A trending topic you may have heard about while discussing CBD is “bioavailability,” which the American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines as, “the degree to which a drug or other substance becomes available to the target tissue after administration.” But what does that mean, exactly, and why does bioavailability matter?

According to CBD Origin’s Aaron Cadena, we can think about bioavailability of CBD as “the degree and rate it is absorbed into the bloodstream.” Essentially, the route of administration is crucial because it influences the uptake, distribution, and elimination of the CBD compound in your body. This is important because the more bioavailable a CBD product is, the lower the dosage you need to produce the desired effect (reduction of pain, inflammation, or anxiety, for example). In order for CBD to work, it must interact with CB2 cannabinoid receptors (located all around the body), as well as non-cannabinoid receptors, such as the vanilloid receptor TRPV-1 and the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A (cannahealth.org).

The most direct route of CBD would be through an intravenous injection, but most consider sticking themselves with a needle messy, painful, and overall unpleasant.

One popular option of taking CBD is through oral consumption (gummies, baked goods, and mints). In the multiple studies conducted so far, the most optimistic rate of bioavailability was around 20%, which means if you take 100 mg of CBD (a very high dosage), you would only be absorbing about 20 mg. This is clearly not the most effective way of dosing. However, edibles have their benefits: they can be fun and easy to consume, and might be a good place to start for those looking to dip their toes into the CBD world.

Sublingual consumption is one way to improve the bioavailability of CBD. The sublingual gland, located underneath the tongue, is a direct pathway to the bloodstream. Sublingual CBD tinctures, like our Plant Alchemy CBD Concentrate, maintain a higher bioavailability. Instead of having to move through the whole digestive system, they are only mildly degraded by the enzymes in saliva.

Inhaling CBD directly into the lungs, in the form of a vaporizer or a joint, has an extremely effective  bioavailability rate. CBD enters the bloodstream much quicker than something like a chocolate bar containing CBD. According to CBD Origin’s article, some studies report a bioavailability rate of up to 56 mg (56 mg absorbed for every 100 mg taken).

Understanding bioavailability relationship to CBD  is crucial because it allows you to decide what elements of a product are important to you. If you are looking for a fun or easy way to take CBD, then something like a CBD gummy, mint, or chocolate may be  the way to go. But if you’re looking for the most cost-effective method to get a desired effect (such as relaxation or decreased anxiety), you may want to invest in something like a sublingual oil or vaporizer. This knowledge can reduce overspending on methods of CBD with low bioavailability, and help you take your healing into your own hands.

Raisa Tolchinsky

Raisa Tolchinsky hails from Chicago, received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, and is currently a candidate for an M.F.A in poetry at the University of Virginia. A 2019 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, she has read and edited for Tin House Books and Tricycle Magazine, and is founding editor of SIREN. Her poems, essays, stories, and interviews have appeared in Muzzle Magazine, Tricycle, Blood Orange Review, and KR Online. When she’s not writing, she’s boxing or dancing like a weirdo on her roof. Learn more about Raisa and her work on Instagram @raisatolchinsky and on Twitter at @raisaimogen.

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