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CBD Bioavailability: What You Need to Know

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The CBD industry is booming, and the number of products on the market containing everyone’s favorite cannabinoid seems to increase daily. Unfortunately, as the number of products on the market increases, so does confusion about how to choose a product that’s right for you. CBD bioavailability is one factor that can help you determine which CBD product might be best for your needs. That’ll be our focus here, so let’s get started.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

CBD can affect the human body because it interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), which is made up of cannabinoid receptors on cell membranes throughout your body. This vast network of receptor sites makes up what’s more commonly called the endocannabinoid system or just ECS for short.

One example of how CBD interacts with the ECS is by temporarily binding to select receptor sites, such as those for serotonin. By occupying these receptor sites, CBD interferes with the uptake of serotonin so that it cannot be metabolized and excreted. This increases the amount of serotonin available in your body, which can improve mood while also making CBD more effective as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) compound.

The ECS has been and continues to be researched for its role in regulating various processes throughout your body, including appetite, metabolism, immune function, mood and memory. CBD’s interaction with the ECS is complex, but it’s essential to know that many of CBD’s benefits are due to its effects on this vast network.

What Is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a substance reaches the target site after administration. A supplement’s bioavailability is expressed as a percentage, representing how much the administered dose reaches circulation. For example, if 100 milligrams (mg) of CBD was orally consumed and measured to have 35 mg of bioavailability, this would mean that 35% of the CBD consumed made it into your system.

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Why CBD Bioavailability Is Important

The amount of CBD entering your system regarding the bioavailability of the method you choose to take is crucial to how well it will deliver the desired effect. CBD enters your bloodstream and starts traveling throughout the body. It then enters different cells, binds to receptor sites or metabolizes into other compounds that bind to either CB1 or CB2 receptors of the ECS. 

How much CBD is actually absorbed into your system depends on the method of consumption. Let’s look at the various ways that CBD can enter the body and how the bioavailability of these methods affects their overall effectiveness.

CBD Bioavailability by Product and Method

CBD Oil Taken Sublingually – Sublingual (under the tongue) administration of CBD tinctures generally has higher bioavailability than ingested administration because the CBD enters the bloodstream directly through absorption under your tongue mucus membranes rather than being exposed to enzymes in your stomach that may affect how well it is absorbed. 

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CBD Gummies, Capsules or Oil Taken Orally: When CBD oil is taken orally or ingested, such as eating oh-so-delicious CBD gummies, it’s essential to consider the carrier oil or edible substance. For example, since CBD oil capsules are often made with MCT oil, hemp seed oil or fractionated coconut oils, this mixture will have varying levels of CBD absorption. 

You also must consider that the CBD must make its way through your digestive system and undergo the first-pass effect to be effective. The first pass effect refers to the liver metabolizing CBD before it enters your bloodstream, which may reduce how much you actually absorb. However, this may not be so bad, as CBD has been researched for its benefits on the liver.

CBD Topicals: CBD topicals are applied directly to the skin instead of being ingested orally or inhaled. Because of this, they have lower bioavailability when compared to other methods. When CBD is absorbed through the skin, it must pass through cell membranes to get into the bloodstream and then enter different cells and bind to receptor sites throughout your body. 

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However, the purpose of topicals is for localized relief. When CBD is applied to the skin, it contacts cannabinoid receptors in the dermis. It then penetrates through this layer and into underlying tissues and muscles to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. So, therefore, even though it technically has the lowest bioavailability of the methods we’re looking at here, it doesn’t really matter because we’re looking for localized and targeted effects when we use topicals.

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CBD Vape Oil: Inhalation methods of administering CBD have the highest bioavailability. They allow CBD to enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs. This results in almost immediate effects and is why there’s such growing popularity recently among CBD vape oils for therapeutic use. 

However, vaporizing might also be one of the most efficient ways to absorb CBD, not just because it has high bioavailability but also because the CBD gets absorbed via the lungs instead of through the liver, which has to metabolize the substance before it enters your bloodstream.

What’s Right for You?

Only you can choose the method of CBD consumption that works the best for you and your needs. As you can see above, each way of taking CBD has its own unique bioavailability levels that result in different time-to-onset effects and significantly impact how much CBD you require per dose. You should try out various methods of CBD administration to get a feel for how long it takes you to feel the effects and how long they last. Listen to your body and go slowly when upping the dose, and you’ll soon feel the benefits in ways that will most accelerate your wellness journey. 


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