May 5, 2021

How Bioavailability affects how much CBD your body absorbs

Bioavailability determines how many phytocannabinoids, such as THC and CBD enter your bloodstream when using different methods. It's not as simple as 100%, 100% out. Different methods of ingesting CBD have different bioavailability rates and this affects how much of the cannabinoid is actually absorbed and used by your body. We spoke to Cara Robinson from Vape Elevate and explored the bioavailability rates of the popular methods of enjoying CBD herb.

Sublingual Tinctures

One of the most traditional ways of using plant-based compounds is sublingual. These are carrier oils infused with all the contents of the flower's trichomes, which are the powerhouses for cannabis. The trichomes include all the plant's compounds, including THC, CBD, CBG, and a blend of terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients. Tinctures are placed under the tongue, where they absorb through the membranes directly into the bloodstream. They work in about 10 to 20 minutes and last four to six hours. This method has the highest level of bioavailability because it bypasses the liver. Experts estimate consumers get 40 to 50% of the compounds when using the sublingual form.


Edibles are infused with cannabis oil. When you eat a THC brownie or cookie, it goes through the digestion process before the enzymes break it down in the liver. This timeframe is why the onset of an edible varies between consumers. Although these have an excellent duration of four to six hours, they have a very low bioavailability of 4% to 12%.

Smoking Cannabis

Many people choose to smoke cannabis as a quick and easy way to get results. It's also one of the least expensive methods of consumption. Because it doesn't go through the bloodstream when you inhale, it has a higher bioavailability rate than edibles. The levels fall right under tinctures with an average of 30%. Smoking flowers has the fastest response, working in a minute or two. On the downside, it has the shortest duration. You'll peak within 30 to 45 minutes, and it's over in 60 to 90 minutes.

Vaping Flowers and Oils

Vaping is similar to smoking in terms of onset and duration. But it offers much more. Not only is it safer and better for your lungs, but vaping cannabis also provides the best bioavailability with 70% to 80%. Even tests showing lower rates still reported an average of 50%, putting it above nearly every other method of using the potent flowers. When you choose to vape over smoking, you preserve more of the cannabinoids and terpenes from using lower heating temperatures, and you get more. After purchasing a quality device with an adjustable temperature gauge, you'll save money using less cannabis to get the same effect as smoking.

Creams, Lotions, and Other Topicals

Topicals are a little harder to judge. They are localized and don't absorb into the bloodstream. Topicals, such as creams, lotions, and ointments, don't lead to a psychoactive response. The compounds never make it past the skin barrier. These are used therapeutically and work in less than 30 minutes. They have a duration of three to four hours. You can apply it as often as necessary. No tests are available for bioavailability, but experts estimate it's very low, less than 10%.