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What is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability is a term used fairly often. What does it mean, and how does it relate to cannabis? Here, we discuss this as well as how it relates to cannabis.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Jun. 29, 2021 · 4 min read
What is Bioavailability?

Bioavailability is a term used fairly often. What does it mean, and how does it relate to cannabis? Here, we discuss this as well as how it relates to cannabis.

Bioavailability Defined

In medical terms, bioavailability is the amount of a medicine or drug that is able to enter our bloodstream. This is crucial when it comes to the active effects of a medication that can help properly treat patients. Naturally, not all medications are created equal, and meds can have a different impact on all of us.

"Naturally, not all medications are created equal, and meds can have a different impact on all of us."

Bioavailability in Cannabis

When it comes to the bioavailability of cannabis medicine, it can be a challenge for cannabinoid-based products to properly absorb into our bodies. For example, this is one of the main reasons why you’ll hear someone say “I took CBD, but I didn’t feel any positive effects.”

Perhaps the main hurdle in getting cannabinoids to properly absorb in our bodies and be effective is that they are fat-soluble and oil-based. Oil and water aren’t the best mixes, and our bodies are approximately 80% water. For this reason, taking CBD doesn’t always absorb properly in our bodies- especially lower quality CBD products. To perhaps make matters worse, stomach acid and other obstacles could break down products and render them ineffective as they travel through our digestive systems.

As is the case with so many things cannabis, engineers, and chemists are actively working towards solutions that could possibly help the bioavailability issue that currently exists in the industry. A bit more on this later in the article. First, we’ll review how our bodies process cannabinoids.

How Do Our Bodies Process Cannabinoids?

The three most common ways to ingest cannabis are inhalation, consuming edibles, or taking oils or tinctures. When inhaling, this typically means using a vaporizer or smoking. Although smoking is perhaps the least healthful way to ingest cannabis, it also produces the fastest results. The reason for these rapid results is because smoking and vaping allow cannabinoids to enter our bloodstream directly through the membranes in our lungs.

When it comes to consuming edibles, the effects take significantly longer to feel than inhalation because they must absorb into our bloodstream. To do this, edibles must pass through stomach acid and liver enzymes metabolize cannabinoids. This is especially true for CBD products, which is why it can be a challenge to enter our bloodstream with the product fully intact. When ingesting CBD edibles, consuming a high-fat food along with it can keep the cannabinoid from being destroyed, because they are stored in our fat cells.


One of the less common ways to ingest cannabinoids is chewing gum or eating candies, or oils. These enter our bloodstreams in what’s called the sublingual pathway. These enter the bloodstream through the mouth’s capillaries - partially in the cheeks and tongue. This is why it’s recommended that you keep CBD oil or cannabis tinctures under your tongue for a minute or so before swallowing, so they can properly absorb.

Solutions for the Bioavailability Problem in Cannabis

First and foremost, quality CBD and THC products must come from starting materials rich in cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. This process is complex and can take a long time to master. This is especially true with hemp-based CBD products, as methods of extracting the cannabinoid can destroy it in the process.

Some of the most common ingredients that solubilize cannabinoids and help them more easily enter the bloodstream include hemp oil, coconut oil, and terpene blends. To improve the bioavailability of cannabinoid products, scientists and chemists must continue to research and experiment with these various solubilizing solutions. Arriving at the best formulations will help THC and CBD products to better do the intended job.

Improving bioavailability and the effectiveness of delivering drugs into patients’ bloodstream is nothing new to pharmaceutical industry researchers. Chemists in the cannabis industry have been adopting some of these biotechnologies and could be the key to helping cannabinoid products more effectively absorb in our bodies.

Perhaps the most common of these biotechnologies is ionization, which turns cannabinoids into salt - thus allowing them to more easily absorb in the water of the human body. Another method that is relatively new to the world of cannabis is flash extraction. This method uses hot air on harvested plant materials to rapidly distill its cannabinoids. Flash extraction can help distill bioactive compounds in many plants, not just cannabis. Lipid encapsulation is another interesting biotechnology, and it essentially encapsulates cannabinoids in a water-soluble exterior, thus allowing CBD and THC to more effectively enter our bloodstreams.

Scientific talk aside, the average consumer is most interested in taking CBD and THC products that do what they say they’re going to do. It’s time for chemists and scientific researchers to develop better formulations and technologies to achieve this goal and solve the bioavailability issue that exists in the cannabis industry as a whole.

HashDash - Education for the Cannabis Community

We hope you found value in our content about the bioavailability of cannabis. Did you learn something, or have anything to add? Let us know - @hashdash on all platforms, except for Instagram, where we are @hashdashdotcom.

Check back to our blog often, because we post fresh content every week!

HashDash is building a vast knowledge database of helpful articles and ways to enhance the cannabis consumption experience. We will be surpassing article #100 this summer, which is a pretty big milestone that we’re excited about.

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Thanks for reading! Please consume responsibly.

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.
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