There has been a ton of research and even more anecdotal reporting about using CBD for pain management. Whether it’s for arthritis or post-workout soreness, thousands of people all over the world have moved away from habit-forming painkillers to all-natural CBD oil.

There are a number of reasons to take CBD and there are also a lot of ways to take CBD. We’ll dig into the three most common ways to use it and which seems to have the most effect. Check the FAQs at the bottom for any questions you might still have.

Taking CBD Sublingually

CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it’s a natural compound found in all hemp family plants. CBD binds with receptors in the brain called endocannabinoid receptors, or ECRs for short. The most direct way to get the CBD to the brain is to expose the capillaries in the mouth to the chemical.

Most CBD oils are designed for just that. While you can put CBD oil into salad dressings or even health smoothies, most people use the dropper for the oil to place a dose of the supplement right under the tongue. The capillaries under the tongue can absorb various compounds and deliver them straight to the bloodstream without going through the digestive system. That’s one of the reasons sugar is so pleasing to eat, by the way.

With sublingual, or under the tongue application, CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream most quickly and moves to the brain and its ECRs more quickly than if it were to go through the digestive tract.

Oral, under the tongue use of CBD oil is generally preferred for people with long term or chronic pain. If you suffer from arthritis or a recurring pain from an old injury, then CBD oil may be best for you.

Creams and Salves

Another popular route for taking CBD is to apply it directly to an affected area with a cream, salve, or even a gel. This application has a few benefits that recommend it, though the science behind the efficacy of this approach is a little more obscure.

When you take CBD under the tongue it makes its way into the bloodstream and then to the ECRs in the brain. When you take CBD orally and on into the digestive tract, again, it will make its way into the bloodstream. With topical, or on the surface, applications, there isn’t a wait for transmission through the blood to the ECRs in the brain. Instead, the CBD interacts directly with receptors in the skin.

We did find an article by Discover online that has some reporting on how the ECRs in the skin may be more absorbent and quicker than waiting for oral or sublingual ingestion.

In the case of using a salve or cream, you simply apply a dab or a few passes with the roller to the affected area. This seems to be best when you need help with itchy skin, joint pain, post-workout soreness, or even diabetic neuropathy (foot pain, usually, associated with complications from long term diabetes).

Digestive Tract

One of the first and most popular ways of taking CBD oil was orally in edible forms. Many users prefer gummies, similar to vitamins and other supplements. Another way of taking CBD into the digestive tract includes using it as an oil in cooking (like baked goods), adding it to honey sticks for sweetening beverages, or in gel capsule form.

The benefit of taking any supplement into the digestive tract is the way the body absorbs nutrients. Certain compounds increase or decrease the body’s ability to absorb other compounds. One of the most common examples is fiber’s interaction with sugar.

When we drink a fruit juice our digestive tract absorbs every single gram of sugar in the drink. But when we eat a piece of fruit, our body must work harder to break down the fiber and cellulose of the flesh of the fruit to extract the sugar. This means our body is expending calories doing the digestive work, and possibly not absorbing all of the sugar that’s locked away.

In a similar way, many vitamins can only be absorbed along with fats. For instance, vitamins A, D, E, and K can only be taken into the body when taken in with a fat of some kind.

All of that is to explain that some people believe that absorbing CBD in an oil form into the digestive tract increases metabolization of the cannabidiol itself. This method also takes the body a little longer to absorb the and relay the CBD to all the ECRs. Absorbing a nutrient over time may be more beneficial for someone with low-grade pain that doesn’t have an acute onset.

In other words, if you have a minor joint or skin issue that takes longer to cause irritation in the day, then gummies or capsules may be the way to go.


We’ve covered three of the most basic ways of taking CBD for pain management. There are really no wrong answers. But there are a few notes of warning. First and foremost, consult your doctor. There are some medications that CBD use may complicate. Talk to your physician for a full explanation of how your medications may interact with cannabis products.

The second thing to remember is that CBD does not cure any underlying condition. Which means that taking CBD won’t fix the health problems causing your diabetic foot pain, it will only make the pain go away for a while. You shouldn’t replace your prescribed treatment with pain management except at a doctor’s direction.

Lastly, every CBD producer we researched recommended starting with the lowest dose you can. That way you don’t overdo it, and if you need to, you can always increase the strength of CBD you use.


What is Under-the-Tongue Best for? 

Generally, we’ve seen sublingual oil is best for chronic and acute pain associated with arthritis or other long term pain issue.

What is Topical Application Best for? 

We saw the best reviews for using creams and salves for immediate relief of joint pain or muscle soreness directly after an activity. We also saw people use it for diabetic foot pains, skin itchiness, or any other skin irritation not related to an open wound.

What is Consumable CBD Best for? 

Many people use edible forms of CBD for low-grade, non-acute pain. This could be anything from a slightly sore muscle from a workout a few days ago to an elbow that only flares up every once in a while.

What Medications Interact with CBD? 

First and foremost, if you are on any medication you should consult your doctor before changing or adding any other supplement. We did find that some of the most common medications that have negative interactions with CBD are heart medications, antidepressants, and anything that makes you drowsy.

Can CBD Cure My Underlying Condition? 

No. The FDA has not cleared CBD for the treatment or cure of any disease or condition.

About the Author

Steven has been into health, nutrition, and fitness for over 10 years, and has a degree in Physical Education and Coaching. He is an expert in supplements and is devoted to helping his clients achieve their fitness goals and live their best lives.

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