CBD absorption refers to the transfer of CBD from the point of administration to the bloodstream, where it is transported throughout our body to interact with our cannabinoid receptors, CB1 & CBD1 and non-cannabinoid receptors like our serotonin receptor.
How CBD is absorbed depends on how it is administered and how it is consumed. This will in part determine how effective CBD will be.
What is CBD?
CBD is the abbreviation of cannabidiol and is found in hemp plants. There are over 120 known cannabinoids, and each play a role in our endocannabinoid system. The two most popular cannabinoids are, tretrahydrocannabinol (THC) & CBD. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and will not get you high.
In November 2017, the World Health Organization published a report listing all of the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. Amongst them are; stress and anxiety relief, alleviating pain, limiting inflammation, improving sleep, reducing nausea. For the full list, click here.
How Does the Body Process and Absorbs CBD?
There are 3 main absorption methods; sublingual / oral, smoking / vaping, and topical. They each have a different way of being absorbed and processed by our body, and have different levels of effectiveness.
1) Sublingual and Oral Absorption are the most common way of taking CBD. Think, CBD oils, capsules, edibles or any other food products infused with CBD.
When ingested, CBD goes through the digestive system and to our stomach. From there, it enters the hepatic portal system where CBD is carried to our liver. The liver metabolizes the CBD molecules in what is referred to as the "first-pass effect" to then go into the bloodstream.
Taking CBD edibles might not be the most effective way of taking CBD because the first-pass effect, effectively prevents the absorption of cannabinoids into the blood. This is why CBD gummies have the lowest percentage of CBD bioavailability. Sometimes even after waiting more than an hour after ingestion, you might feel nothing. For example, if you take a 10mg edible and gummies have a 20% bioavailability, it means that only 2mg of CBD will actually reach your bloodstream, which makes taking that gummy pretty ineffective. On the positive side, research has shown that despite their low bioavailability, CBD edibles produces effects that may last longer.
For CBD drops or tinctures, studies have found that consuming CBD oil with fatty acids can help bypass first-pass metabolism, and therefore increase bioavailability and how much CBD is absorbed. Taking CBD oil sublingually and holding it under your tongue for several seconds before swallowing, allows the mucus membrane of the mouth to absorb CBD, and bypass the digestive system. This is why CBD drops have a high bioavailability, and are more effective than CBD edibles.
2) Smoking and Vaping Absorption
Inhaling CBD is one the quickest ways for CBD to be absorbed, and offers fast relief. When using a CBD vape pen or pre-roll, the compounds are absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs, which offers a large absorptive surface area. It bypasses the first-pass metabolism in a similar way as sublingual administration except that it reaches the bloodstream faster.
A key difference is that while inhaling CBD offers a faster relief than sublingual or oral absorption, the effects wear off a lot quicker. If you are suffering from acute conditions, and need immediate relief, using this method of CBD absorption is great.
3) Topical Absorption
CBD topical products are designed to provide targeted relief to a specific area. The skin has several cannabinoid receptors that absorb and interact with CBD when it is applied to the surface. With a topical application, CBD never reaches the bloodstream as human skin in general has low permeability, which means it blocks most substances from entering. This means that CBD topical application has a low absorption rate so, use CBD lotions, salves, and balms generously.
To read about how to dose CBD oil properly, click here
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