You may have seen the word “bioavailability” on vitamin or supplement boxes. In the world of natural health, it’s a crucial concept. Essentially, the bioavailability rate of a substance indicates how well it can be absorbed into the body.
When it comes to choosing a CBD product, looking at bioavailability can be as important as looking at the dose. Some forms of CBD absorb into the body well, while others may produce lesser results with the same concentration. There are also some factors that can influence the bioavailability of CBD. For example, did you know that taking CBD on a full stomach makes it a lot more potent?
In this guide, we’ll be explaining what CBD bioavailability is, and how you can take CBD in such a way that it absorbs into your body and gives its full benefits.
Most people assume that if they ingest 20 mg of CBD, 20 mg of CBD enters their bloodstream. This is not the case. Any method of consumption, whether it be eating, smoking, or placing CBD drops under your tongue, involves some losses.
Bioavailability describes the percentage of CBD that enters your bloodstream when you take it. To understand how bioavailable different forms of CBD are, you need to understand how they are absorbed into your body.
When you take a CBD edible, it enters your body after going through the digestive system. In the process, much of the CBD stays in the digestive system and is excreted, while only a small portion gets into your blood.
But if you place CBD oil drops under your tongue, more of it will enter your system. This is because there is a vein under the tongue that communicates directly with the bloodstream. So placing CBD under your tongue rather than on it could make CBD almost twice as potent!
When smoking CBD, it enters your bloodstream through the lungs. This method gives you a smaller loss of CBD, though again you won’t get 100% of the milligrams you took.
Why bioavailability matters
Bioavailability is important for two main reasons. The first and most obvious one is that you want the CBD to enter your bloodstream so it can take effects. CBD products are not cheap, so it can be disheartening to pay a high price for a product if most of it will be lost. Choosing a product with a higher rate of bioavailability ensures you are getting more CBD for your money, and more of its benefits.
The second reason to pay close attention to bioavailability is that it will help you determine the right dose. Let’s say you are taking CBD for anxiety and are trying out a dose of 10 mg per day. If you take CBD in the form of an edible chocolate bar, you may only see the effects of about 1 or 2 mg of CBD. But if you vape 10 mg of CBD, you could get that number up to 4 or 5 mg. Again, there will be some significant losses. But knowing how different forms of CBD absorb into the body will help you increase the dose as appropriate so you can get the benefits you’re looking for.
Which CBD products are the most bioavailable?
When doctors want to make sure that 100% of the CBD they give patients gets into their bloodstream, they’ll inject it directly in a vein with a syringe. Of course, this method of consumption is incredibly rare and mainly reserved for medical use.
Unfortunately, any other method will incur some losses of CBD. Here are four of the main ways to take CBD, ranked by their bioavailability.
Smoking or vaping CBD
Smoking or vaping makes CBD the most bioavailable out of any other method (except for intravenous administration). When you inhale CBD, it goes into your lungs. Your lungs communicate directly with your bloodstream, which is how oxygen enters your body. Of course, the lungs also filtrate foreign elements (can you imagine how bad it would be if everything you inhaled went straight into your bloodstream?). That being said, you can expect about 50% of the CBD in a vaping product to enter your system.
Unfortunately, smoking or vaping CBD also have some disadvantages. Some studies are showing that vaping could damage your respiratory system. It’s a method that is not recommended for people with asthma or other respiratory problems. And of course, it’s not suitable for children.
But if you already smoke or vape, getting some cannabidiol e-liquid could be one of the most affordable ways to get CBD into your system.
Topicals and transdermal patches
When you apply a topical CBD product like a gel on your skin, it enters the body through the epidermis. Under your first layer of skin, you have a lot of endocannabinoid receptors. This means that CBD topicals quickly affect your system. As a result, topical CBD products have a high rate of bioavailability—up to 40%, according to one study.
Topicals can be used for all sorts of medical conditions. They are mostly used by people with joint pain (such as arthritis patients), athletes with sore muscles, and people with skin disorders (like eczema or psoriasis). Topical products like CBD creams and balms provide fast and effective relief that is targeted at the skin or the area on which it is applied.
Unlike CBD creams, transdermal patches can be used by anyone, no matter what condition they are treating. Although they are less popular and can be harder to find, they are an option to consider if you’re looking for a high-bioavailability alternative to smoking or vaping CBD.
When you read the instruction manual of a CBD oil, you’ll find that it recommends placing the oil drops directly under the tongue.
This is not incidental. There is a vein under your tongue called the “sublingual gland” which communicates directly with the bloodstream. So by keeping CBD oil under your tongue for just a few minutes, you could be getting much more of it into your system. The CBD that doesn’t enter your bloodstream will be processed by the digestive system like any other edible. According to reports, this method of consumption has bioavailability rates of around 15 to 30%.
As popular as they may be, CBD edibles are the very last on our list. Their low bioavailability can be explained by the path that edible CBD takes to get into the bloodstream. When you eat a CBD edible, it has to go through your whole digestive tract before entering the bloodstream. Because your digestive tract is responsible for stopping foreign elements, it will try to get rid of the CBD. As a result, a significant portion of the CBD is stopped by the liver, which prevents it from entering the bloodstream.
As a result, rates of bioavailability for oral CBD can be as low as 5% and don’t generally exceed 15%.
Other factors that affect the bioavailability of CBD
As with any vitamin, mineral, or herbal supplement, other factors also influence bioavailability. This is particularly true when it comes to oral consumption.
The state of your liver
When you take a CBD edible, it is processed by your liver. The bad news is that the better your liver, the lower the effects of CBD will be. A study found that people with malfunctioning livers actually got more CBD into their bloodstream than healthy patients do by taking an edible. Again, this could be a good reason to choose something other than oral forms of CBD.
The state of your stomach
CBD also seems to absorb better when it is taken alongside other foods. As a fat-soluble molecule, CBD can bind to fatty acids, which helps to transport it into the bloodstream. According to a study, you could boost the effects of CBD by up to five times simply by taking it on a full stomach.
So next time you’re taking an oral form of CBD, make sure you’re eating some food alongside it, and preferably one that contains a form of fat.
Many herbal supplements become more effective when taken alongside black pepper. This is because it contains a compound known as piperine which stimulates the absorption of other molecules. A study found that consuming CBD with piperine could boost its absorption rate by up to six times!
Is CBD legal?
Non-prescription CBD products are not currently approved by the FDA. However, research suggests that this molecule is effective in treating a number of conditions. We recommend consulting with a medical professional to see if prescription CBD could help your condition.
Understanding bioavailability is crucial if you want to understand how CBD affects your body. This concept is also useful to CBD consumers, helping them make smart decisions about the products they buy. Knowing how much CBD your body can absorb through different methods of consumption could encourage you to try other forms of CBD, or to supplement your edibles with fats and black pepper. One thing to remember: it’s not about the number of milligrams, it’s about how many of them end up in your blood.