Is CBD water-soluble?
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- What is water-soluble CBD?
- CBD bioavailability
- How is water-soluble CBD made?
- The science behind water-soluble CBD
- Does CBD oil have to be water-soluble?
- How long does water-soluble CBD stay in your system?
- How can water-soluble CBD be taken?
- How is water-soluble CBD isolate made?
Think back to grade school, when you first experimented mixing oil and water. You’ll likely recall that oil sits on the water but doesn’t combine. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has a similar reaction. CBD oil is hydrophobic, meaning it is repelled by water, and resists absorption by the body, leaving up to 90% of the cannabinoid to pass through the body unused.
Enter water-soluble CBD products. CBD is more compatible with water when it is formulated as a water-soluble product such as a nanoemulsion, liposomal product, or microemulsion. The CBD does not truly dissolve in water but water-soluble CBD is helping to unlock the cannabinoid’s potential by making it more effective and versatile.
What is water-soluble CBD?
In water-soluble CBD formulations, the CBD molecules are manipulated to dissolve better in water. However, the term water-soluble is inaccurate, since CBD molecules will never fully dissolve in water, but can be transformed into a more water-compatible form.
“It isn’t that the chemical composition of CBD is changing to be more soluble in water, because then it wouldn’t actually be CBD anymore, but CBD can be packaged in a more easily absorbable vehicle,” explained Matthew Halpert, Ph.D. Halpert is a lecturer in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, and a CBD researcher at Medterra, a manufacturer of CBD products.
When CBD molecules are incorporated into water using an advanced process that breaks the oil particles into tiny molecules, the body is able to derive more benefits from the product. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
When producing water-soluble CBD, the oil particles are separated into tiny molecules by an advanced technological process. The molecules are then coated with a carrier or surfactant to stabilize them and keep them suspended in water. Smaller particle sizes allow the CBD molecules to disseminate more easily throughout water.
When CBD molecules are incorporated into water in this way, the human body is able to derive more benefits from the product. The human body is composed of up to 60% water so it makes sense that the more water soluble a product is, the easier it is for the body to transport and absorb it.
To fully understand the benefits of water-soluble CBD, it’s essential to understand the bioavailability of CBD. Bioavailability can be defined as the quantity of a substance that enters the bloodstream. CBD in its traditional oil form resists absorption into the bloodstream, which delays the onset of its impact on the user.
Another issue that limits oral CBD from reaching the bloodstream is a phenomenon called the first-pass effect. The concentration of the compound is greatly reduced before it can circulate throughout the body’s system because it can’t progress past the liver when ingested as an oil. This reduction in concentration also results in a decrease in bioavailability.
Reduced bioavailability affects some of the most common and convenient forms of CBD such as capsules, soft gels, tinctures, and edibles. Vaping CBD oil can yield more benefits because the molecules are transported by vapor particles and are therefore more easily absorbed by the lungs.
How is water-soluble CBD made?
Ultrasound is used to create vacuum bubbles in the CBD molecules, which causes them to implode, hit surrounding bubbles, and break into smaller droplets. Water-soluble CBD is generally either prepared as a liposome, nanoemulsion, or a microemulsion.
“Water-soluble” CBD boasts a rapid onset and greater efficacy. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Liposome: Liposomes are a potent way of delivering nutrients to the body. With liposomal CBD, the CBD molecule is surrounded by or attached to a fat.
Once the liposome reaches its destination and fuses with the cell, it releases the CBD. Liposomal CBD droplets measure between 100 and 5,000 nanometers.
Nanoemulsion: Nanoemulsions atomize CBD molecules even further, making them easier for the body to absorb. Smaller drops create a larger surface area to interact with the body’s tissues and enzymes.
The average size of a droplet of nano-emulsified CBD is 25 nanometers. Nanoemulsions are usually mixed with penetration enhancers to help spread the CBD further. They can be taken either orally or topically, with uptake occurring almost immediately after administration. This should result in higher potency and faster onset of action for lower doses.
