Best Bang for the Buck

3 Major Factors to Get the Best Value From Your CBD Purchase

With so many options for CBD in the marketplace, how can consumers know they are spending their money wisely?  It depends largely on three factors: CBD potency, bioavailability, and quality of the product.  Potency is the amount of CBD contained in a product.  Bioavailability is how much of that CBD is actually usable by the body.  Quality is dependent on whether the product contains what is claimed, and the manufacturing conditions of the producer.

Product Potency

Potency is important for a couple of reasons. First, it tells you how much CBD is in each drop of your product, and therefore how many drops you need per use.  Secondly, it allows you to calculate how much it costs you each time you use your CBD product.

Everyone is different, and there is not a single answer on how much CBD to use at a time.  Finding out how CBD affects you is a personal discovery that no one else can entirely predict.  Once you have determined the proper amount of CBD you need at a time, you must calculate how much of your chosen CBD product will give you that user-determined amount (UDA).  This way you can be sure you are getting the right amount, rather than wasting CBD by using too much, or not having the desired experience by using too little.

All CBD products should be clearly labeled with the total amount of CBD contained in the product. This will also tell the milligrams of CBD per unit of volume, and from there you can figure out the amount per drop. To calculate the milligrams per unit volume (mg/mL), divide the total amount of CBD by the total volume of the bottle.  Once you know mg/mL, you can identify the amount of CBD per drop.

Calculating CBD Per Portion

If a 30 mL bottle of oil tincture is labeled as 750 mg, that means that it has a total of 750 mg of CBD in the bottle.  By unit of volume, that makes for 25 mg CBD per millileter ( 750 mg/30mL = 25 mg/mL).  Most droppers will pull about a 1 mL draw (usually around 10 drops of liquid).  For this example, that means each drop is around 2.5 mg of CBD.  So if you have determined your proper user-determined amount is 25 mg at a time, you now know that you need around 10 drops of your CBD product.

If you are using gummies, vapes, or other CBD products that are not in liquid form measured in milliliters, simply divide the total CBD contained by the number of units in the package (for example, 750 mg gummies with 30 in the package equals 25 mg/each gummy).  Vape cartridges can be harder to determine the amount used at once, but can be approximated by dividing the total milligrams of CBD by the expected number of uses before the cartridge is spent.

 

Calculating mg/drop based on total content
Total CBD (mg)/ Bottle size= mg/mL mg/drop Drops/UDA       

 (25 mg example)

750 30 mL (1 fl oz) 25 2.5 10
1000 30 mL (1 fl oz) 33.33 3.33 8
1500 30 mL (1 fl oz) 50 5 5

A higher total CBD content means more mg/mL, and fewer drops needed to reach the UDA.  Most droppers are 1 mL (10 drops).

Calculating Cost Per Use of CBD

Potency also reveals the cost per milligram of the CBD, and therefore the cost per use.  Using the same 30 mL bottle from above, the cost of the bottle is $50, and there are 750 mg CBD total.  That means every milligram of CBD costs you $0.07 ($50/750 mg).  Therefore, every drop costs you $0.175 ($0.07/mg X 2.5 mg/drop).

If your user-determined amount (UDA) is 25 mg (about 10 drops), your CBD costs you $1.75 each time you use it.  However, if you are using a 30 mL bottle with only 500 mg total CBD at the same $50 price, your cost per milligram goes up to $0.10/mg, making your cost per use of CBD $2.50.  A higher concentration product with 1500 total mg, even at a higher cost for the bottle, will give you a cost of just under $0.07/mg, bringing your UDA cost down to $1.65.

 

Calculating cost/mg and cost per user-determined amount (UDA)
Bottle cost/ Total CBD (mg) $/mg x UDA (mg) = $/UDA
$50.00 500 $0.100 25 $2.50
$50.00 750 $0.070 25 $1.75
$99.00 1500 $0.066 25 $1.65

A more concentrated product (higher total mg) is often more cost-effective.

Remember to adjust your drops used to get the correct mg of CBD – more mg/mL means fewer drops to get the same total UDA.

Bioavailability and Product Efficacy

In addition to considering the impact of potency on a product’s value, it is important to examine bioavailability, the amount of CBD that can actually be used by your body.  Bioavailability is impacted by a number of factors including product base (oil or water), delivery method (the way you take the product), and particle size of the CBD oil droplets.

Oil and Water Don’t Mix…

Cannabidiol itself is a fat-soluble molecule, so the initial entrance into the marketplace for most CBD products and many CBD consumers is an oil-based tincture, sometimes using alcohol along with or in place of the carrier oil.  Common carriers include olive oil, sesame or sunflower seed oils, and MCT oil (usually coconut-derived).  These oil-based tinctures are still prevalent in the market and make an easy and approachable point of entry for people who have not previously tried CBD.

The problem with oil-based products is that the human body doesn’t process oils as well as it does water (the body averages around 60% water).  Even powdered, fat-soluble CBD by itself is fairly poorly absorbed.  Suspending the CBD oil in water, however, increases the body’s ability to process CBD by approximately 4.5 times (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32147925/).  Water-based and water-soluble forms of CBD are becoming more common because of this advantage.

