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CBD Oil vs Acetaminophen: Which is Better for Targeted Relief?

Written By Ellese Symons Oct 5th 2023
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The discomfort you feel after strenuous activity is caused by microscopic trauma to your overworked muscles. The resulting inflammation can make you feel worse. Although your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to build back stronger, the pain can be hard to ignore. 

Although doctors have been recommending acetaminophen to alleviate physical discomfort for decades, there's also been a considerable amount of research investigating the possible benefits of holistic treatments and plant-sourced alternatives. It's clear that some approaches are better suited for targeted relief than others. If you're wondering how CBD oil compares to acetaminophen, you've come to the right place. After reviewing their potential risks, possible side effects, and how they work in your body, you'll know you're making an informed decision. 

As always, we encourage you to follow your doctor’s guidance when incorporating any new products to your wellness routine. 

What CBD Oil Is & How It Works in Your Body  

CBD (cannabidiol) is the most abundant of more than 113 potentially beneficial cannabinoids extracted from the flowers of industrial hemp. The natural 15-20:1 CBD to THC ratio ensures there's no risk of intoxication. Anyone who wants to avoid the less than 0.3% THC in full spectrum CBD oil has the option of using products made with broad spectrum CBD oil or pure CBD isolate powder. Their THC is reduced to non-detectable levels.   

When you swallow CBD oil, the cannabinoids circulating in your bloodstream interact with multiple molecular targets. The list includes the receptors of the largest regulatory system in your body, your endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors (Elsaid & Foll, 2020). Cannabis researchers believe that interaction helps support ECS function in a way that promotes homeostasis (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018). 

What Acetaminophen Is & How It Works in Your Body  

Acetaminophen is a molecule found in coal tar, a petroleum product. After numerous studies, the analgesic was approved for over-the-counter sale in the 1960s. Researchers still aren't quite clear on its precise mechanisms of action. Most theories have been disproven. For now, it's widely accepted that acetaminophen blocks pain signals in the central nervous system (ACS, 2014). 

However, current investigations suggest that acetaminophen's impact could also be the result of ECS interaction, specifically, its ability to bind with and activate CB1 receptors (Klinger-Gratz et al., 2018). The medication's role as a fever-reducer is most often credited to its impact on COX-2 enzymes. In 2019, researchers announced a patented technique to synthesize acetaminophen from plant material, but they're still refining the process (Solly, 2019). 

CBD Oil vs Acetaminophen: Other Factors that Could Influence Your Decision  

Most people use acetaminophen for the same reasons. It's a pain reliever and fever-reducer. It's also time-tested and FDA-approved. The instructions for use and dosage guidelines are determined by age and weight. Most people wouldn't think twice about using the medication as needed. Its effects are predictable. 

But many people are hesitant to try CBD, at least at first, because they're not quite sure what to expect. Although the only way you'll know how CBD oil compares to acetaminophen for targeted relief is to try it, you may find it at least somewhat helpful to know that most of our survey respondents report positive results using hemp-derived CBD products for relaxation, better sleep, mild or temporary anxiety, and pain, stiffness, and inflammation after physical activity. 

Since CBD oil and acetaminophen both have the potential to alleviate activity-induced discomfort, there are several other factors you may want to consider before choosing one over the other. 

Ease of Use & Onset  

In terms of ease of use, CBD oil and acetaminophen are quite similar. They're both available in liquid form or softgels. When swallowed, the active components are processed through your digestive system before circulating in your bloodstream. 

But it can take longer for CBD to reach its full potential, up to an hour (or more). You can take the oil by holding it beneath your tongue for 45-60 seconds before swallowing, but you may not notice an effect right away. You may need to be patient. It can take several days or even weeks of consistent use for your system to adapt and respond to cannabinoids. Everyone is different. 

Acetaminophen, on the other hand, starts to work in about 20 minutes. Most people can count on the pain-relieving effects to take hold within 30-60 minutes (ACS, 2014). But in both cases, you're using the products in a way that impacts your entire body.  

