How Is CBD Absorbed Under The Tongue? – Sublingual Absorption

Women dropping CBD oil onto her tongue.

Taking CBD under the tongue is a speedy, reliable, and incredibly effective way of using CBD. But how does it work? And how can it fit into my daily routine? 

CBD is absorbed sublingually, or under the tongue, incredibly readily. The mouth tissues are laden with capillaries that will take CBD right through your bloodstream without any downtime or risk of losing potency through metabolism. 

Still wondering how it works? Here, we’ll break down the science of it, and give you some down-and-dirty tips on how to make your next experience with sublingual CBD your best one yet. 

How does sublingual CBD oil work?

Taking CBD sublingually is a delivery method in which you place CBD oil droplets under the tongue, hold them there, and then swallow the excess in order to enable faster and more potent absorption. This is a very popular method of taking CBD, as it is easy and can be easily integrated into daily routines with high effectiveness and fast rates of benefits. 

Sublingually delivered CBD works for three major reasons: the tissues in your mouth are very absorbent and will soak up supplements without the need to swallow, they are not connected to your digestive system, but rather are highly linked to a system of capillaries that connect to your entire bloodstream.

Your mouth is full of tiny little capillaries that help to transport blood to and from, and the actual tissues that cover them are porous and easy to penetrate with little droplets of CBD. When placed in the mouth for a minute or two, CBD makes its way through the mouth’s soft tissues, into the capillaries, into the bloodstream, and all over your body within minutes. This way, the CBD is able to travel fast without being bogged down by the time it takes to process and digest swallowed substances through the gut. There’s no middle-man: it’s able to get right to the bloodstream, where it can take effect and lend users full-body relief. 

If you’re trying to take CBD sublingually for the first time, it can be a bit tricky. Here are some steps and best practices when it comes to taking CBD under the tongue: 

  1. Position the dropper in your mouth tucked under your tongue. 
  2. Squeeze the dropper, depositing a few drops beneath your tongue before removing, If you’re unfamiliar with using droppers like the ones that come with a bottle of CBD oil, it can be helpful to practice just with the liquid on its own first in order to build confidence. 
  3. Allow the oil to sit beneath your tongue for a minute or so.

It can be helpful to use a mirror in order to ensure that you’re placing the drops in the correct place. Additionally, once you’ve waited the prescribed amount of time, you may opt to swish the remaining oil throughout your mouth for further absorption, or simply swallow it. 

Is sublingual CBD processed by the liver?

No, sublingual CBD is not processed by the liver. While the liver is an incredibly important organ for keeping our bodies safe from toxins, sublingual CBD’s ability to bypass liver processing can actually be a huge benefit for CBD users. 

One of the liver’s primary purposes in the body is to filter and detoxify drugs and other substances before allowing them to pass into the body. This process has allowed humans to survive small doses of toxins and drugs for millennia without incurring lasting damage to the body. However, the liver’s filtering mechanism doesn’t shut off, even when we’re ingesting beneficial compounds, like vital medications, or helpful supplements like CBD. 

In fact, a well-known antagonist to a supplement’s full absorption into the body is known as first-pass metabolism in pharmacology. In first-pass metabolism, substances ingested orally undergo a primary metabolism that robs them of their potency well before they hit the bloodstream. 

Fortunately, sublingual CBD bypasses this by avoiding digestion altogether. Since the CBD is absorbed through the porous tissues of the mouth, it goes directly into capillaries that direct it throughout the entire body without any interaction with the liver. In fact, the only sort of degradation in potency that sublingual CBD risks is degradation from mouth enzymes, which pale in comparison to the rigorous filtering and breakdown the CBD would endure when processed through digestive acids, enzymes, and liver processing. 

A graphic of where the liver sits in the human body.

How long do you have to hold CBD under your tongue?

The best length seems to be somewhere between 30 seconds to two minutes when keeping user comfort and efficacy in mind. This length of time seems to be perfect for seeing maximum positive effects without being overkill. 

With that being said, in a very literal sense, the length of time to hold CBD under ones’ tongue is not a precise science — in fact, it doesn’t really seem to be a science at all, since most of the practical advice is based on a mixture of many, many anecdotes, along with the common sense understanding of how long of a time would be too uncomfortable or yucky to keep a room temperature oil under ones’ tongue. 

Still, however, some users swear by the idea of keeping it in for as long as possible, which certainly makes sense — it would mean more absorption of the product, as some amount often gets left behind. Some will keep it in for anywhere from five minutes to two hours, with the hopes that this will boost absorption and get them the best effects they could hope for. 

While the efficacy of this method might be somewhat questionable, if you have the time and desire, go for it. We’re just letting you know — one minute should do the trick. 

How long does it take for CBD oil to work under the tongue?

Fortunately for impatient users, sublingually ingested CBD can start kicking in anywhere from under ten minutes to around thirty. This is one of the better rates of delivery for a CBD product, especially as compared with orally ingested products, which may take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Delivery methods like potent dab hits or intravenous injection have almost instantaneous delivery, but of course, these methods also have their own downsides, too. 

Some factors may impact how readily CBD is absorbed into the mouth sublingually, which may ultimately impact onset time. For instance, drinking, smoking, or eating before taking CBD sublingually may slow down absorption into your body. The amount that they can all impact absorption can be difficult to quantify. However, if you’re intending on getting the fastest results for your time, it may be helpful to avoid anything that’s interacting with the inside of your mouth for a little while before using sublingual CBD. 

Do you swallow CBD oil after holding it under the tongue?

Substances taken sublingually are not primarily swallowed. Instead, they are taken under the tongue, where they are left to sit for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. This way, the CBD is absorbed through the tissues in your mouth, which are porous and rich with capillaries leading to the bloodstream. Doing so allows for the product to take a speedy shortcut right into your bloodstream without all of the fuss of digestion. 

