CBD products come in a huge spread of different forms—from oils to dabs to pills—which is great for users because it allows everyone to tailor his or her experience to a certain schedule, dosage, or comfort in administration.
The method you choose to ingest CBD greatly affects the strength of the product going into your system. This means that the intake method has an effect on CBD’s bioavailability, which is the percentage of the chemical absorbed into your bloodstream—or, how much of the ingested chemical becomes effective and active in your system.
100% bioavailability is achieved when a chemical is injected directly into your bloodstream, and this measure is used to determine the bioavailability achieved from other methods. CBD testing still lacks standard regulations and protocols for testing in the country. This, coupled with the relatively recent reemergence of interest in CBD and the new research that comes along with it, means that studies typically differ on bioavailability from different methods of ingestion. But many of these studies still agree in most of their findings.
Sprays, tinctures, and vapes are among the most popular forms of taking CBD. These, among many other ingestion methods, represent the most popular ingestion options: oral, sublingual, and inhalation. Here’s how each of these ingestion paths affect CBD’s bioavailability.
Oral ingestion of CBD
Oral ingestion is particularly popular since it’s quick and easy. As easy as it is to take your morning vitamins, you can take your CBD. Popular forms of taking CBD this way come in the form of capsules, oils, and edibles.
When taken orally, CBDhas to pass through the digestive system, and more specifically through the liver, before it’s fully absorbed into the blood stream. Following this path, the dose of CBD goes through a process called first-pass metabolism, during which the CBD is actually metabolized and the concentration of the substance is reduced significantly before the chemical can be absorbed into your system.
There isn’t enough data to accurately report a definitive range for CBD bioavailability, but the research that is happening now is happening in large amounts, so the research community is excited to be able to report more exact findings in the near future.
That said, we know that THC has a bioavailability of 4-20% when ingested orally. Similar to THC, taking CBD orally will result in a low bioavailability, but the effects tend to last longer.
Sublingual CBD ingestion
Taking CBD sublingually means taking CBD underneath the tongue. Popular products ingested this way include concentrates, tinctures, and sprays. When CBD is taken underneath the tongue, the chemical is absorbed through the mucous membrane underneath the tongue where it’s then diffused by your capillaries to take the substance into the blood stream.
This process completely avoids first-pass metabolism, which then leads to a higher bioavailability. While the data can’t give us an exact number or range for the bioavailability yet, it can certainly confirm that oral ingestion gives us a higher bioavailability than edibles.
Inhalation of CBD is becoming more and more popular as the vape culture grows, and fittingly today’s most popular form of ingesting CBD is by vape. Vaping used to be a health concern due to highly synthetic and unhealthy mixtures being used in the vape oils, but natural oils are becoming more available than ever and these mixtures are enormously healthier than their outdated counterparts.
As you might expect, when CBD is taken through inhalation, it enters the blood stream through the lungs. After CBD has reached the lungs, it passes through tiny sacs of air called alveoli that exchange CO2 and oxygen in between the lungs and into the blood stream. These sacs of air are a direct path to the blood stream, and so when CBD passes through these alveoli it passes directly into your blood stream.
This, of course, suggests that inhalation of CBD also skips first-pass metabolism, which means that this method of taking CBD also offers a higher bioavailability than oral ingestion. The bioavailability offered by this method might also be higher than that from sublingual ingestion, but there are a lot of factors that can alter the range of bioavailability achievable through inhalation, especially when vaping. For example, how quickly you take hits and how big of hits you take can greatly change how much CBD you ingest. What’s more, if you hold the hit in your lungs longer, the CBD has more time to pass through the alveoli, as opposed to taking a quick hit and breathing it out immediately.
In any case, since oxygen has to get to your blood stream quickly, inhalation will also bring CBD into your blood stream faster. This gives you a quick and efficient way to get your dose when you need it.
Other things to consider:
- Perhaps more important than how you take your CBD is the quality of the CBD product that you’re taking. A high-quality product is going to be mixed homogenously in such a way that you always get the same, predictable and known effect. This makes it super easy to get the dose you want without overthinking it. Besides, putting low-quality products into your body is never a great idea.
- Along the lines of dosage, everybody’s body chemical composition is different, so everyone needs a different amount of CBD to get the desired effects. If you’re new to CBD, start by taking the recommended dosage on the label of the product. After about a week, if you aren’t getting the results you want, you can alter the dosage. Keep doing this until you’re satisfied with the effects. It’s important to keep in mind that since CBD doesn’t exactly make you “feel” anything, you’re will be able to tell when you aren’t getting enough (because you may still be anxious, feeling pain, etc.), but you might not be able to tell if you’re getting “too much.” While you won’t overdose from CBD, you might be wasting your product—and your money—if you take too much too quickly.
- We mentioned how certain forms of taking CBD can offer less bioavailability than others—but this isn’t always a bad thing! In fact, this is useful sometimes because it gives you options. Maybe one day you’re in a lot of pain and need a bigger dose, and the next you’re just a little anxious and need a smaller amount. One way of controlling your dosage is by choosing how to take your CBD, which just adds another layer of versatility to the products.
- Finally, CBD does not dissolve in water naturally. This means that your blood stream is going to kick out some of the CBD that it absorbs. For this reason, the amount of CBD that ends up being activated in your system is not only reduced from the amount you ingested according to the path it took to reach your blood stream, but it’s also naturally reduced by the blood stream itself. This just goes to remind us that the amount of product that you take will not be the amount of product that takes effect.
It’s always important to know how your body reacts to the things you ingest and the ways that you acquire those things into your blood. When it comes to CBD, this is just another example of how it can be an incredibly versatile, simple, and efficient way of dealing with anything from pain, to anxiety, to so much more.