What is water soluble CBD?

Dec 5, 2019

The range of CBD products on the market currently is mind-boggling. Tinctures, creams, oral sprays, coffees, sports drinks, even CBD infused clothing. Those who are more scientifically or culinary inclined might have noticed a seeming contradiction in a couple of those products. CBD is a non-polar substance, meaning that it doesn’t dissolve in water. This is why tinctures are commonly made from hemp seed or coconut oil as they provide a carrier oil for the CBD to dissolve into. Much like with magnets, like attracts like and vice versa. How then can products have CBD and water coexist within the same liquid?

Water soluble has so much interest surrounding it for a few reasons. The first is the number of new applications it allows, some of which were mentioned earlier. A water-soluble solution could be useful in the formulation of water based cosmetics or for infusing into textiles like clothing or bed-linens. Another reason its so exciting is for the improved bioavailability of a water-based product. The human body is much better at metabolising water than oils, which is very useful since we’re ~70% water but not great for our purposes of absorbing CBD.

The range of CBD products on the market currently is mind-boggling. Tinctures, creams, oral sprays, coffees, sports drinks, even CBD infused clothing. Those who are more scientifically or culinary inclined might have noticed a seeming contradiction in a couple of those products. CBD is a non-polar substance, meaning that it doesn’t dissolve in water. This is why tinctures are commonly made from hemp seed or coconut oil as they provide a carrier oil for the CBD to dissolve into. Much like with magnets, like attracts like and vice versa. How then can products have CBD and water coexist within the same liquid?

Water soluble has so much interest surrounding it for a few reasons. The first is the number of new applications it allows, some of which were mentioned earlier. A water-soluble solution could be useful in the formulation of water based cosmetics or for infusing into textiles like clothing or bed-linens. Another reason its so exciting is for the improved bioavailability of a water-based product. The human body is much better at metabolising water than oils, which is very useful since we’re ~70% water but not great for our purposes of absorbing CBD.

After some trawling of the various products and methodologies involved, I’ve identified three methods of making CBD compatible with water – though whether they make the CBD “water-soluble” is a point of contention. There are likely other methods out there that do the same thing, but the three I mention here are arguably the main ones that are most common nowadays. In order that I will discuss them here they are: glycosylated, liposomal and micellar. While most people think of water-soluble in terms of micro- or nano-emulsified, these terms are confusing and vague. This is due to the distinction being based on particle size despite there being no standard cut-off for where one becomes the other.

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A water-soluble solution could be useful in the formulation of water based cosmetics or for infusing into textiles like clothing or bed-linens. Another reason its so exciting is for the improved bioavailability of a water-based product.

Firstly we’ll look at glycosylated CBD – technically a cannaboside, to give it its technical name. Glycosylation refers to a chemical process which adds a carbohydrate (typically a sugar) to an existing molecule, typically a protein or fat. This process is incredibly common in the human body, especially in the formation of proteins for within cells. The physiological effects of glycosylated CBD were investigated in a paper by Hardmann et al (2017). Their overall discoveries were that after glycosylation, the water solubility of the molecule was greatly increased – with the water solubility improving even further the more carbohydrate chains were attached. While this process definitely has benefits when it comes to improving the water solubility and therefore bioavailability, the safety and efficacy of glycosylated cannabinoids have yet to be thoroughly studied.

A water-soluble solution could be useful in the formulation of water based cosmetics or for infusing into textiles like clothing or bed-linens. Another reason its so exciting is for the improved bioavailability of a water-based product.

The next method for making water-soluble CBD is through the use of liposomal technology.

This involves the addition of a surfactant that effectively bridges the gap between the water and CBD, allowing them to co-exist within a solution by forming a layer between the two. This structure is referred to as a liposome, where a double layer of surfactant forms a bubble with water outside of it and CBD on the inside. Both liposomes and micelles are depicted in the associated image as this is a fairly confusing topic. Liposomal CBD is the most common form of water-soluble currently available, but it has some major drawbacks. The particles are fairly large (>150nm) so don’t form a transparent solution, and due to forming a double layer they have less than stellar stability. The low stability is compounded by the fact that most suppliers provide liposomal water-soluble at high CBD concentrations, which causes it to degrade even faster.

A water-soluble solution could be useful in the formulation of water based cosmetics or for infusing into textiles like clothing or bed-linens. Another reason its so exciting is for the improved bioavailability of a water-based product.
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The next method for making water-soluble CBD is through the use of liposomal technology.

This involves the addition of a surfactant that effectively bridges the gap between the water and CBD, allowing them to co-exist within a solution by forming a layer between the two. This structure is referred to as a liposome, where a double layer of surfactant forms a bubble with water outside of it and CBD on the inside. Both liposomes and micelles are depicted in the associated image as this is a fairly confusing topic. Liposomal CBD is the most common form of water-soluble currently available, but it has some major drawbacks. The particles are fairly large (>150nm) so don’t form a transparent solution, and due to forming a double layer they have less than stellar stability. The low stability is compounded by the fact that most suppliers provide liposomal water-soluble at high CBD concentrations, which causes it to degrade even faster.

Finally I’m going to talk about micellar CBD. Micellar may be a familiar term for those who use make-up removers, such as micellar water. A CBD micelle is effectively the same thing as

a liposome; a bubble of surfactant with CBD on the inside and water outside. The main differences are related to the size and stability. Because micelles only have a single layer rather than a bi-layer, they are much smaller than liposomes, often around 100nm or less which makes a micellar solution transparent. To put it in perspective, a human hair is 50 to 100μm (micrometers) thick, or 50,000 to 100,000nm. This single layer of surfactant also makes micelles more stable, as the CBD is attached to the fat-loving tails of the surfactant. There have been some concerns regarding nanotechnology’s safety, but most of them are related to potential increased toxicity because of the better absorption (EC, 2006). Because CBD has almost non-existent toxicity, this isn’t an issue for micellar CBD, especially when we take into account that micelles are how the body breaks down fats naturally.

So we can determine that of the three methods available, micellar CBD has the most potential, followed closely by glycosylated-CBD. Once more studies have been conducted into the safety and total efficacy of both methods we shall know the ideal way to deliver CBD to the human body, but until then we just have to wait for the research to catch up to the interest.

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So we can determine that of the three methods available, micellar CBD has the most potential, followed closely by glycosylated-CBD. Once more studies have been conducted into the safety and total efficacy of both methods we shall know the ideal way to deliver CBD to the human body, but until then we just have to wait for the research to catch up to the interest.