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How to Make CBD Work Better: One Simple Trick
While CBD oil remains the most popular way to benefit from this natural compound, oral products like gummies and capsules are also popular.
But there is one problem with ingesting CBD rather than taking it under the tongue: low absorption. Research suggests that when you swallow CBD, you only absorb about 6-9% of it, with most going to waste.
The good news is that you can boost this by up to four times with one simple trick: eating a high-fat meal beforehand. Here’s how to make your CBD capsules and edibles work much better.
Why Oral CBD is Poorly Absorbed
First, let’s quickly define bioavailability: the amount of a substance, like a drug or nutrient, that enters your bloodstream and is effectively used by your body.
For example, when a drug is injected directly into your veins, it has a bioavailability of 100%, meaning all of it is available for your body to use. But when you take it as a capsule, the amount is typically much lower.
Research has shown that CBD has notoriously low oral bioavailability for two reasons:
- It’s a fat-soluble compound, so it’s difficult for our water-based bodies to absorb
- First-pass metabolism: the breakdown of a drug in your digestive tract and liver before it reaches the bloodstream
This explains why CBD is most commonly taken as a fat-containing oil rather than capsules, unlike most other dietary supplements.
The Trick: Take Oral CBD With Fats
Thankfully, the fact that CBD is soluble in fat offers a simple way to boost its oral absorption significantly. All you need to do is eat a fat-rich food or meal before using an oral CBD product like capsules or gummies.
Two recent research studies demonstrated this:
- One 2019 study compared the bioavailability of CBD capsules after fasting (empty stomach) versus a high-fat meal (breakfast burrito with 500-600 calories of fat) in eight epilepsy patients. The researchers found that CBD absorption increased fourfold from only 6% when fasting to 24%.
- A similar 2018 study compared the oral absorption of CBD in 12 healthy adults when fasting versus after a fat-rich breakfast of two eggs fried in butter, bacon, fried potatoes, toast with butter, and high-fat milk. Again, the researchers reported a roughly fourfold increase in CBD bioavailability.
Which High-Fat Foods Should You Eat?
So, what foods should you eat before taking CBD? It’s entirely up to you, but we have some suggestions.
The easiest option, and the one we use the most, is eating a few spoons of peanut butter before taking CBD capsules or gummies. We like peanut butter because it’s convenient: you don’t need to sit down for a full meal anytime you want to use CBD.
Other fat-rich foods and meals you can go for include:
- Fat-rich breakfast like English breakfast or avocado toast with eggs
- High-fat cheese, like cheddar or gouda
- A smoothie with milk and peanut butter
- Nuts and seeds like macadamia, brazil nuts, or walnuts
- Tacos or burritos
According to the studies, you should eat the high-fat meal within 30 minutes of taking CBD. So, the easiest option is to have your meal and take the capsules or gummies immediately afterward.
Other Methods to Make CBD More Effective
If you’re using CBD oil, one underappreciated tip is to hold it under your tongue for longer. While the standard recommendation is to wait 30-60 seconds, you’ll get better results by holding it for at least a few minutes before swallowing the oil.
Another great way to increase CBD’s effectiveness is to use a full-spectrum product instead of one made with isolate (pure CBD). The additional cannabinoids and other beneficial ingredients in full-spectrum CBD work synergistically, making it much more potent than CBD alone.
We still recommend using CBD oil as your main source of CBD because of its superior bioavailability. But if you prefer capsules or gummies, make sure to take them alongside a high-fat meal to ensure maximum absorption.
As one final tip, keep in mind that eating a fat-rich meal will also slightly boost the absorption of CBD oil. Although most of this CBD is absorbed through the blood vessels under your tongue, some will also be absorbed orally after you swallow the oil.
That means the additional fats you get from food will help your body absorb CBD. But the effect is less dramatic than with capsules or gummies because CBD oil already contains fats.
Written By Gleb OleinikGleb is a CBD expert hailing from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products and written for some of the leading websites in the CBD and cannabis space, like Cannigma. When he's not immersed in writing, Gleb enjoys working out, traveling the globe, and telling people how awesome intermittent fasting is. He shares his CBD insights on his website.
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