Microemulsion: CBD microemulsions are also available but are less common. Microemulsion droplets measure between 100 and 5,000 nanometers, which means they can penetrate a larger surface area, but they require the use of surfactants to dilute the compound.
Microemulsions require ten times as many surfactants as nanoemulsions. A surfactant is a substance that helps to reduce the surface tension of CBD oil, increasing its ability to spread and disperse. Less is more when it comes to surfactants in products which will be ingested, which is why nanoemulsions are more popular.
All of these formulations increase the bioavailability of CBD so it can be better absorbed by the body.
The science behind water-soluble CBD
Both liposomes and nanoemulsions have been well-researched with a range of compounds.
“There are decades worth of scientific research that provide evidence of liposomes increasing the bioavailability of molecules not easily taken in by the body,” Halpert said.
Liposome, nanoemulsion, or a microemulsion formulations increase the bioavailability of CBD so it can be better absorbed by the body. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
However, research on liposomal CBD and CBD nanoemulsions is still in the early stages. There are a few published studies which suggest promising results.
A 2018 review published in “Molecules” found that the lipophilic nature of CBD rendered it a good candidate for nanotechnology drug delivery strategies.
A 2019 pre-clinical study investigated the efficacy of a CBD nanoemulsion in rats. The researchers found the nanoemulsion improved bioavailability by about 65%, and accelerated the onset of action of the CBD.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences investigated the bioavailability of Sativex oromucosal spray compared with a CBD/THC nanoformulation in 14 healthy male volunteers. On the days that the volunteers received the nanoformulation, they experienced faster absorption and improved bioavailability of the product.
Does CBD oil have to be water-soluble?
CBD can still offer benefits when administered as an oil. For those who prefer their supplements in a more familiar form, CBD oil will likely eternally hold appeal, although it doesn’t have the bioavailability of water-soluble CBD. It is likely, however, that the trend will continue towards more CBD products that utilize the nano-emulsification process.
CBD can still offer benefits when administered as an oil. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Halpert does stress, however, that not all water-soluble CBD is necessarily better. It can actually be worse if made using poor production techniques.
How long does water-soluble CBD stay in your system?
The absorption rate, the degradation rate of the CBD, and the receptivity of the individual to the product will all contribute to the length of time results are felt.
“The jury is still out on how long water-soluble CBD can remain in the body,” Halpert said.
Although there is no hard and fast answer, it is worth noting that high-quality, third-party tested, water soluble CBD boasts quicker onset and greater efficacy. Water soluble also requires a smaller dose due to its enhanced bioavailability, meaning the same size bottle of CBD should last longer.
How can water-soluble CBD be taken?
Water-soluble CBD is highly versatile and is often sold in liquid or powder form. It’s also available in oral, topical, and nasal spray forms. Nanoemulsified CBD is translucent, meaning it is visually undetectable when stirred into beverages. It can also be incorporated into food, allowing it to be widely used in everyday life.
Water-soluble CBD is also particularly useful when applied as a topical formula. While oily CBD creams sit on the skin, water-based serums can more effectively soak in by penetrating the spaces between cells.
How is water-soluble CBD isolate made?
CBD isolate is created when CBD molecules are subjected to a more complex process of extraction than full-spectrum CBD oil. The end result is CBD isolated into a crystalline form, without additional cannabinoids or terpenes.
Even CBD isolate, a highly purified form of CBD, is still hydrophobic. Nanotechnology is needed for CBD isolate to become more compatible with water.
“Water-soluble CBD isolate is the exact same CBD isolate as before, but it just goes through this extra process of packaging on the nano-scale,” Halpert said.Is CBD water-soluble? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is water-soluble CBD? CBD bioavailability How is water-soluble CBD made?
Water Soluble CBD vs CBD Oil: Which is Better?
Water-soluble CBD is a hot term across the industry that’s been met with both excitement and skepticism. These products, created using the same technologies employed in the supplement and pharmaceutical industries, are designed to battle the effectiveness issues of oil-based CBD products.
