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What is water-soluble CBD, and why is it more effective?

Recent research suggests water-soluble CBD products are better absorbed in the body, and therefore, more effective.



What is water-soluble CBD, and why is it more effective?

Recent research suggests water-soluble products are better absorbed in the body and therefore, more effective. Should we be rethinking how we consume CBD?

As more water-soluble CBD products land on the market, researchers have debated how these measure up to oil-based formulations when it comes to absorption.

A recent study conducted with Colorado State University’s Department of Health & Exercise Science and US brand NextEvo Naturals appears to have the answer.

The pharmacokinetic study, published in the journal Nutrients, showed over 500% variance in maximum blood concentration achieved between water-soluble CBD ingredients and oil-based formulations and/or unformulated CBD isolate. 

The study compared the effects of five different commercially available CBD formulations to determine the influence of CBD on food-induced thermogenesis, of food on CBD pharmacokinetics, and the effect of CBD on markers of liver function. 

What is water-soluble CBD? 

Water-soluble CBD is a relatively recently developed delivery method, which involves mixing CBD extract with water. 

When CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant it is naturally soluble in oil, but through a process known as emulsification it can be converted into a water-soluble substance. 

This means it can be added to liquids, such as your morning coffee, or even added to cooking and consumed in this way. 

What did the study show?

The findings showed that CBD did not evoke relevant changes to liver function and has the potential to positively impact early insulin and triglyceride responses, leading to healthier digestion. 

Compared to products that contain CBD isolate or CBD dissolved in oil, the amount of CBD that the body is actually absorbing into the bloodstream is significantly lower than if water-soluble CBD is present.

It was also among the first studies to show water-soluble or non-oil-based formulations can be better absorbed into the bloodstream when being consumed with food. 

Does this mean we should all be opting for water-soluble formulations if we want to see better results from our CBD?

Yes, according to Dr Gerry McNally, head of research and development at NextEvo, formerly of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. 

One of the water-soluble CBD preparations in the study was created using proprietary SmartSorb technology from NextEvo Naturals

“The water-soluble formulations studied all show superior CBD pharmacokinetics when compared to an oil based formula,” he tells Cannabis Health.

“Superior pharmacokinetics essentially means greater speed and extent of absorption of the water-soluble CBD formulations compared with the slow and poor absorption of the oil based formula. 

“The water-soluble formulas all showed significantly higher amounts of CBD in the circulating bloodstream up to four times more than observed for the oil-based formula. Time to peak blood levels was also much faster for the water-soluble formulas typically averaging around 30 mins compared with an average of 90 mins for the oil-based product. 

“Finally peak concentration in the blood was on average four times greater for the water-soluble products compared with the oil-based product.”

Do we know why this is?

Previous research suggests that this could be down to the first-pass effect, which occurs when the oil-based formula is absorbed into the bloodstream and undergoes significant metabolism in the liver.

By comparison, water-soluble formulations (or emulsified formulations) of CBD are absorbed via the lymphatic system thus bypassing the liver and resulting in significantly higher circulating blood levels.

So does better absorption mean you’re getting a more effective product

“The short answer is yes,” Dr McNally says.

“More of the CBD in the product ends up in the bloodstream for the water soluble formulation.”

What does this mean for consumers? 

According to this latest data, with water-soluble solutions, consumers should be able to see the same effect with less product than with oil-based formulations, such as tinctures and soft-gels.  

It should also be noted that many CBD gummies on the market are made with oil-based CBD.

“It is clear from the study that formulations that are based on SmartSorb technology are superior to the majority of products in the market which contain oil-based CBD formulations,” says Dr McNally.

“There are a lot of CBD brands, as well as a great deal of misleading product claims. For consumers to get the most from their CBD products they should choose a well formulated product that has clinically proven absorption in humans.”

He adds: “In addition, many products may claim that they have water-soluble CBD, however without performing the human pharmacokinetic testing there is no way to ensure the superior absorption of the CBD.”

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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