At GnuPharma, we are always trying to solve what we think are issues with the natural products found within the cannabis industry and beyond. For example, in the pharma world, absorption of medicine is a big issue. If you cannot absorb an oral medication, it has little value. So, Pharma has looked at absorption with a rigor that can only come from our team of highly trained experts. Thankfully, there is a lot of data for us to work with.
Until recently, we’ve had little cross-over in the CBD and cannabis world from the science and discoveries pharma has used for decades. But we intend to change that going forward to answer some of the critical questions now popping up within many industries. What is the best way to take a solid-based medicine orally for absorption? What about liquid-based medicine? Is a CBD oil or a THC oil best consumed as an oil? As a water-soluble solution? These are all great questions!
Related: Terpenes and Cannabinoids
What Is CBD Bioavailability?
First, let’s quickly familiarize ourselves with what CBD is. Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, naturally occurs in the cannabis plant and has quickly become well established for its potential therapeutic benefits.
Now, let’s explore CBD bioavailability. It’s a massive topic with lots to unpack, from what bioavailability actually means and why it’s crucial to understand how our bodies absorb different forms of cannabidiol.
Bioavailability refers to the rate and quantity that the body absorbs a substance — CBD in this case — into the bloodstream. The active ingredients that reach the body’s bloodstream then get transported to the tissues and cells for use where it’s needed.
Each form of CBD, from water-soluble and liquid-based solutions to oil-based edibles and topicals, has its own rate of bioavailability. But what does that mean? The potential effects you might feel from taking CBD will differ depending on the delivery method’s bioavailability. Basically, some methods offer greater absorption and potency than others.
Why We Need to Understand CBD Bioavailability and Absorption
Learning about CBD bioavailability rates helps us determine the best form of the compound for each individual and how much they should take to reach their optimal dosage and get the right effects. While all forms of cannabidiol offer the same potential benefits, the bioavailability of each form affects how fast it works and the level of therapeutic benefits you receive.
The lower the CBD’s bioavailability rate is, the more of the substance you’ll have to administer to produce a potent effect. So, bioavailability is crucial to understand when choosing the right CBD product to get the most therapeutic benefits.
Different Forms of CBD and Their Bioavailability
Theoretically, the only way to get 100% of CBD into your bloodstream is with intravenous administration. However, thankfully, that’s highly unnecessary; there are many other ways to receive an effective dose of cannabidiol.
Let’s explore the various CBD administration methods and their bioavailability rates.
CBD Bioavailability: Oral
Oral consumption of CBD is one of the most popular options; however, its bioavailability rates vary widely based on several factors and can be anywhere from 4 to 20%.
The metabolic processing of oral CBD products means that they have lower bioavailability than an oil or tincture administered sublingually, for example, that absorbs into the bloodstream more quickly. With the lower bioavailability of oral CBD, you would have to consume a larger amount to receive the same effects as a smaller amount of another product with higher bioavailability.
Why? Our digestive system’s metabolic enzymes impede the compound’s entrance into the bloodstream, which filters out a large portion of the CBD.
When consuming CBD orally, it can take up to two hours to take effect. In addition, during this process, some of the potency is lost as it passes through the digestive system, destroying part of the CBD’s potential.
Then, once it passes through the digestive system and gets metabolized by the liver before moving to the rest of your body, you have to wait longer for the effects, which can be less apparent due to its lower bioavailability than other consumption methods.
However, while it may seem like it’s not an effective way of consuming CBD, it does have a benefit: it remains in your system for a longer time than other methods. One study found that consuming CBD orally causes the effects to last an average of 4.2 hours. In contrast, when administered intravenously with 100% bioavailability, the average time was 3.3 hours.
Related: CBDa, CBGa, and THCa
CBD Bioavailability: Sublingual
A more effective way to administer CBD is sublingually. It has a higher bioavailability rate of up to 35% and is considered one of the most effective ways of consuming CBD.
