Bioavailability is a concern for medical cannabis patients. The goal with medical cannabis is to absorb and utilize as much of the medication as possible.

How Does Bioavailability Impact Medical Cannabis Effectiveness?


Pay a visit to the Beehive Farmacy medical cannabis dispensary in Salt Lake City, UT, and you will have access to a variety of medical cannabis products offering THC along with additional cannabinoids and terpenes. Beehive Farmacy staff will tell you that cannabinoid and terpene profiles matter in terms of effectiveness. But so does bioavailability.

The bioavailability of a given medical cannabis product has a direct impact on how effective a medication is. This is true with other medications as well. The lower the bioavailability of a product’s active ingredients, the less effective that product is.

What Is Available to Your Body

Bioavailability is just a fancy way of saying how much of a substance is available to your body for its use. The main active ingredient in most medical cannabis formulations is THC. So a medical cannabis product’s bioavailability determines how much of that THC your body actually uses.

The concept is more easily understood by examining two different cannabis delivery methods: tinctures and gummies. Both are taken orally, yet they still have different rates of bioavailability.

1. Tinctures

Tinctures are concentrated oils that are used by placing a drop or two under the tongue. Why that location? Because the skin under the tongue is packed with blood vessels. It is also fairly thin compared to the skin on other parts of the body.

When you place a drop or two of tincture under your tongue, it is absorbed by the skin very rapidly. Not only that, nearly all of the THC is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the many vessels packed into that area. A tincture offers high bioavailability.

2. Gummies

Gummies are utilized through ingestion. You are essentially getting your THC by eating a piece of cannabis-infused candy. However, the THC has to go through the digestive system in order to be absorbed and utilized by the body. Some of it is lost along the way.

As such, a gummy product tends to offer lower bioavailability by volume. You would need more THC in a gummy to achieve the same effectiveness as a smaller dose of tincture. Note that the lower bioavailability of a gummy does not necessarily make gummies worse. There are valid reasons for choosing this delivery method over a tincture.

Other Factors Influencing Bioavailability

The experts at Beehive Farmacy point out that delivery method is not the only factor to consider in the bioavailability question. Delivery method does play a significant role, but there are other things in play.

At the top of the list is product formulation. Active ingredients in medical cannabis are often mixed with inactive ingredients to achieve a specific effect. For example, a product that combines THC and CBD with medium-chain triglycerides should produce a higher bioavailability than straight THC. The triglycerides improve absorption rates.

Medical cannabis processors and manufacturers are constantly playing with cannabinoid and terpene profiles for the same reason. Some combinations can enhance the bioavailability of certain delivery methods. Cannabinoid and terpene profiles can also impact cannabis layering and the potential of the entourage effect.

A Pharmacist Can Help

Bioavailability is a concern for medical cannabis patients. The goal with medical cannabis is to absorb and utilize as much of the medication as possible. As such, using medical cannabis is about more than getting high.

If you are concerned about the bioavailability of your cannabis medications, a pharmacist can probably help. Pharmacists with extensive knowledge of medical cannabis and the human endocannabinoid system can answer questions that doctors and registered nurses are clueless about. Whenever in doubt, ask a medical cannabis pharmacist about a product’s bioavailability.

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