There are a multitude of different ways to ingest CBD, and each has a different rate of effectiveness - otherwise known as the "bioavailability" of the ingestion method. Different types of CBD also have varying levels of bioavailability, but we'll cover that more later in the article.
For starters, let's dive into the most common forms of ingestion and their levels of bioavailability.
1. Oral ingestion
By far the most common method, oral ingestion has the highest levels of bioavailability. There's a lack of definitive peer-approved information on the subject, but it's commonly agreed that vaping CBD oil or CBD infused vape juices has a bioavailability of around 60%.
This means that roughly 60% of the CBD in the oil/vape juice is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Other popular methods of oral ingestion include oil that is applied sublingually (under the tongue), capsules that are swallowed and CBD gummies that are chewed.
All oral methods are fast acting, with CBD entering the bloodstream in just 10-15 minutes after ingestion.
2. Topical application
CBD balms and creams are applied topically to the skin, usually directly to a specific area to provide localised pain relief.
With topical application, the bioavailability is lower than oral ingestion methods at roughly 45%, but it varies between brands. This is because the majority of the CBD is absorbed by the skin and fat cells beneath the skin.
Topically applied CBD takes roughly 45 minutes - 1 hour to enter the bloodstream.
3. Ingesting via food & drink
Mixing CBD oil into food & drink products is more popular than ever!
There are a huge variety of CBD infused food products on the market these days, which are predominantly aimed at new CBD users as the bioavailability is significantly lower than other methods of ingestion.
It's recommended to take CBD infused food products with a meal heavy in fatty acids, as CBD has been shown to bond with the fats which makes it easier for your digestive system to absorb.
CBD capsules & CBD infused food products take around 2 hours to enter the bloodstream.
BIOAVAILABILITY of CBD types
We mentioned at the start of this article that different types of CBD have varying levels of bioavailability, just like the methods of ingestion/application.
There are 3 types of CBD available on the market currently; traditional CBD, microemulsion CBD & the relatively recent addition of nano-CBD.
The main difference between the 3 are the methods used to extract them from the hemp plant & then process them.
While all 3 are initially extracted via CO2 extraction (which involves combining hemp plant material & CO2 gas in a chamber and using the exact amount of pressure and heat required to separate the CBD oil from plant matter), both microemulsion CBD and nano-CBD are broken down further into smaller particles using surfactants.
A significantly higher amount of surfactants (used to bind CBD oil with water) are used in the production of microemulsion CBD which can often produce an undesirable taste for the end user.
There's a stark difference when comparing the particle sizes of the 3 types of CBD - traditional CBD particles are usually 5000 nanometers or more, while microemulsion CBD ranges from 100 nanometers to 4440 nanometers, and nano-CBD particles range from 10 to 200 nanometers.
We can more easily understand the significance of particle size by comparing our skin to a kitchen sieve; the smaller the particle size, the easier it is to pass through our skin and fat cells to reach the bloodstream - like sieving a bowl of flour to separate the larger particles.
Smaller CBD particles also provide a massive boost to the bioavailability of orally ingested CBD products, as they're much easier for the body to process and absorb via the walls of our digestive tract.
If we compare the bioavailability of CBD oils made using traditional CBD, microemulsion CBD and nano-CBD, the results are striking;
Up to 50% for traditional CBD oils
Up to 60% for microemulsion CBD oils
Up to 100% for nano-CBD oils
This means that nano-CBD oils are around 100% more effective than traditional CBD oils, but some studies place it nearer to 400%!
What does this mean?
There's such a huge range of CBD products available on the market in this day and age, and big variations in quality and strength.
Nano-CBD products are typically more expensive than other varieties, but they often provide the best value for money due to their high levels of bioavailability. They're easier for the body to process and absorb and can therefore provide more effective relief for chronic conditions and other ailments.
That's not to discount other forms of CBD, though. As we covered, there's a significant difference between the bioavailability of different ingestion methods too, so it's worth considering the way you're going to take/apply the product as well as the type of CBD used in the manufacturing process.