What’s the Best Way to Use CBD? Vaping vs. Tinctures vs. Topicals

While most medicines only have one or two potential ingestion methods, there are tons of different ways to use CBD. With so many options on the market, figuring out the best way to use CBD can be confusing. In this guide, I break down all the pros and cons of different ways to use CBD and explain the mechanics behind how CBD works in vapor, tincture, and topical form.

How Does CBD Work?

According to scientific research, CBD appears to boost the functioning of your endocannabinoid system1, which is a loosely-defined grouping of discrete bodily systems that are all mediated by cannabinoids and cannabinoid-like compounds. Your endocannabinoid system, which responds to both endocannabinoids (naturally-occurring cannabinoids) and phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids), is involved in practically every bodily process that impacts your health and well-being. When your endocannabinoid system is balanced, your health improves, but when your endocannabinoid system isn’t operating correctly, you’re more at risk of illness and disease.

While the endocannabinoid system is a relatively vague concept, CBD appears to exert its reported beneficial effects in at least three specific ways:

1. 5-HT1A Activation

The 5-HT1A receptor is the most abundant serotonin receptor in your brain, and the more scientists learn about this critical receptor, the more 5-HT1A effects they discover. CBD appears to act as an agonist at the 5-HT1A receptors2, which means it seems to lead to more 5-HT1A activation. This activity at the 5-HT1A receptors helps explain CBD’s apparent antidepressive, anxiolytic, pain-fighting, and cardiovascular benefits.

2. TRPV1 Activation

The TRPV1 vanilloid receptor is critically involved in the processes of inflammation and inflammatory pain in your body. Acute inflammation is a necessary reaction to injury, but chronic inflammation can cause all sorts of diseases. CBD appears to activate the TRPV1 receptors3, which desensitizes them and increases their activation threshold. The TRPV1 receptors also appear to be involved in epilepsy.

3. GPR55 Suppression

The GPR55 “orphan” neuroreceptors are involved in gene expression and cancer. When your GPR55 receptors are overactive, you’re more at risk of cancer. This receptor also appears to be involved in maintaining proper bone mass, and research indicates that CBD might suppress GPR55 activation4 by acting as an antagonist.

Pipette hovering over test tubes with different fluid colors
Are some ways of using CBD more effective than others?

Bioavailability of CBD

Not every way to use CBD delivers the same benefits. To understand why, it’s important to touch on the subject of absorption rates, also known as bioavailability. The absorption rate of a substance, such as CBD, refers to how much of that substance your body can use without excreting it, and certain CBD ingestion methods offer better bioavailability than others.

Just because one CBD product is more bioavailable than another, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best product for your condition. As we go on, you’ll see that each CBD ingestion method offers its own benefits, and no single CBD regimen is right for every person or every condition.

What’s the Best Way to Use CBD Oil?

The best way to use CBD oil often depends on the condition you’re trying to treat:

1. Best Way to Use CBD for Pain

There are two types of pain: nociceptive (inflammatory) pain and neuropathic pain. You can use CBD to treat both types of pain in multiple ways. First, since inflammatory pain is mediated by body-wide levels of oxidative stress and CBD appears to activate the TRPV1 receptors, you might want to orally ingest CBD to provide long-term, systemic effects.

Vaping CBD also provides an even, systemic effect. However, the effects of vaporized CBD usually dissipate within 30 minutes while the effects of orally-ingested CBD last for 4-6 hours. While vaping CBD might be great when pain initially sets in, it isn’t the best way to treat pain that persists throughout the day.

Applying CBD topically might be one of the best ways to use CBD for pain. Most types of CBD topicals exert the majority of their effects at the site of application; if you have arthritic pain in your knee, for instance, applying a CBD topical directly to your knee joint might provide potent local effects. If your CBD topical is water-soluble, however, it will absorb into your bloodstream and carry cannabidiol throughout your body.

2. Best Way to Use CBD for Arthritis

Arthritic pain is inflammatory, so maximizing CBD’s reported anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects5 is the name of the game when you use this cannabinoid for arthritis. Ingesting CBD orally might offer some benefits for people with arthritic pain. Reducing systemic levels of inflammation and oxidative stress will, of course, reduce inflammation in your arthritic joints as well.

However, applying CBD topically might be the best way to use CBD for arthritis. Not only will the right CBD topical absorb into your bloodstream to provide systemic effects, but effective CBD topicals deliver excellent bioavailability directly at the site of your pain. Whichever joint suffers from arthritic pain, applying a couple of dabs of CBGenius Scented Topical CBD Cream 1000mg a few times per day might be a great way to treat arthritis right at its source.

