Is Water Soluble CBD Better Than CBD Oil? – Pros & Cons Explained

A man wearing a blue plad shirt pouring a packet of water soluble CBD into a glass of water.

Water soluble CBD is all the rage right now. But what exactly is it, and how exactly does it stack up to regular CBD oil? 

Water soluble CBD is formulated to break down in water, making it much more easily absorbed into our bodies than traditional CBD oil. For that reason, water soluble CBD is more effective than other consumption methods. It also poses fewer health risks often associated with smoking or vaping.

The benefits of water soluble CBD seem simple, but the jargon around it can be unduly confusing. Not to worry — in this article, we’ll break down what exactly water soluble CBD is, how it’s different from regular CBD, and whether or not it’s a better buy than the classic compound.

Difference between water soluble CBD and CBD oil

In general, water soluble CBD and regular CBD oil are quite similar. Both contain the potent compound CBD, or cannabidiol, which gets more and more popular acclaim every day as people realize it’s relaxing and healing effects on the body. Taking either can be a great way to fix your sleep schedule, reduce stress, and ease physical pain. They also tend to come in the form of a liquid (though water soluble CBD is sometimes sold as a dissolvable powder) that can be flavored and added to drinks, foods, or just taken orally. 

Despite all their similarities, however, water soluble CBD offers some powerfully unique benefits over CBD oil that can change how you use CBD entirely. 

CBD oil is an oil extracted from high-CBD strains of the Cannabis Sativa plant. You’ll generally find that CBD oils contain CBD, a carrier oil to dilute the CBD, and maybe some flavorings and coloring. CBD oil comes in a variety of formulations with different THC and cannabinoid levels, such as:

  •   Full-spectrum CBD, which contains CBD, less than 0.3% THC, and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and beneficial compounds
  •   Broad-spectrum CBD, which contains CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes, but 0% THC
  •   CBD isolate, which contains only CBD

For many who consume CBD or who are in the CBD industry, one of the most obvious downsides to a compound like CBD that otherwise seems great is its hydrophobia — or its resistance to being broken down by water. Compounds that are water-soluble, or easily dissolve in water, have the added benefit of being much more easily absorbed into our bodies, which are primarily water. Salt and sugar can be dissolved in water and pass into the body very quickly. Oils, like CBD oil? Not so much. 

CBD’s hydrophobia can become troublesome when CBD oil is taken orally, where a high degree of the compound’s potency is lost because of both our normal metabolic processes and its characteristics as a hydrophobic compound. There are ways to improve CBD oil’s absorption, such as taking your CBD alongside high-fat foods, but it naturally resists water’s solvent effects.

A glass of water mixed with water soluble CBD to the left and a glass of water with traditional CBD oil floating on the top to the right.

Water soluble CBD

Water soluble CBD, on the other hand, is a form of CBD oil that has been physically altered so it can more easily dissolve in water and, as a result, be better absorbed by the body. This is typically achieved through nano-emulsification, where CBD is broken down into microscopic particles and suspended in an emulsifier, or a substance that can form a bridge between water-repellent oils and water and allow them to mix better. 

Emulsifiers do this by coating each CBD particle with a thin layer of oil, which prevents the particles of oil from all clumping together and creating a more extensive lipid layer that is difficult to penetrate with water. The emulsifier is attracted to both water and the CBD particle it’s covering, which prevents the emulsifier from clumping up, too. The CBD is evenly dispersed through the solution and can more easily be absorbed in its tiny form. It’s the same principle as in cooking that allows mayonnaise, frozen custard, and vinaigrettes to exist. 

On a chemical level, most products marketed as “water soluble” are not technically water soluble in the same way as a substance like salt, where the compound itself is pulled apart in water. However, it has the same effect. After nano-emulsification, CBD nanoparticles are smaller, no longer all sticking together in one big oily mess that water can’t penetrate. As a result, it can be much more easily processed and broken down in our watery bodies. 

Water soluble CBD is generally not sold in formulations that include THC or other hemp-derived compounds beyond CBD. Instead, most water soluble CBD is CBD isolate, which means it’s just CBD. For some users, this is a benefit — THC might not be appealing, especially if you worry about potentially having an adverse reaction to the compound or if you worry about having to potentially undergo drug testing (note: it’s infrequent, but still possible, to be flagged on a drug test for using CBD with THC, especially for people who use large amounts every day). 

