CBD Bioavailability: What Does This Even Mean?

Understanding the concept


Have you been paying any attention to the booming CBD market? Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last half-decade, surely you have. If so, you’ve likely already heard of the term ‘bioavailability.’

Most of the time, you’ve probably seen the word written in various CBD marketing. Companies claim enhanced bioavailability for everything from CBD vapes to topical creams and ointments. Some even claim enhanced CBD bioavailability by way of nanoparticles.

Regardless of the precise terminology, if you’re using CBD, you should know what bioavailability is – and how it affects you. Keep on reading for a good, detailed look.

What Exactly Is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability isn’t a term specific to CBD. Instead, it is a scientific term referencing the availability of all drugs and compounds to the body’s cells.

Simply put, bioavailability refers to the ratio of a substance that absorbs into the bloodstream. The higher the bioavailability, the better (and more efficient) the compound assimilates into the body.

This might come as a shock for those of you that take CBD oil orally (under the tongue). Maybe you thought it took effect immediately. In actuality, CBD takes time to make its way into cells.

Different substances have different rates of cellular assimilation – in other words, different levels of bioavailability.

For example, ibuprofen has a very high bioavailability in excess of 80%. This means that your cells will actually utilize roughly 80% of the total amount of ibuprofen you take.

CBD has a lower level of bioavailability than ibuprofen. Exactly how much lower, however, is not entirely clear. In part, this is due to the difficult legal quandary that cannabis-related products find themselves in.

That said, there are a few studies out there look into the confusing topic of CBD and bioavailability.

What Do Studies Say About CBD Bioavailability?

There actually has been little talk of CBD’s bioavailability over the years. Regardless of what any marketing campaign might say, no one knows for sure what the exact rate is. What we do know is that different methods of CBD consumption will produce different rates of bioavailability.

For example, one study found that inhaling CBD via smoke produces bioavailability of around 31%. This is probably the most concrete data we have in terms of the actual bioavailability of CBD in humans. The study was a systematic review of various other studies, sourcing its information from a variety of data points.

Other studies are not so steadfast in their convictions. In a separate review for the Journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, scientists suggest that the chemical structure of CBD oil results in an inherently low bioavailability.

But why is this? Researchers suggest that CBD’s hydrophobic nature doesn’t bode well with human tissue systems, which are made mostly of water. However, the study observes that taking six 100mg doses of oral CBD oil daily results in an increase in bioavailability. Sadly a precise figure of exactly how much of an increase wasn’t published in the study.

The use of coconut oil in CBD products

To help improve bioavailability levels even more, some studies, such as one by Fukui et al. for the Journal of Pharmacobio-dynamics, found that the use of coconut oil as the inert oil produced the best results.

This is because of the fact that coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides, known as MCT, which are more easily digested by the human body. This allows the body not only to break down the CBD oil faster but also to retrieve more of the cannabinoids from it than with other oils.

If you are looking for even more bioavailability in an even stranger way, then you should take a look at a further study conducted by Paudel KS et al. for the Journal of Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. This study found that, when CBD oil was absorbed intranasally, meaning through the nose, then the bioavailability was generally increased to a rate of between 34% and 46%. This proved the same regardless of the actual dosage, meaning it could be relied upon as a fairly dependable method of imbibing CBD.

So, What Is the Best CBD Option for Bioavailability?

bioavailability of cbd

The chief problem with trying to imbibe CBD in a reliable quantity is that CBD has an inherently low water solubility, meaning that any consumption method with a high bioavailability must be oil-based. Thus, CBD oil is a good – if somewhat simplistic – solution.

The inherent problem with this is that the body is only able to process so much of the CBD oil at once, due to the body’s inefficiency when it comes to absorbing oils.

If you are looking for the highest bioavailability possible, then imbibing CBD oil intranasally is likely your best bet – however, it is a widely disliked method of CBD delivery, simply because it feels uncomfortable and isn’t exactly a covert way of imbibing cannabinoids.

Instead, the most likely method most people would choose is some kind of edible CBD oil. If so, make sure you go for one that contains plenty of MCT oils, like CBD oil that uses coconut oil.

Final Verdict on CBD & Bioavailability

When people first start getting into the world of CBD, it looks like one big chasm of confusion and frustration – there are endless questions, few answers and a whole subgenre of specialties and information that make it seem almost impossible to know what you are doing.

As you begin to learn more, however, it becomes apparent that you can learn quite a lot about the process of CBD, but the main thing that you need to decide is how you want to take it.

For those that are concerned with getting only the highest level of bioavailability, you should certainly consider taking either CBD oil made from coconut oil or even trying some intranasal CBD.

Regardless of what you choose, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the individual bioavailability rating of whatever CBD product you choose. As long as you take the recommended dose, you should be fine regardless.

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