You know those delicious CBD gummies everyone is raving about? Well, only about 6% will effectively enter your bloodstream to do their intended purpose. With the huge uproar in cannabis and CBD products involving their medicinal effects, easily looked over is the bioavailability of the products. Bio-availability refers to how much of the active ingredient actually gets absorbed into the body and have a substantial effect. Differences in physiological processes and consumption methods affect how cannabis is absorbed, leaving the validity of its effects questionable.
Knowledge is power in this situation, You're definitely going to want to learn about the bioavailability in order to get the most out of your medicine. The more bio-available your product, the less you'll need to maximize efficiency.
Variables and factors affecting the bio-availability of cannabis
The recent uproar in the popularity of cannabis can be somewhat attributed to the various different consumption methods available. Edibles and tinctures typically are much lower profile than typical flowers or concentrate, so they're less stigmatized. Although, if cannabinoids like CBD and THC are ingested in oil form, their bio-availability is compromised.
Oils containing THC and CBD resist absorption into the bloodstream due to the fact the body is 60% water. Science will tell you that oil and water don't mix well, the same is true for cannabinoids and your body.
Cannabinoids love fat and typically have to traverse an aqueous or watery cellular environment. So, when you're consuming cannabis in its oil form, effects can be slowed and bio-availability becomes very limited.
Another factor that can stunt the effects of oil-based cannabis, is the first pass phenomenon. When ingested orally, cannabis is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and transported via a vein to the liver where it is then metabolized. As a result of this, only a limited amount can reach the circulatory system. Since this is a very popular method of consumption, its efficiency can be hit or miss.
Is the bioavailability different between cannabinoids?
Research shows that the bio-availability of cannabinoids depends on the method of delivery. The most investigation has gone into CBD, and THC, less into cannabinol and CBN.
In topical ointments, balms, and salves, CBD is ten times more effective than THC. Similar to CBN.
Although orally consumed or via lung tissue, THC is more bioavailable than CBD by an astonishing 30-50% higher than CBD delivered via oral spray. THC is still limited in its effects when consumed orally, with bio-availability averaging only 4-12%. When smoked or vaped THC increases to 30%.
Optimizing bio-availability: What consumption method should I use?
The most convenient cannabis products like capsules, soft gels, tinctures, and edibles limit bio-availability.
Absorption is slow, unpredictable, and has numerous variables. Around only 6% of the dose is absorbed, and the onset could take as long as 6 hours. This makes it extremely easy to take too much, and effects can last up to 20 hours.
Although the bio-availability has a significant decrease in oral administration, it's long-lasting effects eliminate the need for constant redosing. Also avoiding the risk and irritation to the airways that come with smoking or vaping.
Inhaling cannabis does guarantee increased bio-availability though. This is because molecules are transported by vapor particles into the alveoli in your lungs. Allowing cannabinoids to rapidly enter the bloodstream without having to be metabolized by the liver.
A lesser-known method of consumption is intranasal delivery, enabling cannabinoids to be absorbed extremely easily with a rapid onset of ten minutes or less. Typically the bio-availability of intranasal methods is 34-46%. This is great for patients who are trying to halt a seizure in progress and avoid future seizures or migraines.
Extremely effective at targeting localized or systemic pain is trans-dermal pain. The patches enable a consistent infusion of active ingredients to the area. Patients will be unlikely to see a spike of THC in the bloodstream with trans-dermal patches.
Last but definitely not least, nanoemulsions and microemulsions can significantly increase the stability and bioavailability of cannabinoids, all the way up to 100% bio-availability. However, the research is still scarce, not knowing the full extent of how nano-cannabinoids change at a cellular level.
Tricks for increasing bio-availability?
A popular method for boosting the bio-availability of edibles is to combine cannabis products with fats. Healthy fats, combined with edibles or tinctures such as guacamole, hummus, or dark chocolate. Ice cream also goes great if you're looking for a treat. The same applies to alcohol-based tinctures.
If you smoke or vape, bio-availability can be boosted by decreasing side-stream loss and taking more puffs. Using a tabletop or handheld vaporizer will eliminate those losses, although don't bother with holding your breath. Research shows no evidence supporting that "holding your hit in for more than 10 seconds will get you higher".
The most cost-effective way to optimize cannabis bio-availability is to not use more than you need. Due to its nature, dosing too big or often may make the symptoms you're trying to alleviate worse.