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What is CBD Sublingual Application and Why Use It?

Sublingual application was the first delivery method for CBD, but this is rapidly changing.

As is the case with most herbs and pharmaceuticals, there are multiple different ways to use cannabidiol (CBD). The most popular method is via sublingual application, likely because it is the simplest and easiest way to consume CBD oil. It simply involves dropping CBD oil directly under the tongue.

Sublingual application was the first delivery method for cannabidiol, but this is rapidly changing. Technology has allowed the cannabis industry to manufacture all kinds of cannabidiol products including edibles, isolates, and even water-soluble cannabidiol for making CBD-infused water!

When it comes to cannabidiol delivery, health and safety are usually of primary concern. This is because most CBD users are using CBD for medicinal reasons and don’t want to complicate their health further. However, cannabinoid delivery is a complex science, and sublingual application doesn’t necessarily deliver cannabinoids efficiently to the body. Regardless of this, it remains one of the most popular ways to use CBD and with very little risk.

Sublingual application and bioavailability

Though cannabidiol sublingual application is increasingly popular, it is hardly the most efficient way to deliver cannabinoids to the body. When cannabidiol is ingested orally, either via cannabidiol oil or edibles, only about 20% of the ingested cannabinoids enter systemic circulation. This is CBD’s oral bioavailability, and is a constant hurdle for cannabidiol product manufacturers to overcome.

There are two reasons for CBD’s low bioavailability:

  1. CBD is hydrophobic (insoluble in water), and therefore struggles to pass through cell membranes and enter blood circulation.
  2. When CBD is ingested orally, it must first undergo several metabolic processes before it ever reaches the bloodstream. It will typically be digested in the stomach and liver and most of it will be excreted from the body.

Other methods of cannabidiol ingestion yield far better bioavailability rates than sublingual application. For example, vaporizing cannabidiol delivers up to 60% of inhaled cannabinoids into systemic circulation. Inhalation is almost always the most direct route, as it bypasses metabolic processes and enters directly through the lungs. At the same time, inhalation is typically not preferred by those who use cannabidiol, though vaporizing is healthier than smoking.

Interestingly, intranasal and transdermal application of CBD yield greater bioavailability than oral ingestion. Up to 46% of CBD can be absorbed via these delivery methods, showing again that sublingual application is the least efficient way to deliver CBD to the bloodstream.

So then why use CBD sublingual application?

The next most obvious question is why would someone want to use CBD sublingual application? There are factors other than bioavailability that dictate which delivery method is most efficient, the most important of which is the ailment in question.

For those who use CBD to treat physical, muscular pain, the most efficient delivery method may be topical application. For those with acute onset of symptoms, such as with anxiety, the fastest delivery method is usually preferred. In the case of CBD, the fastest way to feel effects is via vaporizing.

Oral cannabidiol, whether in the form of sublingual application or edibles, may be best used by those using cannabidiol for gastrointestinal problems. Ingestion of cannabidiol at the very least allows delivery of cannabidiol to the stomach and small intestine, as well as the liver. All of these sites contain endocannabinoid receptors and oral ingestion allows delivery directly to them.

It can take up to two hours for the effects of sublingual cannabidiol to be felt, and is therefore not recommended in the circumstance of acute symptoms. However, for those using cannabidiol every day as a supplement, sublingual cannabidiol is the most direct method of delivery to other organs of the body.

Should we put cannabidiol under the tongue?

Until now, there is no standardized dose from which consumers can form the basis for their own dosing. Thus far, only GW Pharmaceuticals has outlined a maximum maintenance dose of CBD of 20mg/kg/day. This is a tremendously high dose, although GW Pharmaceuticals outlined this as the maximum, and in the context of epilepsy treatment. This dose was calculated during clinical trials on GW Pharmaceuticals’ cannabis-derived drug, Epidiolex.

Unfortunately, cannabidiol consumers have to rely on anecdotal evidence or suggestion from a cannabis-friendly doctor. Individual body chemistry, as well as the ailment in question, play pivotal roles in choosing a dose. Maintenance dosing is typically less than for the treatment of acute pain or other acute symptoms, but in general, cannabidiol users take between 5 – 50 mg of CBD per day.

This is a very big window for those who have never used cannabis products before. Needless to say, it is always smarter to start on the lower end of dosing and slowly increase, as this decreases the chances of adverse effects and prevents consumers from wasting cannabidiol and money.

Ultimately, consumers should be aiming for the minimum effective dose. For some this will be 10 mg, while for others it could be closer to 50mg.

Although sublingual application is not the most efficient method, it has its benefits. It is important to choose an appropriate dose and delivery method for whatever ailment cannabidiol is being used for.