What is CBD bioavailability, and why does it matter? CBD, or cannabidiol, is a hemp-derived cannabinoid that has been shown to have many benefits for human wellbeing. One of the key factors in determining how effective CBD will be for a particular person is its bioavailability. In this article, we will discuss what CBD bioavailability is and why it matters. We'll also talk about the different delivery methods for CBD and how they affect bioavailability, and ways to increase CBD bioavailability so that you can enjoy its full potential benefits!
What is Bioavailability?
To get started, we must first understand what bioavailability is. In short, bioavailability is a measure of how much of a given substance (in this case, CBD) can be absorbed and used by the body, and the rate at which this happens. This is important because it directly affects how effective CBD will be in providing its various benefits.
The bioavailability of CBD varies between different product types.
The Importance of CBD Bioavailability
Now that we know what bioavailability is, let's talk about why it matters. When it comes to CBD, the higher the bioavailability, the more effective it will be. This is because a higher percentage of CBD will be able to reach its target destination in the body and produce its desired effects.
Understanding CBD bioavailability is important because it helps you to determine which type of CBD is right for you, and the dosage required to feel the potential therapeutic benefits. Awareness of the CBD-infused products that enable the most CBD to reach your circulatory system at the fastest rate allows you to minimise the amount of cannabidiol lost through your natural physiological processes. After all, good-quality CBD doesn’t come cheap, so consumption should be as cost-effective as possible.
CBD Methods of Delivery
So, we know that CBD’s entry route is an important factor relating to how much – and how quickly – CBD enters the circulatory system. But which methods of CBD delivery are associated with high bioavailability rates? Let’s take a look.
The oral consumption of CBD through edibles is a popular choice, due to convenience and the subtle nature of consuming CBD-infused edible products such as fruit-flavoured CBD gummies. CBD drinks are also an increasingly popular choice.
Oral consumption of CBD, however, is arguably one of the least effective ways to introduce CBD to the bloodstream since it has a relatively low bioavailability. As a general rule, users can expect around 4-20% bioavailability from oral consumption of cannabidiol. Why is oral CBD bioavailability relatively low? Because when consumed orally, CBD will not directly enter the bloodstream. Instead, the edible must travel through the digestive system before cannabidiol reaches the circulation, where, at this point, its potency is significantly decreased through loss to the liver and digestive tract.
Using CBD edibles generally means a longer wait to see results (up to 2 hours), and you may require a larger consumption of oral CBD products to receive the level of potential effects desired. However, there is an argument that oral CBD stays in your system for longer than alternative CBD products, resulting in prolonged benefits. Studies have shown that orally-consumed CBD can remain in the body for around 4.2 hours, in comparison with intravenous CBD which was around 3.3 hours. Oral CBD remains a popular choice due to the availability of delicious products which can disguise CBD’s natural, earthy flavour and provide a handy top-up to your daily CBD intake.
Many CBD users opt for sublingual products such as oils, tinctures and oral sprays because when you drop and hold CBD under the tongue, it can enter your bloodstream rapidly through sublingual glands, bypassing the digestive process and remaining in a higher concentration. Consuming CBD sublingually is convenient, discreet and considered one of the most effective ways of administering CBD due to its higher bioavailability rate (as much as 35%, in some cases).
Sublingual CBD is usually used by the body around 30 minutes following consumption. However, it is important to use sublingual CBD products correctly to fully benefit; this requires holding the CBD oil or spray under the tongue for at least 60 seconds to allow the cannabinoid to be absorbed by sublingual membranes. If you swallow the product too quickly, the results will be similar to those provided by oral CBD products.
CBD Vaping and Inhalation
CBD vaping and inhaled CBD offers substantially higher bioavailability in comparison with alternative forms of CBD, particularly oral products. Like sublingual CBD, inhaled CBD does not have to pass through the digestive tract, reducing absorption time and resulting in a bioavailability of up to around 56%. Inhaled CBD passes through the membranes of the alveoli (air sacs) within the lungs almost instantly, which results in fast absorption into the circulatory system.
Smoking and vaping are two common methods of inhaling CBD. Vape pens or vaporisers draw liquid CBD oil from a cartridge past a heating element which activates the CBD and produces a vapour which can be inhaled. This form of CBD delivery is fast and highly efficient, but vaping brings a risk of lung irritation (albeit a smaller risk than traditional smoking).
Topical CBD is an umbrella term for CBD creams, balms, moisturisers, serums and lotions. Topical CBD is generally regarded as offering a relatively low bioavailability rate (around 3%) due to the natural skin barrier. However, topical CBD provides a delivery option for those wishing to avoid taking CBD orally, sublingually or by inhalation. Additionally, topical CBD is a great way to top up your daily CBD use and may be a better choice for targeted relief of muscle pain, or dry skin, for instance. By applying CBD topically, CBD passes through the skin before entering the bloodstream. To help levels of absorption and bioavailability, it is important to apply some pressure while rubbing the topical CBD product into the skin.
Some manufacturers have created CBD patches to allow prolonged and steady absorption of CBD through the skin which improves bioavailability and keeps a consistent CBD level in the bloodstream.
How Do You Increase CBD Bioavailability?
Since several factors influence CBD bioavailability, there are ways that we can increase it so that we can enjoy the full potential benefits that cannabidiol has to offer. Here are our top tips for maximum CBD benefits!
- Hold CBD under your tongue before swallowing
Optimise the efficiency of your CBD by holding it under the tongue for as long as you can before swallowing – at least 60 seconds. Some people even choose to bite into CBD edibles such as gummies and hold them under the tongue for a while before swallowing, to enhance absorption and boost bioavailability.
- Increase concentration
While increasing CBD concentration won’t boost bioavailability per mg, it increases the amount of CBD reaching your circulation. Often, purchasing a high-quality CBD product means that you’ll receive a greater concentration with each dose, which may work out better value even if the product is more costly than lower-quality versions.
- Enjoy CBD with fatty foods
CBD is fat-soluble which means taking it with fat boosts absorption when consumed orally. Try high-fat foods such as nuts, seeds, oily fish or avocado. This could even decrease the rate at which CBD is excreted from the body, providing longer-lasting effects. CBD can be taken during a fasted state but this may not offer increased bioavailability.
- Benefit from the entourage effect
Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD provide additional natural cannabinoids and terpenes that are present within the hemp plant. These compounds – alongside CBD - work powerfully together and may boost the overall effectiveness within the body, possibly increasing cannabinoid bioavailability.
- Add piperine
Piperine, which is available as a supplement, is found in black pepper and can provide significant, positive effects on the absorption of CBD. It does this by stimulating molecules that boost CBD’s movement across the intestinal membrane so that it enters the bloodstream at a faster rate. Piperine can also inhibit the activity of enzymes that degrade CBD.
It's critical to remember that your physical condition will determine which delivery methods work best for you. If you're unsure, seek advice from a professional healthcare expert.