Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating compound derived from hemp, has become a wellness staple for millions of Americans. But as a surge of new CBD brands have emerged to meet increased consumer demand, numerous products with misleading language and outsized claims have crowded the market. If you’ve heard positive stories about CBD’s effects and taken it yourself — only to be disappointed by the lack of results — you’re not alone. In fact, the FDA, which has been monitoring claims by CBD companies in the U.S., has sent dozens of warning letters since 2015 to brands that made egregious health claims about CBD. Other agencies have reported on the various levels of CBD actually found, or not found, in many of the tested products on the market today.
Apart from false claims, there are actually a number of reasons your CBD may not be working for you, including the source of hemp, dosage, consumption method and more. Here, we’ll shed light on six reasons why your CBD isn’t working, and what you can do instead.
In This Article
With no current manufacturing or labeling standards in place, the CBD market is teeming with products that are untested, underdosed, contaminated or downright ineffective. Ultimately, the quality of the CBD product you purchase is connected to the quality of the hemp used. As you navigate online retailers, be sure to check their websites for transparent reporting on all products. Look for details on the manufacturer’s production process.
You should also review any certificates of analysis (CoAs) from third-party lab tests as well as the brand’s own testing that can confirm the potency of the CBD as well as any contaminants or additives that you won’t find on the product label. (Some brands will have this information readily accessible, but don’t be afraid to email them and ask if you can’t find what you’re looking for.)
Though CBD brands will often list a recommended dose of CBD, the amount you should be taking actually depends on several factors, including your body weight and unique body chemistry. Furthermore, the type of CBD formula in the product you buy — whether it’s a water-dispersible (often referred to as water-soluble) or lipid-soluble formulation, for instance — can have a big impact on the bioavailability of CBD. For example, even if you take a serving that contains 25 milligrams of CBD, your body may only be absorbing a fraction of that if it’s an oil-based product.
If you’re just beginning your CBD journey or trying a new product, it’s best to start low — 10 milligrams per dose if water-soluble. You may need a higher dose of oil-based CBD because of the poor bioavailability. Gradually increase your dose over time. Keep a journal where you track your daily consumption and write down details about how you feel while taking it.
Not all CBD is equal, and some take longer for your body to metabolize than others. In 2021, researchers from Colorado State University published a double-blind review of different CBD products in the journal Pharmaceuticals to examine CBD pharmacokinetics (the movement of a substance into, through and out of your body). What they found is that CBD that has been mixed with food-grade emulsifiers to become water-dispersible (NextEvo’s formulation) can be absorbed within 10 minutes, much faster than lipid-soluble CBD suspended in a carrier oil, which took at least 60 minutes for participants to absorb. So if the CBD product you purchased is an oil, you may be experiencing results much later than the time you actually take it.
As scientists noted in the study Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics, CBD is very much hydrophobic. This means that it doesn’t mix with water — which makes up about 60 percent of the human body. Many CBD products available to consumers are suspended in a carrier such as MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil, and a study in “Frontiers in Pharmacology” reports a low bioavailability of such CBD (only 5 to 10 percent is absorbed). Instead, new innovative CBD technology that utilizes emulsive ingredients and designed with the human body in mind can yield the greatest CBD bioavailability.
CBD comes in a variety of forms — gummies, capsules, tinctures, vaporizers and more — and if one method of consumption isn’t working for you, then it might be time to try another. As you explore different CBD products, be sure to read product labels carefully. If you take gummies, you might be ingesting unwanted binders, flavorings and other ingredients, and vaping may be damaging to the lungs. As the World Health Organization reported in 2020, pure CBD is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” so taking a capsule that contains minimal but effective ingredients may yield positive results without other undesirable additives.
CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex cell-signaling network that may play a role in sleep, mood, appetite, memory and more. Each person’s ECS is unique, and factors such as genetics, biochemistry and metabolism may impact your individual tolerance levels. Since nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution, don’t be discouraged if you try a CBD product that doesn’t seem to be working — instead, try a new dose or a different product that has better bioavailability, and continue until you find the product that’s right for you.
If you’ve tried several products already and your CBD isn’t working, consider opting for a research-backed brand that uses innovative techniques to engineer CBD products your body can actually absorb. NextEvo’s patented SmartSorb technology can help you absorb CBD faster than oil-based products, getting it into your system in as little as 10 minutes. Learn more about our science here.
James Han is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Warning Letters and Test Results for Cannabidiol-Related Products
The Merck Manual - Overview of Pharmacokinetics
Chemistry & Biodiversity - “Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics”
Frontiers in Pharmacology - “A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans”
World Health Organization - Cannabidiol (CBD): Pre-Review Report
Healthline - A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System