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Our Conclusive Guide to CBD’s Bioavailability

When it comes to CBD, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned enthusiast- we all want to make the most out of every last drop. Whether you are looking for ways to increase your likelihood of experiencing the potential therapeutic effects or are looking to speed up the possible results you already experience, understanding bioavailability is the key to effective CBD use!

To help you unlock the answers to CBD’s bioavailability, we’ve broken down everything there is to know about the scientific term, the most effective delivery methods of CBD for rapid absorption rates, as well as some tips on how to enhance CBD’s absorption. So, whether you’re brand new to CBD, or are a seasoned user, this informative guide will help you choose the most appropriate delivery form of CBD for your needs, as well as ways to potentially enhance your CBD experience further!

What is CBD?

Before we submerge into the science of bioavailability, let’s first familiarise ourselves with the knowledge surrounding CBD. From what CBD is, to how it interacts and works within our body to deliver its potential therapeutic properties for our health and wellbeing. 

Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is a naturally-occurring compound found in the cannabis Sativa plant (primarily the hemp variety). Quickly becoming established in the wellness industry for its potential therapeutic properties, with research conducted so far indicating that CBD may possibly contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Many health and wellness enthusiasts also provide anecdotal evidence, vouching for its potential relaxation-inducing effects, as well as its purported aptitude for supplementing our overall wellbeing.

CBD's climb to the top

However, CBD has not had an easy road to this current state of acceptance, predominantly because of societies globally previously holding a stigma associated with the cannabis plant strain known as recreational marijuana. Many do not know that within cannabis Sativa there are actually over one hundred cannabinoids, meaning there is a large difference between CBD and recreational marijuana.

The difference in cannabis Sativa strains, and their drastic differences in potential effects all boils down to an active compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the reason for the intoxicating effects of recreational marijuana. Therefore, the CBD products resulting from cannabis Sativa are required by law in the UK and most of Europe to have a total THC level of less than 1 mg per product, and must be extracted from hemp plants containing less than 0.2% THC.

The ascending popularity of CBD

This regulation and legalisation of CBD has allowed the natural supplement to enter the mainstream health and wellness industry, and has proven its worth as one of the most popular supplements on the market. Due to the lack of THC, CBD has no potential to get users “high” and is also completely safe for human consumption, as it is deemed to have no qualities that would lead to dependence or abuse in users, and is considered non-toxic.

The rising popularity of CBD has been clear to see, with CBD products taking over the health, wellness, and skincare aisles, from CBD oils to CBD gummies (it’s now even common to see CBD vape pens and other assortments of items sold in petrol stations!) demonstrating its widespread use and acceptance.

However, this complexity and variety of options can also confuse new users, with every form consisting of its own concentration of CBD and bioavailability rate depending on your chosen usage method. Although, no matter the form of CBD, every product is believed to contain the same potential therapeutic benefits; however, they will not all have the same rates of bioavailability, concentration, or purity.

We're still working on it

Understandably, scientific research into the true potential effects of CBD is still in its infancy. However, anecdotal evidence from wellbeing enthusiasts puts forward a strong argument for the potential therapeutic properties which are believed to work through interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (which modulates various physiological functions to maintain homeostasis) - all without getting you high!

What is bioavailability?

Now we know what CBD is, and how it works within our bodies, it’s about time we explored the term “bioavailability”. There is lots to explore and unpack within this topic, from what bioavailability means, to what levels of bioavailability each delivery method of CBD contains, and how we can possibly help impact these rates! 

Bioavailability refers to the quantity and rate at which the body absorbs a substance into the bloodstream. The amount of active ingredient that reaches the body’s bloodstream will then be transported to the body’s cells and tissues for use where needed. There are now many ways to incorporate CBD into your daily routine.

