This is because of how CBD is metabolized, absorbed, and used by the body. There are several elements at work here, including your metabolic rate which depends on things like age, gender, level of physical activity, hormone function, and muscle-to-fat ratio. But how CBD is metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream depends most strongly on the way the CBD product is consumed.
Here’s what you need to know about how CBD is metabolized, including an overview of sublingual vs. oral consumption, bioavailability, and the first-pass effect.
How Is CBD Metabolized?
Metabolism refers to the many chemical processes within the body converting what we ingest into energy needed for vital processes and homeostasis (balance). This process is important to CBD because it determines the rate and degree of absorption of CBD into the bloodstream, also known as the bioavailability of CBD. It basically determines how much CBD can actually be absorbed and used to provide potential benefits, like relief from sleeping troubles, alleviation of everyday aches and pains, or mitigation of mild anxiety.
Two of the most common ways to take CBD are oral or sublingual consumption. Whenever you eat, drink, or swallow cannabinoids, it’s called oral consumption, like with gummies, capsules, baked goods, and beverages. Sublingual consumption, on the other hand, is when you place CBD—typically in the form of an oil or tincture—under your tongue, holding it there for 30 seconds, then swallowing it.
Oral Consumption and Absorption of CBD
CBD edibles are consumed and processed orally. This means that after CBD is ingested, it goes through the esophagus to the stomach. From there, it enters something called the hepatic portal system where CBD is then carried to the liver. The liver metabolizes the CBD molecules (using special enzymes like CYP enzymes, CYP1A1, CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP3A4, and CYP3A5) before they can enter the bloodstream and reach receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
This process is referred to as the first-pass effect, or first-pass metabolism, during which a drug or substance like CBD is metabolized at a specific location in the body (in this case, the liver). This results in a reduced concentration of the active substance upon reaching its site of action—the bloodstream. The extent to which a person experiences the first-pass effect is known to vary from person to person, but nevertheless always happens when you consume CBD orally.
Because of the first-pass effect, CBD and other cannabinoids lose potential bioavailability through this process. Essentially, a significant amount of CBD gets broken down by your liver before circulating into your bloodstream. Researchers estimate that the bioavailability of “oral or ingestible CBD” falls in the range of 13-19%.
If we err on the side of caution and say the bioavailability is 13% and you’re taking a 30 mg CBD edible, only about 4 mg of CBD actually reaches your bloodstream. However, there is a definite upside to taking CBD orally—edibles are well-known for their long-lasting effects, lasting anywhere from six to 12 hours. Though, keep in mind the duration of effects depends on your unique metabolism, the last time you ate (if you have a full or empty stomach), and the strength or potency of your CBD product.
Sublingual Consumption and Absorption of CBD
Sublingual consumption of CBD can bypass the stomach and undergo reduced metabolism by the liver during its first pass through the body. This is because CBD can be quickly absorbed underneath the tongue through small capillaries in the oral mucosa, or mucous membrane, allowing it to directly enter the bloodstream. This means more CBD is preserved and more CBD can get into the bloodstream. The bioavailability of sublingual CBD products falls in the range of 20-30%. The one downside to sublingual consumption of CBD is the effects typically don’t last as long as oral consumption but still last anywhere from four to six hours.
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If you still have questions about how CBD is metabolized or have any other CBD-related questions, our customer service team would love to help. Just give us a call on our CBD hotline.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.