CBD Beverage Producers Strive For Greater Bioavailability: Nanoemulsion explained

Despite its popularity, Cannabidiol (CBD) is still a relatively fledgling product. And while that position comes with its own unique frustrations there’s still always a silver lining to sit back and appreciate. In this case CBD’s novel nature means that we get watch brands try to innovate right before our very eyes. One area in the CBD industry that’s of great interest is CBD-infused drinks.
Janelle Lassalle
Written by Janelle Lassalle, Cannabis Journalist
Last Updated
CBD Drinks

CBD edibles have taken off in recent years so it was only natural that the product found its way into beverages. Today, you can purchase CBD in just about every drinkable form. That includes sparkling waters, teas, lemonades and even dealcoholized wines.

A recent report by the research and consulting company Grand View Research estimated the global cannabis beverages market size would reach USD $2.8 Billion by 2025. Grand View Research argued the CBD trend in drinks was motivated precisely by CBD’s lack of psychoactive effect,

“The demand is expected to witness a surge over the forecasted period owing to the non-psychoactive properties of CBD. Lack of psychoactive effect in the CBD drinks is widening its scope for usage of the drinks in medical purposes…This drink can potentially be used for treating chronic pain, anxiety, substance use disorders and central nervous system diseases. These factors are expected to boost the adoption of the product, resulting in the growth of the segment.”

In an effort to bring more transparency to the CBD industry, we tested 22 CBD beverages from 20 well-known brands and compiled the results into our very own CBD beverage report. The results, we feel, are deeply illuminating. But before we dive into all that data, let’s learn a little bit more about CBD beverages and how they’re made.

Introducing CBD Drinks

The world’s first recreational cannabis dispensary opened in Denver, CO in 2014. Dispensaries have helped bring infused beverages to the forefront in a big way. Launching dispensaries meant more than just flower sales. It also meant putting edibles, or any infused food and drink, front and center for customers to see—many for the first time ever. For a time, THC edibles dominated the market…until customers began to crave CBD, that is.

As edibles and CBD grew in popularity, customers began to dream of more and more lucrative ways to consume the two together. It wasn’t long before dispensaries began debuting CBD rich beverages like lemonades, sodas and teas, a trend which quickly spread to cafes and restaurants.

Types of CBD Drinks

Did you know that CBD combined with oxygenated water is a thing? This is just one of the latest CBD/hemp infused water based drinks. It claims to provide your body, “…with everything it craves after a workout”, allow for “faster toxin processing (specifically, lactate build-up in your muscles)” and reduce inflammation.

Other water-based drinks aim to go the La Croix route. These drinks are carbonated, sparkling water with added hemp/CBD extract. Some may add in natural flavors, sugars or even adaptogens like L-theanine and maca to the mix. A few select brands even offer products with no calories and no added sugar.

But CBD drinks go far beyond sparkling waters. There are CBD energy drinks; CBD infused wines that have been dealcoholized; CBD coffees and teas; CBD infused lemonades, sodas, mocktails and even CBD ciders to boot. Newer products include other drinkables like CBD-infused kombucha. Doses can start as low as 2 mg per serving and go up to 25 or even 30 mg per unit. Most of these drinks tend to use CBD isolates, though some are available as broad or even full spectrum blends.

There’s just one problem, though. CBD is fat soluble, or hydrophobic, which means it repels water. So how exactly are brands creating these CBD infused drinks, anyways?

Methods of Infusing CBD Drinks

There are many different ways manufacturers can infuse cannabinoids into drinks. Some CBD drinks rely on adding CO2 extracted hemp oils and emulsifiers to the carbonated water base. This, however, tends to produce a bitter flavor in the final product. Other drinks might opt for mixing in CBD isolate powders to mask hemp’s bitter flavors. CBD cocktails, too, are quickly becoming a trend. Some cocktails may even float CBD oil on the top or use a CBD infused honey.

But these antiquated methods of infusion are rapidly fading away in favor of new technology that allows manufacturers to blend CBD more seamlessly than ever.

What is Nanoemulsion?

Nanoemulsion is the answer to our question of solubility. Some conventional extraction methods, such as liposomal extraction, may rely on using synthetic ingredients or cosolvents to force the cannabinoids to mix with water. These synthetic ingredients, however, can ultimately find their way into the final product.

Nanoemulsion, on the other hand, creates a more water soluble molecule by breaking down CBD molecules into extremely small pieces under <200 nm. Particles are then blended together with an emulsifier to maintain consistency. This process uses less overall surfactants (compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids) to create a product that retains its original taste better and is far more shelf stable.

Each manufacturer has their own unique approach to nano emulsification, and many are jealously guarded patents.

The brand Keef, for instance, blends its own emulsions in Colorado. It does so by using sonic waves to break up the CBD oil, then uses a stabilizer such as gum Arabic to keep the particles together.

There are many different types of emulsions. Some emulsions, for instance, don’t pair well with the polyphenols in wine. Using the incorrect emulsion could result in a product with sedimentation, which no one ostensibly wants to drink.

The Benefits of Nanoemulsion

The primary benefit of nanoemulsification is simple: increased bioavailability. Any edible that’s orally consumed is subject to something called the first pass effect, which basically states that your body will break down a lot of the cannabinoids en route. That’s why oral bioavailability of cannabinoids is so low—between 4-20%.

When you bypass the digestive tract entirely by consuming a cannabis drink, you’re relying on sublingual absorption instead. Cannabinoids are absorbed through mucous membranes in your mouth, which means a faster absorption time and increased bioavailability. Increased bioavailability, of course, means maximum cannabinoid potency. One study also suggests that nanoemulsions can greatly increase the bioavailability of transdermal δ-Tocopherol, a type of vitamin E.

Nanoemulsified drinks are also much more cost effective due to better absorption of cannabinoids. The taste, too, is far less bitter than alternative options, making nano emulsified beverages an ideal choice for recreational CBD drinks. Manufacturers can (and will) continue to experiment with the many different types of nano emulsified applications, creating a litany of new, innovative products along the way.

The Future Of CBD Drinks

The future of nanoemulsified, water based CBD drinks is extremely promising. The market intelligence company Transparency Market Research (TMR), for instance, estimates the global nanoemulsification market will rise to $14.91 billion by the end of 2025. A few brands to keep an eye out for in this space include Canopy Growth Corporation, Tilray Inc, Aphria Inc and Pressure Biosciences Inc.

What’s the next drink on the horizon? CBD-rich wines with added terpenes are causing a buzz among consumers, as are CBD energy drinks and cocktails. CBD drinks with added adaptogens, too, are expected to catapult in popularity soon, which means only one thing: there’s no better time to experiment than the present.

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Janelle Lassalle
Janelle Lassalle
Cannabis Journalist
Janelle is a writer, artist and cannabis/cannabidiol (CBD) expert. Her works have appeared in a variety of top-tier publications including Forbes, Rolling Stone, BBC and VICE. She’s also the co-founder of The Full Spectrum Revolution, a cannabis publication dedicated to educational and lifestyle cannabis content.

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