Oil Soluble CBD Or Water Soluble CBD: What’s The Difference?

April 8th, 2016 by Brandy Palmer

Oil Soluble Vs. Water Soluble CBD

Hemp is a sticky subject for a lot of reasons.  The fact that it’s an oil is simply the most obvious one. (Not what you were thinking? “Stick” with me anyway…)  

It’s easy to understand water and oil solubility through the lens of everyday multivitamins. Many of us take multiple supplements every day – vitamins C and E are two that are included in my daily regimen.  Vitamin C is water soluble while E is fat soluble. The difference is important because it determines how the vitamins are going to act in your body.

Vitamin C, or any water soluble supplement, is absorbed quickly and easily into your body.  The continuous supply your body needs calls for a steady intake, but, because our bodies are approximately 60% water, we can take in those nutrients and use them fully.

Vitamin E, or anything fat soluble, will travel through the lymphatic system and be processed by the small intestine. They are stored in your body for a longer period of time, but may not be fully absorbed and processed.

Traditional hemp oil supplements would fall into the latter category, but scientists have also been able to modify the compound and make it water soluble. Thus, there are now two different categories of CBD products to choose from: oil soluble and water soluble. You may have heard the two terms thrown around or you may have seen the terms while shopping for CBD. You’re likely looking to understand what the differences are and which form of CBD you should be using. Allow us to break down the two categories for you. 

Understanding Bioavailability & the First-Pass Effect

To understand the primary difference between water soluble and oil soluble CBD you need to first understand the concept of bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the portion of a substance that is able to be absorbed by the body into the bloodstream once the substance enters the body. In other words, bioavailability is the amount of a substance that is able to have an active effect in your body. Bioavailability is important, because you earn a more potent effect when your body is able to absorb more of a compound into the bloodstream. Increasing the bioavailability of CBD gives you more bang for your buck when it comes to consuming CBD. 

When you take medication, the dosage your body receives is less than the dosage you actually consume. This is due to first-pass metabolism (also known as the first-pass effect). The first-pass effect is the physiological phenomena in drug (plant extract) delivery where the concentration of a compound is actually reduced before it reaches systemic circulation as a result of significant metabolism. The first-pass effect is most often observed with the liver where enzymes in the liver metabolize a drug to such an extent that most of the active agent does not exit the liver. 

The first-pass effect applies to compounds found in cannabis, but this effect isn’t exclusive to cannabis. Reduction in bioavailability is a common problem for many plant-based compounds, including morphine, lidocaine, curcumin, and nitroglycerin. So, now that you understand bioavailability and the first-pass effect, how does that all tie in to the difference between water soluble and oil soluble CBD? 

What Is Oil Soluble CBD? 

Traditionally, hemp oil supplements were all oil soluble. Cannabidiol is an oil by nature (as the name implies). It’s an oil-based derivative that comes from the extraction process. As you may already know, oil and water do not mix well. Water molecules are polar molecules, whereas oil molecules are nonpolar. For oil to dissolve into water, it would have to break some of the hydrogen bonds in water, which doesn’t happen. 

Therefore, getting the body to absorb oil soluble CBD poses a challenge. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, so CBD oil naturally resists absorption into the bloodstream to a degree. 

Bioavailability is typically the lowest when CBD is consumed orally. Certain studies have found that consumption of certain oil soluble CBD capsules result in absorption rates of only 20-30% in some cases. Of course, there are formulations that improve bioavailability and there are oil-based CBD solutions that completely bypass the digestive mechanisms associated with the first-pass effect. 

CBD tinctures allow individuals to place drops under the tongue for absorption (this method is believed to provide the fastest absorption). CBD lotions and creams can also be directly rubbed into the skin to directly enter systemic circulation. These oil soluble CBD products have much higher absorption rates. Nevertheless, scientists have been pushing to find ways to make CBD more water soluble, which is where water soluble CBD comes into play. 

What Is Water Soluble CBD?

The term “water soluble CBD” is technically a misnomer. Water soluble CBD doesn’t actually dissolve in water. Instead, the process of creating water soluble CBD involves breaking CBD molecules into nanoparticles and emulsifying them with a hydrophilic (water-friendly) carrier to remain stable in tiny form. As nanoparticles, the CBD molecules are then tiny enough to allow for better absorption. The tiny particles can disperse throughout water, which increases the surface area of the compound. 

So, water soluble CBD is really more water compatible CBD rather than water soluble. There are several different methods for making CBD more water friendly. The most common methods include: 

  • Nanoemulsion: Considered to be the best method for creating water soluble CBD, this process involves breaking up cannabis extract to 10-100 nanometer droplets. 
  • Microemulsion: Microemulsion involves solubilizing CBD oil in water to create 100-5,000 nanometer droplets. This process requires a large amount of surfactants, which can create undesirable side effects. For this reason, microemulsion is not commonly utilized in the CBD industry. 
  • Liposomes: Liposomes are water-containing spherical structures with a hydrophilic (water friendly) core and outer shell. CBD extract is then stored in the bilayer membrane between the core and outer shell. The structures range from 50-5,000 nanometers. 

Water soluble CBD is more rapidly absorbed by the body and takes less time to become active when compared to oil-based counterparts. Water soluble CBD is produced in both liquid and powder forms. It can be used in capsules, topicals, edibles, tinctures, and drinks. 

Which Should You Take? 

You’ve got options when determining the best way for you to get the calming and balancing effects of hemp oil into your daily supplement regimen. If a product contains water soluble CBD, it will normally say so somewhere on the product label, like our Natural Leaf CBD Softgels for instance:

Water Soluble CBD Label

How you get your CBD is entirely a matter of personal preference. Some people love the taste of the oil, while others prefer a more water soluble solution. Different bodies also react differently to CBD dosages. It’s best to start small and increase as needed to experience the desired result you’re looking for. 

If you’re looking to try or buy CBD, you can browse our wide selection of CBD products in our shop. If you’re unsure what kind of CBD product may be best for you, our CBD associates are always available to make recommendations. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. 

As always, our goal at Green Wellness Life is first to educate.  We encourage you to do your own research into hemp and how it can help you live a healthier, happier life.  Thanks for reading!






About Brandy Palmer

Brandy PalmerAfter years in banking and manufacturing management, Brandy went to work for a hemp manufacturer in West Michigan. What was intended to be a fun summer gig turned into a passion for hemp. Brandy founded GWL in 2015 and is still excited every day to share that passion. Brandy has Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations and a Master's Degree in Management from Grand Valley State University. Go Lakers! Her journey as an entrepreneur has been featured in Revue magazine and on investcourier.com, among others. When she's not talking hemp, you can find her playing chauffer to her two kids or cuddling at home with her husband, Jim, and their 4 (yes, 4) cats.

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