Water Soluble CBD vs CBD Oil: Which is Better?
Water-soluble CBD is a hot term across the industry that's been met with both excitement and skepticism. These products, created using the same technologies employed in the supplement and pharmaceutical industries, are designed to battle the effectiveness issues of oil-based CBD products.
Keep reading as we take a look at traditional oil-based CBD products, water-soluble formulations, and compare the two to help you choose which is right for your needs.
What is CBD Oil?
When a CBD-rich extract is produced from hemp, the result is a thick, oily substance containing a wide range of cannabis compounds. The cannabinoids inside, like CBD, are hydrophobic substances meaning they don't dissolve into water. Even when the CBD molecule is isolated from this extract and becomes a white crystalline substance it is still hydrophobic.
The term "CBD oil" is used to describe oil-based tinctures specifically but it is also used to describe the CBD inside any product created using these extracts. Tinctures and other products like capsules, topicals, and edibles commonly contain a CBD extract mixed carrier oils like MCT.
In this article, we prefer to use oil-based CBD as it describes any product containing a hydrophobic extract or isolate.
What is Water-Soluble CBD?
Water-soluble is used to describe a CBD extract which has undergone a process to break the oil into tiny particles. These small droplets are then mixed with a surfactant which serves to emulsify the particles, allowing them to remain stable and not regroup.
Despite the name, the emulsified CBD-rich oils do not actually dissolve in water. The small particle size simply allows them to disperse throughout liquids. This process increases the surface area of the oil, helping to assist in the absorption of CBD into the body.
These 'water-friendly' extracts can come in both liquid and powder forms. They are then used to produce consumable CBD products like tinctures, capsules, edibles, and drinks. There are a few prominent technologies used in the creation of water-soluble CBD products:
- Nanoemulsions use a mechanical process to create 10-100 nanometer particles. The tiny particle size allows for low amounts of all-natural surfactants to be used, reducing the need for high-volume, synthetic surfactant use with other water-soluble methods.
- Liposomes are spherical structures ranging in size from 50-5000 nanometers. They are made of an internal water-friendly (hydrophilic) compartment surrounded by a water-insoluble (hydrophobic) bilayer. CBD extract can be stored in the bilayer membrane. Products using this technology are common in the hemp industry. The downside to this method is it uses highly complex manufacturing procedures and requires high surfactant levels.
- Microemulsions create 100-5000 nanometer droplets formed by solubilizing CBD oil in water. These emulsions are created using a chemical process that has the downside of requiring high amounts of surfactants which results in some undesirable side effects for the user. This size emulsion is not commonly found in the CBD industry.
Oil-Based CBD vs Water-Soluble CBD: It's All About Bioavailability
When CBD is swallowed, it undergoes a first-pass effect. The compounds must pass through the body and into the liver before reaching general circulation. During this process, much of the CBD is destroyed by the liver, and only a fraction of the originally consumed.
Bioavailability is defined as: "the amount of a substance that enters the bloodstream when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect."
For example, when oil-based CBD is swallowed, studies show that it can be as low as 4% bioavailable. This means that the other 96% of the CBD ends up being flushed from the body as waste. This is obviously a significant issue as this inefficiency is extremely wasteful and costly.
Seeking alternative delivery methods that bypass the first-pass metabolism is one way to work around this problem. Tinctures, when held under the tongue, allow the CBD to be absorbed sublingually by the mucous membranes. Vaping or smoking allows the same compounds to be absorbed through the lungs.
These alternative products don't address the issue of swallowed CBD however, and consumable products like capsules and edibles are very popular in the industry. Water-soluble technologies aim to confront the problem head-on. The increased surface area of the tiny oil particles helps to significantly increase the amount of CBD absorbed by the body:
Comparing the Effects of Oil-based CBD vs Water Soluble
Of this entire article, this is perhaps the most important section, and one of the most commonly overlooked points of water-soluble.
Oil-based CBD comes on slower, last longer, but are absorbed less completely. For example, sublingual tinctures take 20 -60 minutes to come on, come on more gradually, and may last for up to 8 hours. Swallowing an oil-based product, though not recommended due to it's low bioavailability, takes 60-90 minutes to come on gradually and can last for as long as 8 hours.
Water-soluble CBD comes on faster, is absorbed more readily, but have a shorter duration. For example, swallowing water-soluble softgels make only take 20 minutes to become active in the body, have a more pronounced come on, but only last for up to 5 hours.
Which to Choose: Water-Soluble CBD or Oil-Based CBD?
Many tout one solution as superior, putting down the other. Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we take a balanced approach. Water-soluble and oil-based CBD are not uniquely good or bad, they each have their own specific properties, and if used consciously can both provide positive outcomes.
Our guidance is simple:
- If you're going to swallow your CBD, choose a water-soluble product. The severe bioavailability issues of swallowing an oil-based product make them inefficient and costly. Since water-soluble products are up to 5x more effective, you only need to take a fraction of the dose for the same benefits.
- If you're open to alternative methods of consuming CBD, then weigh your options. Consider how long it takes for the effects to come on and how long the effects last against your personal needs. You may also find that it's good to use a number of different types of products in different situations!
Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we offer both water-soluble softgels and tinctures designed to be swallowed. We also offer an oil-based sublingual tincture. All these products contain our same great broad-spectrum extract and we have clients who enjoy both products equally. Let us know in the comments which type of product you prefer and why.