What is CBD Bioavailability and What It Means To You

Consumers like choice. That’s because “one size doesn’t fit all” and increasingly shoppers want a product that suits their particular needs and preferences. When it comes to CBD, you have an abundance of choice from topicals to tinctures to capsules. There also are edible CBD products, including gummies, and vapes. CBD products also have a wide range of concentrations.

When choosing among these options whether for daily use as part of a health maintenance program or to treat a specific medical condition, you need to consider the product’s bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the degree or rate a substance is absorbed.  Knowing the bioavailability of a substance helps you determine how much you need to take and in what form to ensure you get an adequate dosage in your system to achieve desired effects.

Differences In Bioavailability Among Products

All CBD products contain CBD oil, which is what is added to the range of CBD offerings. However, each CBD product has its unique way of entering the bloodstream and so has a different bioavailability. Here’s how bioavailability varies between popular types of delivery methods:

Oral ingestion: While taking CBD oil orally is popular, this method has a low bioavailability because CBD can interact with acids or enzymes in the digestive system, which affects its rate of absorption.  After digestion, the CBD enters the bloodstream through the portal vein and into the liver, where it is further metabolized. During this process, the concentration of the CBD is reduced by enzymes before passing into the bloodstream.[1]

Tinctures: CBD tinctures are generally administered a few drops at a time under the tongue, where they are  absorbed by sublingual glands. The dose can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of drops. With tinctures, some of the CBD is absorbed directly into the mucous membranes, which means it reaches the bloodstream more rapidly and effectively and isn’t broken down by enzymes in saliva or by first-pass metabolism. The remaining compounds are swallowed and pass through the liver as any swallowed product does.[2]  The bioavailability of CBD by sublingual absorption produces effects fairly quickly, within 20 minutes or so.[3]

Edibles: CBD edibles, like gummies or cookies, have less bioavailability because the body has to process both the CBD and the ingredients used to make the treat.[4]

Topicals: CBD applied topically will not enter the bloodstream so bioavailability is low. Instead, topical CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the skin and central nervous system. In this way, CBD topicals are effective as remedies for pain and inflammation in targeted areas like joints and the skin.

Vaping: The bioavailability of CBD directly inhaled is high. As with sublingual offerings, the lungs have capillaries that can absorb compounds into the bloodstream that are inhaled through smoke or vapor. It’s important to keep in mind, however, inhaling smoke is not considered healthy. [5]

Whatever CBD delivery method you choose, it’s always advisable to talk to your doctor first. Discuss dosage and ensure that CBD will not interfere with other recommended treatments.




[1] “CBD Bioavailability,” Cannabis Law Report, Accessed October 6, 2021. https://cannabislaw.report/cbd-bioavailability/
[2] IBID
[3] “CBD and Bioavailability,” CBD Awareness Project, July 17, 2019. https://www.cbdoil.org/cbd-bioavailability/
[4] Leasca, Stacey, “Answers to All of Your Biggest Questions About CBD Tinctures, the Latest Health Trend,” Prevention, April 9, 2019. https://www.prevention.com/health/a26990439/what-is-a-cbd-tincture/
[5] Pickle, Justin, “CBD Bioavailability: Why You Might Be Taking the Wrong CBD Product,” Biomedical Health and News, November 20, 2020. https://biomedj.org/cannabis/cbd-bioavailability/