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CBD bioavailability: what it is and why it matters

CBD bioavailability: what it is and why it matters

CBD has become one of the most talked-about health products in the market. It’s now being hailed as a natural and effective solution for numerous ailments, from anxiety and depression to muscle pain and insomnia. 

With this rise in popularity, it’s not surprising that the range and diversity of CBD products is also increasing. You can get your ‘hit’ of CBD through drops, vaping, balms, capsules, and even gummy bears. But how effective is each particular product, and what makes one type of CBD product more effective than another? It all comes down to bioavailability. 

CBD bioavailability: what is it?

There are many factors involved in the way CBD affects your body and mind. Your unique body chemistry plays a part, as well as your body weight, what you’ve eaten, and your tolerance of CBD. 

Perhaps most important, however, is the form of CBD you’re taking and its rate of bioavailability. The ease at which a product is able to be absorbed into your bloodstream will have a major impact on how it affects you.  

Bioavailability refers to the extent and rate at which a compound enters your circulation and is therefore able to access the site of action. This is largely determined by the dosage—that is, the way it has been designed and manufactured. Different levels of bioavailability of any particular substance, including CBD, can have major significance for how your body responds to it. 

Why CBD bioavailability matters

Like any other compound, CBD has to enter your endocannabinoid system and come into contact with specific receptors in order to be processed. But before that, it must enter your bloodstream.

The bioavailability of any particular CBD product will depend on the amount of CBD that actually enters your bloodstream when you use it. Different CBD products will have different levels of bioavailability. The more bioavailable, the more effective they will be because the better your body will be able to absorb the active components.

It’s important to understand the bioavailability of the product you’re taking because it will play a major part in how much you need to take. 

Read also: What to expect when you take CBD?

The most bioavailable forms of CBD

CBD vape

CBD vape is by far the most effective form of CBD. It has a bioavailability of 34–46%, with some studies reporting that it can be as high as 56%. When you inhale CBD through a vape pen or vaporizer, it is absorbed through your lungs almost immediately. From there, the CBD can head straight into your bloodstream, where it quickly binds with the specific endocannabinoid receptors throughout your body. Each inhalation of CBD will allow more and more of the compound into your body.  

CBD sublingual drops 

Sublingual CBD involves placing a few drops of CBD oil in the mouth and holding them under the tongue for a minute or so. The CBD is absorbed by your sublingual gland, where it can then enter the bloodstream. While this doesn’t happen as quickly as through inhalation, the bioavailability is still quite effective: around 13–19%. Most people will begin to feel the effects within around 20 minutes.  

Of course, it’s important to hold the CBD under the tongue long enough for it to be absorbed before swallowing. 

Oral ingestion

Oral products such as capsules and pills are a convenient means of getting your daily dose of CBD. Edibles are also becoming more popular, and a huge range of CBD ‘treats’ are now available, such as gummies, cakes, cookies, candy, and even chewing gum. The only downside of CBD oral products is that they have the lowest rate of bioavailability: around 13–19%. This is because orally-ingested CBD must first pass through the digestive system, which is referred to as the first-pass effect. 

CBD is also a fat-soluble substance, which adds to the work your body has to do to break it down. Your digestive enzymes will break down most of the beneficial compounds before it is then broken down even further by your liver. By the time the CBD actually enters your bloodstream, very little is left. However, because orally-ingested CBD is absorbed by the fat cells, it spends longer in your body—which means the effects will last longer than vaping or sublingual methods. 

Read also: CBD gummies: the ultimate guide

Topical CBD

CBD balms, lotions, ointments, and other topical products are useful for treating muscle pain and inflammation. When applied topically, the CBD content interacts primarily with the endocannabinoid receptors located in your peripheral nervous system—that is, your skin. This means it won’t enter your bloodstream, so it won’t have any effect on your brain or central nervous system.  

What’s more, absorption through the skin can be slow. Your skin is designed to protect you from potentially  harmful substances entering your body. The best way to benefit from topical CBD is through transdermal application, such as a patch or oil. Transdermal methods allow CBD to permeate the skin and therefore provide much higher bioavailability.

Knowing the bioavailability of different CBD products will help you choose which best suits your needs and lifestyle. Experiment a little and see which works for you!