It is interesting to see that even though CBD was discovered more than half a century ago1, way before the discovery of THC, it was only within the last few years that CBD products were introduced in the market. However, there is a growing demand for it, despite government prohibition and the scarcity of studies. This means CBD may actually be the miracle drug that everyone is expecting it to be. However, it is still not water-soluble CBD.
At present, it is an indisputable fact that CBD does works. Countless users have found it to be effective for pain relief, anxiety, and treatment of epilepsy. However, the lack of information based on studies makes it difficult for consumers to choose the best product. Unfortunately, misleading marketing language just adds to this problem.
One of the newest buzzwords that companies like to use is “water-soluble” along with “nano-CBD” or nano-emulsified CBD. How exactly are these different from regular CBD? Is the higher price tag on these products justified?
What is bioavailability?
Even though these terms sound complicated, consumers only need to understand is that they aim to make CBD more bioavailable. Bioavailability is defined as the rate and extent to which a drug reaches the site of action.2 This is one of the main reasons why there are a number of ways to take CBD.
Historically, humans have found that smoking and vaping have the fastest onset and best bioavailability of all methods. However, now that science has given us a better understanding of how bioavailability works, it is more appropriate to say that each delivery method has its own pros and cons depending on the condition or circumstances.
Common ways to take CBD
- Smoking or vaping – these can be CBD flowers, like Pure Relief’s CBD Hemp Flowers or vape e-juices like CBDFx’s Blue Raspberry and concentrate dabs (wax, crystals, crumble or shatter) like Steve’s Goods CBD concentrates which are heated and inhaled. Users who want to feel the effects of CBD almost immediately prefer this method.
- Sublingual – these are CBD oils, tinctures, and capsules placed under the tongue. This method offers the fastest absorption rate next to smoking or vaping. Some examples would be Top Extract’s oil drops, CBDmd’s tinctures or Plus CBD oil caps.
- Edibles – these are CBD-infused food or drinks ingested through the digestive system. This is typically a slow way to absorb CBD. Furthermore, the amount that gets absorbed is greatly reduced because of first-pass effect. One of the most popular kinds of edibles are gummy candies, like GreenRoad’s CBD Froggies.
- Topicals – these are creams, balms, lotions, salves or oils meant to be used externally for treating skin conditions or local pain. An example would be Medterra’s Rapid Cooling Cream.
Less common ways to take CBD
- Suppositories – these are cone or torpedo-shaped capsules made of CBD oil and a fatty base like cocoa butter designed for insertion in the rectum or vagina. This method offers a better absorption comparable to sublingual CBD and also bypasses metabolism by the liver. This is typically used by those who want quick pain relief in the pelvic area and lower back, or for vaginal or menstrual pain, such as Foria’s Basic Suppositories.
- Nasal sprays – these are products like Bio Spectrum’s Nasadol which deliver water-soluble CBD that gets absorbed by the mucous membrane of the nasal passages and partly through the lungs.
- Inhalers – products like Vapen’s Clear Inhaler delivers CBD as a mist to the lungs, instead of as a vapor or smoke. This lessens the health and lung risk associated with the latter.
Despite the respective drawbacks of these delivery formats, CBD still proves to be effective in treating a wide variety of ailments. It is, however, considerably expensive due to production costs, third-party testing, and local availability of hemp. These factors are pushing companies to constantly look for new ways of ensuring the highest bioavailability of the CBD in their product.
Is CBD water-soluble?
There is a good reason why most users that have a good familiarity with cannabis and CBD products prefer smoking, vaping, and using sublingual drops instead of taking edibles. Existing studies have shown that CBD is insoluble in water4 and at present, it is not well-known how the accumulation of nano-sized CBD particles can affect the body.
The benefits of water-soluble CBD
The ideal solution is to make CBD water-soluble so that the body can absorb and excrete it easier. Specifically, the advantages of water-soluble CBD are the following:
- No more need for emulsifiers – while nano-CBD does offer better absorption than normal CBD, it is still inferior to water-soluble CBD. This is because CBD nano-particles still have to be “coated” with emulsifiers and “penetration enhancers” for better absorption. Companies also have to take extra effort in finding emulsifiers that will taste good in their drink. Water-soluble CBD will eliminate the need for these dilutants.
- It will be absorbed better – since the human body is around 60% water, it favors the absorption of water-soluble compounds and vitamins over fat-soluble ones5. Therefore, CBD will have significantly higher bioavailability in a water-soluble form.
- It is likely to be safer – nano-particles have the ability to cross cell membranes6 which means it can cross the blood-brain barrier. At present, any negative effects of nano-CBD are still largely unknown. The solubility of CBD in water will eliminate the need for nano-emulsification.
- It will be more cost-effective – the cost of producing better-tasting and more potent CBD drinks is likely to go down since there will no longer be a need to add emulsifiers and the CBD they contain will have a higher bioavailability.
- It will make CBD more universal – since the bioavailability of CBD by oral consumption will be raised significantly. CBD edibles are likely to attract new users, particularly those interested primarily in its health benefits, as well as existing users who are looking for a more pleasant and risk-free delivery format.
Water-soluble CBD will be a game-changer for both the CBD and the whole cannabis industry. While there are already a number of companies claiming to produce water-soluble CBD, only a few posses commercially viable technology to produce CBD that is actually soluble in water. However, water-soluble CBD will undoubtedly become the standard once the technology gets established in a few years. This may result in CBD edibles overtaking other delivery formats.
- Wikipedia contributors ”Cannabidiol”[Wikipedia]
- Wikipedia contributors. “Bioavailability”[Wikipedia]
- World Health Organization “Cannabidiol”[Cannabidiol][/notes] as are most cannabinoids. Unfortunately, these cannabinoids are processed poorly by the body because water is the main component of blood plasma. Additionally, CBD that is ingested via the digestive system is degraded by the first-pass effect as mentioned in How Does CBD Oil Affect Vitamin and Supplement Intake? the body only gets to use around 6% of the CBD in the edible.
Nonetheless, edibles are incredibly convenient and universal. There’s going to be a greater number of people willing to eat a CBD cookie than those who would vape CBD. Grabbing a CBD latte is obviously a better experience than using CBD oil. However, the reality is that most CBD beverages use CBD oils or isolates that do not mix well with water. Instead of getting fully ingested, it will most likely just stick to the drink container.
What is Nano-CBD?
To make the absorption of CBD and cannabinoids more efficient, more companies are turning to “nano-CBD” or “nano emulsified” CBD. This uses a process that makes CBD “droplets” hundreds of times smaller than normal to increase its surface area. The emulsion then makes CBD less hydrophobic, allowing it to suspend better in the carrier liquid. According to some companies, this increases absorption by around 50% more.
However, nano emulsification is not exactly an ideal solution since it does not actually make CBD water-soluble. Fat-soluble compounds tend to accumulate in the body3Seyed Mohammad BagherHashemi⁎KianaPourmohammadi⁎AliakbarGholamhosseinpour†IsmailEs‡Daniela S.Ferreira§AminMousavi Khaneghah§ 9 – Fat-soluble vitamins[ScienceDirect]
- Rachel Casiday and Regina Frey. Nutrients and Solubility[Washington University]
- Nanotechnologies[Europa Public Health]