Delivery Method

Delivery method is also a critical factor to effectiveness of a CBD product. Your body processes CBD differently when it goes through digestion than it does when CBD is inhaled or applied topically, so the way you are using CBD can have a major impact to how much is actually being utilized by your body.  According to www.cannabislaw.report/cbd-bioavailability, “oral CBD bioavailability ranges from about 6-15% while vaporizing can be up to 50%. Topical and transdermal products have a bioavailability rate around 45%, and nasal sprays around 40%.”  Cannabinoid suppositories have been shown to have bioavailability up to twice that of products taken orally (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8897084/).

While current FDA guidelines only allow CBD to be sold and promoted in topical applications, there are nearly countless forms of products containing CBD.  Seemingly there would be nearly endless ways to get it into your body, but in reality most forms will come down to oral ingestion, oromucosal (held in the mouth and absorbed), nasal spray, inhalation (smoking or vaping), topical (applied to skin), transdermal patch (absorbed into bloodstream through skin), and suppositories.

Many CBD products are taken orally, despite the FDA restrictions.  However, going through the digestive tract meets with a great deal of resistance during first-pass metabolism.  In fact, a World Health Organization review of CBD studies shows that bioavailability of CBD when taken orally (meaning swallowed and entering digestion) is only around 6% (https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf).

That means if you ingest 25 mg CBD orally, only around 1.5 mg of that CBD is making it into your bloodstream, and the majority (23.5 mg) is destroyed by metabolism.  However, taking CBD orally with a high-fat meal has been shown to improve bioavailability by 4-5 times (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-018-0578-5), so that would increase your effective available amount to around 7.5 mg.  Quite an improvement, but still letting 17.5 mg of CBD be wasted along the way.

Nano CBD

The best way to increase bioavailability of CBD is by using a nanoemulsion, which is a blend of purified water with emulsifiers, and CBD oil broken into ultra-tiny droplets that cross into the bloodstream directly.  Because Nano CBD’s small particles cross directly into the bloodstream, they absorb more readily into the body, and any Nano CBD that does make it into the digestive tract is not destroyed as readily as oil-based CBD.  This means that almost all of the Nano CBD is absorbed and used by the body.

A 2018 study showed CBD bioavailability of a CBD nanoemulsion to be 65% higher in a rodent model, with the expectation that it would be even higher in humans (Development of a Novel Nano­emulsion Formulation to Improve Intestinal Absorption of Cannabidiol – FullText – Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids 2019, Vol. 2, No. 1 – Karger Publishers).  Cannabis Law Report states that nanoemulsions “can result in a 200-500% increase in effectiveness over traditional oil-based products” (CBD Bioavailability | Cannabis Law Report).

Changing from one form of product delivery to another can drastically affect the amount of CBD your body can access, and could then necessitate a change in your normal UDA.  For example, if you move from an orally delivered product to an inhaled product, you are increasing the amount of CBD available to the body by 3-4 times.  With that increase in bioavailability, a UDA of 25 mg could potentially be reduced to 6-8 mg and still offer the same user experience.  Moving to a nanoemulsion could potentially reduce the needed amount even further, so be sure to adjust your UDA accordingly.

 

Calculating Cost/UDA for Nano vs Oil
Product Bottle cost Total CBD (mg) $/mg x UDA (mg) = $/UDA
Oil Tincture $50.00 750 $0.10 25 $2.50
Nano CBD $50.00 750 $0.10 5 $0.50

Nano CBD products are more cost-effective due to the lower amount of CBD needed to receive the same amount in the blood.

Quality

Price versus value

So now that it is clear how potency and bioavailability impact a product’s value, it is also important evaluate the overall quality of the product.  CBD is a “get what you pay for” product, and while there may be many low-priced options available, it is usually the case that these products do not contain the amount of CBD listed on the label.  Other products may have the claimed amount of CBD, but contain other fillers and undesirable ingredients.

Any CBD product you buy should have an independent, third party testing lab evaluating the content.  A certificate of analysis (COA) should be available online to show proof that the product contains what it claims.  A 2017 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that of 84 different CBD products purchased for testing, just under 31% of the products contained the correct amount of CBD in them.  A staggering 42% had less CBD than the label indicated (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2661569).

Additionally, CBD products should be produced in a lab that is cGMP certified.  This stands for “Current Good Manufacturing Practice,” and is the standard that pharmaceutical companies must hold.  Because the FDA currently does not regulate CBD production facilities, it is critical to source your CBD from a company that is choosing to operate with these more stringent requirements.  This assures that your product is produced in a safe, clean environment.

The Total Value Proposition

Finding the best CBD product can be challenging.  Ultimately, consumers choose the product format that they are most comfortable using, but it is important to understand how to evaluate whether your chosen product is a good value.  Pay attention to the relative differences in how much CBD is contained in the product, estimate how much is making it into the bloodstream based on the different delivery methods, and evaluate the source for cGMP-manufactured products.  Buying a more expensive product is usually a more cost-effective decision if it is more potent, has greater bioavailbility, and is produced in a safe, clean environment to the level of potency claimed on the label.

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