3. Best Way to Use CBD for Migraines

While migraines are generally caused by serotonin disorders in your brain, strain in the facial and head muscles can also give you headaches. Therefore, when you feel a migraine setting in, applying a CBD topical to the exposed skin on your face and head might reduce the severity of your symptoms, but vaping CBD could be the most effective way to combat migraines head-on.

Vaping CBD offers some of the quickest effects of any CBD ingestion method. When you feel a migraine coming on, speed is of the essence, and acting quickly with a CBD vape pen might be just what you need to stop your migraine symptoms from becoming overpowering. Remember, though, that the underlying reason for your migraines is a chronic neurotransmitter imbalance, so you might want to take a daily dose or oral CBD as well to help balance your endocannabinoid system.

Finger applying lotion to skin outdoors
Should you inhale CBD, swallow it, or apply it topically?

Best Way to Apply CBD

Let’s cover some more details on the top three ways to use CBD:

1. Benefits of Vaping CBD

Vaping CBD is easy even for beginners. Unlike nicotine vapor, CBD vapor is very mild, and this application method delivers instant effects. As soon as you inhale a puff of CBD vapor into your lungs, tiny cells called alveoli start processing this cannabinoid and delivering it into your bloodstream. Remember, however, that one of the primary functions of an alveolus is to filter out contaminants entering your lungs, which means that the bioavailability of vaping CBD isn’t 100%.

2. How to Use CBD Drops

If you’re swallowing your CBGenius CBD tincture without holding it under your tongue first, you’re missing out on the benefits of CBD. Since your liver does such a good job of filtering out the CBD you swallow, oral ingestion of CBD isn’t very bioavailable on its own. When combined with sublingual administration, however, the bioavailability of oral CBD skyrockets.

The area under your tongue is covered by a highly permeable mucous membrane. When you hold CBD under your tongue, cannabidiol molecules freely pass through this mucous membrane and into your bloodstream. Sublingual administration of CBD offers almost 100% bioavailability, and the longer you hold your CBD tincture under your tongue, the more CBD will absorb via this highly bioavailable route of administration.

The one detriment of sublingually administering CBD is that this ingestion method doesn’t last very long. That’s why taking CBD orally offers the best of both worlds; sublingual administration of CBD offers immediate effects with a great absorption rate, and swallowing your tincture afterward offers mild effects over a period of multiple hours.

3. How to Apply CBD Topical Cream

You can apply CBD topical cream to practically any part of your body, and no matter where you rub a CBD topical into your skin, it will absorb rapidly and may offer benefits within 10 minutes or less. Most CBD topical creams are water-based, which means they absorb completely without leaving an oily residue behind. For these types of CBD topicals, which are generally superior to oil-based CBD topicals, all you need to do is apply a layer of cream to your skin and wait about a minute for it to absorb before you cover your skin with clothes.

How long do CBD topical effects last? Generally, around 1-3 hours. Therefore, you’ll need to apply your CBD topical multiple times per day to enjoy the best effects. Keep in mind, however, that some CBD users report that the effects of CBD topicals can last for up to 24 hours, so this administration method might be a great way to keep aches and pains away all night long.

How to Use CBD: The Bottom Line

There’s no right or wrong way to use CBD. Each application method has its own benefits, and in the end, you might want to try vaping CBD, orally ingesting it, and applying it topically simultaneously. The best thing about using CBD is that this all-natural, plant-based substance doesn’t appear to have any serious side effects6, so there’s no need to hold back as you experiment with the benefits of CBD to their fullest.

Here at CBGenius, we strongly believe that the science of CBD speaks for itself. Now that you understand the primary mechanisms of action of CBD and how this cannabinoid enters your body via three common modes of administration, you have the scientific knowledge at your fingertips to use CBD in the way that’s most effective for your particular condition. While some CBD producers might rely on guesswork and vague marketing gimmicks to gain traction, we want you to be as educated as possible on CBD so you can make the best possible decisions for your health. Every business thrives on genuine trust, and the only way to build trust is with clarity and honesty.

With CBGenius, it’s easy to explore all the different CBD ingestion methods we’ve covered as you find the best way to use CBD for yourself. With CBD vape cartridges, CBD tinctures, CBD topicals, and a variety of other unique product options to offer, we’ve got you covered as you explore the different ways to use cannabidiol. Visit our Shop page to check out the full CBGenius catalog, and remember that we’ll be happy to answer your questions if you reach out.


  1. The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain
  2. Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors.
  3. Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation
  4. The putative cannabinoid receptor GPR55 affects osteoclast function in vitro and bone mass in vivo
  5. Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress
  6. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies