CBD Bioavailability: What does bioavailability mean for CBD oil?
Water-soluble CBD products are gaining popularity in the cannabis industry for their high bioavailability.
Written by Jason Brett
Edited by on
September 17, 2021
When it comes to getting the most from your CBD oil product, bioavailability matters. CBD bioavailability impacts how your body absorbs and uses this important cannabinoid. The more bioavailable a CBD product is, the more effectively your body will be able to use it.
Here’s what you need to know about CBD oil, bioavailability, and why it all matters. You’ll learn how you can increase the bioavailability of your CBD product and what to look for when you’re shopping. Finally, we’ll give you a list of our top 7 CBD brands that we’ve reviewed with bioavailable CBD for sale.
What does bioavailability mean?
CBD bioavailability has been a largely overlooked subject until fairly recently. With growing competition in the cannabis industry, CBD manufacturers are now looking to create products which offer more value for the consumer's buck.
Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the degree and rate at which a substance (such as a drug) is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity”, bioavailability is a complicated term to explain a simple concept:
Bioavailability speaks to how quickly and efficiently the body absorbs and uses a substance.
Bioavailability is an important consideration across a range of products and industries, with vitamin, pharmaceutical, and supplement companies working relentlessly to offer the most bioavailable products they can manufacture.
When CBD products and other dietary supplements are not optimized for bioavailability, only a fraction of the desired compounds are absorbed and used by the body. This means the consumer isn’t receiving the fullest benefits, and the manufacturer is essentially wasting product.
When it comes to CBD, maximizing certain products’ bioavailability—and in turn, value—means producing water-soluble cannabidiol.
If a drug or supplement is not water-soluble, it is in a form that is much less available to your body than it would be otherwise. Your body is made primarily of water: Your brain is 80% water, your cells are 90% water, and your blood is 85% water. So if a compound cannot dissolve in water, it’s no surprise that your body will have difficulty processing it.
Water-soluble CBD is up and coming right now, but will likely become much more mainstream because it presents cannabidiol in a format that’s more easily, quickly, and effectively absorbed by the body’s endocannabinoid system than other CBD delivery formats.
Bioavailability of CBD
Is CBD Oil Water-Soluble?
By nature, CBD oil is not water-soluble. As with any compound like a hemp cannabinoid that naturally occurs as oil when extracted, if you try to combine it with water, it will simply separate.
That isn’t to say that water-soluble cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t exist; in fact, the past few years have seen an increasing number of companies offering CBD products which are specifically suitable for combining with liquid. Water-soluble CBD is not based in oil like traditional CBD oil, and therefore may be absorbed more readily by the bloodstream.
To understand why water-soluble CBD is gaining popularity among producers and buyers alike, you’ll first need to know a little bit more about the bioavailability of CBD and how your body processes CBD.
Why should I want CBD with more bioavailability?
CBD has been studied extensively to provide a laundry list of natural benefits for inflammation, stress, and more. To get these benefits, you obviously want your body to absorb as much of the cannabinoid as possible when taking a supplement. CBD with more bioavailability aka higher bioavailability will be more efficiently absorbed by your system. Some benefits to CBD with high bioavailability include:
- Saving $$$ (You may be able to use less)
- Faster relief
- Better absorption
How Does Your Body Process CBD?
The way that your body processes CBD depends largely on the product you take and the delivery method in which you take it. Let’s explore some of the most common options.
CBD Topicals (Lotions, Gels, Salves)
When applying CBD topicals to the skin, none of it will reach the bloodstream. It is instead absorbed through the pores into lower levels of the skin, where there are cannabinoid receptors. The permeability of the skin, particularly to cannabinoids, is low; however, if a layer is applied liberally some absorption of CBD will occur. CBD bioavailability with topicals is therefore considered somewhat lower than other delivery methods.
Whether eating your CBD in food form or taking a CBD capsule, the body processes it through the digestive system. After passing through the stomach, the CBD enters the liver where it is metabolized. As an insoluble substance, much of the CBD edibles cannot be properly processed and so only a reduced concentration of CBD enters the bloodstream. CBD edibles is also a category that falls low on the spectrum of CBD bioavailability.
Vaping and Smoking CBD
Vaping CBD or smoking CBD flower is one of the quickest and most bioavailable methods of ingesting the cannabinoid. Vaping allows cannabidiol to enter into the lungs where it is readily absorbed and transferred to the bloodstream almost instantaneously through capillaries in the lungs. Because there is less processing needed by the body, more CBD is ultimately absorbed by the body. Vaping CBD and smoking CBD are therefore considered two of the most bioavailable delivery formats.
Sublingual CBD Oil Drops
When CBD oil is held under the tongue for 60-90 seconds, it is absorbed by the mucous membranes in your mouth. This method allows the CBD to bypass the digestive system and the liver and is instead broken down by enzymes. With sublingual CBD drops, the CBD reaches the bloodstream quickly, making it more bioavailable than CBD edibles, but less than vaped or smoked CBD.
Using advancements in nanotechnology, water-soluble CBD tinctures and other products are now available. With bioavailability ratings of 90-100% depending on the manufacturer, these products allow your body to absorb the greatest proportion of CBD. By taking water-soluble CBD sublingually, you can minimize the risk of CBD being lost in the digestive system and reap the total benefits from your product.
How to Increase the Bioavailability of Your CBD
If you aren’t ready to make the switch to water-soluble CBD, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most CBD bioavailability from your current CBD oil product.
While water-soluble is best in terms of absorption, vaping your CBD is a great second choice, and taking it sublingually in CBD drops or CBD tinctures is also a nice option especially if you’d prefer not to vape or smoke. While taking CBD oil drops may not present as much bioavailability, you’ll typically feel the effects of sublingual drops longer than you would from using a CBD vape.
Between all the different CBD delivery methods and manufacturers on the market, there’s a ton of variability in the onset, potency, and longevity of the effects you’ll feel. While you test out different products, the bioavailability of the CBD should be an important consideration to ensure you’re getting the most value for your dollar, but may not be a deciding factor at the end of the day.
Aside from choosing a highly bioavailable CBD product, there are certain foods you can add to your diet in order to maximize your body’s ability to absorb CBD, no matter which delivery format it’s in.
Foods for Higher CBD Absorption
There are certain foods you can eat that help CBD bypass the initial metabolism process in the liver, which is where most of it is lost. Fatty acids and medium- to long-chain triglycerides have both been shown to increase the bioavailability of CBD.
For this reason, the best foods to eat alongside your CBD oil to increase the bioavailability are:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Fatty fish
- Soybean Oil
Many CBD oil producers use a medium-chain-triglyceride (MCT) oil, like coconut oil, as a carrier oil to increase the bioavailability of their products. But a high-absorption carrier oil means next to nothing if it’s combined with an inferior CBD extract.
How do I choose quality CBD oil with high bioavailability?
To ensure you’re getting the best CBD product for your money, choose a CBD brand that’s been proven to offer the highest quality CBD. It doesn’t matter what other steps you’re taking; if you invest in an inferior quality CBD, you won’t get the benefits you’re looking for.
Opt for companies who use organically grown hemp and test their CBD using third-party laboratories—there should be accompanying Certificates of Analysis available for you to view.
From there, look for CBD products with one or more of the following:
- Water-soluble CBD– Instead of being oil-based, water-soluble CBD is more readily absorbed by the body for better CBD bioavailability.
- Nano CBD– Nano CBD has been produced using nanotechnology to shrink the size of CBD particles, making them more easily received by the body’s cells. Note that nano CBD is also water-soluble and provides a high level of CBD bioavailability.
- Liposomal CBD– Liposomal CBD, like other supplements that use liposomal delivery, uses a fatty bilayer to surround CBD molecules for better absorption. Producing liposomal CBD, like nano CBD, requires special technology that not all CBD brands can afford or have access to.
Our picks: The 7 Best Bioavailable CBD Brands
We’ve reviewed hundreds and hundreds of CBD brands over the years. The following list represents 7 CBD brands that both offer bioavailable CBD and have scored well with the CBD Oil Review Methodology. Ipso facto, these are quality CBD brands verified for transparency and clean sourcing, that also happen to offer awesomely bioavailable CBD. We’ve linked the brand reviews in the text, so you can check out more about each one if you’re curious:
CBD American Shaman
CBD American Shaman comes out on top of our list of best bioavailable CBD brands for a couple reasons. One, they were one of the first to offer water-soluble CBD in the first place, so they’re innovators in that regard. And two, CBD American Shaman probably has the best overall selection of water-soluble CBD that we’ve seen to date.
Medterra earns major props for simply being a premium CBD manufacturer, and the brand earns a perfect score from us. Look for Medterra’s products with liposomal CBD for high bioavailability.
Sol CBD has never been into getting a bunch of influencers to represent them or using fancy branding. But from day one, this CBD company has always been on top of safety and quality. Sol CBD was also one of the first CBD companies to offer liposomal CBD, and their highly bioavailable liposomal CBD products are still popular today.
Ojai Energetics is a small California CBD brand that’s all about simple ingredients and super-clean CBD oil. Ojai Energetics produces full spectrum, water-soluble CBD without any synthetically modified compounds. They’re innovative, trustworthy, and an easy brand to get behind for highly bioavailable CBD.
The name says it all! Nanocraft CBD exclusively uses nano CBD in all their products. Nanocraft CBD is in our top 7 because of their extensive options for water-soluble nano CBD. You can shop the entire catalog for high CBD bioavailability in CBD gummies, drink powders, tinctures, and more.
Like Nanocraft, BioCBD Plus exclusively uses water-soluble CBD. So when you’re going through the online catalog, you can rest easy with any decision you make– all are highly bioavailable CBD products.
Admittedly, Joy Organics only offers a couple water-soluble CBD products for high bioavailability. However, Joy Organics makes the list because they’re a top-5 CBD company overall. With USDA organic CBD oil, charity work, and a remarkable reputation for trustworthiness, we couldn’t round out the list without featuring Joy Organics.
+ 5 sources
“What Is Nanotechnology?” National Nanotechnology Initiative
Zhu, Julie, and Kevork M Peltekian. “Cannabis and the Liver: Things You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask.” Canadian Liver Journal, 22 Feb. 2019
Zgair, Atheer et al. “Dietary fats and pharmaceutical lipid excipients increase systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis and cannabis-based medicines.” American Journal of Translational Research vol. 8,8 3448-59. 15 Aug. 2016
Yadav D, Sandeep K, Pandey D, Dutta RK (2017) Liposomes for Drug Delivery. J Biotechnol Biomater 7: 276. DOI: 10.4172/2155-952X.1000276
Mukul Ashtikar et al. Transdermal delivery from liposomal formulations – Evolution of the technology over the last three decades, Journal of Controlled Release, Volume 242, 2016, Pages 126-140, ISSN 0168-3659, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2016.09.008.
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