The lack of THC can be a big negative for other users, like CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids and terpenes can have a synergistic effect when used all together. The phenomenon is called the entourage effect. With the entourage effect, users of cannabis products can experience significantly more powerful benefits from using cannabis if the plant is not stripped of its cannabinoids and terpenes

Nanotechnology and microtechnology

It’s not just the emulsifier that does all the heavy lifting, however. The actual size and scale of the particles being emulsified has a huge impact.

Nanoemulsions use nanotechnology, or the study of using materials that are smaller than 100 nm in size. These particles are incredibly tiny, operating at the same size as a strand of DNA or smaller, allowing scientists to manipulate some of the fundamental properties of the material they’re working with.

While nanotechnology applications might be relatively new to the CBD world — an industry which has, it’s worth noting, only existed since 2018 — they’re not new to the world of science and industry. Nanotechnology has been studied since the 80s, and its practical effects have been in full swing ever since then in a variety of realms, from materials science, to engineering, to medicine, and now consumer markets for supplements. 

Right now, nanotechnology applications range from fast-healing nano-silver bandaids to robots that can “eat” oil spills. In the CBD world, nanotechnology’s benefits are also groundbreaking

The tiny size of the particles does have a significant impact on their ability to be absorbed, too, as nanoemulsions are absorbed much more thoroughly than other types of emulsions, whether they be in traditional macroemulsions (as in a vinaigrette) or even microemulsions (which too deal with small particles, but at a much larger scale than nanoemulsions). Additionally, nanoemulsions require lower amounts of substances called surfactants, which help to stabilize an emulsion, than microemulsions. This helps nano-emulsified products maintain the natural, earthy taste that characterizes unflavored CBD oil. 

Nano particles being encapsulated by a lipid cell.

Is water soluble CBD more effective than CBD oil?

As far as most research indicates, yes, water soluble CBD is much better than regular CBD oil at effectively providing those relaxation-inducing benefits that we hope for when we take a CBD gummy or pill. 

For one thing, nanoemulsions have been demonstrated to significantly increase the effectiveness of a variety of oil-based compounds, such as fat-soluble vitamin E, when tested. In this study, research showed a 68-fold increase in absorption when using nanoemulsified vitamin E on hamsters.

Why is this? Well, water soluble CBD has much higher bioavailability, which makes it much more effectively used by our bodies. 

Bioavailability

Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a drug or compound reaches the bloodstream. Bioavailability is necessarily at its highest — 100% — when a compound is administered intravenously (directly into the bloodstream). Because the circulatory system is how compounds like CBD take effect and create full-body relaxation, it’s essential to have high bioavailability. Methods like smoking, vaporizing, or taking CBD sublingually are all methods with relatively high bioavailability, while taking CBD edibles tends to be absorbed much more poorly. 

Bioavailability, and increasing bioavailability, are incredibly important concepts when you’re looking to have the most potent experience with CBD — especially because CBD’s potency can be diminished depending on your mode of administration. When taken orally, CBD falls victim to a bodily function called “first pass metabolism,” wherein the compound is processed first by the liver and gut before it reaches the bloodstream, reducing the amount of active CBD entering it. Taking CBD orally is a popular and convenient method of delivery, but only a fraction of that CBD ends up taking effect, so it’s great for consumers to have products at their disposal to get around some of those pitfalls. 

Cost of water soluble CBD vs. CBD oil

One downside of water soluble CBD oil is that it may come at a slightly higher cost than regular CBD oil. To create nanoemulsions, CBD companies must buy lab-quality ultrasonic processors, which can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars to purchase, operate, and maintain. Additionally, there are additional costs, not only from the CBD but also from the other oil compounds that keep the CBD soluble. These costs are often factored into the price of your bottle. 

