you about it. Your grandparents might have even asked you about it. It is cannabidiol, also known as CBD, and it’s arguably the hottest wellness trend to hit the scene in years.

CBD is one of more than 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids that derive from the cannabis plant. While some people associate cannabis with the act of marijuana and getting high, what they don’t understand is that the reason for that euphoric feeling isn’t because of the entire plant—rather, it’s the result of one cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC.

CBD and THC share a nearly identical composition, including the same number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. On a chemical level, the difference between the two involves the arrangement of those atoms. But, behaviorally, CBD does not cause users to get high as THC does.

High-quality CBD offers a variety of health benefits (which we’ll touch on a bit below), including some of the same that you can achieve with THC use. Still, the closeness of the two cannabinoids often leaves people curious about the CBD experience. Typical questions someone might ask range from “Will CBD show up on a drug test?” to “What does CBD taste like?” But today, we’re here to tackle one of the most frequently asked questions about CBD use: “How long does CBD stay in your system?”

Among wellness products, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s as versatile and adaptable as CBD. There’s essentially a product for everyone, with variations in delivery mechanisms and flavors that cater to even the most discriminate users and palates.

The two main types of CBD products involve full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD encompasses at least trace amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC. On the contrary, CBD isolate is the term used to signify pure CBD. Any CBD products touting this distinction undergo a filtration process that strips away non-CBD cannabinoids. People who want to avoid a false positive result on a drug screening will often use CBD isolate for peace of mind.

Delivery mechanisms describe the way in which someone consumes CBD. Some users opt to vape CBD, utilizing a device called a vape pen that can heat CBD oils into vapor. While many medical experts have spoken out against the dangers of vaping — including Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — vaporizing may allow someone to feel the effects of the CBD faster.

Users may still realize the positive effects of CBD through safer forms of consumption methods, including dosing with CBD tinctures sublingually (under the tongue), through lotion or another topical application, and in CBD edibles like gummies.

Different CBD products, doses, and strengths can influence the period of time in which the CBD stays in your body and when it leaves your system. Because of those variables, most people will evaluate each product based on the benefits received. Here are just some of the benefits you might experience when you use CBD:

How CBD affects your body

Those benefits are possible because of a regulatory, cell-signaling system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Though it plays a vital part in how our systems operate daily, the ECS is a relatively new concept. In fact, researchers only started investigating what it does and how it works in the 1990s.

What they found was that the ECS has a direct impact on critical human functions like memory, mood, pain, digestive system, sleep, energy, and balance. It’s continuously working to help your body reach homeostasis, or a state of stability devoid of extreme highs and lows. The ECS feeds off cannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2 spread throughout our bodies.

CB1 receptors have a significant presence in our brains, along with a few other areas like the lungs and cardiovascular system, while CB2 receptors are abundant in immune cells. The location of these receptors influences the effect that CBD and THC will have on someone.

The reason THC causes someone to get high is that it primarily binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, while CBD binds to the CB2 receptors that handle immune responses like inflammation.

How long CBD stays in your system

Nailing down a precise answer to the question, “How long does CBD stay in your system?” is a bit like trying to hit a moving target. Depending on where you look, you may get a different answer. The reason for that is because CBD is still in its relative infancy, receiving a fraction of the attention that THC has.

You should understand that measuring how long CBD stays in your system involves the term “elimination half-life,” which means how long it takes for your body to process out half of the substance you ingested.

The first study of interest, an account completed by researchers at Drake University and the University of Wisconsin, claims that the half-life of orally administered CBD is about 1 to 2 days. However, another study conducted on Huntington’s disease patients, surmised that the elimination half-life of CBD ranged from 2 to 5 days.

Then there’s the 2018 study that touched on the average half-life for different delivery mechanisms of CBD. For that study, researchers’ findings ranged from 11 hours after nebulizer administration of 20mg to 31 hours after smoking to 2 to 5 days after chronic oral administration.

Factors that affect CBD absorption

There are many variables that impact the way your body absorbs CBD, which can lead to two seemingly similar people having markedly different experiences. But the three main factors include metabolism, food intake, and the CBD product you use.

The first-pass effect, also known as the first-pass metabolism, refers to ingesting CBD orally — instead of through the bloodstream. The downside to this method is that the liver must first metabolize the CBD, which ends up breaking down or wasting some of its potency. On the other hand, taking CBD oils under the tongue reaches your bloodstream directly, so you can avoid processing out a chunk of its power.

When and what you last ate also has an impact on CBD absorption. Someone who takes CBD on an empty stomach may feel the effects faster than someone who is full.

And as we mentioned with the first-pass effect, the CBD product you’re using has as much of an impact on absorption as any of the other variables. The body’s ability to absorb the CBD into the bloodstream is known as bioavailability, so products with a higher bioavailability will pack more of a punch.

How long does it take for the effects to kick in?

The key to identifying how long it will take for the effects to kick in revolves around the CBD dose, strength, and product. Products ingested orally take an extended amount of time to go into effect because of the lengthy journey they must take throughout the body. Meanwhile, products that reach the bloodstream directly will result in the fastest effects.

How long do the effects of CBD last?

Some of the same criteria that controls how long it takes for CBD’s effects to begin also determines how long those effects will last. For instance, it makes sense that a smaller dose will leave your system faster than a larger dose. Also, ingestible products may seem to last longer because they take longer to kick in.

Oh, and before you start trying exceedingly high doses to reap all of CBD’s many rewards, just know that it does have some negative side effects that can include diarrhea and fatigue.

Should you be worried about taking CBD?

Despite the possibility of some minor side effects, consuming CBD is safe across a wide variety of delivery mechanisms. Following a lengthy research assignment, the World Health Organization confirmed that opinion, saying “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

Now that we’ve answered, “How long does CBD stay in your system?” it’s essential that you listen to your body and start slow as you begin to explore. If you are new to the scene and concerned about the chance of a false positive drug test result, look for CBD isolate products with no or virtually undetectable levels of THC.

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