CBD Delivery Methods


There are three main delivery methods of CBD. They are ingestion, inhalation and topical use.


Ingestible products have five main forms which are tinctures, capsules, purified extracts, edibles and nano emulsions.

Tinctures offer the most practical option to administer and determine different dosages of cannabinoids. Dosages can be modified because these infusions usually have a measured amount of cannabinoids in each dropper full, or in 1 milliliter, serving. Consumers are able to calculate the amount of dosage appropriate for their needs. Absorption of the dosage occurs through the mouth and digestive tract.

Capsules offer a practical and measured dosage method. However, this element relies only on digestion for full bioavailability.

Pure extracts offer the most practical way to deliver large amounts of cannabinoids, but may not offer the most predictable onset of action. This method offers absorption through the mouth as well as the digestive tract.

Edibles are another less formal way of dosing. It is recommended that the edible should be consumed in a healthful way with very little enhancement of sugar and carbs. The edibles offer an unbiased method of dosing cannabis. Thus, the consumer does not feel constrained by the ritual of dosing medications. This can prove to be a successful strategy especially among individuals that suffer with chronic disease and a constant medication regimen. The absorption route with this method only occurs through digestion.

Nano emulsions are a new type of ingestible formulation that has been made available in the CBD consumer product market. This technology has been a great asset in the pharmaceutical industry because these emulsions offer a method of delivery that bypasses our lipid metabolism. The active compounds are delivered in nano sized particles which are absorbed much easier in the stomach lining and in our blood stream. Thus, it is not necessary for our bodies to break down lipid molecules first. The droplet size of these formulations determines how quickly the particles enter the bloodstream.


Inhalation has three more prevalent routes which include vaporizing dried cannabis flower, smoking dried flower, and vaporizing or inhaling extracts.

Vaporizing dried cannabis or hemp flowers is the healthiest option to inhale cannabis because cannabinoids are not destroyed with combustion. The therapeutic resins are volatilized well under combustion temperatures, while still maintaining the benefit from the fast onset of action. Pulmonary absorption offers the fastest route for compounds to pass the blood brain barrier (BBB acts as a boundary between the circulating blood and the extracellular space of the brain. The barrier is highly selective and only allows particular substances to cross from the bloodstream into the brain).

Smoking is a less healthful method to dosing cannabis because the smoke from combustion accumulates in the lungs and may cause irritation or congestion. There is less control over the amount of cannabinoids in each puff. This method certainly offers the fastest onset of action.

Vaporizing extracts is a method not commonly used in medical context. There are two (2) delivery methods of this category which are cartridge vaping and extract dabbing. Cartridge vaping is something not recommended because these products usually contain thickening and stabilizing compounds which are fillers and it is not known how these compounds impact the lungs. Dabbing concentrates usually offer an extremely high dose of cannabinoids that become bioavailable very quickly and produce an overwhelming sensation. For patients with severe or chronic pain, and that have extreme pain flare ups, vaporizing extracts might prove to be helpful. This method is also helpful for end of life palliative-care patients. Both of these methods are used recreationally more frequently.

Topical Use

Topical use products include balms and massage oils which are an excellent solution for topical relief. This may be a great solution for pain and inflammation in localized areas such as swollen or aching joints and muscles. This method does not become bioavailable in the bloodstream, but rather only stimulates the endocannabinoid receptors on the skin layers to produce the therapeutic effect. Topical use of cannabis has been studied in the healing of skin lesions and in certain types of melanoma cancers. Cannabinoids offer promising results for these situations.

Ingestion as opposed to inhalation.

Inhalation offers the fastest onset of action.The effects are felt within seconds. This method delivers the fastest relief when there are severe symptoms of any ailment. However, this method is the least practical because it is difficult to monitor the amount of cannabinoids in each dose.

Ingestion of cannabis has an onset of action based on individual metabolism. There are many variables and stages of metabolization and bioavailability. Therefore, it affects every individual differently and thus the dosage must be customized to each individual.

Compounds start absorbing through the mouthas soon as we are able to hold the compounds under our tongue. Our mouth has many blood vessels. Compounds that are able to pass through the cell wall are able to be absorbed through the blood brain barrier much faster.

Our Liver Pathways

Cannabinoids are lipids and these compounds have a unique way of being absorbed in our gut and depend on our natural lipid metabolism to become bioavailable. Bile is released into the small intestine and acts as a natural emulsifier. This breaks down the lipid molecules. These molecules in turn, which are able to suspend in water, become soluble. Enzymes and related compounds are then released to further break down these molecules, which are transported through the lymphatic capillaries. These molecules empty into the arteries and eventually reach the liver where these are metabolized and directed accordingly. Therapeutic compounds are not bioavailable in our blood stream until they metabolize through our liver pathways. The CYP450 enzyme route in our liver is responsible for metabolizing most plant cannabinoids. This pathway is critical to understanding drug interactions with cannabis.

Nano-emulsions – a promising way to deliver cannabinoids therapeutically

The development of enhanced drug delivery methods for lipid molecules was designed so that lipid molecules would pass through cell membranes and deliver compounds unharmed by compounds produced in our bodies that would break these down. Liquid nano particles, or nano carriers, are a promising way to deliver cannabinoids therapeutically. This method speeds the onset of action because the nanoparticles bypass our lipid metabolism and absorb directly into the blood vessels underneath our stomach lining. The droplet size of these ingestible formulations determines how fast these particles are able to absorb. Translucent nano emulsions are the highest grade of nano-emulsion formulation. These usually offer an onset of action between 15-20 minutes. There is promising research about the bioavailability of these formulations using cannabinoids as the lipid payload.

Choosing the right delivery method can be tricky, but with the right information, and a bit of experimentation, achieving maximum efficacy with CBD for better health and wellness is possible.

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