Can CBD oil be absorbed by the Skin?
Author: Chris Halls LCPH, DipASK, MCMA, Kinesiology & Homeopathy
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical with low solubility in water but good solubility in oils and alcohols. In the body, water soluble nutrients and chemicals are transported easily into the bloodstream, whereas oily and fat soluble nutrients and chemicals on their own are not, since blood is essentially a ‘watery' solution. So, when placing drops of CBD oil in a mouth coated with saliva, first of all the oil droplets don't mix with saliva very well and then only a small proportion of the dose taken is absorbed through the mucous membrane of the mouth into the blood - common estimates are that only 5-10% of CBD oil taken by mouth is actually absorbed. Any CBD oil that’s swallowed and then absorbed from the intestines passes directly to the liver and is metabolised (broken down) before entering the general circulation, which also greatly reduces its effectiveness. Alternatively, preparing the CBD in such a way that it is in a water-soluble form allows the chemical to be easily absorbed when taken by mouth.
How does CBD interact with your Skin?
The outer layer of skin (known as the stratum corneum) is a protective barrier for the body, being primarily made of compounds known as ‘lipids' (aka ‘fats’). Similar to CBD itself, these lipids are insoluble in water but dissolve in solvents such as alcohol, and include oils, waxes and fats naturally produced by the body (including compounds such as fatty acids and cholesterol). Due to their affinity with lipids, oily compounds are more easily absorbed into the skin than water, which is why products such as ‘baby oil’, coconut oil and olive oil help keep skin looking and feeling supple and healthy. Even though cannabidiol is soluble in oils, the compound is actually poorly absorbed through the skin but can pass through the skin pores and enter the body that way. The CBD that passes into the skin then acts locally on cannabidiol receptors in the skin layer with no detectable amounts entering the bloodstream, so rubbing oil into the skin could help in localised areas.
Does CBD oil enter the bloodstream when placed on the skin?
However, studies have shown that high doses or large quantities applied to the skin actually can result in CBD entering the blood. Although taking a water-soluble formulation by mouth is probably the most convenient way of taking CBD, this shows that a systemic (whole body) effect can potentially be achieved by applying the compound to the skin. Probably the most reliable way of achieving this is by using transdermal (meaning ‘across the skin) patches, rather than applying oil, gels or ointments. These patches contain a concentrated ‘reservoir’ of CBD that, when applied to the surface of the body, ensures the compound is directed into the skin at a steady rate, from which it then gradually passes into the blood vessels that run through the skin, transporting it throughout the body. With skin application, the rate and extent of absorption will be affected by the thickness of skin at the site of application of the product as well as blood flow to the area (which is usually dependent on temperature).
So in conclusion, for problems with a particular part of the body, it may be worth trying CBD oil rubbed into the skin over the area concerned. If that’s not effective, or for a whole body effect, a water-soluble product taken by mouth can be used.
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