The Problem with CBD That No One Talks About

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If you're taking CBD or thinking about trying it, there's something you need to know... and you're not going to hear a lot of people talking about it. CBD is fat-soluble, which means that it needs to be in the presence of fat to be absorbed and used by the body. That may not sound like groundbreaking news, but it's actually pretty important and here's why: If you're taking an oil-based supplement like CBD, you're probably not getting as much as you think. We all know that in order to benefit from a supplement, your body needs to absorb it.  And herein lies the problem: If you're taking CBD, you've got an absorption problem on your hands. Why? It all comes down to this: oil and water don’t mix.

Oil and water don't mix

Everyone knows that—we’ve heard it ever since we were old enough to be bounced on our grandparents’ knees. The “oil and water” metaphor has been used as a convenient shorthand to explain everything from why certain salad dressings separate to why certain marriages break up.

What’s more, you can easily demonstrate the incompatibility of water and oil for yourself—take a glass of water, pour in some olive oil, wait a minute and watch.

It's everyone's problem

The fact that oil and water don’t mix has long been a problem for people taking supplements—as well as for the companies that manufacture them, even though it isn't talked about much. Think about it—blood plasma is 92% water. The brain is 73% water. Water comprises 60% of the entire human body. What chance does an oil supplement—like full-spectrum hemp oil, for example—have to be fully assimilated and digested?

Under ordinary circumstances, not much. Tinctures are well-absorbed, but they have to be held under the tongue for at least 30 seconds or longer. Emulsification is an enormous help, but not all CBD is emulsified (Barlean’s Seriously Delicious CBD hemp oil being an exception). So the problem of getting oil supplements into the system to do their “job” has always been a challenge for supplement manufacturers. It’s also been a problem for drug manufacturers. 

This is one reason that supplement and drug manufacturers are beginning to experiment with liposomes. Liposomes are tiny fat bubbles, 1/1000th the width of a single human hair, that can be designed to carry both fat- and water-soluble compounds (like nutrients or drugs) and can facilitate absorption and help prevent breakdown. That’s one solution to the “oil and water” problem. But it’s hardly the only one.

The TPGS solution

Another cutting-edge solution is to make use of a wonderfully versatile compound known as TPGS. TPGS stands for the tongue-twisting head shaker “D-alpha-tocopheryl polyethlene glycol 1000 succinate.” (Now you know why everyone just calls it TPGS.) It’s actually made with a water-soluble form of natural vitamin E, which, you may recall, is a “fat-soluble nutrient,” meaning it is absorbed in fat and not in water. As you can imagine, a water-soluble form of vitamin E would be a big deal, as it would be far more available to the average human body, and wouldn’t require that you take it along with some fat (which is what nutritionists recommend you do with all fat-soluble vitamins—vitamins E, D, K and A).

TPGS has been approved by the FDA not just as a water-soluble form of vitamin E, but as a drug delivery system as well. It’s been widely researched for its emulsifying, dispersing and solubilizing effects on poorly absorbed water-soluble drugs, and it does a great job.(1,2)

It also supercharges your absorption of oil-based supplements. Which is why we use it in Barlean’s CBD More! products. In fact, we like to call TPGS the “oil and water matchmaker.”

How does it work?

Here’s how it works: A TPGS molecule has a left side and a right side. One of them is considered lipophilic, while the other is hydrophilic (“lipo” means fat, “hydro” means water, and the suffix “philic” means to attract). This “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” property of the TPGS molecule allows oil-based supplements (like CBD) to easily disperse with the water in your body. The result is that you wind up getting—and absorbing—far more CBD than you otherwise would.

You can think of TPGS as a kind of referee between the two kids in the schoolyard who normally don’t get along.  With the help of TPGS, those two kids—the fat in your CBD supplement and the water in your body—can play together nicely. And you get the benefit!

TPGS activates on contact with water

The second our CBD More! formula meets water, it instantly goes to work getting the oil molecules ready for absorption. The best part is, this happens even before it gets to your stomach. In other words, it's self-emulsifying. By the time it arrives in your tummy, it’s ready for immediate digestion! The result? Better, faster, absorption. More of exactly what you bought CBD for in the first place.

How great is that!