Each has its own rate of bioavailability, from adding a drop of CBD oil into your morning coffee, to incorporating CBD-infused creams into your nighttime skincare routine. This means the potential effects of CBD you may feel will be altered depending on these rates across delivery methods, with some methods giving greater potency and absorption than others.

The Value of Understanding Bioavailability

Knowledge of these bioavailability rates will help you determine what form of CBD is right for you, and how much needs to be taken in order to receive your optimal dosage into your system and feel the possible effects of CBD. As whilst all forms of CBD contain the same potential benefits, CBD’s form also affects the speed at which the CBD can reach your body’s systems to deliver any potential therapeutic and regulatory properties. 

Knowing which forms of CBD delivery allow the most CBD to reach your system at the fastest rate, will help you decrease the amount of valuable CBD being lost through natural bodily processes, making your consumption extraordinarily costly and wasteful.

This is due to the fact that the lower the rate of bioavailability, the more considerable the amount of the CBD product you will have to administer for it to produce any potentially potent effect. Therefore, bioavailability is an important consideration when choosing the right CBD product for you to reap the possible therapeutic benefits of CBD.

How To Take CBD

The only way to theoretically deliver 100% of CBD into your bloodstream is through intravenous administration. Thankfully, this is highly unnecessary (and reserved for medical professionals), as there are many other ways to effectively receive your dose of CBD that can be effortlessly incorporated into your daily routine. Let’s explore the different administration methods and their individual bioavailability rates to help guide you to the most appropriate form of CBD for your needs. 

Oral CBD

Oral consumption is one of the most popular options when it comes to CBD, possibly due to its discrete and convenient nature, simply requiring you to consume CBD through swallowing your CBD product of choice. Moreover, they are available in a range of delicious edible CBD products, from CBD gummies, to CBD-infused beverages and brownies which disguise the earthy, natural taste of CBD which some people find bitter.

The Breakdown of Oral CBD

Many variables may impact the bioavailability of CBD consumed orally; however, on average, it is believed to be somewhere in the range of 4-20%.

This is because the metabolic processing of CBD in edible products (such as gummies and capsules) means they have a lower bioavailability than tinctures administered sublingually, which absorb more quickly under the tongue into the bloodstream. This often causes users to require a larger consumption of CBD edibles to receive the level of potential effects you wish to receive. This is due to our digestive system and its metabolic enzymes impeding CBD’s entrance into the body’s bloodstream, filtering out a large portion of the desired compounds. 

In fact, the process for orally consumed CBD to reach the bloodstream can take up to 2 hours. During this long process, CBD’s potency is partly lost as CBD passes through the digestive system, where it contends with digestive acids and enzymes before it can be absorbed - causing a percentage of CBD’s potential to be destroyed.

Once the CBD has filtered through the majority of the digestive system, it then is metabolised by the liver before it may be transported to the rest of the body, meaning you will have longer to wait to feel the possible effects, which may be less apparent due to lower bioavailability than other methods.

The Long-Lasting Advantage of Oral CBD

However, all is not lost; although this all sounds like oral CBD is not an effective way of consuming CBD, there are some advantages to this delivery method. For example, CBD consumed orally remains in the body for a longer duration of time than other methods.

A study found that the average time CBD molecules stay in the body when orally consumed was 4.2 hours, compared to CBD administered intravenously, which is said to have 100% bioavailability, yet was found to have an average time of 3.3 hours in the body. Furthermore, there are ways we can help to stop the dilution and improve the bioavailability of CBD that is administered orally, which we will soon discuss.

Sublingual CBD

Sublingual is one of the most effective, discrete, and simple ways of receiving a high CBD bioavailability rate, with the method including the use of tinctures and oral sprays. Like oral CBD, the CBD is consumed via the mouth, however consuming CBD sublingually is considered the most effective way of administering CBD in comparison to most other methods, having higher bioavailability rates.