Keep reading as we take a look at traditional oil-based CBD products, water-soluble formulations, and compare the two to help you choose which is right for your needs.
What is CBD Oil?
When a CBD-rich extract is produced from hemp, the result is a thick, oily substance containing a wide range of cannabis compounds. The cannabinoids inside, like CBD, are hydrophobic substances meaning they don’t dissolve into water. Even when the CBD molecule is isolated from this extract and becomes a white crystalline substance it is still hydrophobic.
The term “CBD oil” is used to describe oil-based tinctures specifically but it is also used to describe the CBD inside any product created using these extracts. Tinctures and other products like capsules, topicals, and edibles commonly contain a CBD extract mixed carrier oils like MCT.
In this article, we prefer to use oil-based CBD as it describes any product containing a hydrophobic extract or isolate.
What is Water-Soluble CBD?
Water-soluble is used to describe a CBD extract which has undergone a process to break the oil into tiny particles. These small droplets are then mixed with a surfactant which serves to emulsify the particles, allowing them to remain stable and not regroup.
Despite the name, the emulsified CBD-rich oils do not actually dissolve in water. The small particle size simply allows them to disperse throughout liquids. This process increases the surface area of the oil, helping to assist in the absorption of CBD into the body.
These ‘water-friendly’ extracts can come in both liquid and powder forms. They are then used to produce consumable CBD products like tinctures, capsules, edibles, and drinks. There are a few prominent technologies used in the creation of water-soluble CBD products:
- Nanoemulsions use a mechanical process to create 10-100 nanometer particles. The tiny particle size allows for low amounts of all-natural surfactants to be used, reducing the need for high-volume, synthetic surfactant use with other water-soluble methods.
- Liposomes are spherical structures ranging in size from 50-5000 nanometers. They are made of an internal water-friendly (hydrophilic) compartment surrounded by a water-insoluble (hydrophobic) bilayer. CBD extract can be stored in the bilayer membrane. Products using this technology are common in the hemp industry. The downside to this method is it uses highly complex manufacturing procedures and requires high surfactant levels.
- Microemulsions create 100-5000 nanometer droplets formed by solubilizing CBD oil in water. These emulsions are created using a chemical process that has the downside of requiring high amounts of surfactants which results in some undesirable side effects for the user. This size emulsion is not commonly found in the CBD industry.
Oil-Based CBD vs Water-Soluble CBD: It’s All About Bioavailability
When CBD is swallowed, it undergoes a first-pass effect. The compounds must pass through the body and into the liver before reaching general circulation. During this process, much of the CBD is destroyed by the liver, and only a fraction of the originally consumed.
Bioavailability is defined as: “the amount of a substance that enters the bloodstream when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.”
For example, when oil-based CBD is swallowed, studies show that it can be as low as 4% bioavailable. This means that the other 96% of the CBD ends up being flushed from the body as waste. This is obviously a significant issue as this inefficiency is extremely wasteful and costly.
Seeking alternative delivery methods that bypass the first-pass metabolism is one way to work around this problem. Tinctures, when held under the tongue, allow the CBD to be absorbed sublingually by the mucous membranes. Vaping or smoking allows the same compounds to be absorbed through the lungs.
These alternative products don’t address the issue of swallowed CBD however, and consumable products like capsules and edibles are very popular in the industry. Water-soluble technologies aim to confront the problem head-on. The increased surface area of the tiny oil particles helps to significantly increase the amount of CBD absorbed by the body:
Comparing the Effects of Oil-based CBD vs Water Soluble
Of this entire article, this is perhaps the most important section, and one of the most commonly overlooked points of water-soluble.
Oil-based CBD comes on slower, last longer, but are absorbed less completely. For example, sublingual tinctures take 20 -60 minutes to come on, come on more gradually, and may last for up to 8 hours. Swallowing an oil-based product, though not recommended due to it’s low bioavailability, takes 60-90 minutes to come on gradually and can last for as long as 8 hours.
