When Substance Isn’t Always Above Form: How CBD Types Affect Bioavailability


Since hemp and cannabidiol became legal in 2018 thanks to the Farm Bill, CBD oil is becoming more popular than ever. New brands are popping up everywhere, offering the latest CBD products. But even when you find a CBD brand you can rely on, you still need to make another choice: selecting the best type of CBD for your needs. That’s because CBD products come in various forms and concentrations, with varying degrees of effectiveness. 

Different Types, Different Bioavailability 

CBD is used for a myriad of therapeutic purposes, such as pain relief and anxiety management. As with other medicinal substances, CBD needs to be absorbed by the body properly for it to work. That’s where the type, form, and delivery of a CBD product come in. 

If you have ever heard someone saying CBD didn’t work for them, there is a probability that they might have been taking it in a less suitable form. Solids, liquids, and gases have different effects on absorption. Our body absorbs gases the fastest. Next are liquids, then followed by solids. Another factor is chemical nature, which determines the route of administration. Along with the various dosage forms of CBD, it can affect the rate and extent of how CBD is metabolized and absorbed. 

In addition to these factors, other variables that affect bioavailability include: 

  • Formulation: how the active and inert substances in the CBD product interact 
  • Ratio of lipid water solubility: the higher the coefficient, the higher the solubility and absorption 
  • Particle and molecular size: the smaller the size, the faster the absorption 

If you are wondering whether you need to take CBD orally, sublingually, or otherwise, it’s best to study and compare the different types before you make a purchase. 

Understanding the Most Popular Types of CBD 

To know which type of CBD product is best for your health and needs, you need to do your own extensive research about hemp extracts. So far, here are the top three ways users take CBD:

Sublingual: CBD Oil

The most common form of CBD is oil, which is also known as tincture. In comparison with other products, tinctures and concentrates are arguably the purest application of CBD. This is because manufacturers don’t need extra steps when processing CBD oil, although some brands add flavor for a more enjoyable experience. 

To take CBD in the form of tinctures, put a few drops on or under your tongue. The average bottle contains 250 mg to 1000 mg of CBD, which means dosage varies widely. For the ideal strength, it’s best to do some research or to talk to your healthcare provider. 

CBD taken sublingually is relatively fast acting. Studies show that peak blood levels for this type are within two hours. To further improve absorption, it is recommended to hold the drops under your tongue before swallowing, preferably between 20 and 30 seconds. This allows your mucus membranes to have more time to absorb the CBD before it reaches your digestive tract.

Oral: Softgel Capsules 

Using capsules or softgels can be a convenient way to add CBD to your daily vitamins and supplements. They usually contain 10 mg to 25 mg CBD, although some brands provide a higher dosage. 

But as convenient as they are, oral CBD products have the lowest bioavailability, measuring between 6 to 19 percent. One reason is that CBD as a lipid is not as readily absorbed as water-soluble substances. Furthermore, the digestive acids and enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract tend to destroy the CBD before it can exert any effect. 

There is one upside: the low absorption of orally taken CBD can be offset by the longer duration. Molecules of oral CBD have been known to stay for 4.2 hours in the body, compared to the 3.3 hours of injected CBD.

Transdermal: Patches and Topicals

Transdermal delivery comes in the form of an adhesive patch. This method allows CBD to enter the bloodstream through the skin. It’s regarded as one of the most comfortable ways to administer CBD. 

But the layers of the skin are water-soluble and can act as a barrier to bioavailability. To counteract this effect, mixing CBD with around one-third ethanol can make transdermal CBD more water-soluble, significantly increasing absorption rate by four times. 

Although transdermal CBD delivery is slow compared to other methods, it has a vital advantage: keeping CBD at consistent levels. The sustained-release effect is particularly useful for people who use CBD for chronic pain and inflammatory conditions. Similarly, topicals in the form of cream or lotion can help consumers deal with localized pain. 

Consumers might not choose transdermal CBD for anxiety, but there’s another reason why topical CBD is popular: it is used as an organic skincare product.

The Final Say

CBD has become widely available on the market, and its many forms can make shopping for CBD confusing. On top of oral, sublingual, and transdermal CBD products, there are also CBD inhalers, drinks, and hospital-use-only injectables. The truth is that there is no one flawless option; each has its own pros and cons. With that said, it’s important to remember that your current state of health also influences the outcome. 

When in doubt, consulting a healthcare provider can guide you through the best CBD options for your health goals and needs.



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