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Unlocking the Power of CBD: How to take CBD for fast results

cbd oil bioavailability
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Table of Contents

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Whether you are a novice or an experienced user, you will learn the best ways to maximize the potential of CBD.

In pharmacology, bioavailability is crucial in determining the effectiveness of medications and supplements.

The bioavailability of CBD generally varies from 6% to 56%.

The foods you eat when you take CBD can influence its absorption rate

The most influential factor in the bioavailability of CBD is, by far, your chosen method of administration.

How to increase CBD absorption

Despite the surge in popularity of CBD, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around its usage. Although preliminary studies have attributed numerous potential health benefits to CBD, research is ongoing, leaving many users puzzled about the most effective ways to consume it for optimal results. CBD’s effectiveness isn’t just about the quality of the product, but also the way it’s absorbed by your body, a term known as bioavailability. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet and medical literature to compile the most reliable tips and methods to enhance CBD absorption. This guide is here to shed light on the subject and help you make well-informed decisions about your CBD use. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user, the following information will assist you in finding the best ways to maximize the potential of CBD.

The key to CBD absorption: Bioavailability

To understand how CBD works in the body and how to maximize its effects, we first have to understand what bioavailability is.

CBD Oil Bioavailability

Bioavailability is “a key pharmacokinetic parameter which expresses the proportion of a drug administered by any nonvascular route that gains access to the systemic circulation”[1]. That’s a lot of medical talk; basically, the term refers to how much of an active substance is absorbed into your bloodstream after you take it and has the potential to interact with your organism.

Another word to help you understand Bioavailability is “absorption rate”, as it refers to the same process. In pharmacology, bioavailability is crucial in determining the effectiveness of medications and supplements.

Bioavailability is the number one aspect to consider when trying to make the most out of your CBD products. 

We generally look for high bioavailability when choosing supplements, because the higher the bioavailability, the stronger the effect of a substance on your body. This doesn’t apply to everything, though; ethanol, for example, the active substance in alcohol, has a bioavailability of 80%, which explains its rather quick effect on the brain and body. Different substances, whether they come from foods, drinks, supplements, medicine, etc. have different bioavailability rates, which are affected not only by the type of substance but also by the way it is consumed. Unfortunately, you will not find a CBD product’s bioavailability rate written on the label. But don’t worry, that’s what this article is for.

The bioavailability of CBD generally varies from 6% to 56%. If you want to maximize the effects and potential of CBD, ideally, you will try to reach the higher end of this spectrum with your CBD habits. 

This fairly wide range is determined by several factors, including product type, liver function, and genetics. Most importantly though, the amount of CBD that reaches your bloodstream is affected by the consumption method you choose. Read on to find out what factors influence the bioavailability of CBD.

Factors that influence CBD bioavailability

Food intake

The foods you eat when you take CBD can influence its absorption rate. Cannabidiol is lipophilic: it dissolves in the fat content of food and its bioavailability can vary depending on the fat content of the foods you eat immediately before or after taking CBD.

Type of CBD product

There are three main types of CBD products that differ in terms of cannabinoid content.

 

The presence of multiple cannabinoids in a given CBD product allows for what we call “the entourage effect”, an interaction between these cannabinoids which has proven to have beneficial effects on the human body and to enhance the potential of cannabidiol itself [2].

Though this may seem counterintuitive, research does not suggest any variation in the absorption rate of CBD depending on the type of product you consume. Be that as it may, we know that the entourage effect has the potential to enhance the power of CBD, and broad- and full-spectrum products continue to be advantageous for many CBD users worldwide [3],[4].

Liver function

Your liver has an important function in the processing of ingested substances. It filters everything you consume in order to keep what is good for you and eliminate the rest. Some people have impaired liver function, which means that their liver does filter foods and other things as well as others. 

