By Emily Ledger
Since the launch of our CBD and cannabis news portal, we’re sure we must have come across all the weird and wonderful CBD products out there. From CBD-infused pillows and athleisure wear to the more traditional capsules and oils, we’ve written about it all. While some of these products have developed a dedicated user base, others are yet to grab hold of the consumers’ attention.
So, we thought we would take a look at some of the most popular CBD products, and assess how effective they could be.
CBD Tinctures, Oils, and Capsules
While CBD was discovered and isolated by scientists decades ago, it took a long time for the cannabinoid to be utilised by commercial companies. However, in recent years, many countries around the world have experienced a major CBD boom. In most cases, the cannabinoid’s introduction to the commercial market began with oils, tinctures, and capsules, marketed as health supplements.
While this is hardly the sexiest of the categories included in this article, these products have managed to maintain their popularity and their share of the market, despite the introduction of many, arguably more appealing products. But, just how effective are these products – that is to say – how much CBD do we actually get from them?
Efficacy of these products
CBD is a lipid (fat)-based compound that is derived from the hemp/cannabis plant. Products like CBD oils, tinctures, and capsules usually combine the CBD extract with an edible carrier oil such as olive oil, coconut oil, or hemp oil for a more satisfactory consistency and flavour. While products in this category remain popular, they typically have a relatively low absorption rate.
The bioavailability of these products – that is, the percentage of CBD that is effectively absorbed by our bodies – is believed to average at between 5 and 10% or, at best, 15-20%. This is because our bodies are around two-thirds water and, famously, water and oil don’t mix!
So, why do these products remain so popular? Although tinctures, oils, and capsules may not boast the highest absorption rates, they often contain some of the highest concentrations of CBD. When calculated effectively, the absorption rate of CBD associated with these products may be evened out in comparison to other products discussed in this article. However, it is unlikely that this will be the most cost-effective way to maintain regular CBD use.
CBD Edibles and Beverages
This is potentially the fastest growing sector of the whole CBD market. It seems that cannabidiol-infused edibles are popping up daily, with chocolate, gummies, and drinks being among the most popular products.
This category of CBD products has allowed both start-up companies and well-established brands, such as Vita Coco and Good Hemp, to enter the CBD space. These products have also risen to become some of the most popular CBD products among consumers, likely because they offer an easy, affordable, and convenient introduction to the cannabinoid.
Efficacy of edibles
In most cases, the CBD used in these products will have been solubilised. This means that the CBD will have been altered to make it water-soluble – increasing the absorption of the compound.
This process – known as micellisation – involves the lipid-based CBD compounds being encapsulated by double-ended molecules. One end of these molecules is lipophilic (fat-loving) and binds to the CBD compound. This leaves a hydrophilic (water-loving) end facing the outside. Essentially, this process disguises the fatty CBD compound, making it water-soluble and, consequently, more easily absorbed by our bodies.
While, in theory, this process vastly improves the bioavailability of the CBD, the amount contained in these products is often quite low. For example, CBD-infused drinks usually contain 5-10mg of the cannabinoid. On the other hand, some edible products do not make use of water-soluble CBD, meaning that the bioavailability of the products may be very low.
CBD Vape Juices and Pens
Vaping has become incredibly popular in recent years, far surpassing the expectations of the products to simply be smoking cessation aids. An increasing number of people who have never smoked are now taking up vape products – both those containing nicotine and those without. The CBD sector is no exception to this growth.
A large number of brands have released their own CBD vape formulations. Some have opted for vape juices which can be inserted into standard vape pens, others have opted for a more stylised version of the vape pen. Some brands, such as Hiatus, have opted to design sleek and stylish pre-filled pens containing a specific dose of CBD.
Efficacy of vape products
Although they may still be behind traditional oils and tinctures and convenient edibles, CBD vape products actually offer some of the best bioavailability of the whole sector.
Vape formulations are made by diluting CBD with ingredients such as propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG), which bring the liquid to the right consistency for vaporising. This vapour is then drawn into the body where it is effectively absorbed by the many blood vessels lining the lungs.
As the CBD has such a short distance to travel to reach the bloodstream, this is also the most time-effective method of CBD consumption. Estimates from previous medical studies have placed the bioavailability of vaporised CBD at around 34-46% – with some reporting even higher. This puts the efficacy of vape products far above the previous products in this list.
CBD Topicals and Skincare
Another one of the fastest-growing sectors in the CBD space is topicals and skincare. You can now find the cannabinoid in every skincare product you could imagine, from sun cream to serums. While the previous products we have discussed generalise the effects of CBD on the whole body, topicals allow for a more localised application.
This sector has likely inherited some of its success from the long-enduring hemp skincare market. Hemp preparations have been used for millennia as a skincare product and topical medication and has hovered on the edge of the mainstream modern beauty sector for decades.
Efficacy of CBD topicals and skincare
Studies have shown that CBD may have a number of properties that could be beneficial to the skin. For example, some products – like muscle gels and toners – aim to make use of the anti-inflammatory potential of the cannabinoid. Others focus on the ingredient’s antioxidant properties and the potential anti-aging effects that it may have.
There is clinical evidence to support the use of CBD in these conditions, as well as for more general skin care. One study found that CBD had the potential to modulate the production of sebum associated with acne. In addition, a large body of anecdotal evidence (from users of these products) add to the consensus that CBD could be an effective skincare ingredient.
Other CBD Products
While we have covered what we feel to be the most popular categories of the CBD industry, we felt it necessary to touch on some of the more unusual products available. It seems that the growing popularity of cannabidiol knows no bounds. This unchained popularity has even led to the development of CBD-infused fabrics that have been utilised for CBD pillows, leggings, sports bras, and even jackets.
The efficacy of these products
When you consider that CBD has been reported to improve sleep and even relieve insomnia, the thinking behind CBD pillows starts to make sense. Similarly, the use of CBD to aid in the recovery of muscle soreness has taken off leading to numerous muscle rubs and creams.
However, it is unclear whether CBD-infused fabrics like those used in pillows and activewear, allow sufficient transfer of the ingredient to be effective in these cases. While these products are definitely interesting, they are proving to be maybe a little too ‘niche’ to take the market by storm like other products on this list have done.