If you’ve got a curious mind as we do, you’ve likely before wondered why we take CBD oil rather than just plain CBD by itself. If CBD is the only active therapeutic compound in a CBD product, why can’t we just jam a spoonful of it down our throat and be done with it?
Well, the body doesn’t really work that way, unfortunately. In order for things to be digested properly and the minerals/nutrients to be thoroughly absorbed for use, compounds must be broken down and absorbed through the intestinal wall.
While CBD by itself can be absorbed, it is done so much more efficiently (up to three times more efficiently, in fact) when it is ingested along with a carrier oil. Since cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) from the cannabis plant are fat-soluble (meaning they dissolve in oil rather than water), infusing them in a saturated fat enhances their bioavailability drastically.
But why is CBD oil made with coconut oil? We all know that hemp itself (where many CBD oils come from) produces a wonderfully nutritious natural oil from its seeds, so why don’t we just use hemp seed oil instead? You’re going to discover that what it comes down to is fat…
As it turns out, coconut oil is pretty much the perfect carrier oil for CBD because of its saturated fat content. The way that cannabinoids work molecularly is, the higher the lipid content of the oil they are in, the better and more efficiently they can dissolve. Conveniently, coconut oil is made up of up to 90% saturated fat, as opposed to olive oil and hemp seed oil which are only made of around 14% and 11% fat content, respectively.
But don’t worry; since the saturated fat content of coconut oil is composed largely of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) instead of long-chain triglycerides (LGTs), you don’t need to be concerned about it clogging up your arteries.
As it goes, in fact, coconut oil is one of the only natural oils that has a high content of MCTs. While this serves as an excellent energy source that is much more easily metabolized than complex carbohydrates or LCTs, it also acts as the perfect carrier for CBD.
So ultimately, this is the reason why most of the best CBD oils are made with coconut oil as opposed to hemp seed oil; since coconut oil has more saturated fat, it can break down and carry more CBD molecules, and ultimately deliver more cannabidiol to our cells for absorption.
Without coconut oil, a large percentage of CBD molecules simply end up making their way to the liver, at which point they’d be treated as waste and simply excreted through urine. This is why you always want to select a CBD tincture that uses coconut oil over olive oil or some other kind of oil.
There have been a few studies conducted on why coconut oil acts as the perfect molecular carrier for CBD. While a lot of the scientific language can be pretty complex and confusing, what the research basically says, is that when you ingest CBD that’s dissolved in a high saturated fat oil (like coconut or pure MCT oil), you’re getting the maximum possible absorption.
Here’s how it works: lipids (basically the scientific word for fats) are known to stick to the walls of whatever internal transport system they’re traveling through. So think about our blood vessels, for instance: you’ve heard of clogged arteries and plaque buildup that causes heart disease of course. Well, this is due in part to high amounts of bad saturated fat content in the system. These lipids stick to the walls of the arteries and are not easily broken down (metabolized), so they just sit there and accumulate.
The same goes for the digestive system: when we eat high-fat foods, they tend to stick to the walls of our intestinal gut rather than passing straight down into the acid bath of the stomach. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the type of fat involved.
If it’s bad saturated fat (like those found in french fries or bacon), then it becomes very hard for the body to metabolize, so instead, these unhealthy lipids accumulate in certain fatty areas of the body – i.e. the stomach, thighs, etc.
If it’s good saturated fat, on the other hand, these are actually absorbed very quickly and easily, directly through the intestinal wall. Good saturated fats mostly include MCTs like those that are found naturally in coconut oil.
Since lipid content can be absorbed directly through the intestinal walls rather than passing through the entire digestive system, the bioavailability of CBD is maximized when taken with coconut oil. Scientifically, this is referred to as intestinal lymphatic transport.
Lymphatic transport is crucial when taking certain medications (CBD included), as it means these avoid being broken down by the liver. If CBD were to enter the liver (as much of it does when taken with olive oil), it is metabolized into smaller components at which point it becomes virtually useless in terms of its therapeutic or pain-relieving potential.
And on a side note, this is also why liposomal transport is used to deliver certain medications – it allows them to be passed directly into the cells through the gut lining. Some companies are already experimenting with CBD liposome capsules for maximum absorption.
To be clear, not all CBD oils are made with coconut oil. There are plenty out there that are infused in olive oils or natural hemp seed oils, and they do indeed work just fine – depending on how they are extracted and processed.
From a scientific and molecular perspective, however, the high saturated fat (MCT) content of coconut oil provides for the maximum absorption rate of CBD into the body’s cells, by allowing it to pass directly through the intestinal wall instead of entering into the liver.
As you’ll find if you end up using CBD frequently, the vast majority of the best CBD oils and tinctures are infused in a quality coconut oil or MCT oil.
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