Hemp 101

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Bioavailability?

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Bioavailability?

When it comes to a CBD routine, two key factors contribute to effectiveness: dosing and bioavailability. To better understand the roles each of these factors play, we’re breaking down what they mean and how they work.

Dosing 101

Let’s start with the basics: dose refers to how much CBD is in the edible/capsule/dropper you’re taking. The average CBD product might provide a dose of 10 milligrams of CBD. 

Easy enough, but sometimes CBD products are labeled according to their total cannabinoid content, not their CBD content alone. A product that lists “10 milligrams/serving” on its label might actually have 10 milligrams of total cannabinoids per serving—including CBD, CBG, THC, and CBN. 

Depending on the type of CBD product you’re using, you might need to do a little basic math to measure out a dose. For example, a bottle of CBD oil may contain 300mg, with 30 servings per bottle. 300mg divided by 30 servings gives you 10mg of CBD per serving. You can also calculate dosage amounts by volume, dividing the total CBD per bottle by the size of the bottle (in milliliters). This is especially helpful if you want to adjust your dose to be higher or lower. 


Bioavailability 101

While you probably already had a general sense of what we mean when we talk about dosing, the term bioavailability may be somewhat less familiar. In the most simple terms, bioavailability refers to how much CBD actually gets into your body. We measure bioavailability in percentages, because it measures how much of a substance enters the circulation, thus allowing it to have an active effect on the body. 

A substance that is highly bioavailable will retain greater strength throughout the entirety of the absorption process than one with lower bioavailability.100% bioavailability means everything gets absorbed, while 0% bioavailability means nothing gets absorbed. 

As an example, the oral bioavailability of water is extremely high (close to 99%),  while the oral bioavailability of vitamin K in spinach is very low because it takes a lot more work by our bodies to break down, process, and absorb the nutrients supplied by a plant.. 

Hemp presents a similar challenge. Its CBD content is trapped within a matrix of all sorts of fat-loving compounds and it has to be activated by heat to affect endocannabinoid receptors.

In other words, CBD’s bioavailability isn’t all that high—it usually hovers in the 10-20% range depending on how you take it, when you take it, and what you take it with. There are probably also genetic differences from one person to the next that can influence bioavailability. Some studies have even shown that high omega-6 consumption can desensitize endocannabinoid receptors, possibly reducing the bioavailability of CBD and other cannabinoids. 

CBD’s bioavailability also varies depending on the delivery method you use. CBD oil’s oral bioavailability, for example, is usually 13-19%. 

How Bioavailability Affects Dosing

This variation means that the CBD dose you take should be informed by your method of consumption.

Even if you’ve determined your ideal dose of CBD oil is 10mg, for example, that doesn’t mean that 10mg is your ideal dose for other forms of CBD. If you start taking edibles, for example, 10mg likely won’t be enough to achieve the same effects.   

The bioavailability of common delivery methods

  • CBD Oils | 13-19%
  • CBD Smokables | 15-20% 
  • CBD Vapes | 25-30%  
  • CBD Edibles | 5-10%
  • CBD Suppositories | ~ 60%

How to Improve your CBD’s Bioavailability

Even if your preferred way of consuming CBD doesn’t offer the highest rate of bioavailability, there are ways to improve it and ensure you’re getting maximum benefit.

One of the easiest ways to do so is by taking your CBD alongside some healthy fat. . This recent study found that eating CBD with a high-fat meal boosted its bioavailability to 4 times previous levels.  High quality CBD oils already have this trick built into them by being blended with high fat carrier oils.

CBD’s effects can also be improved by the presence of terpenes. Some terpenes, like myrcene, directly boost CBD’s absorption by “opening up” endocannabinoid receptors; other terpenes have a more indirect effect and complement CBD by hitting other molecular targets. This is why it’s so important to seek out products that use only Full Spectrum Hemp to ensure all the naturally-occurring compounds remain present to support the “entourage effect.”

Combining CBD products is another technique that may be more effective than taking one form alone, even if it doesn’t directly affect the bioavailability of those individual products. If you normally take 20mg of CBD oil sublingually each day, you might try breaking up your doses, taking 10mg as you normally would and trying a smokeable form of CBD to get the other half of your dose. 

While these are all techniques that focus on the product and how you can consume it, there are also things you can do to improve CBD bioavailability that have nothing to do with the product at all. The endocannabinoid system and its receptors are responsible for processing CBD, so by improving the overall health of your endocannabinoid system, you make it easier for your body to effectively process cannabinoids.

Healthy habits like getting plenty of sleep and eating an omega-3-rich diet have been shown to sensitize endocannabinoid receptors to whatever comes their way—CBD included. Research has grown clearer and clearer in recent years that one’s omega 3: omega 6 ratio directly impacts the way their endocannabinoid systems function.