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The language of CBD can be a bit overwhelming. Pick up a package of any CBD product, and you can sometimes find yourself more confused than you were before. Jargon, fancy language, bold claims… What does it all mean?
At Amphora, we believe everyone should be able to understand what they are consuming. So we're talking today about one term that you'll run into in the CBD space – bioavailability. What is it, and why does it matter when choosing a CBD product?
What Is Bioavailability?
Simply put, bioavailability is how much of something ends up being absorbed into the body. High bioavailability means most or all of it gets in. Low bioavailability implies that a lot gets lost in the process.
Bioavailability comes up a lot when talking about nutrients. Iron, for example. If you’re feeling fatigued all the time and go see a doctor about it, they will likely do some bloodwork to check your iron levels. Low levels of iron lead to a condition called anaemia.
So, can’t you just eat more iron-rich foods to fix that? Not necessarily. The bioavailability of iron from many foods is very low. Non-vegetarians love to spar with vegetarians and vegans on this point. Bioavailable iron from a mixed diet that includes meat is estimated at about 18%. Bioavailable iron from an entirely plant-based diet comes in around 10%.
And to make things even tougher, other food we eat and drink can make it harder for the body to process and absorb iron from food. Coffee and tea, for example. Taking an iron supplement in the morning at the same time as you enjoy a lovely morning cuppa can keep your iron intake stubbornly low, even when you're taking supplements to give your system a boost.
That’s why bioavailability matters so much. Simply taking more of something doesn’t always mean that more of it actually gets absorbed.
How Bioavailable is CBD?
So how bioavailable is CBD? How much of the good stuff is really getting into your body?
Good question. CBD absorption can be very high… or it can be low. It all depends on how you take it and the quality of what you take. All kinds of factors make a difference between a CBD product that delivers the maximum amount into your bloodstream and one where much of the CBD misses the target.
The first thing to consider is how it is being taken. Inhaled? Taken under the tongue? Baked into an edible product? Extracted into an oil?
How you take CBD is the first thing to consider when looking at bioavailability. Let’s take a quick overview of the methods.
Vaping CBD (Inhalation)
Inhaling CBD offers the highest bioavailability. Vaping CBD can provide a bioavailability of more than 50%. When CBD is vaped, it is absorbed through the thin membranes inside the lungs and travels directly to the bloodstream. From there, it is an express route through the body.
The speed of absorption matters for two reasons; First, it delivers more of the CBD to the bloodstream before any starts to break down. Second is the quick time to effect. Since it is absorbed almost instantly, it makes it easier to hear your own body’s feedback.
Do four draws of Amphora’s Inspire formula set your day off on the right foot or is two enough to hit the sweet spot? Is one long, relaxing pull of our ZZZ just the thing for you to settle down for the night or does it take a couple before you’re ready for some shut-eye? Vaping’s quick uptake into the bloodstream makes it easy to find your balance.
So inhaling takes the top spot for bioavailability. If you prefer not to inhale, what other options are out there?
Under the Tongue (Sublingual)
The second-most bioavailable method for taking CBD is sublingually. Sublinguals are liquids like oils, sprays, and tinctures. A few drops are taken and held under the tongue. The thin tissue in that area allows for quick absorption through the sublingual gland.
Bioavailability isn’t as high for sublinguals as it is for vaping oils. But there is still a high return on sublinguals. Bioavailability studies for sublinguals found that they deliver around 19%, with some studies finding that can go as high as 35%.
Are sublinguals perfect for everyone? Not necessarily. You should consider the time to effect and your own habits. It takes longer to experience any effects through sublingual absorption (between 5 and 20 minutes for most people).
Patience is a factor, too. You have to hold a sublingual under your tongue for one to two minutes. Swallow it down, and it needs to go through the digestive system. That takes the body longer to process so effects will take longer to feel as well, so let’s take a look at edible CBD products next.
Eating CBD (Ingesting and Digesting)
Edible CBD products have the lowest bioavailability, coming in most studies at between 13% and 19%. That doesn't mean that edibles are bad or a waste! Edibles can be an excellent option for many people, including those who prefer not to inhale anything and those who aren't comfortable sloshing CBD oil under their tongues.
CBD can be mixed into all kinds of delicious goodies, including baked goods, gummies, salad dressings… as long as there is a fat of some kind to bind to, CBD can be infused into many favourite recipes.
So why is bioavailability lower with CBD edibles? One reason is the First Pass Effect. The First Pass Effect is the rapid uptake and metabolism of an agent into inactive compounds. Inactive means just that. Inert. Neutralized. Why exactly this happens isn’t known – not with CBD and not with many other oral medications. The body is an amazing machine. We still have much to learn about it. But the end result of First Pass is that little of the active compound makes its way through the body.
One of the other knowns though is time. Digesting takes longer – anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours or more. The edible needs to be digested and metabolized through the liver. That process is slower in some bodies than others.
The rate of our individual digestion will also inform how fast the CBD is absorbed. Slow digestion can mean that something breaks down at a snail’s pace – meaning only a small bit is absorbed at a time. Compare that with taking a long draw off a vape where almost 50% hits the bloodstream near instantly. There's a big difference between how much gets in and how fast!
Summing It Up
There are many ways to take CBD, but inhalation remains at the top of the list for bioavailability. It is the fastest delivery method and the one that will see the maximum amount of CBD make its way to the cells and systems you're looking to support.
Whether it’s a recipe designed to energize you for a busy day ahead, one to help you find and hold your zen, one to help protect and heal your muscles after an intense workout, or one to help you ease into a good night’s sleep, Amphora has the vape for you.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.