CBD Bioavailability: What is It and Why Does It Matter?

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CBD Bioavailability: What is It and Why Does It Matter?

CBD, the healing cannabinoid found in marijuana and hemp plants, has taken the world by storm over the last decade or so. Since its rise in popularity, scientists and manufacturers have teamed up to find the most beneficial ways to consume CBD and are working with the most important factor-CBD bioavailability

This may sound like a complex concept, but it is actually quite simple. We are going to break down exactly what bioavailability is, why it's important, and the best way to achieve maximal results of use. Let's dive right in!

What is CBD Bioavailability?

The scientific term used to describe the rate of absorption of a drug is bioavailability. This measures how quickly and accurately the compound makes it from its entry point-be it orally by mouth, inhalation, or topically on the skin-into the bloodstream. 

Our bodies have a lot of different systems in place to be able to process all sorts of vitamins, chemicals, minerals, and more which enter it. Certain things absorb into our bodies easier. Specifically, things that are water soluble. 

In order to understand bioavailability, we must first understand the long journey that drugs, medication, vitamins, and supplements take to be absorbed. In the case of orally administered substances, the journey begins in the mouth and heads south for the gastrointestinal system. From there, it must make it through the gut wall and then to the liver. Only then will it finally be able to be absorbed into the bloodstream. 

The tricky part here is trying to keep the nutrients alive through the gut processes. It is here that the substances go through a process known as the metabolic first-pass. This is the make-or-break moment when a nutrient will either be broken down and lost or make it past the liver to reach systemic circulation. 

Without reaching systemic circulation, the substance is virtually useless. 

Why Does This Matter?

When using cannabis products, be it for recreational or medicinal purposes, you want to get the most out of your weed as possible. All of this relies greatly on how bioavailable it is. 

One of the difficulties that arose when growers and manufacturers began producing CBD products for medicinal reasons was that the state of the product (typically in oil form) does not absorb into our bodies very easily. This is because of its oil base. We all know that water and oil don't mix well. 

What this results in is bioavailability that is lower than it could be. In fact, products like this are likely to waste at least 80 percent of the CBD you could be utilizing, simply because of issues with absorption. Essentially, out of the recommended 10mg of CBD that you take, only about two milligrams of that CBD will be available for absorption.

This means that in order to get the dose you are aiming for (10mg for example), you would have to take about 80mg of CBD. And while that isn't necessarily unsafe or dangerous, it is a huge waste of money and product. 

Luckily there are growers, manufacturers, and researchers alike working together to find ways to get the most absorption possible. This is in order to maximize the effects of CBD. But what exactly is it that keeps CBD bioavailability low? And, what are the methods being used currently to improve this?

What Forms of CBD are Subject to Low Bioavailability?

The biggest set back with many CBD products is the fact that most methods of extraction produce an oil-based product. Products that are not water soluble, to be more specific. Most medicinal users of CBD do not smoke the flower. Rather, they ingest either through edibles, tinctures, topicals, or capsules. All of these require that CBD is extracted into an oil, which can be an issue.

When a substance enters our bodies that is oil based, the body has a difficult time breaking that down and absorbing as much of the nutrients. Or, in this case, endocannabinoids. 

One test that was done using 40mg worth of CBD found that only six percent was bioavailable! That is a really disappointing number for those seeking relief from a multitude of symptoms and conditions. Inhalation, on the other hand, was reported to have a bioavailability of around 18 percent. Which is still just not enough. 

In comparison, the bioavailability of THC (the psychoactive cousin of CBD) when inhaled is around 30 percent on average. 

What's interesting, though, is that CBD bioavailability significantly increases when it is administered via inhaled vapor. In fact, the bioavailability of CBD can reach anywhere from 50 to 80 percent when inhaled as a vapor. This is potentially a result of the way that vaporizing a bud or oil decarboxylates the cannabis. 

Decarboxylation is a necessary process for using cannabis because it is what forces the cannabinoids to activate. Decarboxylation happens when the cannabis reaches a certain temperature, either by direct contact with fire (like when you light up a joint), by baking, or vaporizing. 

Full Spectrum vs Isolate

Another important factor to understand is whether or not the product is a full spectrum or isolate. What exactly do those two things mean? Well, first it is important to know that CBD is not the only non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has medicinal benefits. In fact, all cannabinoids have some sort of benefit. And, each one may have a slightly different benefit than the others. 

There are over 100 cannabinoids, but the ones that you will see and hear of the most are THC, CBD, CBG, and CBC. All of these cannabinoids have medicinal benefits, even THC (which is the only one out of all that is psychoactive), and it is important when using cannabis as medicine to utilize all of these cannabinoids to get the best results. 

When searching for CBD products, you will hear about full spectrum products versus isolate. And the difference between the two is pretty clear: a full spectrum product will contain all cannabinoids in the plant (which may or may not contain trace amounts of THC depending on whether it came from a marijuana or hemp plant), and an isolate is usually just CBD, or maybe CBG. 

