CBD administration – best routes and tips

11 March 2019


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Autor: Emilia Obluska

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If you are here, you probably already know something about the health benefits of CBD oils. Nonetheless, there is always a lot of doubts to dispel – do you know, for example, what are the most effective ways of CBD administration? Which of them are characterized by the best bioavailability and why? If not, we will try to highlight these issues a bit for you.

Understanding the relationship between cannabidiol administration route and its absorption in the body is crucial for both those familiar with the topic and those who are just gathering information to start their adventure with CBD. We therefore propose a bit of scientific terminology to start with.

Pharmacokinetics, or the fate of CBD in your body

The journey CBD takes while entering our body, the processes in which it participates and the changes it undergoes – are exactly what pharmacokinetics describes. Cannabidiol’s pharmacokinetics it is quite complex, so let’s consider only the most important events in our body in contact with CBD.

Cannabidiol enters the plasma and is distributed all over the body along with it fairly quickly. In contrast to THC, CBD exhibits weak or no activity at cannabinoid receptors at all. As a result, among other things, it does not show psychoactive performance. The largest and most significant changes in CBD occur in the liver, where it is metabolized. Interestingly, the studies have shown that its metabolites themselves can have active impact on the body. They, for example, lower body temperature and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Neither CBD nor its metabolites show toxicity in the human body. Fortunately so – according to some, they stay there quite a long time. The half-life of CBD in our body (its activity, to put it simply) ranges from less than 2 hours up to even 5 days (depending on the source and method of administration). In addition, due to its affinity for lipids, it tends to accumulate in adipose tissue.

It should be borne in mind that the pharmacokinetics of CBD differ slightly among people. It varies in particular considering the route of administration – depending on whether CBD is being inhaled, swallowed, or applied under the tongue.

CBD administration

Products containing CBD are numerous on the market. While you consider buying CBD products, however, except for the usage convenience you should take bioavailability of cannabidiol into account. It differs depending on the CBD administration method.

Oral mucosal administration

CBD sublingual

This category includes both sprays and CBD oils. Direct contact with oral mucous membranes is the key here. Such agents are usually administered sublingually or distributed around the cheeks or throat. These areas are extremely well supplied with blood enabling the active substance to penetrate into the bloodstream and reach the maximum concentration in the plasma in a relatively short time. Unfortunately, it leaves our body just as quickly – CBD level drops by half after 1.5 – 11 hours (considerable variation results from individual differences between people). Due to the presence of high quality oil and appropriate area of administration, bioavailability of cannabidiol in this case is high.


CBD inhalation

It is not difficult to guess, that we mainly mean vaporization here. It is possible through a special device – a vaporizer. The CBD concentrate or hash is heated to the temperature of the active substance release. This temperature, however, never reaches the combustion temperature, so cannabidiol released this way is being inhaled as a vapor, not smoke. Smoking dried cannabis with CBD is slightly less effective. Under the influence of high temperature, a large percent of cannabidiol simply degrades, and thus less reaches our bloodstream. However, this is the fastest way to deliver CBD to the body – its highest concentrations are observed just after about 3 minutes. The bioavailability of cannabidiol delivered by inhalation is estimated at 31% (however, it should be emphasized that single studies indicate this).

Oral administration

CBD orally

Taking CBD orally seems to be the easiest and most convenient way. In addition, cannabidiol delivered this way stays in the body for a long time – it takes up to 5 days for a constant reception (it works for about 3-4 hours on a one-off basis). Oral intake in the form of e.g. capsules, however, has many disadvantages. Firstly, it is absorbed much longer compared to other administration routes (the maximum concentration is reached after about 3 hours). Secondly – and most importantly – its bioavailability is relatively low due to the obstacles it must overcome. Large fraction of CBD degrades when passing through our digestive system.

Oral administration is not limited only to capsules. There are more and more interesting products on the market, such as jellys or chewing gum with CBD. Unfortunately, there is no reliable data on their bioavailability, so let us leave it as an interesting trivia for now.

When choosing the CBD administration method, it is worth to keep in mind its lipophilicity. The presence of fats while consuming cannabidiol significantly increases its bioavailability (up to three times) and facilitates its distribution around the lymphatic system in an unchanged form. Therefore it seems like the best forms are those dissolved in high quality vegetable oils. However, if you care about the fastest absorption – purchase of a vaporizer is definitely worth considering. If, in turn, you want to use the CBD product in the most efficient way and easily measure the appropriate dose – let it be sublingual oils. If you only use cannabidiol as an once-in-awhile supplement and you want to experiment with jellies or chewing gums – there’s nothing in the way! Depending on your needs and expectations, today it’s easier than ever to choose something that suits you best.

Millar S. A., Stone N. L., Yates A. S., & O’Sullivan S. E., 2018: A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9
Ujváry I., Hanuš L., 2016: Human Metabolites of Cannabidiol: A Review on Their Formation, Biological Activity, and Relevance in Therapy. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 90–101
Zgair A., Wong J.C.M., Lee J.B., Mistry J., Sivak O., Wasan K.M., Henning I.M., Barrett D.A., Constantinescu C.S., Fischer P.M., Gerschkovich P., 2016: Dietary fats and pharmaceutical lipid excipients increase systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis and cannabis-based medicines. American Journal of Translational Research 8, 3448-3459

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