Availability & Affordability  

Acetaminophen is easy to find and remarkably affordable. It has a long shelf life, and you can count on knowing exactly what to expect in terms of product quality and overall safety. The medication is often combined with other active ingredients to help with coughs, colds, flu, and sleeplessness. 

CBD oil products are also relatively easy to find but cost more to use than acetaminophen. But if you decide to try CBD oil for targeted relief, don't commit to a purchase until you see a Certificate of Analysis. You can use that document to verify product purity and potency.   

Safety Profiles & Side Effects  

CBD is generally well tolerated and safe for most people. In a report published by the World Health Organization, the agency found "no evidence of public health-related problems" with daily use (WHO, 2020). However, side effects are possible. Most are mild, but can include dry mouth, fatigue, digestive upset, or changes in appetite (Bergamaschi et al., 2011). 

Billions of doses of acetaminophen are used safely every year, and most people don't experience side effects. But the medication is not intended for continuous use unless directed by a physician. There are serious risks associated with misuse, overuse, or overdose. Metabolization produces byproducts that could harm your liver. The medication's side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, constipation, and sweating (Keller, A, 2023). 

Medical Conditions & Medication Interactions  

Although hemp-derived CBD oil and acetaminophen are both considered safe for most people, they're not recommended for everyone. Both products can cause complications for people diagnosed with certain medical conditions. They're also known to interact (or interfere) with several over-the-counter and prescription medications. 

If you have questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider before using CBD or acetaminophen for pain or stiffness after physical activity. That includes before using acetaminophen and CBD at the same time. They're both metabolized by the same enzymes (Balachandran et al., 2021) 

Why Choose CBDistillery® CBD Oil Products for Targeted Relief? 

You know your body better than anyone. If you've been looking for a way to ease activity-induced pain, stiffness, and inflammation naturally, maybe it's time to consider adding hemp-derived CBD oil to your daily (or nightly) routine. It's generally well-tolerated, safe for most people, and has an impressively low risk of (mild) side effects. Based on a 2019 CBDistillery® survey of 1,900 customers, most respondents report achieving their best results within 7-14 days of consistent use.   

Whether you prefer starting with a versatile CBD oil tincture, a jar of our fruit-flavored gummies, or the targeted relief of a CBD-infused topical, you can shop with confidence. Every product we offer is made with 100% clean ingredients, rigorously tested, quality assured, and backed by a 60-day satisfaction guarantee. If you're not quite sure which of our many hemp-derived products would be the best fit for your needs, preferences, or lifestyle, consider scheduling a personal consultation


ACS. (2014). Molecule of the Week Archive Acetaminophen. ACS Chemistry for Life. 

Balachandran P, Elsohly M, et al. (2021) Cannabidiol Interactions with Medications, Illicit Substances, and Alcohol, a Comprehensive Review. 36(7) J Gen Intern Med 2017-84. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06504-8 

Bergamaschi M, Queiroz R, et al. (2011) Safety and Side Effect of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis Sativa Constituent. 6(4) Curr Drug Saf 237-49. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924 

Elsaid S, Foll B. (2020) The Complexity of Pharmacology of Cannabidiol (CBD) and Its Implications in the Treatment of Brain Disorders. 45 Neuropsychopharmacol 229-30 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0518-1 

Keller, A. (2023) Tylenol Side Effect. Drug Watch. 

Klinger-Gratz P, Ralvenius W, et al. (2018) Acetaminophen Relieves Inflammatory Pain Through CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors in the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla. 38(2) J Neurosci 322-34. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1945-17.2017 

Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator 

Solly, M. (2019) Researcher Develop Plant-Based, Eco-Friendly Method to Produce Tylenol. Smithsonian Magazine. 

World Health Organization. (2020) Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report. PDF https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/controlled-substances/whocbdreportmay2018-2.pdf?sfvrsn=f78db177_2