When taking any medication, it’s important to weigh the differences, pros, and cons of the potential delivery method. CBD, for instance, can be taken in many forms and is available in a number of edible (digestible or drinkable), sublingual, topical, and smokable options. So how does the delivery method change affect your body’s absorption of those essential active ingredients?
It’s important to consider these differences as edibles can take much longer to take effect, are often less effective than sublinguals due to their lower bioavailability, and can contain a number of extra additives, like excess sugar, gelatin, and more.
What is an edible?
An edible is a food or drink product that is infused with medication and ingested, often as an alternative to smoking or vaping the infused drug. Edibles rose to popularity as an alternative for users who needed or wanted to feel the effects of the infused drug without inhaling it. Edibles infused with CBD or other hemp/cannabis compounds are very popular, and can come in many forms, such as gummies, cookies, brownies, chocolates, hard candies, soft chews, drinks, teas, and more.
What is a sublingual?
A sublingual is a product infused with a medication that is administered under the tongue. The word comes from latin, with "sub" meaning under, and "lingual" meaning pertaining to the tongue! The sublingual route is popular for its fast-acting effects, increased efficacy, and ease of use, among other reasons. Sublinguals can also come in many forms, including strips (sometimes called films or slips), tinctures, tablets, or sprays.
Why does the delivery method matter?
CBD, CBN, and other medicinal compounds can affect you differently depending on how you ingest or absorb them. If you’ve ever wondered why other sleep aids in pill or gummy form haven’t helped you get actual results, it could be because of their delivery method.
When you consume an edible, your body goes to work breaking it down in your digestive system and liver, which is referred to as first pass metabolism or first pass digestion. Through this first pass, edibles are broken down by your body and lose some of their potency as your body works to absorb the active ingredients. By the time an edible reaches your bloodstream, it’s weaker, less potent, and sometimes doesn’t even feel like it works!
Sublinguals, on the other hand, bypass first pass digestion and are absorbed straight into the bloodstream through a natural pathway under your tongue called the oral mucosa. When you melt a sublingual strip under your tongue, the active ingredients make their way into your bloodstream through the mucosal membrane, and you can begin to feel the effects in as little as 10-15 minutes.
How does the delivery method affect the efficacy of your medication or sleep aid?
To best understand the difference between digesting and absorbing medication sublingually, it’s important to understand the concept of bioavailability. Different delivery methods all have different bioavailabilities; the better the delivery method, the higher the bioavailability, and the greater percentage of the medication that is actually absorbed by your body.
If you’ve ever taken an edible and a sublingual of the same dose and felt that the edible delivered less potent and slower results, this is likely due to the edible's lower bioavailability. Because your body has to work harder to break the dose down in first pass digestion, less of the actual dose makes it into your system, as opposed to sublingual delivery, which bypasses the digestive tract and delivers a higher percentage of your desired dose.
What does bioavailability mean?
Bioavailability is the proportion of a drug that is able to enter your circulation after it is broken down by your body. In other words, bioavailability is the percent of the dose that is absorbed by your body based on your method of consumption.
When medicine enters your system via smoking, vaping, topicals, edibles, or sublinguals, only a fraction of the drug is fully absorbed. Studies have found that smoking or vaping averages a bioavailability of 30%, only 4-12% for edibles, and a bioavailability up to 75% for sublinguals.
Thanks to their high bioavailability, sublingual slips offer the most effective and precisely dosed effects for their users.
A study from the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found that “the absorption of the drug through the sublingual route is 3 to 10 times greater than oral route and is only surpassed by hypodermic injection.”
What are the other differences between edibles and sublinguals?
Edibles, depending on their form, can have a number of additional unnecessary additives. Gummies, chocolates, baked goods, and drinks often contain extra sugar and other ingredients that make up the rest of the product. While these ingredients are what make your edible chocolate, cookies, or brownies taste so good, the extra sugars can bring on a stimulating effect which might counteract or offset the effects of the CBD or CBN, which you’re likely taking to relax.
Additionally, one of the most common forms of edibles, gummies, are often made with animal products (unless stated otherwise on their packaging). The majority of gummies are made with gelatin, which is often derived from collagen taken from animals; this protein is obtained by boiling water with animal skin, tendons, ligaments, or bones. Gummies, or any product that contains gelatin (like Jell-O, marshmallows, candies like starbursts and gummy worms, and even some beers and wines!) are not vegan due to the inclusion of gelatin.
Other edible products, like cookies, brownies, or other baked goods, also primarily contain gluten. While gluten is not harmful for most people, gluten can cause inflammation in the body for those with intolerances, allergies, or celiac disease.
In addition, because edibles need to be digested, taking an edible product before bed wakes up your metabolism and can confuse your circadian rhythms. This can keep you awake longer as your body works to break down and process the food, whereas sublinguals are able to go straight into your bloodstream and bypass this process and hindrance to sleep.
So which is better, edibles or sublinguals?
While this is a subjective question and everyone’s taste and preferences will vary, sublinguals are objectively faster-acting than edibles, have higher bioavailability and thus deliver a larger and more potent portion of your desired dose, and contain fewer unnecessary additives.
Sublinguals take effect in as little as 10 minutes, while edibles are reliant on first pass digestion and can take an hour or more to deliver the desired effects. Thanks to sublinguals’ superior bioavailability, your body is able to absorb up to 75% of the dose, whereas edibles have a bioavailability of only 4-12%. And lastly, sublinguals contain fewer additives to deliver the dose you want, without extra ingredients like sugar, gluten, gelatin, and more.
Sublingual ingredients vary by the producer and form (slip, spray, tablet, or tincture) but Kin Slips sublingual slips are always made with all-natural, vegan ingredients, and are free of sugar, gluten, and melatonin. Learn more about Kin Slips’ sublingual sleep strips, Shut Eye, on our website here.