Water-Soluble CBD 101: The difference between oil-based and water-soluble CBD
Not all cannabidiol (CBD) products are developed in the same way. If you look closely, you will see that some are oil-based, while others are water-soluble.
In This Article
- Water-soluble CBD characteristics
- Benefits of water-soluble CBD
- Oil-based CBD characteristics
- Benefits of oil-based CBD
When CBD is extracted from cannabis sativa (or hemp) plants, it is in the form of a waxy or oily mixture. This can be dissolved in a carrier oil such as MCT and this is how most people ingested CBD for several years. However, technology and scientific research have meant this oil can be further processed to create water-miscible CBD or what some refer to as water-soluble CBD products.
You may think this doesn’t make much difference, and any product you buy will provide the same results. However, the reality is that whether a product is oil-based or water-soluble may affect how long it takes to be absorbed by the body and how long the effects last.
This article will examine the differences between oil-based and water-soluble CBD, helping you decide which product is the right choice for you.
Water-soluble CBD undergoes a process where it is formulated into a water miscible format such as an emulsion which disperses freely in water rather than floating on the surface.
Up to 60% of the adult body is made of water, and H2O can be found in all organs and tissues. Even our bones are one-third water!
This means water-soluble CBD will be absorbed into the body more easily and quickly, resulting in more of it entering your bloodstream. This is known as bioavailability.
With water-soluble CBD, the CBD bypasses the ‘first pass effect’. Oil-based CBD formulations appear to go through the liver where much of the CBD gets metabolized and excreted from the body. This means more time is required for the CBD to take effect and much less is absorbed. As water-soluble CBD is in a form that circumvents the liver and takes effect faster.
While there are fewer water-soluble CBD products on the market than oil-based ones, there is still a decent range to choose from, including food and drink supplements, capsules and liquids.
There are three different kinds of water-soluble CBD available: CBD isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum. CBD isolate and broad-spectrum do not contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound associated with cannabis.
Water-soluble CBD characteristics
Water-soluble CBD can be created in a variety of ways. Here are three ways that oil-based CBD can be converted into a water-soluble solution.
Nanoemulsion technology is commonly used in the food and drink industry, for example, to reduce the fat content of ice cream and salad dressings. This method has now been applied to the CBD industry too.
Ultrasound or high shear mixers are used to break the CBD oil solutions down into smaller emulsified oil droplets known as nanoemulsions. The smaller the droplets, the more they will be able to penetrate the tissues in the body.
Nanoemulsion technology has been shown to increase bioavailability in other similar chemical compounds. A 2019 study on rats showed that the body absorbed nanoemulsified CBD more efficiently than an oil-based solutions of CBD.
Microemulsion is similar to nanoemulsion, but the particles created are slightly larger. This means lower bioavailability.
A water-resistant liposome is placed around individual oil droplets, protecting them from being ingested too soon.
This technology has been used with vitamins to increase bioavailability and is now being used with CBD products.
Benefits of water-soluble CBD
As you can see, some effort is needed to create water-soluble CBD, but the effects are worth it. Here are some of the benefits that water-soluble CBD can offer.
It’s more readily absorbed
Water-soluble CBD usually has higher bioavailability than oil-based CBD, meaning you get the full benefit of the product you ingest.
Studies have shown water-soluble CBD is 4.5 times more bioavailable than the oil-based equivalent.
It absorbs faster
Water-soluble CBD is absorbed more quickly by the body. In fact, water-soluble CBD only takes 0.7 hours (about 40 minutes) to reach maximum concentration.
It tastes nicer
When you ingest oil-based CBD products, you also ingest the carrier oil that has been used. These can vary in flavor, from grassy and earthy to downright bitter.
As water doesn’t taste of anything, you don’t get that unpleasant aftertaste with water-soluble CBD. Another advantage of water-soluble products is that you can add them to any food or drink without altering the flavor or making them greasy.
If you’ve ever shopped online for CBD cream or picked up a jar of gummies at your local store or dispensary, the chances are that the product was oil-based.
Oil-based CBD (or CBD oil) is one of the most common CBD products available on the market. This is because when CBD is extracted from cannabis, it’s already in oil form. It’s then added to a food-grade carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil, to be diluted.
You can consume oil-based CBD in many ways, including:
- Orally – capsules, gummies, oils and food and drink supplements
- Topically – creams, lotions and massage oils
Like water-soluble CBD, broad-spectrum and CBD isolate oils do not contain any THC.
Oil-based CBD characteristics
We mentioned earlier that the body is predominantly made of water, which is why water-soluble CBD works so well.
Conversely, oil does not mix with water. This is because water molecules are polar, while oil molecules are not. Like holding two magnets the wrong way round, water and oil will always repel each other. We go into more detail about this on our blog here.
What does this mean for oil-based CBD products?
It makes it harder for the body to break down and absorb CBD. Oil-based CBD can be 4.5 times less bioavailable than water-soluble CBD. In fact, the bioavailability of oil-based CBD can be as low as 6% in some products.
Oil-based CBD is also a victim of the first-pass effect, where it mostly gets metabolized by the liver and excreted from the body.
Benefits of oil-based CBD
While there are many advantages to water-soluble CBD products, oil-based CBD does have its uses.
It’s more readily available
As it’s more expensive to process water-soluble CBD, there are currently more oil-based CBD products available on the market, making it easier to find the one that suits your needs.
However, as technology advances and becomes more affordable, we predict a wide range of water-soluble products will be on offer.
The right CBD product for you will depend on your specific needs and lifestyle. However, based on the available evidence and benefits, if you want a faster-acting better absorbed product, we recommend water-soluble CBD products every time.
At Next Evo Naturals, the CBD products we sell are water-soluble. We use our exclusive SmartSorb™ technology, which is clinically proven in several human studies to deliver four times the CBD into your bloodstream in as little as ten minutes. Learn more about Smartsorb technology in our blog.
American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine – Liposomal cannabidiol delivery: a pilot study
LibreTexts – Entropy and Solubility: Why don’t oil and water mix?
National Library of Medicine – Cannabinoid delivery systems for pain and inflammation treatment
National Library of Medicine - Lipid - Binding surfaces of membrane proteins: Evidence from evolutionary and structural analysis
National Library of Medicine – Nanoemulsion: an advanced mode of drug delivery system
National Library of Medicine – Towards better delivery of cannabidiol
NCNI – First pass effect