Sublingual is the quickest delivery with the greatest bioavailability.
There is an undercurrent of one-upmanship in the cannabis space these days. Brands are scrambling to the top with improved potency, efficacy, consistency, and creativity. The driving force is to develop new and innovative ways to improve the basic bioavailability of cannabinoids and sublingual is where it’s at.
Fortunately, innovation is looking squarely at products designed to circumvent the issues related to absorption. Some of these include: liposomal techniques, nasal sprays, peel and stick patches, dissolvable strips, and sublingual products. The latter may be your best bet for good medicine.
What Does Bioavailability Mean?
According to ScienceDirect, “Bioavailability (biological availability) is a term used to describe the proportion of a nutrient in food that is utilized for normal body functions.” What this means for the non-scientists of the world, is the number of nutrients your body actually accesses after eating (or smoking) something. For example, if you eat a carrot with 100 mg of vitamin A, but your body only absorbs 50 mg, the vitamin A in a carrot is 50 percent bioavailable.
There are a few ways that your body can absorb nutrients and minerals. The most common form is through the digestive tract, which is where we process all the nutrients from our diet. We can also absorb compounds through the respiratory system (not food, of course). This latter method is typically much faster, with a higher bioavailability because it bypasses the liver on first pass and therefore is not broken into metabolites before entering the bloodstream.
We can also absorb medicine through our skin (transdermal), and through sublingual applications.
Bioavailability of Cannabis
If you smoke, vape or eat your medicine, your body just doesn’t absorb as many of the valuable cannabinoids as you would hope. As an example, you lose upwards of 50 percent of the medicinal compounds through incineration (smoking), and another 25 percent when you exhale. That leaves you with just 25 percent bioavailability when you light up a joint. Vaping is not much better. Edibles, a minimally studied method, are assumed to have even lower rates of absorption due to contact with stomach acid and the liver.
Most basic dietary supplements have a much higher rate of absorption than the primary cannabinoids. For example, calcium found in milk has a bioavailability of roughly 30 percent. Dieticians have long figured out ways to improve the bioavailability of supplements, either by combining with other foods or doing a bit of molecular magic to transform the compounds into something with a bit more absorptive power.
Sublingual Delivery Improves Bioavailability
If current trends hold, sublingual delivery is the new way forward for improving the minimal natural bioavailability of cannabis. From hospital beds to discrete dosing on the job, sublingual products are rising in popularity among cannabis users. In practice, sublingual delivery means placing a tincture, oil, or other dissolvable product under the tongue and letting it slowly absorb through the lining of your mouth. A few pharmaceutical drugs, like anti-anxiety medications, also rely on this method for quick and effective delivery.
You may wonder what the difference is between an oral and a sublingual product, after all, each enters through your mouth – don’t they absorb in similar ways? An edible takes an hour or more to kick in. This is because it must travel through your digestive tract and wait for your stomach to fully digest. A sublingual product takes mere minutes. This is because your mouth is full of surface-level blood vessels. These open vessels allow for swift and free movement of compounds in your mouth, directly into the bloodstream.
Sublingual Cannabis Products are on the Market Now
Kinslips and Ardent are two of the companies taking sublingual technology one step further. Both have developed a line of dissolvable strips, very similar to the Listerine Strips used to freshen your breath. Dissolvable cannabis strips are not only far less messy than dosing tinctures and oils but deliver a precise dose of cannabinoids each and every time.
Unlike smoking or vaping, strips are socially acceptable in all situations, even at the office. It also avoids the respiratory issues caused by chronic smoking. Finally, one key breakthrough of this product is the improvements to the plants’ natural bioavailability. There aren’t any studies yet that have pinpointed individual percentages for cannabinoid delivery, sadly.
Medical cannabis is moving towards safe, consistent, and more effective dosing methods. Sublingual is the perfect method for achieving this.