The main hindrance to CBD’s sweeping benefits is its low bioavailability, resulting in the need of much higher dosage — and respectively money — to achieve the desired effects.
Scientists have been working hard to overcome this inherent obstacle, and have come up with a couple of methods that may not be full-on solutions, but still dramatically improve CBD’s bioavailability. Those methods revolve around the principles of nanotechnology, which refer to making particles much, much smaller, and therefore more easily absorbed, and tailor them to the idiosyncrasies of CBD.
But first, we should mention a somewhat surprisingly simple approach to making CBD more effective… one that has nothing to do with fancy technologies: diet.
It seems something as simple yet fundamental as healthy levels of saturated fats in our body are necessary to carry CBD to its designated destination. (1)
However, diet is the more limited approach to making the most of CBD. The real problem is that CBD is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water, and considering how much of the human body is made up of water, this is one of the main reasons behinds its low bioavailability.
So, making CBD more water-compatible, so to speak, basically equals making it more bioavailable and effective. Here is where we should emphasize the “water-compatible” part, as opposed to water-soluble. Researchers haven’t found a way to make CBD completely dissolve into water, but rather to make it more compatible with it, and respectively, bioavailable.
Scientist are currently taking three approaches to doing this.
Nanoemulsions work by breaking up molecules to tiny, nanoscopic droplets, usually between 10 to 100 nanometers in size. Then, surfactants are used to bring down the surface tension of the water so that the droplets can mix into it better.
Microemulsions operate on the same principle as nanoemulsions but are considered less effective. As far as emulsions are concerned, the smaller the particles the better. Droplets — created through microemulsions — are usually between 100 and 5000 nanometers in size.
Furthermore, microemulsions require the use of more surfactants, which can cause some side-effects with health implications. They also tend to give the product an unpleasant, usually bitter and/or soapy taste.
Liposomes are spherical structures, usually between 50 and 5000 nanometers in size, made up of two hydrophilic layers and one hydrophobic bilayer where CBD can be stored. It is a very creative way to make CBD more water-friendly and deliver it into the body — kind of like sneaking it in with the disguise of the hydrophilic layers surrounding it.
However, as you might imagine, this process is quite complex and also requires lots of surfactants in addition to working better with isolated cannabinoids, as opposed to natural extracts.
Water still remains one of main obstacles to CBD’s bioavailability and optimal effects, however, scientists are finding ways to bypass it, and hopefully soon, they might even figure out how to overcome it altogether.
- Elmes MW et al, Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are intracellular carriers for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), J Biol Chem.2015 Apr 3;290(14):8711-21. Epub 2015 Feb 9. Journal Impact Factor = 4.010; Times Cited = 64
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