Now that there have been many years of research and development, the industry has been able create many different types of CBD products. This variety, although wonderfully dynamic and growing every day, can lead to a lot of confusion about the differences in use, as well as the differences in the amount of CBD offered in each product. The correlation between the CBD ingestion route and the way it is absorbed into the body are very important to understand. Ingestion route is one variable manufacturers use to determine CBD dosages in their products. We will discuss the different ingestion routes below, as well as give you some background on how CBD is absorbed differently when comparing these ingestion routes to the body.
What are the Types of CBD Ingestion Routes?
The most familiar ingestion routes are sublingual (under the tongue), oral ingestion to the stomach, inhalation (smoking or vaporization), as well as topical (through the skin). There are other ingestion routes, such as intravenously (IV) and nebulization, but those situations are mostly found in hospital settings as they require specific medical equipment. The reason for these different types of ingestion routes and products is due to their bioavailability within the body.
What is bioavailability of CBD?
Bioavailability is a general term that is used to describe how much of a product is made available to the body. Absorption route, along with different ingredients and formulas, can increase or decrease bioavailability. When referring to CBD, we are talking about the amount of CBD that will be effective in the body once it reaches the bloodstream, to be sent to the appropriate receptors throughout the body. Depending on ingestion route chosen, bioavailability will effect the amount of initial dose that is suggested. It is important to note these differences. You can take much smaller doses with certain ingestion routes versus others.
Oral CBD Ingestion
The most recognized method of ingestion of CBD is through the mouth and to the stomach. These products can be found as oils, tinctures, capsules and edibles. Oral ingestion products can be taken with or without food. However, it must be kept in mind that with oral ingestion, the CBD must pass through the metabolic and digestive systems. The first-pass metabolism occurs in the liver and will decrease the bioavailability of the CBD greatly. This is due to the fact that the liver and gut contain enzymes that break down the CBD, thus reducing its concentration before it reaches the bloodstream. Aside from poor bioavailability, or inefficient absorption, another note to take about oral ingestion routes is that the amount of time it takes to feel the effects will be much longer. The overall effects will last longer than other routes, but will take longer for their onset. CBD Bioavailability: 4% - 20%
CBD Absorbed Sublingually
When taken sublingually, CBD is placed under the tongue and held in the mouth for about thirty seconds to a minute, or until absorbed. This absorption occurs through the mucous membranes under the tongue, called the sublingual gland. Higher quality products will absorb more fully and quickly than lower quality products. If there is any remainder in the mouth, it is swallowed, following the oral stomach ingestion route. The sublingual ingestion route is beneficial because it bypasses the first-pass metabolism that is necessary when ingesting via the stomach. The first-pass metabolism occurs in the liver, which takes a lot longer to get to the bloodstream as compared to sublingual ingestion. The CBD bioavailability is higher in sublingual ingestion as compared to oral stomach ingestion due to the fact that the liver can break down the compounds to be flushed out of the body, rather than passed into the bloodstream, leaving the consumer with a lower effective amount of CBD. When absorbed sublingually, the CBD is allowed to directly enter the bloodstream and is only broken down minimally by saliva, allowing much more of the CBD to absorbed into the body. The bioavailability of sublingual CBD is significantly higher than oral absorption. Another benefit over other ingestion routes is that it is safer than inhalation. Bypassing the need to create a combustable smoke (either smoke inhalation or vaporization), allows for less possible contaminants and carcinogens to enter the body. CBD Bioavailability: 12% - 35%
Smoking or Vaping CBD Inhalation
The inhalation ingestion route is one that also favors bioavailability. When inhaled, either through atomization vapor (vaping) or inhaled smoke (flower or concentrates in solid form), CBD directly enters the bloodstream through the lungs. While these two options of inhalation fall under the same category for bioavailability, they differ greatly in their health options. Atomization vapor, or vape pens, or a vape machine, work via a convective heating method. This means that air is heated up, passed through the liquid, causing it to vaporize and become airborne as you to inhale. There are far less byproducts when vaping versus smoking. Smoking inhalation, which is using a heating element such as a lighter to a bowl or joint, an e-nail or torch used for concentrates, works via a conductive heating method. This means that a surface is heated up and when the flower or concentrate comes into contact with that surface, it combusts and becomes airborne for you to inhale. Whenever combustion is involved comes the possibility of creating and inhaling unwanted byproducts. Although the effects are quick to be felt via this absorption method, they are also more quickly utilized by the body, thus the effects will not last as long as they would with an oral dose. CBD Bioavailability: 34% - 46%
Topical CBD Absorption
Infused topical remedies and skincare products all fall under this category of ingestion route. They can include lotions, creams, balms, salves, rubs, lubes and more. The absorption of the CBD is concentrated to a particular area of the body when applied directly to the skin. This route is more unique than others in that it allows the CBD to remain concentrated on a target area near the surface of the skin. Our skin naturally has many different cannabinoid receptors and is hydrophobic, meaning the CBD, which is also hydrophobic, can not pass through the skin barrier. The one exception is transdermal patches, which, by definition, are able to pass through the skin barrier with ingredients that assist the CBD in crossing the skin. The bioavailability and absorption of CBD is very low as compared to the other ingestion routes. Make sure that the treatment being applied is used liberally, or that the concentration of CBD is high enough to feel effects. CBD Bioavailability: Very low
How is CBD Best Absorbed?
Sublingual and inhalation routes are the most efficient ways to deliver fast and highly bioavailable CBD, but with shorter periods of relief. For those with chronic conditions looking for long lasting relief, oral CBD can produce longer lasting effects, but higher doses will be necessary for relief. For those looking for directed relief that is on the skin or muscles, topical treatments may be the best route of absorption. There is no right or wrong way to take CBD. It is very important to know what your goal is when taking CBD products. Once you have your goal in mind, you can work to find the best method of ingestion for you and your loved ones.
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Check out the full article here: What is the Best Way to Take CBD?
Author: A.J. Varela, Biologist