Learn more about the different ways of taking CBD and which methods are most popular in the UK.

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How are people taking CBD?

23 Dec 2020

With CBD having hit the mainstream, customers from professional sports people to high profile influencers have been touting cannabidiol as a tonic with a tremendous number of uses. Even the World Health Organisation reports that it may have beneficial effects.

How you should take it, though, remains up for debate. At Kith & Kin we take it sublingually, while others prefer capsules or adding CBD to their drinks and meals.

But what’s optimal? And how are people actually taking this supplement in the UK?

Sublingual tincture

The most popular and probably the most traditional way of getting pure CBD is to take it via sublingual tincture. You buy a small vial of CBD oil with an unscrewable pipette which you then use to deliver a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue.

Proponents of this method claim that the compound absorbs more completely and rapidly through sublingual tissue. Published data indicates that it takes about 60 to 90 seconds for CBD to absorb through the mucus membranes in the mouth, primarily under the tongue.

But the truth is a little more complicated than that. While it is true that absorption is faster via the sublingual route, it doesn’t necessarily yield a longer CBD half-life or higher concentrations in target tissues.

Another justification for sublingual CBD ingestion is that it partly avoids the digestive tract and therefore allows more of the active cannabidiol to reach the bloodstream. There appears to be some truth to this. A 2009 study, for instance, found that bioavailability for oral ingestion was between 4 and 20% — which isn’t particularly high. However, these figures weren’t wildly different from studies investigating the bioavailability of oral mucosal sprays (similar to tinctures), which found absorption rates in the region of 15 to 35%.

Capsules

CBD capsules deliver CBD oil in a digestible cellulose shell. So, instead of absorbing the active ingredient through the mucus membranes in your mouth, cannabidiol gets into your bloodstream via the gut wall instead.

Capsules are popular because they avoid the need to taste CBD — something which many people don’t like. And their bioavailability is similar to oral tinctures, depending on the quality and purity of the CBD.

Capsules also tend to be a little more convenient for most users than regular CBD tinctures. Instead of guessing how much CBD you’re getting by (trying) to count the number of drops hitting your tongue, you simply take a certain number of capsules, each offering a set amount of CBD, say 25mg.

Most capsules are oil-liquid. Some, however, are gels and others combine CBD with other anti-inflammatory compounds, like curcumin from turmeric.

“Tinctures, oils and capsules are still the most common ways to use CBD products in the UK, with 70% of consumers buying them.”

Edibles

CBD edibles taste great because they combine active cannabidiol with delicious sugary sweets or desserts. They also provide a ‘slow burn’, releasing CBD into your system over the course of several hours instead of a few seconds. CBD edibles come in an almost endless variety of forms, but the most common include:

  • CBD gummies — which are small, chewy sweets that look a bit like gummy bears.
  • CBD chocolates.
  • CBD coffee — which combines the virtues of caffeine with CBD to give you a boost in the morning.
  • CBD tea — which acts a little more gently than coffee and provides additional health-enhancing phytonutrients.

Edible CBD absorbs differently from sublingual tinctures. Like the oral version, it passes through a mucus membrane. But it quickly winds up in the hepatic portal system — a complicated network of blood vessels that connect the liver to the digestive tract. Here, the body performs ‘first-pass metabolism’ using a variety of enzymes that break down the CBD into smaller components (most of which aren’t useful for supporting your health).

Research, however, suggests that taking cannabidiol with oil can delay or prevent this process, increasing the half-life of CBD in your body. And that could explain why edibles are so highly regarded — they allow CBD to persist for longer.

Topicals

Topicals are another popular method for administering CBD. While the skin doesn’t have a mucus membrane like the mouth or stomach, it can still absorb CBD. The endocannabinoid system exists throught your body, including your skin. Cannabidiol molecules from creams and gels penetrate the skin and enter your bloodstream, just via another route. Animal studies have shown topical application of CBD to be quite effective.

Topical products are popular among athletes where it is often used to target specific areas. Some topical products contain just CBD and a neutral carrier substrate, but the vast majority offer other soothing factors, including traditional herbal remedies and anti-inflammatories.

Vaping

Vaping is the fastest way to get CBD into your bloodstream. A vaporiser mixes CBD with a substrate which users then inhale into the lungs. Cannabidiol molecules pass into the bloodstream via the alveoli — the tiny air sacs that take in oxygen as you breathe.

How are people taking CBD in the UK?

In the UK, selling and taking CBD products is legal, so long as they are marketed as a food supplement (for oral products) and all contain less than 1mg of THC per container.

Data suggests that around six million adults have tried CBD at some point in the past year, representing 11% of the population. The most prolific CBD consumers are aged 55 and over, representing more than 31% of users.

Tinctures, oils and capsules are still the most common ways to use CBD products in the UK, with 70% of consumers buying them.

How you take your CBD is largely a matter of personal preference. When it comes to CBD bioavailability, the brand you choose is often far more important than the format. While some brands offer high concentrations of pure CBD, a lot dramatically misstate the concentration of active ingredients they contain. It’s also critical to make sure that your CBD comes from organically grown hemp because hemp is known to accumulate toxins from its environment.