When it comes to CBD, studies demonstrate an increased bioavailability if ingested CBD in patients with impaired hepatic metabolisms [5].  In other words, less CBD is metabolized, so more CBD enters the bloodstream compared to patients with normal liver functions. If you have mild to severe hepatic impairment, specialists recommend a lower starting dose, as well as slower titration (the gradual increase of a dose to gauge the optimal amount of a substance that is beneficial to the body). 

Genetics

Your genetic profile may play a role in how much CBD reaches your bloodstream compared to other people’s. Between 20 and 95 percent of patient variability when it comes to drug metabolism is accounted for by genetics [6]. Your body’s ability to absorb CBD is also affected by genetics, although we’re not sure yet about the extent to which this happens.

Some sources claim that about 25% of the world’s population has a genetic variant that can result in slower CBD metabolization, though this claim is not yet backed up by any scientific evidence that we could find.

Studies on the influence of genetics on drug metabolism subject are still limited, but progress in pharmacogenetic research could help patients to more easily make informed decisions about therapy. 

Method of administration

The most influential and important factor in the bioavailability of CBD is, by far, your chosen method of administration. With the wide range of CBD products currently available on the market, it can be challenging to figure out what method might work for you. In the next section of this blog, we’ll compare the different ways you can take CBD and their respective absorption rates.

The bioavailability of different CBD product types

There are four main (as in, most widely used) CBD consumption methods: inhaled or smoked, sublingual, topical, and ingested. They are preferred by consumers for different reasons and goals, and they all vary in terms of bioavailability. 

Vapes and smokeables

Does not have to pass through the digestive system and liver

quick onset 3-10min), short-lasting effects

Inhaled or smoked CBD has one of the highest bioavailability rates you can find. This administration method involves either hemp flower that can be smoked or vape oils and extracts that are suitable for use in vaporizers. 

Bioavailability of inhaled CBD

Some sources cite the bioavailability of inhaled CBD to be as high as 56%, science usually places it at around 30-34% [7].

There are three reasons for the high absorption rate of inhaled CBD, all of them related to the lungs. The lungs are large organs that are easy to permeate and have an optimal blood supply for absorbing any substance that passes through them. As a result, the lungs allow for the immediate absorption of CBD into the bloodstream. 

Another aspect that causes CBD to be absorbed so quickly through the lungs is that when it is inhaled, it doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system and the liver, points in the body at which a lot of the active substance is lost due to metabolization. The onset time for inhaled CBD is short, between three to ten minutes. That being said, smoking or vaping CBD does not have very long-lasting effects; the effect duration of inhaled or CBD is between 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Oils and tinctures

The sublingual administration of oils and tinctures containing CBD is another option for taking CBD that offers a high bioavailability rate. This type of CBD usually comes in dropper bottles containing CBD extract and carrier oils such as MCT oil or hemp seed oil. 

Sublingual CBD has a bioavailability of 13% to 19% as cited by some sources, but has also been reported to reach as high as 35% [8]. The reason we are unsure of the exact value is that research on CBD bioavailability and CBD in general is limited, though slowly emerging. On the other hand, bioavailability is also affected by individual metabolism, age, weight, genetics, food intake, etc. 

CBD Oil Under Tongue

The high absorption rate of sublingual CBD is owed to mucous membranes under the tongue which facilitate the immediate absorption of CBD into the bloodstream. 

There are some misconceptions about the actual absorption rate of sublingual CBD, with users wondering how any of the oil or tincture gets absorbed under the tongue if, in the end, they have to swallow it anyway. There’s a useful Reddit thread where this question has been discussed. Knowing that CBD oil and saliva don’t mix makes it easy to question the validity of sublingual CBD’s claimed absorption rate. Here’s the catch: when you take CBD oils or tinctures sublingually, it’s not the oil that the mucous membranes under the tongue absorb – it’s the CBD molecules. That’s why it is recommended to hold the tincture under the tongue for about 60-90 seconds before swallowing; you have to let the CBD reach the blood vessels under your tongue in order for it to have effects. Of course, some cannabidiol molecules stay behind and get swallowed, but they end up in the digestive tract and still reach your bloodstream, only a little later and after a few more obstacles – we’ll discuss ingested CBD later. 