How To Consume Sublingual CBD

Rather than swallowing, consuming CBD sublingually requires users to hold the oil contents under the tongue for a couple of minutes first - allowing absorption through under the tongue, called the sublingual gland. From here, the CBD is transported directly into the body’s bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract and resulting in a more significant amount of CBD being available for use in the body for quicker and more effective potential effects.

Furthermore, as CBD in this form is only degraded by the saliva enzymes, it remains in a higher concentration, avoiding having to pass through the liver, which would destroy and lower the bioavailability of CBD. Therefore, this method of consumption is believed to be significantly more effective than consuming CBD orally, resulting in bioavailability levels of up to 35%.

Getting The Most Out Of Sublingual CBD

We recommend dropping your preferred dosage of CBD oil under your tongue and holding it there for at least 20 seconds for optimal possible results. This allows time for the membranes under your tongue to absorb as much CBD as possible, before swallowing the leftovers, which will enter the digestive tract and have the same bioavailability as oral/edible CBD. 

As sublingual CBD requires no extra equipment, (unlike CBD vape products) this discrete form of administration blends seamlessly into your morning, day, or night routine. Whether you choose to consume CBD oils or tinctures at home as you wake up, or at your desk at work, sublingual CBD allows you to take back control of your intake, offering a quick and easy way of receiving your dose.

This popular method can potentially deliver the possible effects of CBD in around 15-30 minutes, allowing for speedy absorption.

Choose A Full-Spectrum CBD

The drawback of this method is that many people find the taste of CBD to be unpalatable, with earthy and bitter notes. If this is the case for you, you may find it unappealing to keep in your mouth for any longer than necessary.

However, applying the drops under your tongue helps to dull the full intensity of CBD’s flavour. Even better, if you opt for a full-spectrum CBD, then the natural terpenes present also make for natural flavourings that may mask this bitter taste for an enjoyable, yummy flavour.

Vaping CBD and Inhalation

Inhaling CBD, either through a vape pen or vaporiser, is believed to have one of the highest bioavailability rates. This is possible through decarboxylation - a process which activates the CBD to a level of heat that can be inhaled.

By turning CBD into airborne droplets, users can inhale it into the lungs where the droplets are absorbed through the thin mucus membrane to directly enter the body’s bloodstream, where it can be transported around the body to the necessary endocannabinoid receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Why Does Vaping High Such High Rates of Bioavailability?

Bypassing the digestive tract and liver, our lungs’ large surface area allows for easy CBD absorption into the bloodstream. Once CBD has entered the bloodstream, it is available for use in the body, where it may help to manage symptoms of functions and processes such as stress, mood, and sleep. Therefore, this form of delivery is quick and efficient, decreasing breakdown effects as it enters the lungs, before quickly and directly entering the bloodstream, causing higher bioavailability rates. 

A study has shown that vaping CBD may have the potential to increase CBD’s bioavailability dramatically. Alongside anecdotal evidence that vouches for vaping being a potent way of absorbing CBD, studies report that this form of delivery has a bioavailability rate in the range of 34–46%, making vaping and the inhalation of CBD one of the most effective methods of administration.

Topical and Transdermal CBD

Topical CBD refers to CBD infused creams, balms and lotions. This form of CBD delivery is known to have some of the lowest bioavailability rates, as our skin (certain cells of which are water-soluble) acts as a barrier, hindering CBD, which is fat-soluble, from being absorbed. However, transdermal CBD improves these odds, providing a slow and steady absorption of CBD into the body, allowing entrance into the bloodstream and maintaining a consistent level of CBD in the blood.

How You Can Effectively Use Topical CBD

Although it is known to have a low bioavailability level, topical CBD serves a more specific purpose. Rather than entering the bloodstream, it is thought to work on a cellular level to deliver possible therapeutic benefits. This makes it highly effective for targeting symptoms upon isolated areas of need on the skin, such as sore muscles and arthritic joints.