Water-soluble CBD comes on faster, is absorbed more readily, but have a shorter duration. For example, swallowing water-soluble softgels make only take 20 minutes to become active in the body, have a more pronounced come on, but only last for up to 5 hours.
Which to Choose: Water-Soluble CBD or Oil-Based CBD?
Many tout one solution as superior, putting down the other. Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we take a balanced approach. Water-soluble and oil-based CBD are not uniquely good or bad, they each have their own specific properties, and if used consciously can both provide positive outcomes.
Our guidance is simple:
- If you’re going to swallow your CBD, choose a water-soluble product. The severe bioavailability issues of swallowing an oil-based product make them inefficient and costly. Since water-soluble products are up to 5x more effective, you only need to take a fraction of the dose for the same benefits.
- If you’re open to alternative methods of consuming CBD, then weigh your options. Consider how long it takes for the effects to come on and how long the effects last against your personal needs. You may also find that it’s good to use a number of different types of products in different situations!
Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we offer both water-soluble softgels and tinctures designed to be swallowed. We also offer an oil-based sublingual tincture. All these products contain our same great broad-spectrum extract and we have clients who enjoy both products equally. Let us know in the comments which type of product you prefer and why.
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14 comments on “ Water Soluble CBD vs CBD Oil: Which is Better? ”
I would like to try cbd, but can’t get clarity on whether or not it will cause someone to fail a drug test. My employer randomly tests us and I don’t want to throw away a 30 year career.
Hello, so I have a question I’m not sure if you would know it’s kind of just a technicality. I am aware now from the information you provided that water soluble is the best choice for bioavailability so that the CBD is not wasted. But my question is, if I were to take the normal oil form even tho it wouldn’t be as affective would it last longer since it stored in my fast cells or does it need to be in my blood to do anything?
Hi Tia – generally speaking a standard oil product compared to a water-soluble one will have a slower onset, but an increased duration. That said you’ll still have to take an increased amount in order to match the effectiveness as you mention. You can read more on the topic in this article about methods of ingestion: https://bigskybotanicals.com/blog/cbd-methods-of-ingestion-bioavailability-effectiveness/
There are many natural surfactants. witch one do you use. thank you charles
Hey Charles – we use Quillaja Extract as the surfactant in our nano emulsified water-soluble products.
What surfactants are used in your nanoemulsions, microemulsions and liposmes? Interesting information but I need to know a bit more before purchasing. Thank you.
Hello Cristal – Our products are nanoemulsified – we do not use micro or liposomes. Because of this, we are able to use a minimal amount of natural surfactant in our products.
Thank you for your very informative article on water-soluble CBD. I’m trying to figure out which form of CBD is the best for me. After learning more about water-soluble CBD and all of its benefits, I will definitely consider using it.
Have you done any studies (animal or human) that demonstrate the improvement in bioavailability ?
Hello Volker – Thank you for your message. There are studies available to demonstrate an improvement in bioavailability, yes. Please see the now updated section in this article under “Nanoemulsions” titled: Reference Studies Providing Evidence for Nanoemulsions Increasing the Bioavailability of Cannabinoids
I also feel that adding “Water Soluble” to any description is overkill. Nano CBD is 100% bioavailable because of its size, whether is dissolves completely in water or is “Water Soluble” by definition won’t make it any more bioavailable than Nano sized particles.
These process you mention are not water soluble but only a method of delivery that manipulates natural metabolic functions. These oils don not disappear and need further processing, enzyme production to further distribute nutrients to the blood stream as energy. A true water soluble technology is available for use by the body within minutes and is predictable. Know the difference! All of these technologies are acceptable technologies, Nano technology, emulsification have been introduced to the food supply for over a decade. Basically, the main difference is how the body metabolizes and processes these nutrients.
Hey Rod, we are aware and agree that ‘water soluble’ is not an accurate term from a scientific perspective. We mention in the article that this term has caught on via its use as a marketing term. Thanks for your feedback and the information you provide!Discover how water-soluble compares to traditional CBD oil and how to choose between the two based on your needs. ]]>