The effect onset of sublingual CBD is around 15-30 minutes. Although longer than that of inhaled CBD, the effects last for a longer period of time, between four and six hours. Long-term, sublingual CBD may be a more effective treatment as well as a more convenient one; vapes and smoking are not permitted everywhere, but there are no regulations against putting some drops of oil under your tongue. 

Vaping CBD vs. Tincture CBD

 

CBD vapes

CBD tinctures

Bioavailability

30% – 34%

19% – 35%

Onset time

3-10 minutes

15- 30 minutes

Effect duration

30 minutes – 1 hour

4 – 6 hours

Ease of use

Restricted

Not restricted

Topicals

Topical CBD products are creams, balms, and salves that are applied directly to the skin. They tend to have a localized effect: they interact with CBD receptors under your skin for effects like reducing irritation in the areas they are applied to. The bioavailability of topical CBD products is hard to measure because the CBD in topical products does not always enter the bloodstream. Most studies estimate it to be under 10%. 

One systemic study, however, found that CBD may be able to permeate the skin and enter systemic circulation [9]. In other words, it’s possible that some CBD products will have a higher bioavailability in the future, but more research is necessary to fully understand how. Transdermal patches can have a higher bioavailability because they are designed to deliver CBD across the skin barrier and into the bloodstream. 

That being said, topical CBD products are not really designed to reach the bloodstream; their purpose is to provide targeted relief in specific areas. CBD does not have to reach the bloodstream in order to be effective at a localized level. When we discuss the efficiency of topical CBD for this purpose, bioavailability is more of an external factor to consider. Topical products have a very different role than all the other types of CBD and are a great option for targeting skin conditions, rashes, irritation, pain, and other issues that do not involve the body’s internal functions. 

Edibles and drinks

Despite the boom in edible CBD products like gummies, cookies, and drinks, it might surprise you to read that these are the least effective administration methods for CBD.

Orally ingested CBD has one of the lowest absorption rates, at around 6%. That means that only a fraction of the CBD you take is absorbed into the bloodstream. CBD and cannabinoids in general are lipophilic molecules that dissolve in fats, but not in water. Since our bodies are made up of 70% water, they are not ready to absorb a lot of CBD at a time through the digestive system.

CBD Oil Bioavailability of Different Product Types

The biggest problem for CBD when it is ingested, however, is the way the body processes foods or, more specifically, something called the first-pass effect

The first-pass effect

“The first-pass effect” is a term also known as “first-pass metabolism”, and it refers to a phenomenon where a considerable amount of substances consumed orally is lost in the digestive tract. The first-pass effect applies to orally administered CBD, too. The liver metabolizes a large portion of the CBD before it has the chance to reach systemic circulation, reducing its effectiveness when it is broken down by liver enzymes. The first-pass effect is also the reason why people with impaired liver function can experience stronger effects from the same dose of CBD. 

Some attempts have been made in the CBD industry to bypass the first-pass effect: 

Nanoemulsion CBD 

Some CBD products use a process called nanoemulsion. This makes CBD more soluble in water and helps it get absorbed better in your digestive system. It might even lessen the effects of the first-pass process.

Liposomal CBD

Liposomal CBD products wrap CBD in fat bubbles, which could protect it from being broken down in your digestive system and help your body absorb it better.

Carrier oils

CBD Softgels are often mixed with oils like coconut oil, hemp seed oil, or olive oil to help your body absorb them. This is because your body is good at absorbing fats, so CBD can piggyback on these fat molecules to avoid being broken down by the first-pass process.

But keep in mind that no matter what methods are used, the first-pass effect cannot be completely avoided when CBD is consumed orally.

Tips to increase CBD bioavailability: Get more out of each drop of CBD

Try these four easy tips that have been known to increase CBD bioavailability.

