For novices in the world of CBD, the variety of products out there and all the surrounding glossary and terminology can certainly be overwhelming, so much so that they might just go for a random product, thinking it’s all the same. But it’s not the same, far from it.
Different products have different pros and cons, both universal and ones that relate to specific needs and conditions. We’ve put together a compact guide with key points, factors, and product types that will help you sift through the CBD shelves like a pro.
Full-Spectrum VS Isolates
This is a very important distinction we’ve devoted an entire article on.
Before we get into the specific products, it’s important to explain the term bioavailability, as it’s perhaps the most game-changing factor to consider.
Bioavailability means how much of a compound, in this case CBD, will actually be absorbed by your body. Because CBD, like all cannabinoids, is fat-soluble, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water, its bioavailability is by default very low as our bodies are predominantly made of water. Basically, if alcohol’s bioavailability was 25%, for example, which luckily it isn’t, it would take 4 beers to feel the effect we get from one beer now.
Different CBD products offer different modes of absorption, which respectively bypass the natural hurdles our body poses with different levels of success.
Innovations that Increase Bioavailability
Scientists have come up with clever ways to increase CBD’s bioavailability, which are upgrades to existing modes of CBD intake rather than types of intake in themselves. Basically, their goal is to make CBD water-soluble, and here is the place for an important disclaimer – CBD can’t be truly water-soluble for the aforementioned reason, but rather water-friendly or compatible, so keep that in mind when you see CBD products being coined “water-soluble.”
These innovations can justify a higher price tag, so be sure to check if they have been implemented in a specific product you’re looking into.
Microemulsions compress molecules to microscopic proportions while using surfactants to loosen the surface tension of water in order for the molecules to fuse into it better. The smaller the molecules, the higher their fusion rate.
Nanoemulsions operate on the same principle, but with nano being smaller than micro, they are more effective than microemulsions.
Liposomes are kind of like tiny spherical sandwiches, meaning that they are made up of three layers – two outer hydrophilic (water-soluble) layers which are the bread in this analogy, and one hydrophobic bilayer in the middle that contains the important stuff, CBD in this case. They basically act like Trojan horses, masking CBD as hydrophilic and sneaking it into the body.
Modes of CBD Consumption
Sublingual Consumption (CBD Oil and Tinctures)
CBD oils and tinctures are one if not the most popular method of CBD consumption. Oils and tinctures are generally used interchangeably, even though there are some slight differences, the main one being that tinctures by default use alcohol as the medication carrier, whereas CBD oils obviously employ oils, such as medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) and coconut oils, among others.
CBD oils and tinctures are administered under the tongue or along the sides of the cheeks. These areas, collectively known as the oral mucosa, are rich in capillaries that soak up the molecules and introduce them directly into the bloodstream. This is very important, as it allows CBD to bypass first-pass metabolism that occurs in the liver and gut wall and acts as an extra filtration step, respectively lowering bioavailability.
To let the capillaries absorb the CBD, it’s crucial that you keep the drops of oil/tincture in place for 60 to 90 seconds rather than swallowing them directly, otherwise, you’ll miss out on the increased bioavailability that comes from the direct point of entry into the bloodstream.
Gummies, Chocolates, etc.
Gummies and the likes are very popular because of their user-friendliness – you can just pop them in your mouth pretty much anytime, anyplace. They’re light, discrete, easy to carry. They’re also a very precise, calculated mode of CBD consumption, as each edible contains an exact CBD amount.
However, because they don’t enter the bloodstream directly but have to pass through the digestive system, and respectively the first-pass metabolism, they don’t have a great bioavailability, plus their effects take longer to kick in.
Everything we said about edibles applies to capsules, as they are practically edibles in a more sciency-looking form. However, it’s possible that a particular capsule or pill has been upgraded with some of the aforementioned bioavailability increasing innovations, so be sure to check their description thoroughly.
Inhalation (Vaping, Smoking, Dabbing)
Inhalation and vaping in particular is another very popular method of CBD consumption that has also become quite contentious. It’s preferred for the short time of onset and its high bioavailability, which is attributed to the permeability and large surface area of the lungs. That short time of onset, however, perhaps also comes with a shorter time of effectiveness, at least according to anecdotal evidence.
There’s also the stigma that has naturally been hanging over vaping ever since that wave of vaping-related deaths last year. They were mostly attributed to vitamin E oil, which is used as a thinning agent to impart the right viscosity to oils so they can be suitable for vaping. The use of thinning and cutting agents is nothing fraudulent or out of the ordinary, however, it turns out vitamin E can be very dangerous when inhaled.
Smoking hemp cigarettes is another mode of CBD consumption on the rise, which deserves a separate article.
Topical (Lotions, Creams, Balms, Patches)
CBD topicals are probably the category that’s experiencing the most rapid growth in popularity.
One of the main benefits of topicals is that their effects are localized, focused on specific areas of the body, making them very useful in treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema and alleviating muscle and joint pain. The skin is very rich in cannabinoid receptors, so if your needs are concentrated in particular body areas rather than throughout the body and stemming from within, rubbing a CBD cream in the problematic area can be more effective than ingesting oil, for example.
It’s also worth noting that transdermal patches are actually designed so that CBD reaches the bloodstream, creating a double effect.
Equipped with the solid foundation of this knowledge, you can not only choose a CBD product from the ones currently available, but also navigate the rapidly evolving CBD market in the future.