Most supplements come in a single package: a pill. For nearly half of American adults, that’s a problem.
Although nearly 9 in 10 Americans take a supplement of some sort, 40 percent say they struggle to swallow pills. A pill is a solid substance, which we’re tempted to chew so it doesn’t get stuck in our throat. Overcoming that tendency takes practice — which, for many people, feels an awful lot like choking.
Fortunately, CBD consumers have options. Thanks to the CBD boom, companies are packaging the hemp extract in essentially every way you can imagine: Foods, beverages, candies, sprays, dissolving tabs cosmetics — and, of course, pills — are all available.
Isn’t the active ingredient, CBD, the same in each of those preparations? Mostly, though Naturebox’s broad-spectrum hemp extract does differ from CBD isolate in some important ways. The delivery mechanism, however, dictates where in the body the compound is concentrated, how quickly it reaches the bloodstream, and what effects it has on the user.
Common CBD Delivery Methods
Although we’re partial to CBD gummies, which are delicious and inconspicuous, eating the supplement is just one way to go. Let’s take a look at the options:
1. Oral ingestion
Whether in a capsule, drink, or food, swallowing CBD is the most common way to take it. When consumed this way, the CBD must be digested before it can be absorbed by the intestines and circulated throughout the body. As with any other supplement, the pace of that process depends on how much the CBD consumer takes, how quickly, and what other food she has in her stomach.
On the upside, that process tends to keep CBD levels steadier in the body than other methods. On the downside, it doesn’t provide immediate relief. What’s more, CBD’s bioavailability is limited when ingested: A 2009 study reported a bioavailability rate of 4 to 20 percent. In other words, someone who consumes a cup of coffee with 100 milligrams of CBD can expect between 4 and 20 milligrams to actually enter her bloodstream.
2. Sublingual administration
A less common but perfectly safe method to take CBD is by placing it under the tongue. With this method, the user holds it for 60 to 90 seconds against the mucous membranes of the mouth, bypassing the digestive tract. When the oil is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, its effects are felt faster — within about 15 minutes — but generally pass more quickly than when it’s eaten or drank.
With this delivery method, however, palatability can be a problem. CBD that can be consumed sublingually comes in two preparations, neither of which has a particularly pleasant taste: tinctures, which are made by dissolving the active compound in alcohol; and concentrates, which are strong-tasting oils that are distilled to a greater-than-natural potency.
Don’t let the term deter you: Inhalation isn’t a synonym for smoking. CBD can be atomized by an inhaler, just like asthma medication, or it can be vaporized using a pen or similar device. Like the sublingual route, inhalation tends to deliver the compound quickly because it doesn’t have to be digested. And because all CBD inhalers have to do is breathe the compound in, inhalation doesn’t involve the taste issue of sublingual administration or the swallowing problem of oral ingestion.
Inhalation does have two downsides: First, controlling dosing can be difficult. The amount of CBD absorbed depends on how hard and long the user inhales. Plus, labels tend to be unclear: Does a container labeled “500 milligrams” contain that much in the entire bottle, per dose, or per session? Second, inhalation can set a bad example for minors. Vaporizers are often used with THC, nicotine, and other compounds that shouldn’t be consumed by children.
4. Topical application
The most recent CBD application to come onto the scene is the transdermal one. With this technique, users apply a cream, lotion, or oil directly to their skin, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Although this method does bypass the digestive tract, it delivers CBD slower and more steadily than inhalation or sublingual administration.
This method does have one advantage over the rest, though: targeted application. Research shows CBD can improve eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues. Another study showed transdermal CBD can reduce inflammation and joint pain in rats with arthritis. Applying the compound directly to the affected area may provide greater relief than other methods.
Why stick to pills when CBD comes in so many different shapes and sizes? Chews are our choice, but they’re not the only one. Experiment with each method, and decide for yourself which delivers the most relief.