Tips To Increase CBD Bioavailability

Pair with a fatty meal or snack 

Taking CBD on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Remember that CBD is a fat-soluble compound, so it dissolves easily in fats. If you pair your CBD dose with a high-fat meal or snack, the cannabidiol will be broken down into smaller particles that are more effortlessly processed by your body, and less of it is lost in the metabolization process. So take your CBD while or after enjoying a fatty meal or snack such as fish, dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, or eggs. 

Try “Nano CBD”

Something else to try is water-soluble CBD or “nano CBD”. The name comes from nanotechnology, the application of very small things. Some CBD products are made using this technology to break down CBD particles into much smaller parts – so small that they almost dissolve in water. We say almost because the particles are still hydrophobic: they don’t actually dissolve in water but are much easier to absorb at that size. 

Use the power of terpenes

Terpenes are compounds found in plants that give them their scent. There are a lot of good terpenes in cannabis and hemp, and supplementing your CBD dose with other foods that contain them can increase your CBD’s effectiveness and bioavailability. Terpenes add to the entourage effect, and they are packed with essential oils that not only are beneficial for your body but also boost its ability to absorb CBD. 

  • Limonene – grapefruit, lemongrass, citrus fruits, lemons
  • Alpha-Pinene – Juniper, black pepper, eucalyptus, sage
  • Myrcene – hops, lemongrass, mangos
  • Linalool – found in cinnamon, coriander, lavender
  • Menthol – Peppermint, eucalyptus, spearmint
  • Beta-Caryophyllene – lavender, rosemary, black pepper

Supplement with herbs

Apigenin is a substance that’s plentiful in chamomile flowers and can also be found in foods such as oregano, parsley, celery, and dark chocolate (a nice bonus!). This compound has the ability to stop CBD from degrading. It does this by attaching itself to enzymes, which enhances the overall bioavailability of CBD.

Black pepper contains piperine, which enhances the bioavailability of CBD by inhibiting the liver enzymes that break down CBD and enhancing blood circulation which facilitates the distribution of CBD throughout the body. 

Turmeric, like pepper, contains piperine, which helps to increase bioavailability. To add to this, turmeric also contains curcumin, a compound that amplifies the effects of both piperine and CBD. Recent research shows that piperine boosts the absorption of curcumin [10]. Therefore, when you consume piperine, turmeric, and CBD together, it results in better absorption of all these compounds compared to when they are consumed separately.

Lecithin is like a super booster for CBD. It’s mostly found in soybeans and eggs. It helps the body absorb CBD better by making it dissolve more easily in water and keeping it stable. When you mix lecithin with CBD, it makes the CBD spread out more evenly in water-based solutions, which can lead to the CBD getting into your bloodstream better. This could make your CBD products work better and give you a more consistent dose. But remember, everyone’s different, so the effects can vary based on the product and person. 

Make the most out of the entourage effect

Broad- or full-spectrum CBD is recommended regardless of administration method. The entourage effect is incredibly helpful in boosting the properties of cannabidiol. There are an estimated 113 cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis plants, many of which have not even been studied yet. What we do know about them, though, is that they work very well together.  Plus, you can benefit from some other main cannabinoids too, like cannabinol and cannabigerol. 

Frequently Asked Questions About CBD Bioavailability

What is the most convenient and effective method to take CBD?

Usually, the best way to get your CBD is through oils or sublingual consumption. Although not as Bioavailable as CBD Vapes and Smoking Flowers, it’s certainly most convenient as there’s no need to risk lung damage to achieve your wellness goals with CBD.

How does sublingual consumption increase the bioavailability of CBD?

When you put CBD oil or a tincture under your tongue, it gets absorbed straight into your bloodstream. It’s like skipping the line at the amusement park – no waiting around in the digestive system or liver. It gets to your endocannabinoid system faster and starts doing its thing.

What role does the “first-pass effect” play in the bioavailability of CBD?

