With more research continuously discovering new health and wellness applications for cannabidiol (CBD), the availability and demand for CBD products continue to increase. The greater variety of these products gives patients more of a choice to find a method of consumption and CBD option that works for their health and lifestyle needs.
While we are continually expanding our awareness and knowledge regarding CBD and how it may benefit our bodies and our minds, far less is understood about how this active compound is processed once it has been ingested. This could be a problem, because if CBD is ever taken seriously as a drug, it’s essential that we know exactly how it works. This also involves understanding how the body metabolizes CBD.
In general, there are four key methods for consuming CBD. These include; ingestion, sublingual, topical, and inhalation. For the purposes of this article, we are going to take a look at ingestion, but more specifically, how CBD is metabolized when it’s consumed orally.
What is Metabolism?
Before we can properly understand how CBD is metabolized when consumed orally, we first need to have a general understanding of how metabolism works. Metabolism is a word that gets used in many different contexts and thus can be a little confusing to understand. It’s often referred to when talking about weight loss or gain, with people claiming to have either a “slow” or “fast” metabolism. This can be classified as their basal metabolic rate – the number of calories that a specific person needs to keep the body functioning while at rest.
Although the basal metabolic rate is often referred to as metabolism, it’s rather different from the metabolism of CBD and other drugs. For medical purposes, metabolism refers to the rate at which CBD or any other substance is broken down by the body and forms different compounds that are known as metabolites.
The metabolism process takes place when you put anything into your body. For instance, when you eat a meal, the fats are broken down into triglycerides, the carbohydrates into sugar, and proteins into amino acids. Metabolism is the process that transforms your food into substances that can be used by your cells. Also important to note is that it’s under the control of the chemicals that are known as enzymes.
How Does the Body Absorb CBD?
Studies suggest that CBD may have the potential to reduce anxiety and depression, provide anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, manage pain, minimize or even eliminate seizure activity, and even fight some cancers, among other medical conditions.
However, for CBD to have any influence on our systems, it first needs to be absorbed. When we refer to the absorption of CBD, we are talking about how it is transferred from the site of administration and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the CBD can be transported throughout the body to influence or interact with the cannabinoid receptors that are known as CB1 and CB2, as well as non-cannabinoid receptors like vanilloid receptor TRPV-1 and serotonin receptor 5-HT1A.
How the CBD is absorbed depends on how much of it is consumed, or the route of administration. Whether the CBD oil is ingested, placed under the tongue, applied topically, or inhaled, plays a vital role in the uptake, distribution, and the elimination of the compound. Thus, it could have an influence on how effective cannabinoid treatments will be at producing their natural effects.
Defining Oral Consumption
Most of us probably already know how oral consumption works. It basically means to consume a substance through your mouth. When it comes to CBD, common methods of oral consumption include; CBD oil, CBD capsules, CBD beverages, and CBD edibles.
While oral consumption methods do offer a variety of benefits, anything that is consumed will have to through our digestive and metabolic system, which means that a large portion of the CBD will be filtered out, thereby drastically reducing bioavailability. But what is bioavailability you may be wondering?
We’ve already discussed the fact that there are various different forms to consume CBD such as tinctures, e-liquids, lotions, oils, capsules, and more. Each of these forms has a different usage method, and each product is usually available in multiple concentrations of CBD.
Questions like “which method is best to use” and “how much CBD should you take” are crucial in understanding what bioavailability is. In short, it’s the rate and degree at which a substance is absorbed into the bloodstream. It’s not only about the strength and amount of a substance that you consumed; bioavailability also determines how much of what you took is actually in the body to provide the necessary effects.
For medications that are prescribed by the doctor, part of the calculation about the dosage has already taken bioavailability into account when working out the standard dosage. However, the bioavailability of CBD varies depending on the method of consumption and the concentration of CBD in the product.
How is CBD Metabolized When Consumed Orally?
The most common way to administer CBD oil is orally. When the CBD is ingested, it’s absorbed by the digestive system. The compounds then move from the stomach and into the hepatic portal system. From here they are carried through the portal vein and into the liver. The liver metabolizes the CBD molecules in what is known as “the first pass effect.” The CYP450 mixed function then oxidizes the enzymes in the liver to act upon CBD – this reduces the concentration of the compounds before what remains is passed on to the bloodstream.
To put simply, when you take CBD oil orally, it gets passed through the digestive system, is metabolized by the liver, and eventually it’s active compounds are sent into the bloodstream. This form of administration is exactly the same way that vitamins and other substances are most typically taken.
Getting back to the matter of “the first pass effect.” When you consume CBD orally, it has to be passed via your digestive system. From the intestines, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and then transported to your liver via the hepatic portal system. In the liver, CBD is broken down into metabolites by enzymes. These metabolites are transported to the heart and then circulated around the body via the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, while ingestion is considered to be the easiest way to consume CBD, it isn’t the most efficient way to absorb high amounts of CBD. The first pass metabolism effects mean that a big portion of the CBD and its metabolites are excreted in faeces and urine, which means that a lot of the benefits are quite literally flushed away. The good news is that studies have found that consuming CBD oil with fatty acids may help to bypass the first pass effect and thereby increase how much CBD is absorbed via ingestion.
There is also another method – sublingual administration of CBD. If the CBD oil is held under the tongue for at least 60 to 90 seconds before it is swallowed, the mucus membranes found in the mouth are able to absorb the compounds. Using the sublingual method means that the CBD will bypass the digestive system and liver metabolism. In other words, the compounds won’t be broken down by enzymes and will thus reach the bloodstream more quickly.
Final Thoughts on the Metabolization of CBD When Consumed Orally
Now that you know how CBD is metabolized when consumed orally, you may decide to explore some other methods for administering CBD. However, keep in mind that it’s always important to choose the method that you feel most comfortable using. This way, you are also more likely to be able to stay consistent with your servings. At the end of the day, it’s all about what works best for you.