Therefore, many people find topical CBD highly useful for use after a workout, massaging the cream or balm into the skin to deliver potential anti-inflammatory benefits and possibly soothing symptoms of tired muscles with the terpenes present in full-spectrum CBD. Therefore, using a liberal amount of topical CBD, or absorbing CBD through transdermal delivery, is becoming increasingly popular for its potential therapeutic properties, whilst causing no intoxicating effect.

CBD and Pain

Furthermore, the slow and steady release of CBD into the bloodstream via transdermal application may help those who deal with symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions and in the potential management of symptoms of pain. The simple application of cream to the skin may help to soothe and is a convenient way of perhaps introducing CBD into a routine you already have - for example, by swapping a regular moisturiser for a CBD-infused one.

When bioavailability is low, such as in many topical CBD products, more liberal doses may be required to overcome the struggle CBD faces in breaking through the skin. It will likely take some experimenting to find your optimal dose that is most appropriate to your needs.

Ways To Increase The Bioavailability of CBD

The bioavailability of CBD is determined by what method you choose to take and how you consume it! From making some simple changes to your CBD administration, to ways to help enhance your favourite delivery method for greater effectiveness, we’ve thought of every way to help your rate of bioavailability along.

Whatever your reasons are for taking CBD, whether you find it potentially helps with your pain management, sleep, or mood - there are various ways to ensure you receive your optimal CBD dosage by increasing its bioavailability to suit your needs.

Consume CBD With A High Fat Snack or Meal

As CBD is fat-soluble, when taken with a high-fat snack or meal, it helps to dissolve CBD more easily into smaller molecules to increase its likelihood of absorption and survival through the digestive system when orally consumed and absorbed into your bloodstream.

Don’t Consume CBD on an Empty Stomach

In comparison to consuming CBD on an empty stomach, studies have found taking it alongside a high-fat meal or snack, such as avocado, nuts, seeds and omega-3 rich fish, can increase the concentration of CBD available in your body by up to four times. So, although many products already dissolve CBD in high-fat oils, combining this with consuming a high-fat snack or meal will help to increase the bioavailability rate of your CBD even more. 

As well as helping to break down the CBD into easy to absorb molecules, this is also thought to help slow the rate in which CBD leaves the body. When consumed on an empty stomach, CBD has been found to leave the body up to 9 times quicker than CBD consumed with a meal.

Try Water-Soluble CBD

Water-soluble CBD is believed to provide rapid bioavailability, as it bypasses the digestive system and can potentially lead to a greater concentration of CBD available for quick absorption into the bloodstream. 

In general, water-soluble molecules are easier for the body to absorb than fat-soluble ones. Unlike usual CBD oil (which is fat-soluble), water-soluble CBD undergoes a process of emulsification (mixing well with water) by breaking it down into nanoparticles that combine together in water and oil-based products. 

By breaking these molecules down into nanoparticles, they become more bioavailable than larger CBD particles; as they are more easily absorbed through the body’s cell membranes into the bloodstream. 

For example, CBD infused water is said to have a rapid bioavailability rate. This is because the homogenised CBD molecules are more manageable for our bodies, which are composed of up to 60% water, to absorb and accept than traditional CBD oil.

Compliment With Supplemental Terpenes

Terpenes are fatty oils that give flavours, smells, and colours to all plants, including the hemp plant. Terpenes are a core component of essential oils, as they are said to hold various potential therapeutic properties, to compliment the potential antidepressant-like effects of CBD, as well as to help supplement the treatment of pain symptoms.

The inclusion of terpenes in full-spectrum CBD allows users to receive many of the possible health benefits of essential oils in their everyday consumption and create popular aroma and natural flavours of many fruits and herbs, making the consumption of CBD much more palatable.

The Synergy of The Entourage Effect

Featuring particularly in full-spectrum CBD, terpenes work in synergy with the rest of the compounds featured in the hemp plant to combine their potential properties and work more powerfully together - this is called the entourage effect. So, as well as enhancing the possible therapeutic effects of CBD, terpenes may also help to increase the bioavailability of CBD.