The “first-pass effect” is like a toll booth for drugs on their way to your system. When you swallow CBD, it gets absorbed by your digestive system and then has to pay a toll in the liver. This reduces how much CBD makes it to your system and can make it less effective.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with increased bioavailability of CBD?

While getting more CBD into your system can make it work better, it could also mean more side effects. These might include dry mouth, low blood pressure, feeling lightheaded, or getting sleepy. But usually, people handle CBD pretty well and the side effects aren’t too bad.

Can individual differences in metabolism impact the bioavailability of CBD?

Absolutely! Things like your genes, your overall health, and whether you’ve eaten can all affect how much CBD your body absorbs and how it’s broken down.

Can you get high from CBD?

Nope! CBD won’t get you high like THC (the stuff in marijuana that does get you high). CBD comes from hemp, which naturally doesn’t have much THC in it.

What is the “entourage effect”? 

The “entourage effect” is the idea that all the compounds in cannabis work better together than they do alone. It’s like a superhero team – together, they’re more powerful than if they each worked alone.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are like siblings – they’re both types of cannabis plants, but they’re different in important ways. Marijuana has more THC (the stuff that gets you high), while hemp has more CBD and only a tiny bit of THC.

Conclusion: Maximizing CBD Oil Bioavailability

Boosting how much CBD your body can use is all about making smart choices. What you eat, what supplements you take, how you take your CBD, and whether you choose full or broad-spectrum CBD products – all of these can make a big difference. 

Taking CBD under your tongue is a really good method. It’s super efficient, gives lasting effects, and avoids some of the issues other methods might have. Plus, it skips the whole digestion thing, so your body gets to absorb more CBD. 

But remember, figuring out the best way to boost your CBD absorption is a personal journey, and there might be some trial and error involved. You might need to try a few different things to find what works best for you. 

References

  1. Toutain PL, Bousquet-Mélou A. Bioavailability and its assessment. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2004;27(6):455-466. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2885.2004.00604.x https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2885.2004.00604.x?casa_token=LV9DUYlw6tQAAAAA%3AsKdY4IMFbuJ8EMs2x-eLvK4PZvdFUyN8tPNnKxs7IwVGseHBieVVSO_gkz7IURduC2iV5KFyX_S_EQ
  2. Christensen C, Rose M, Cornett C, Allesø M. Decoding the Postulated Entourage Effect of Medicinal Cannabis: What It Is and What It Isn’t. Biomedicines. 2023;11(8):2323. doi:10.3390/biomedicines11082323 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10452568/
  3. Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. doi:10.2174/1570159X17666190903103923 https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cn/2020/00000018/00000002/art00004
  4. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  5. Taylor L, Crockett J, Tayo B, Morrison G. A Phase 1, Open‐Label, Parallel‐Group, Single‐Dose Trial of the Pharmacokinetics and Safety of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Subjects With Mild to Severe Hepatic Impairment. J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;59(8):1110-1119. doi:10.1002/jcph.1412 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6618279/
  6. Belle DJ, Singh H. Genetic factors in drug metabolism. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(11):1553-1560. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2008/0601/p1553.html?utm_source=dbk-cyp450-gene-testing&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=weekly-insights&utm_term=CYP450
  7. Cleirec G, Desmier E, Lacatus C, et al. Efficiency of Inhaled Cannabidiol in Cannabis Use Disorder: The Pilot Study Cannavap. Front Psychiatry. 2022;13. Accessed October 5, 2023. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.899221 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.899221/full
  8. Millar SA, Stone NL, Yates AS, O’Sullivan SE. A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:1365. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.01365 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2018.01365/full
  9. Varadi G, Zhu Z, Crowley HD, et al. Examining the Systemic Bioavailability of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabinol from a Novel Transdermal Delivery System in Healthy Adults: A Single-Arm, Open-Label, Exploratory Study. Adv Ther. 2023;40(1):282-293. doi:10.1007/s12325-022-02345-5 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12325-022-02345-5
  10. 10. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
Connor M.

Connor M.

Medical Writer
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