If you’re just started learning about CBD and nicotine, you’ve likely heard the terms absorption and bioavailability thrown around like you’re deep in the throes of revising for a biology exam. The terms are pretty straightforward, but it requires a little understanding of the body and its chemistry. So let’s look at these concepts in more detail.
How does absorption work?
When you eat a sandwich, drink a smoothie, take a drop of CBD or use a pouch, the process is fundamentally the same.
Administration: The substance enters the body (ingestion, sublingual, buccal, topical)
Absorption: The substance is absorbed into your bloodstream
Circulation: The substance is separated and dispersed through your body
Activation: The molecules work with your body to produce their effect
Metabolisation: The molecules are deactivated and excreted from the body.
As absorption is directly affected by how the substance is administered and the ingredients it contains, it’s often the most studied aspect of nicotine and CBD and its influence on the endocannabinoid system (What's that you ask?).
What is bioavailability?
Bioavailability is a medical term for measuring the rate of absorption of a substance by our bodies. More specifically, how much of any drug or supplement can enter our circulatory system, reach its destination and create the desired effect. Bioavailability is often totalled as a fraction or percentage.
Why is bioavailability important?
A substance only takes effect if your body can absorb and process it, so understanding bioavailability is essential to creating a mixture that delivers its potential benefits.
When and where is bioavailability considered?
Bioavailability is not restricted to just CBD or nicotine. It is a prime consideration with all drugs and medication - even the nutrients we eat. For example, when creating a new drug, fortifying a food or making vitamins, the dosage we receive is determined by carefully estimating the amount entering the bloodstream.
Bioavailability and food
Nutritional scientists have been aware of the importance of bioavailability for decades. When you eat, food travels into your digestive system. Valuable nutrients are then absorbed into your bloodstream and are either processed or stored by your cells. However, your body is not 100% efficient (and the carriers for the nutrients are not entirely effective), so not all the nutrient molecules will be absorbed. Along the way, nutrients are lost in the stomach and intestines, others are excreted, and some don't interact with your body's cells, therefore reducing the bioavailability.
How does bioavailability work with nicotine and CBD?
As with food, a significant percentage of the CBD compound is lost before it enters our bloodstream. This is because any substance needs to first travel through one of our body's systems to reach our bloodstream (typically, this is our digestive system, skin or the tissue in our mouth (buccal or sublingual - more on that here).
Which method has the highest bioavailability for CBD and nicotine?
In the case of CBD and nicotine, the highest bioavailability is found through vaping. This is because the CBD molecules enter the lung capillaries and then the bloodstream directly. In this case, bioavailability can reach up to 50% (so half of the CBD enters the bloodstream). However, as Consumer Reports suggest, there are known issues with vaping CBD.
Buccal and sublingual consumption has the next highest bioavailability of 30%, CBD edibles and ingested CBD oil offer 20%, and CBD topical creams have the lowest (usually under 5%).
CBD, Carrier oils and bioavailability
Carrier oils (the oil that transports the CBD into your system) directly influence the bioavailability of CBD products. This is because different oils are absorbed more or less efficiently by the body.
MCT oil and bioavailability
In our CBD oil and pouches, we use MCT oil that is derived from coconut oil. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides (a type of fat). Unlike long-chain triglycerides, found in most fats we eat, MCTs are smaller molecules that our bodies find much easier to digest. This is why MCT oil is one of the most familiar carrier oils used in the CBD market.
What factors affect bioavailability?Many elements influence our body’s ability to absorb CBD. It’s one of the major reasons you should accept no compromises in finding a CBD product that actually works. A few of the essential factors include:
- Quality of the CBD product
- The concentration of CBD in the product
- Type of carrier oil
- Consistency of the formula
- The pH level of the oil
If you’re unsure about what CBD product to choose, here are a few things to consider.
Can you increase the bioavailability?
If you are looking for optimal "feel good" levels with your CBD intake, you might assume that increasing your dose will deliver better results. However, this is not always the case with CBD - sometimes less really is more. It's one of the reasons we suggest starting on a low dosage and gradually increasing so you can see how it works for you. If you are looking for a few tips on boosting the bioavailability of your CBD pouch or oil, we'd recommend:
Combine your intake with a fatty meal
While you're likely absorbing buccally or sublingually, some of the CBD is digested. So as CBD diffuses into fats, try combining your oil with something high in fats (nuts, seeds, pulses are a good start). Studies report that compared to taking CBD on an empty stomach, taking it with fat could "increase the amount of CBD in the body by four times and the maximum amount recorded in the participants' blood by 14-times the amount."
Hold the liquid for longer under your tongue
For maximum absorption, try to hold the liquid or pouch for the suggested times as the CBD works its magic. Furthermore, avoid food or drinks during this time as they can reduce the absorption rate by diluting the CBD mixture.