CBD bioavailability via different modes of ingestion

The bioavailability of CBD refers to the quantity of CBD that will reach your bloodstream and the rate at which it will be absorbed. This is affected by the way CBD is consumed and differs for each of the categories below.

Vaporised inhalation

Using a vaporizing device, CBD can be inhaled directly into the lungs, which enables it to rapidly enter the bloodstream without interference or degradation. This mode of ingestion is the quickest and offers the highest bioavailability (i.e. greatest absorption rates).

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Sublingual ingestion

This requires holding the CBD oil, lozenge or spray under your tongue for between 60 and 90 seconds to enable the absorption of the active ingredients by the mucous membranes in the mouth. Sublingual absorption bypasses the digestive system enabling the active compounds to quickly enter the bloodstream. This is the second quickest and most readily absorbed route of administration after vaporizing or smoking.

Oral ingestion

Capsules, edibles, oils and beverages can be orally ingested. Consuming CBD in this way means that it passes through the digestive and metabolic systems before reaching the bloodstream. These systems will break down and filter out a large percentage of the CBD, reducing its bioavailability. Onset of effects is slower (30-60 minutes) and the absorption rate of CBD is lower, so higher doses may be required. However, the duration of effects may be longer.

Rectal/vaginal administration

Suppositories are convenient when certain medical conditions prevent oral ingestion e.g. vomiting and gastrointestinal problems. It has also been suggested that vaginal or rectal suppositories may offer a more targeted mode of delivery. The bioavailability of this delivery method has not been adequately tested making it difficult to draw conclusions about this route of administration.

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Topical application

This involves the application of a CBD oil-infused product (lotion, cream, balm) directly onto the skin. Cannabinoid receptors have been found in the skin and there is ongoing research into the function of the skin’s endocannabinoid system. CBD-rich skin products enable CBD to be absorbed directly into this system and exert effects directly where they are most needed.

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