For instance, one 300 mg bottle of water soluble CBD oil costs between $45-$50. By contrast, regular CBD oil prices tend to vary but often stick to the lower end, with prices ranging between $15-$40 for one 300 mg bottle. Of course, other factors can affect the cost of a bottle of CBD oil, such as the quality of the plant it was extracted from, the concentration of CBD versus additives and carrier oils, and additional upcharges like packaging and marketing. 

In spite of the consistently higher costs, water soluble CBD is very much still worth it. For one thing, there’s the potential that the higher cost is paid off by the potency and efficacy of the nanoemulsion — after all, you might actually be leaving money on the table by using regular orally ingested CBD oil that doesn’t properly absorb into your body. 

What are the benefits of water soluble CBD?

To summarize, here are some of the major benefits of using water soluble CBD over regular CBD oil:

  • Higher potency

Unlike regular water-repelling CBD oil, water soluble CBD is broken down into incredibly small individual particles, stabilized in an emulsifier, that can be easily absorbed into our water-based bodies and into our bloodstreams. By contrast, regular CBD oil clumps together when placed in water and creates a lipid cluster that is impenetrable by water (and much too big to be smoothly absorbed through porous tissue and into the bloodstream). This quality of water soluble CBD makes it much more potent and bioavailable, as a high percentage of it is being absorbed into the bloodstream. Higher potency also means faster onset since it’s being absorbed so much more effectively. 

  • No need to vape or smoke

Some individuals who use CBD and need high-potency effects when they use it because they’ve gained a tolerance or because they are using it to manage intense symptoms, may opt for high bioavailability methods of delivery over oral CBD like smoking, vaping, or dabbing. While these methods are great for those who use them, they can be intense for some CBD users and may require special equipment and special know-how. With water soluble CBD, this extra effort may not be as necessary to get potent effects.

  • Can be added to drinks without forming an oil barrier on the very top

CBD has been all the rage as a food additive since it came onto the scene as a hot new product, with the CBD food industry growing and growing even into the new year. Many cafes and dine-in restaurants in metropolitan areas of the U.S. offer coffees, teas, and cocktails infused with some amount of CBD in order to induce calmness or relaxation for their patrons. Some restaurants offer CBD edibles in-house, which can come in the form of both dessert and your main entree. 

It’s tempting to try and make your own CBD drinks and treats at home with so much food potential. However, traditional CBD is still oil that will likely not mix well with beverages unless you put it in a container and shake it vigorously. For some people, an oily mess on the very top of their hot coffee is not unappealing. Still, to many, it can turn you off to your morning breakfast (which is a shame, too — CBD absorption can be improved both by taking it with coffee and high-fat forms, which are abundant at breakfast time). 

Well, here comes yet another valuable use for water-soluble CBD! It can mix incredibly easily into beverages in both the powder and liquid form, without any oil separating or rising to the top. If you take CBD with your coffee, this can make your morning routine much more convenient by allowing you to avoid the fuss of having to emulsify it or deal with an oily drink. Or, if you want to emulate your favorite restaurant’s CBD menu at home, it can become a lot simpler for the average home cook. 

Where to buy water soluble CBD

Water soluble CBD is becoming more and more available for purchase, especially online — simply Google “water soluble CBD” and you’ll be able to find it for sale. However, not all of these products are high-quality. 

For trust-worthy, high-quality, and relatively affordable water soluble CBD, we opt for Active Water Soluble CBD, sold from DiscoverCBD. The Active CBD is a broad spectrum tincture made from non-GMO hemp, and you can buy it unflavored or with delicious notes of either vanilla, berry, or cinnamon. It’s specifically designed for maximum bioavailability, so you can know that you’re purchasing an effective product. 

Takeaway

Water soluble CBD is a breakthrough product in the CBD industry that can not only provide ease of convenience to users, but also potent formulations that can help you skip all of the disappointment of waiting hours for your edible to kick in before you realize that you didn’t take a high enough dosage. With water soluble CBD, you can know that your body is processing much more of that stress-relieving goodness. 

If you’re looking to try other CBD products, consider browsing our directory. Here, we offer a list of staff-approved gummies, tinctures, patches, and more, so you can know that you’re not being hawked products that have never been tried. Additionally, we connect you with CBD vendors who are health-focused and industry-tested, so you know you can trust what they’re selling. 

Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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