What is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability is a term that gets used a lot in the CBD industry as well as in pharmaceutical circles. Many consumers that are already familiar with CBD products have heard the word used in product descriptions without really knowing what it means.

It’s most commonly used when one product type such as a CBD edible is being compared to another such as a CBD oil or tincture. As a consumer, it’s really important to understand what bioavailability is and how it changes the efficacy of a product from one type to another.

Although the word bioavailability sounds complicated, in reality, it’s quite simple. To find out what it is and how it affects each product category continue reading below.

What Is Bioavailability - Simplified 

Bioavailability refers to the amount and or percentage of a given drug or compound that gets absorbed by your body upon taking it.

According to Applied Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics by Leon Shargel and Andrew B. C. Yu, bioavailability is defined as “a measurement of the rate and extent to which a drug reaches at the site of action.”

Basically, it’s the answer to the question, “how much is actually being absorbed?”

How Does Bioavailability Affect CBD Products?

Now we know what bioavailability means “how much of this product is my body really absorbing?” We need to look at what the bioavailability rates of CBD products are.

It all comes down to one thing: how they’re ingested.

Different methods of ingestion have different bioavailability rates. The reason for this is because they get processed and broken down by the body, based on the way that they’re consumed. For example, vaping CBD has a different bioavailability rate than eating an edible would have.

Taking a tincture sublingually versus simply swallowing it or apply it to the skin will provide completely different levels of absorption as well. Essentially, the amount of CBD that enters the body's bloodstream will vary depending on how it’s being taken.

How much can it vary, exactly? On the low end of absorption, you’re looking at about 6%. On the high end, 50%. Which delivery method is the most efficient? Let’s take a look:

The Bioavailability Rates of CBD Products

So by now, we know what bioavailability is, and that it varies depending on the way the CBD is consumed. But how efficient is each of the most popular ways of taking CBD?

The average bioavailability rates of CBD products:

Oral – Edibles, Drinks, Capsules, and Tablets

Orally taken CBD products are products that you simply swallow or chew and swallow. These include edibles such as cookies, cakes, and more as well as capsules and tablets. The reason why these forms of CBD products have the lowest bioavailability rates is because they pass through the digestive system.

In doing so, much of the CBD is lost which allows only a very small amount of it to make it into the bloodstream. Although these types of products have the lowest bioavailability rates, they have an upside. All orally taken CBD products take longer to absorb into the system than other types of products, but they also stay active within the body for the longest period of time.

To feel the effects from these types of products consumers will most likely need take much higher amounts than they would from using other forms. In taking a larger dose, however, consumers are much more likely to feel those effects for longer.

One of our favorite CBD edibles is CBD Gummies 30 count 750mg by cbdMD. It contains 25mg of broad spectrum CBD for a total of 750mg per bottle.

cbdMD CBD Gummies 30 count 750mg

Sublingual – Oils and Tinctures

The next product category is oils and tinctures. It’s recommended by most companies to take oils and tinctures sublingually. This means that they should be placed under the tongue and left there for at least one minute before swallowing.

The reason it’s recommended to do so is because the sublingual gland, which lays under the tongue, helps the CBD to bypass the digestive system and enter the bloodstream more quickly. Taking CBD sublingually is the fastest way of feeling the effects of CBD but it’s also the one way of taking CBD that will leave the body most quickly.

In order to feel the effects of CBD for longer, it’s recommended to use CBD oils and tinctures 2 to 3 times throughout the day. Increasing the amount taken will also extend the amount of time it remains active in the body for.

Although CBD oils and tinctures are most commonly taken sublingually, it’s important to know that they can be taken in other ways. CBD tinctures can be added to beverages such as coffee or tea whereas oils are the better choice for recipes such as cookies, cakes, more. Although this is an easy and delicious way of incorporating CBD into a daily routine using either an oil or tincture in this way will lower its bioavailability rates.