This is because terpenes are lipids, making the perfect environment for breaking down CBD, which is fat-soluble, into smaller molecules. Therefore, consuming extra terpenes alongside CBD may help to add to the synergistic effect of CBD and enhance its possible effects.

Experiment With Other Supplemental Herbs

As well as terpenes, there are supplemental herbs that can also possibly help to increase CBD’s bioavailability. For example, black pepper is believed to directly improve the bioavailability of CBD in a host of ways, and contain many terpenes and notable compounds of its own that have potential beneficial properties to help increase CBD’s possible bioavailability.

Try Piperine With Your CBD  

Namely, piperine is an alkaloid unique to black pepper which is commonly used in supplements and believed to potentially fight against the liver’s metabolic effect to increase the bioavailability of CBD. In more detail; the intestinal lining has transporter molecules that piperine helps to stimulate, which may help to speed up the absorption of CBD through the intestinal membrane to reach the bloodstream.

As well as this, piperine is thought to inhibit the enzymes that degrade and destroy CBD, allowing the supplement to travel around the body to where it is needed. In fact, one study found that oral CBD supplements that included piperine potentially resulted in six times the CBD concentration in the blood compared to the same CBD supplement, including no piperine - demonstrating its true possible power!

Therefore, by combining the natural compounds of herbs such as piperine, with the natural properties of CBD, it is thought to create potential synergistic benefits that may powerfully affect the absorption of CBD, as well as possibly aid in enhancing your overall wellbeing.

Hold Under Your Tongue Before Swallowing

Many people miss out on optimising their CBD’s potential effectiveness by digesting their CBD oil orally, rather than sublingually. Naturally, we think to place a few drops on the top of our tongue and swallow them down, however, by making a couple of tweaks to this technique, you may potentially transform your CBD’s effectiveness. 

Not only suitable for CBD oil, other edibles such as CBD gummies and capsules can also be held under the tongue for a couple of minutes before swallowing to increase the likelihood of the CBD being absorbed sublingually. To help the bioavailability of this method, bite open or chew the CBD edible of your choice before holding under your tongue, helping to release the CBD contents for easier absorption into your bloodstream.

Increase CBD’s Concentration

Of course, if you are attempting to increase your CBD’s bioavailability to increase your chance of experiencing any potential effects, then increasing the concentration of your CBD may be the best way.

Although it won’t increase your CBD’s bioavailability per mg, it will increase the quantity of CBD that does reach your bloodstream. This is more commonly the solution for lower-quality CBD. However, be cautious that purchasing a lower quality CBD and increasing your concentration is a very costly and wasteful method. 

A more successful alternative would be to upgrade to a high-quality premium CBD, as you will have a greater concentration per dose. This will increase your value over time, and will maximise your chances of experiencing any potential therapeutic effects.

Why Choose Premium CBD?

One success factor of receiving high rates of bioavailability is consuming high-quality, premium CBD. This is because, even if a delivery method of administering CBD has a rapid bioavailability rate, if the CBD product is low-quality, then the potential effects are likely to still be underwhelming. 

Low-quality CBD that has been inexpensively-manufactured is common to have shallow bioavailability levels, drastically affecting the possible effects users may experience. This close correlation between bioavailability and CBD quality demonstrates the importance of opting for premium CBD oil.

That is why, here at CBII, we carry out pure and gentle extraction of the hemp plant’s natural compounds, whilst following stringent quality guidelines to deliver quality CBD that is unmatched, resulting in the safest premium full-spectrum CBD oil possible, for increased efficacy and potential effectiveness to provide optimal results from consumption. 

Although the effect of CBD will be different for each individual, knowing the different bioavailability rates of CBD delivery methods will help you to make an informed decision on what CBD to buy and how best to use it, as well as the appropriate dosage for your needs.

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