Not too long ago, smoking was the only way to introduce cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) to your system. But the explosive popularity of the substance has seen hundreds of types of products flooding the market, from lollipops to salves.
Now, consumers are presented with numerous ways to consume CBD. Don’t like the idea of vaping? There’s a bar of CBD chocolate or a bag of CBD-infused gummies out there for you. Would you rather avoid consuming CBD orally? Well why not try a massage cream with 100mg of CBD.
And for people who want to maximise the effects of CBD, there’s a new method that’s gaining popularity among enthusiasts: sublingual ingestion.
Sublingual Ingestion: What is It?
Sublingual ingestion is a concept that will be foreign for those who haven’t been on medication. And even then, only people who have taken cardiovascular medication or steroids will likely be familiar with the term.
As technical as sublingual may sound, the process is actually fairly simple. Just drop liquid CBD under your tongue and let it sit for 30 to 60 seconds before swallowing.
The reason why under your tongue is a site that’s prime for ingestion is because of the complex network of capillaries found there. Capillaries are delicate blood vessels that are thinner than veins or arteries–these structures are roughly only one to two layers of cells thick. The primary function of these vessels is transporting oxygen and other materials between organs, giving CBD a direct path to endocannabinoid receptors found throughout your body.
Sublingual vs CBD Edibles
Edibles such as candies and pills are the easiest way to enter the world of CBD. Aside from being more discreet, CBD-infused food items are also more palatable compared to oils and tinctures that are meant to be consumed sublingually. However, taste and ease of use are about the only areas that edibles cruise through.
The path your CBD edible takes after you swallow is long and winding. Food needs to pass through your digestive tract, where it gets broken down by various enzymes and stomach acids. From there, what is left of the compound is carted off to the liver for further filtering. Only then is the CBD released onto your bloodstream to finally make their way to where they’re needed.
It’s a process that takes as much time as it sounds. Effects from edible CBDs can take a couple of hours to manifest. Sublingual ingestion skips the line entirely. CBD absorbed under the tongue gains instant access to a thick net of capillaries. The compound hits your bloodstream in near pure form, which is what makes sublingual administration incredibly potent compared to simply eating your CBD.
There’s also a simpler reason why sublingual is the better choice for some: tablets and pills are hard to swallow. For older individuals, it’s a real problem. The prevalence of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, rises after age 50. Sublingual administration represents a safer, more accessible way of ingestion for the 31 percent of CBD users over the age of 55.
Sublingual vs Vaping
As far as bioavailability and time to take effect goes, vaping ranks quite high. Similar to sublingual ingestion, vaping is a direct delivery method for CBD. It does so through your alveoli, which are millions of tiny sac-like structures where oxygen from the air you breathe crosses over to your bloodstream.
Because vaped CBD no longer has to pass through the digestive tract, it retains much of its potency. Unlike sublingual ingestion, vaping also gives you a continuous source of CBD--with every puff, you take more of the compound in. This results in levels higher than if you had eaten or sublingually taken it. Some studies have found that vaping can deliver as much as 56 percent of CBD into your system. Currently, the ceiling for bioavailability is only at 35 percent for sublingual ingestion.
However, non-smokers may find the risks of vaping too great a price to pay for high bioavailability. The consensus is that vaping is safer than smoking. However, taking any foreign substance into your lungs still causes a degree of harm. The same structures that make vaping an efficient delivery method for CBD are also sensitive to compounds in vape juice such as oil and vegetable glycerin.
Sublingual vs Topical Application
Topical CBD products are unique in that they’re the only external method of taking the compound. The point of entry also completely changes how our bodies metabolise CBD. Your skin is primarily a barrier that protects your organs, it’s not designed to let things pass easily. The skin’s protective properties also means you will need to apply a significant amount of product to feel results.
However, these caveats don’t necessarily make topical administration a subpar means of delivery than sublingual ingestion. It may just be better suited for specific purposes. CBD ointments and creams have been found to provide relief for neuropathic pain. The skin may also be a more promising route for CBD treatments that target arthritis symptoms.
The methods of taking CBD are getting as colourful as the types of products that are hitting the market. Sublingual ingestion, while not novel in medical applications, represents a nice new middle ground for CBD users by letting you maximise your intake without potentially compromising your lungs through vaping.
A final note. This guide is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your GP or an expert to get professional advice on dosing and taking CBD sublingually.