What’s All the Buzz About? Bioavailability in CBD & THC Infused Products

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Written by | February 22nd, 2022

In the world of infused products, one of the buzz words that has gained a lot of traction in the past few years is “bioavailability.” In particular, the CBD food and beverage industry has been inundated with companies claiming that their products feature “enhanced bioavailability” with little or no actual data to prove them. With the increased acceptance of cannabis-derived products, there has been an increase in claims of bioavailability often left unquestioned and unproven. Because consumers don’t understand this term, deciphering label claims can be difficult.

The term “biological activity” (otherwise known as bioavailability) was first introduced in 1979 and is defined as “the extent to which the active ingredient of a drug dosage form becomes available at the site of drug action or in a biological medium believed to reflect accessibility to a site of action.” In layman’s terms, bioavailability is the amount of a drug that enters circulation after ingestion and that has an active physical effect. 

Consumed in any form, the human body is capable of absorbing, digesting, distributing, and excreting hydrophobic (water-fearing) cannabinoids said to have “low bioavailability.” Instead, generally speaking, much of the cannabinoid is metabolized by the liver before it gets to the blood (first pass effect) or is excreted in urine and feces unchanged.

What is Biological Activity (aka Bioavailability)? 

Biological activity or bioavailability refers to the relationship between administered substance dose and how much ultimately enters the bloodstream. It is the extent and rate at which the active drug or metabolite enters systemic circulation, bringing oxygenated blood to various tissues and returning deoxygenated blood back to the heart into pulmonary circulation to be desaturated by oxygen. The distinction between oxygenated and deoxygenated blood is important when defining bioavailability based on blood collected from a specific site and better understanding the paths that substances take from ingestion to excretion.

When a person orally ingests CBD or THC in oil form, it can typically take 1 to 2 hours for the onset of effects, followed by a plateau between 2 and 5 hours with inconsistent elimination of actives and metabolites, depending on how much food has been consumed (among other variables). Emulsion technology breaks oil down into small particle sizes for even dispersal and stabilization, allowing for greater absorption in the intestinal tract for a consistent, biologically available product. This means that consumers experience the effects of products powered by SōRSE as early as 8 minutes following ingestion. Absorption actually begins in the mouth’s tissues before you even swallow your first sip of an infused beverage. 

The part of the dose of cannabinoids that is excreted, distributed, or metabolized before reaching systemic circulation is known as first pass metabolism and is responsible for the lower bioavailability of substances. As a substance moves from the GI tract into circulation, there is unquestionable transformation and unchanged excretion of a portion of active compound.  

ADME: Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism and Excretion of Cannabinoids

Data focused on the concentration of cannabinoids in blood in different individuals and pharmacokinetic parameters show a high degree of variability between subjects. Following a single oral administration of a cannabinoid in oil form, the maximum plasma concentrations of both CBD and THC typically occur within 2 to 4 hours. When administered orally, blood levels of cannabinoids are lower compared to inhalation of smoked cannabis. The resulting concentrations in the blood are lower than those obtained by inhaling the same dose because absorption is slower, and redistribution into fatty tissues is rapid.

The chemical structure and characteristics of a drug or compound have significant impacts on the body’s ability to use and process the substance. Cannabinoids, including CBD, fall under the category of lipids and are processed similar to fat soluble vitamins. When cannabinoids are inhaled, the absorption, distribution, and elimination is very different than if one consumed an equivalent amount cannabis extract orally. 

Factors That Influence Metabolism and Absorption

These are some of the factors that play a part in how the body absorbs cannabinoids: 

  •  Age 
  • Sex 
  • Weight 
  • Metabolism 
  • Genetic variation (cytochrome P450 isozymes) 
  • Drug-drug interactions 
  • Stomach contents 
  • Liver Disease

Because every human body is unique and functions differently, no one person will metabolize and absorb or experience cannabinoids in the exact same way as another individual. This is especially important to recognize when consuming products infused with THC because of the subjective nature of psychoactive compounds. One person may have a different experience ingesting a 10mg gummy than they would ingesting a 10mg beverage, given the route of administration, the matrix of the edible, and their own unique physiology.  

Closing Thoughts 

 Bioavailability is just one aspect of the metabolism of food, beverages, and the bioactive substances that are sought after in the human diet. CBD is not the only substance that is marketed in certain forms for its ‘increased’ bioavailability; vitamins, minerals, and other compounds are sought after for their nutritive, health, and/or functional ingredients. With proper evidence and understanding, a claim can be transformed into having a predictable, repeatable effect. 

For those who haven’t tried a product powered by SōRSE, they’ve likely had difficulty with dosing, experienced negative or unwanted side effects, or haven’t been able to duplicate the experience consistently. It’s not just that the emulsion is water-soluble, but how the body handles and distributes compounds using the SōRSE patent-pending formula. It is now possible to consume cannabinoids and other biologically active compounds with similar onset, absorption, distribution excretion, and effects as the inhalation of cannabinoids by using water-soluble emulsions.  

If you are interested in learning more about cannabis bioavailability, download our Grounding in Bioavailability white paper which covers biological activity and metabolism, offers a number of case studies, and describes various routes of administration. You can find that and a number of other informative documents on our Resources page.

If you are looking to create your own CBD, THC or other cannabinoid infused water-soluble product, schedule an exploratory call with one of our team members today!