With this method, the compound absorbs under the tongue into the sublingual gland. As a result, the CBD bypasses the digestive tract. Instead, it gets transported directly into the bloodstream, resulting in more cannabidiol available, translating into quicker and more powerful effects.
In addition, saliva enzymes are the only thing to degrade this form of CBD, allowing it to remain in a higher concentration and avoid passing through the liver, destroying and lowering its bioavailability.
CBD Bioavailability: Vaporization and Inhalation
Inhaling CBD with a vaporizer offers even higher bioavailability rates; however, there’s still much research left to be done on its long-term safety. The high bioavailability rates happen through a process called decarboxylation, activating the CBD.
With this method, the CBD turns into airborne droplets that get absorbed through the body’s thin mucous membrane to enter the bloodstream directly, where it can get transported to the receptors in our ECS.
The CBD bioavailability rates associated with this delivery method are between 34 and 36 percent, making it one of the most effective methods. It bypasses the liver and digestive tract, similar to sublingual consumption, allowing for quick and efficient delivery.
CBD Bioavailability: Transdermal and Topical
On the other hand, topical CBD products, like lotions, creams, and balms, have one of the lowest bioavailability rates. Why? Because our skin acts as a barrier and hinders the fat-soluble CBD from getting absorbed. However, transdermal CBD can help increase the bioavailability by providing a slow, steady absorption of the compound into the body.
Even with its low bioavailability rates, topical CBD serves a rather specific purpose. Other than working by entering the bloodstream, it’s believed to work on a more cellular level to deliver therapeutic benefits. These potential benefits include targeting isolated areas, like arthritic joints and sore muscles.
CBD Bioavailability: Water-Soluble
Water-soluble CBD often provides rapid bioavailability, bypassing the digestive system to allow for quicker absorption. It’s typically easier for the body to absorb than other fat-soluble forms. Unlike oils that are fat-soluble, water-soluble compounds undergo emulsification by breaking it down into nanoparticles that can combine together in oil-based and water products.
By breaking them down into nanoparticles, the molecules become more bioavailable— it’s easier to absorb them through the cell membranes into the bloodstream.
CBD Bioavailability: Oil-Based Edibles
When you consume an “oil-based” edible, how will you absorb it? Well, first, let’s explain the phrase “oil-based” and what it means in terms of CBD edibles. In short, the term means that an edible has had cannabis oil added to it. That could be a raw, Rick Simpson type extraction all the way to an oil isolate. The carrier oil is essential for absorption. For instance, something in an omega 3 or 6 oil will not absorb as well as something in saturated fat (like butter/Ghia). As an OIL, we will all absorb edibles differently based on the construction of the edible, the carrier oils used, random personal variables, and fasting/fed state.
Stepping away from CBD for a moment, we’d like to quickly explore some of the ways oil-based edibles interact with another primary cannabidiol; THC.
Interestingly, you will cleave something called Delta 10 THC in your liver with an oil-based edible. This is more psychoactive than Delta 9 THC. So, while you absorb very little Delta 9 THC, your perceived effect is more significant than smoking due to the Delta 10 THC involved in the process.
A Solution to Better CBD Bioavailability
So, how do we normalize and create a more common absorption profile? Pharma has solved this in many ways. The most efficient is micro or nanoencapsulation. Encapsulation allows for the cannabis oil to be trapped inside tiny droplets. If these droplets are small enough, they will be absorbed in the small intestines. This allows for a far greater absorption profile of Delta 9 THC and a lesser second pass effect from Delta 10 THC.
Related: B-caryophyllene & the ECS
At GnuPharma, we have developed and patented a natural way to create these emulsions. Our bodies want to create something called micelles. Cannabis micelles represent the most consistent way to uptake cannabis oils. We have taken this technology and created something we call THC Drops for the regulated cannabis marketplace and FOCUS drops for the CBD/natural products marketplace. You can add these drops to ANY water-based beverage. They are quick acting and represent a far better absorption profile than an oil-based product.