Here in the wild wild west of CBD, new products materialize out of thin air at an astonishing rate. From CBD beverages to topicals, how do these different forms of CBD affect us, and how does the same amount of CBD from a cream affect us differently from a tincture? These questions can only be answered by exploring the CBD bioavailability attributed to each method.
What is bioavailability?
Bioavailability can be thought of as an absorption rate: how much of something enters the bloodstream in a given amount of time. Each method of taking CBD has a different level of bioavailability, which is important to understand because it helps you determine how much you need to take, and in what form, to ensure a proper dose actually ends up in your system. Without this knowledge, you may not feel the desired effects. Let’s explore the bioavailability of CBD across these common forms of ingestion.
Taking CBD through an IV dose allows for 100% of the CBD to be actively available. While this is not a very practical form to most consumers, we use it as a baseline against which other methods are derived and compared.
Sublingual CBD Drops
Bioavailability: 10% -20%
Administering a CBD oil sublingually is said to have roughly a 10% – 20% availability. Often the preferred method for oral ingestion, CBD gets absorbed through the mucosal membrane and enters the bloodstream more rapidly than by swallowing. However, actual studies on this are scant, and how long one holds the oil under the tongue affects absorption rates as well.
We recommend holding our tincture for 30+ seconds, then swallowing the rest. The longer you leave under the tongue, the more potential to achieve an optimal absorption amount.
CBD Oral Ingestion
Bioavailability: 6% – 19%
Swallowing CBD has a lower bioavailability at roughly 6% – 19%. One reason for this is that CBD is not readily absorbed when ingested and as a result, most of it is excreted without exerting any effects.
CBD edibles and beverages are the most common product types to fall under this method; however, swallowing any form of CBD will have the same effective absorption rate.
While swallowing CBD does have lower bioavailability than other methods, it also tends to have longer lasting effects. Think of it as the low and slow method for CBD intake.
Whether vaping or smoking, inhaling CBD offers the highest bioavailability. The lungs have a large surface area, high permeability, and optimal blood supply for CBD to enter the circulatory system. Similar to sublingual administration, vaping CBD bypasses the digestive system where it gets processed by the liver and kidneys. Unlike sublingual methods, vapor reaches the bloodstream even faster.
Inhaling CBD has a faster onset than other methods, but with the rapid dosing comes a shorter lasting effect.
While transdermal patches offer higher absorption rates, the typical CBD cream, salve, balm, or muscle rub offers a low CBD bioavailability. Hovering around 5% makes it all the more important to find a CBD topical that contains a high amount of CBD (with lab tests to prove).
While topicals remain the lowest bioavailable CBD application, they also offer the most targeted application, and therefore, what little CBD penetrates will at least go directly into the area that needs it.
With little CBD entering the system and without the need to digest it first, a topical user can feel free to use it liberally and often throughout the day.
What's the Best Method of taking CBD?
The one that works the best, of course! As we have so often stated, experimentation is the key to success. Some people have a preferred method in mind already, while others may let the condition they are treating determine the best approach to take. While both have their merits, a further look into CBD bioavailability reveals a broader range of options to help inform our decisions into what type of CBD to try.
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