However, it is not at all uncommon for there to be leftover product in your mouth even after you have held it for the recommended length of time. If this is the case, swallowing the remainder is perfectly acceptable, though some users even recommend using the tongue to push the remaining oil into the gums and the sides of the mouth for even more absorption potential. Once you’ve done this, feel free to swallow knowing that you’re achieving great potency with your CBD product. 

Bottle of CBD oil standing on the table with two cannabis leafs laying on the table and the words CBD oil behind.

Sublingual CBD oil benefits

There are a few good reasons that sublingual CBD is one of the most popular methods of consuming CBD, including: 

Speedy delivery

One major benefit of taking CBD sublingually is faster processing — drugs and other substances that are taken sublingually are not absorbed through your digestive system, so your body does not have to take extra time to process it through your stomach and intestines. 

When consumed orally, drugs need to be broken down by the stomach, processed through the liver, and then absorbed. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. 

By contrast, sublingual absorption can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes, depending on the sort of product you’re using, in addition to individual factors. This speedy delivery is an incredible benefit; if it’s any testament to the power of sublingual absorption, certain medications that rely on speedy delivery like heart attack medications will be taken sublingually at the first sign of danger, with the relative assurance that the medication will begin to dilate blood vessels within 10-15 minutes. 

Quick delivery is basically always a benefit to a consumer. If you have chosen CBD to help manage symptoms of difficult ailments like anxiety, sleep disorders, stress or mood disorders, or chronic pain, fast onset can mitigate problematic symptoms that may interfere with your day as soon as you take it. Additionally, if you’re on a schedule crunch, you may not have time to wait for an edible or soft gel to kick in — in these instances, it can be great to just take a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue, such as in the morning before work, after lunch, or before bed. 

Increased potency

In addition to its fast-acting properties, many CBD users will also opt for sublingual CBD for its increased potency.

Sublingual CBD’s ability to bypass gut and liver processing is no joke — it is an incredible asset to CBD users. When CBD is processed through the gut and liver, it falls prey to the effect of what is called first-pass metabolism, which can rob you of a significant portion of the active CBD in your edible or soft gel.

Additionally, CBD absorbed through the digestive system must also brave the hostile environment of the gut, where stomach acids and digestive enzymes work to break down compounds as much as possible in order to enable absorption. For non-food substances like CBD, this can lead to degradation of the CBD, leaving valuable active CBD on the cutting room floor. 

Potency is, of course, a very important factor in a CBD buyer’s choice to use and purchase a particular product. Not only does improved potency mean more bang for one’s buck, it also means much better and longer-lasting effects. Similar to delivery speeds, this can be especially important if you use CBD for the purpose of helping with severe symptoms of certain ailments, or if you use CBD often and have begun to develop a tolerance. 

Guy in his 20's or early 30's with tattoo of bird on right inner bicep wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses holding bottle of CBD tincture and using eyedropper to apply under tongue.

Discreet use

Another major benefit of sublingual CBD is how simple and discreet it is to use. Other delivery methods, such as oral ingestion, could be slow and ineffective — however, even highly potent methods can come with their own hassles. 

Inhalation of CBD, for instance, is a highly quick and potent method of delivery, with users feeling effects within minutes. However, it may require undue hassle, equipment, or know-how in order to do it properly. For example, smokable CBD flower is a great option for quick relief at home, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find the time or space to do it before your morning commute or in the middle of the workday without attracting attention. Furthermore, this method can seem conspicuously similar to methods for smoking illegal cannabis products like marijuana, which may land you in hot water. 

In this way, sublingual CBD is a much less problematic option. It’s no exaggeration to say that all you need is yourself, your CBD bottle, and a dropper (which fortunately comes with the CBD bottle). It’s very easily incorporated into daily routines or taken on the go — where you can’t take a dab rig or a pipe, you can absolutely take a small CBD bottle once slipped into a purse or pocket.

Simple to use for a beginner

While CBD is increasingly being marketed toward demographics who have never used it before, beginning a foray into the world of CBD can be distressing given how much terminology, equipment, and special know-how are purported to go into using CBD. Some highly potent and fast-acting methods of CBD delivery are inaccessible to individuals who don’t know much about the industry or who are new to cannabis products in the first place. 

Fortunately, sublingual CBD is able to balance its effectiveness with relative ease-of-use. You don’t need to know much to use it — simply knowing where to place it, how much, and for how long can be enough in order to have a comfortable experience with the compound. Once again, there’s no equipment required, and the process itself is shockingly easy, on par with simply taking an edible (though it is much more effective). 

It would be undeniably nerve-wracking to try to smoke a CBD flower bowl, puff on a CBD cigarette, or set up a new dab rig as a first-timer, especially if you have no prior experience in non-CBD drugs. But placing a few drops under your tongue is accessible, simple, and even a bit fun.

Takeaway

Taking CBD sublingually can be a highly effective and highly convenient method of using CBD, especially for beginners, or individuals who need fast, potent relief without all of the fuss that can come with other delivery methods. It works by taking advantage of the mouth’s ability to absorb certain substances and easily transport them throughout the body without the bother of liver and gut metabolism that can cause a drop in effectiveness. 

If you’re looking to find a CBD oil to use sublingually, consider browsing through our directory of CBD products. In addition to CBD oils, we offer isolates, edibles, topical creams, pre-rolls, and more. All of our vendors have been tried before, and they are reputable companies that are focused on consumer health and improving trust.

Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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Our goal is to educate you on all things CBD, enabling you to navigate this vast unregulated industry like a pro. We know all too well how overwhelming it can be to find trustworthy brands in this crowded market, so we’re here to help!

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