The last way that this category can be used is as a topical solution. Although CBD tinctures and oils are very similar, only products that contain a CBD extract along with one to two base oils are safe to apply to the skin unless it has otherwise been indicated.

They can easily be added to other creams and lotions or they simply be applied directly to the skin if they have been deemed safe for topical application. The topical application of CBD may be able to some of the highest bioavailability rates available.

One of our favorite CBD oils that is safe for both internal and external use is CBD Oil Full Spectrum 500mg by Kanabia

 CBD Oil Full Spectrum 500mg by Kanabia

Transdermal – Topicals, Lotions, and Creams

As previously mentioned, the topical application of CBD may provide extremely high rates of bioavailability. The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to CBD topicals is how much CBD is in each serving? Determining the exact amount of CBD that is in each serving is next to impossible unless the product is in a pump style bottle.

The reason why it’s so hard to determine how many milligrams of CBD are in each serving of a CBD cream or lotion is because everyone’s serving size is different. One consumer may choose to use a pea-size amount of cream and another may choose to use a size similar to that of a quarter.  

Because it’s so difficult to know just how much CBD is in each serving it’s important to look at two main factors:

  1. How much CBD is in the bottle and or container?
  2. What are the other ingredients that the product contains?

Typically, the more CBD the better when it comes to CBD topicals, but the additional ingredients that a product contains may change the bioavailability of the CBD as well as its effects. To learn more about CBD topicals check out our blog Best CBD Creams in 2020.

One of our favorite CBD topical products is CBD Rapid Cooling Cream 750mg by Medterra. It contains the highest amount of CBD out of all the topical products that we carry and it comes in a pump form which allows consumers to know how many milligrams of CBD they're getting in each serving.

 Medterra CBD Rapid Cooling Cream 750mg

Inhalation – Vapes

The last main category is vapes which are commonly called vape pens. It has been shown that the consumption of CBD via inhalation provides the highest rates of bioavailability. It’s absorbed almost instantly into the bloodstream making its effects felt very quickly.

One of our favorite vape pens is CBD Vape Pen Relax Lavender 250mg by Social CBD.

CBD Vape Pen Relax Lavender 250mg by Social CBD

Although knowing the bioavailability rates of each kind of CBD product is important, having percentage values versus a concrete amount of milligrams are two very different levels of understanding.

So let’s say someone consumed 20mg of CBD. How much of that would actually make it into their bloodstream?

  • If they ate a gummy, they’d absorb between 1.2 and 3mg.
  • If they used a tincture or an oil, they’d absorb between 3 and 6mg.
  • If they applied a lotion, they’d absorb up to 9mg.
  • And if they vaped it, they’d absorb up to 10mg.

This shows us that the form of CBD products used can have a pretty big effect on what’s actually absorbed by the body.

How to Increase Bioavailability Rates

What many consumers don’t know is that it’s possible to increase and or improve the bioavailability rates of CBD products. The best way of doing so is by taking CBD with a form of healthy fat.

Many CBD products already include at least one form of healthy fat such as hemp seed oil, MCT oil, olive oil, and more, but including a secondary source of fat may help to increase its absorption rates even further.

Some great examples of healthy fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Plant-based oils such as avocado, coconut, or olive
  • Fatty fish such as salmon
  • Both standard and vegan yogurts
  • and more!

Incorporating any of these foods into our lives will not only help to improve the bioavailability rates of CBD, it will also help to lower levels of inflammation throughout the body.

Key Takeaways

The Bioavailability rates of CBD products are something that all consumers should know about. This will help them to understand just how much CBD their body absorbs.

Vape pens provide consumers with the highest absorption rates, topicals follows not too far behind, then comes oils and tinctures. Lastly, CBD edibles and capsules provide the lowest rates of absorption.

It’s important to keep in mind that the efficacy of each product type has its own unique life span. To learn all about how long each type of CBD product stays active in the system for we recommend reading our blog How long does CBD stay in your system?

For further details about any of the information provided in this article please feel free to contact our team of wellness experts by chat, email, or phone.

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