That being said, many of the products on the market that have a low bioavailability are likely to be an isolate rather than a full spectrum CBD. 

Why is Cannabis Bioavailability So Low?

Optimally, you would want to have 100 percent bioavailability when using cannabis. Especially if you are using CBD for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, unless administered intravenously (directly to the bloodstream), you're not going to reach that 100 percent bioavailability.

Remember how we mentioned earlier that the substance being ingested much reach systemic circulation in order to be utilized? Well, this is difficult for CBD. 

During that metabolic first-pass, nearly all of the active CBD is lost because it is weak against our gastrointestinal system. 

Potential Solutions for Increasing Bioavailability

The fact that cannabis has such a low bioavailability is a huge problem for medical marijuana patients and recreational users alike. So what is the solution to this problem?

Well, many companies have been working hard to find a better way to administer cannabis for optimal absorption. We already mentioned that vaporizing and smoking cannabis is able to provide a higher bioavailability. But, what about those who don't want to inhale cannabis? 

Water Soluble

That's where water soluble CBD products come in, and there is a lot of this surfacing. One type of product in particular that has hit the market in an attempt to optimize bioavailability is CBD infused water. Something like this would give you a bioavailability very similar to that of inhaled cannabis.

This is pretty remarkable for those who wish to get the most out of their CBD without having to smoke or vape it. 

Not only does this method provide a much better bioavailability, but it also will work a lot faster, too. It should only take about 10 minutes or so to start feeling the effects. Traditional oral administration can take over an hour to enter the bloodstream. 


In order to make oil-based CBD products more bioavailable and soluble within the body, manufacturers have been working towards creating what is known as water compatible cannabis nanoemulsions.

This is done by creating tiny micro-molecules of oil which are much easier for our bodies to deal with. Here, the CBD is combined with the right kind of oils that work as really good carriers. 

When successful, applying this water-soluble oil directly under the tongue provides some really amazing results. This is because the saliva is able to break down the material and then it absorbs into the veins directly below the tongue-web. This process is known as sublingual application. 

Sublingual application with a proper nanoemulsion product will not only be able to enter the bloodstream near instantly under the tongue, anything that makes it past the tongue will still likely be absorbed be it in the esophagus or intestines. 

This same nanoemulsion product can be used in different ways as well. There are some companies out there who have released oils compatible with a nebulizer that takes the water-soluble solution and turns it into a misted vapor to be inhaled. It has also been used in topical applications, as well as nasal inhalants.

Turmeric CBD Capsules

Another really interesting way to create better bioavailability for CBD products is to use capsules that are turmeric-based. This not only makes the digestion process work better for absorption, but it also has its own unique benefits. This is because of the insane healing properties of turmeric. 

Turmeric works as an amazing anti-inflammatory and makes for a really great combination with CBD. The capsules allow the metabolic first-pass to break down the turmeric material and save some of that critical CBD for systemic circulation. This is because of an important mineral found in turmeric called curcumin.

These are just some of the ways that people have discovered so far to improve the bioavailability of CBD. With the recent legalization of industrial hemp, we are certainly going to see more and more research and more new innovative products emerge. 

So What is the Best Method for Max Bioavailability?

Now we know how low the bioavailability of cannabis can be, especially when comparing CBD vs THC. You're probably wondering which method of consumptions is going to be the most productive when it comes to absorption. 

The only way to get the absolute maximum bioavailability of cannabis is intravenously. That is the single best method of getting those awesome cannabinoids into systemic circulation. However, this isn't really a viable option for people so what's the next best?

By-and-large, you are going to get the best bioavailability through inhalation. Especially of vaporized cannabis material. This absorbs almost right away, and you can see as much as 80+ percent bioavailability.

It's also sometimes more affordable to buy oil cartridges or even CBD flower to smoke than to buy tinctures or edibles. You're also saving money as opposed to using traditional edibles because you don't need nearly as much product to get the same level of relief. 

However, many patients using cannabidiol as medicine do not want to smoke the substance. So what is the best option for them? This takes us back to the nanoemulsion tinctures. They can be a bit more pricey, but they offer close to the same percentage of bioavailability of inhaling without any negative smoking effects. 

Remember, though, that it is important that you do some research about an oil-based CBD product before purchasing. You need to make sure that the product you are going to consume is water-soluble. Otherwise, you will still be looking at only a six to eight percent bioavailability.

Making CBD Work For You

At the end of the day, any amount of CBD is better than none. We just want to make sure that you have the knowledge and resources to find the right products that are going to give you maximal results. You should always get the most CBD bioavailability when shopping products.

For more great information about CBD check out our blog. Or, you can shop our extensive collection of high-quality products!

Tags: CBD Products

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