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A common question to ask “Which method of CBD consumption is best for me?” CBD comes in many forms such as topicals which are applied to the skin, as capsules edibles like gummies, tinctures or vapes. How do you decide which form is the best for you?

To find out, we need to understand each method.

  • Topicals: They include creams, lotions or oils. Topicals are rubbed onto your skin. Pain and inflammation relieve is their main function.
  • Capsules: They consist of two tubes each closed off at one end. The two pieces fit snugly into each other and dried plant particles or plant extract is contained within the capsule. Occasionally, you can find CBD oil in a gelcap, a hollow “container” made of gelatin that is made to hold a specific amount of an oil or tincture containing CBD.
  • Gummies: Edibles that are created using a specific quantity of CBD and can be eaten just like any other gummy, cookie, infused fruit, brownie, or piece of hard candy. Most edibles can be made with or without sugar.
  • Tinctures: Drops and tinctures are a liquid form of CBD. They can be flavored or retain the “hemp-y” flavor of the original plant. Those types of formulations were traditionally made by extracting a herb with alcohol. For the most part, CBD which will be used to formulate a tincture is extracted from hemp with food grade alcohol or supercritical carbon dioxide. The alcohol or carbon dioxide is removed and the extract is then dissolved in some light oil like coconut oil, glycerin or propylene glycol. Tinctures are usually ingested by mouth but can be used as topical applications.
  • Vapes: These vape oils are meant to be inhaled, and not ingested. Oil based CBD products are heated to just below combustion temperatures which will turn it into a vapor, hence vapes. You need some sort of device like a vaping pen to serve as a source of controlled heat when engaged in vaping.

Advantages and Disadvantages for Each Form of CBD

There are advantages and disadvantages to each form of CBD. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages for each.


Topicals are best for “local” application on the skin. In this context, local means it will only affect the area where it is applied rather than your whole body. A topical gets absorbed directly into the skin above an area that may be painful or inflamed.

The disadvantage here relates to the need for a large quantity of CBD so that sufficient material can be absorbed into the skin and work on, for example, the muscles or joints beneath that area of skin. Why? One of the main functions of your skin is to serve as a barrier between your tissues and the environment. That barrier function prevents all the CBD in say a dime sized quantity of a topical formulation will be absorbed. So, to get enough CBD through your skin so that enough CBD is able to get to the muscle or joint, a substantial quantity of CBD has to be in the topical formulation. That can be expensive and you may need to apply it often.

However, the use of a topical preparation is the best way to deal with a sore muscle or joint if the rest of you feels just fine! When a topical application is effective, it usually can be felt within 20 minutes.


Thought of as a pill like form of CBD. The advantages include the fact that it is easy to know how much CBD you are ingesting and you can easily ensure that you are getting the same amount in every capsule.

You can also modify your dose of CBD as needed and relatively easily figure out exactly how much you need to achieve your goal. For example (it’s not a dosage recommendation), if your goal is better sleep, you can use a 25 mg capsule of CBD and increase it as needed to provide the best sleep for you.

The disadvantage is that you can only modify the dose (as an example) in 25 mg increments at a time. If your real “best” dose is 75 mg, that works great, but if your ideal dose is 40 mg you would be either too low by 15 mg if you take one 25 mg capsule or too high by 10 mg if you take two 25 mg capsules.

Another disadvantage associated with CBD in capsule form is the need to swallow pills. That can pose a problem for many people.

Finally, anything taken by mouth cannot be expected to have an effect for 1-2 hours. The capsule has to be digested, the contents have to dissolve and be absorbed into the blood and then circulated throughout the entire body. Some CBD is potentially lost due to the actions of the liver. This is known as “first pass metabolism” and it can result in some loss of CBD.

Gummies and other Edibles

Gummies and other edibles have the advantage of being able to take them anywhere without any worries. Vapes can provoke “2ndlooks” or not be allowed in stores etc, but you can enjoy a gummy or other edible wherever and whenever.

Anything edible taken by mouth has the same limitation associated with capsules. It takes longer for the CBD to circulate through your body. Absorption of CBD may be limited by factors such as your general diet, how well you chew the gummy or edible and whether you take it on an empty stomach or not.

Generally, an edible will “work” a bit faster when taken on an empty stomach. Another advantage of gummies and edibles is that they can taste great!


Tinctures, when taken by mouth, they don’t have to be digested. CBD and other beneficial phytochemicals can be absorbed relatively quickly by your body. You don’t have to swallow all the tincture either. You can hold it under your tongue for 30 to 60 seconds for even faster absorption.

Taste, however, is one disadvantage for many. Unflavored CBD tinctures have an earthy taste that may not be palatable to some people. Most companies, however, have lots of flavors to choose from, so it’s pretty easy to find a tincture with a taste you like.

Finally, when using tinctures it can be more difficult to accurately measure a dose. The droppers supplied with bottles of CBD tincture are not always as accurate as they may seem.


Vapes are absorbed the fastest because inhaling the vapor pulls gaseous CBD directly into the lungs. Almost immediately (within a few minutes), it will be absorbed into the blood. With just a few heartbeats, CBD will be circulating throughout your body.

One of the major disadvantages associated with vapes is the requirement to inhale a heated oil directly into your lungs. While the problem was relatively limited and restricted mainly to disreputable sellers marketing insufficiently refined vape liquids, we have recently noted a problem with people becoming quite sick after vaping.

We don’t really know what specific damage vaping may cause, but if you are afflicted by severe pain, vaping is the fastest way to obtain relief. For others not suffering from severe pain or afflicted by severe nausea, it is not generally recommended.

James T. writes about education, science, music, and art. He has a Psychology degree from University of Central Florida and an Information Technology degree from Phoenix University.

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