Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the fastest-growing well-being products in many countries including the UK. Last year it was found that 10% of the UK (1) (6 million people) had used some form of CBD product, meanwhile, a reported 33% of US citizens (2) have tried the plant-based alternative. And in the past year, among health and wellness concerns and the growing consciousness to care for our bodies and minds, the industry has continued to expand.
But although large numbers of people are using and taking this product, is it clear what the best way to do so is? For new CBD users, particularly when it comes to CBD oil, there are many questions around serving size, dosage, and frequency of application. Yet a key factor which is often overlooked remains; should you take CBD oil with food?
When starting a new medication, the doctor will always give clear instructions about whether or not to take it on an empty stomach as this will impact the drug’s effectiveness in the body. And the same applies to CBD oil.
CBD oil is most effective when it was taken with or after food.
In the simplest terms, CBD oil is most effective when it was taken with or after food. Essentially, if there is food in the stomach, this will increase the effectiveness of the cannabinoid. Why this happens comes down to a few factors and body processes that need a little further explanation.
You may have heard the term ‘bioavailability’ thrown around when reading about CBD, either in articles and blog posts or on the label of your CBD oil. But without knowing what this term truly means, it is difficult to appreciate the information that it presents. The bioavailability of a substance signifies its absorption into the body. In other words, it is a measure of how much of the initial dose taken successfully reaches its intended targets in the body. The higher the bioavailability of a chemical, the more impact it can have in smaller doses.
When you take CBD oil with food or after food, this can actually improve the bioavailability of the plant-based compound. When taking CBD orally, it is absorbed through the digestive system and there’s a key process called first pass metabolism involved in the absorption of cannabidiol into the bloodstream.
First Pass Metabolism
When CBD oil is taken orally, it must pass through the digestive system in order to reach the bloodstream and take effect. When things pass through the digestive system they head to the stomach first where they are broken down. These particles are then absorbed by the small intestine and sent to the liver, which is where having other foods present in your digestive system will be beneficial. In the liver, CBD is metabolised with help from a group of enzymes. This is where first pass metabolism takes place, which breaks CBD down into over a hundred different metabolites, many of which are excreted and are not used. This process reduces the concentration of CBD and therefore its bioavailability, and ultimately its potency. However, if there is food in your system, this will help the CBD to bypass the first pass metabolism and a greater concentration will make it to the bloodstream.
While the simple act of having food in your digestive system while taking CBD improves the compound’s bioavailability, there are certain foods which are more effective than others. Taking CBD with foods that have a large amount of medium and long-chain fatty acids are far more effective in promoting the bioavailability of CBD oil.
Here are some of the foods which we suggest taking before or alongside your CBD:
Natural oils (olive, coconut, avocado, sesame)
And in addition to these foods with medium and long-chain fatty acids helping bolster the effectiveness of CBD in your system, the majority of these foods have their own unique health benefits. Oily fish, in particular, is widely recognised for being incredibly beneficial due to the large amount of omega-3 fatty acids which are present. Omega-3 has all kinds of wide-reaching benefits including fighting depression and anxiety, improving eye health, lowering the risk of heart disease, and fighting auto-immune diseases. Meanwhile, the other food products mentioned have properties such as high fibre and natural fats which boost healthy metabolism.
While many people are happy to take CBD oil on its own or opt for forms such as capsules or sprays, others prefer to incorporate it into their food and meals. This might be to conceal the taste, which some may find too earthy for their palette, but for others, it’s simply a case of getting a little bit creative in the kitchen. Which brings us on nicely to our next question.
How do you cook with CBD oil?
Choosing the right dish
Many people opt for sweet flavours to combine with their CBD as this is a very effective way to masquerade the taste. However, you may feel that adding a wellness boosting supplement to a cookie or a brownie is sometimes counterproductive (not always - but maybe it’s not a breakfast substitute!). If you have a sweet tooth, we would suggest adding your CBD oil to a morning smoothie or juice to get your day going on the right foot. To get in your fatty acids to help boost the bioavailability of the CBD how about adding half an avocado or a handful of chia seeds. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something with a little more bite, but is still quick and easy in the morning, try spreading it on toast with organic nut butter - such as peanut butter or almond butter.
But maybe you would prefer a savoury taste or perhaps involving your CBD consumption in a fuller meal (this could depend on what time of day you wish to take it). If this sounds more up your street, as a jumping-off point we would suggest adding CBD oil to a sauce or dressing. This means it is easy to mix in, easy to taste test, and easy to quickly incorporate your CBD oil into salads, noodles, and pasta - amongst many other things.
While you can definitely cook with CBD oil, you need to be careful about how much you actually cook it. Let’s explain - when CBD oil is cooked at high heat, the taste will become bitter and the effectiveness of the compound will decrease. Consequently, avoid adding CBD oil into the elements of a dish which are sauteed or deep-fried. As per our suggestion, it is far better to use the oil in low-temperature scenarios like adding into sauces at the end of cooking.
As you can tell from the name, and the consistency, CBD oil is an oil - this is stating the obvious. However, as you can probably infer from the suggested serving size and the size of the product bottle, CBD oil should not be used interchangeably and in the same amounts as regular cooking oil, like olive oil or vegetable oil. That is to say, don’t try and use it to fry your onions. This would be incredibly expensive and an excessively high dosage.
Start with a lower dosage initially and increase gradually if you feel the effects are not strong enough. The optimal dosage differs from person to person, so it is all about finding what works best for you.
Ultimately, what you need to ensure for the best results is finding the right high-quality CBD oil product to take with your food. Although there are thousands of products out on the market, they are definitely not all the same when it comes to quality and effectiveness. Look for companies with good customer reviews and a great production process. You also may want to check that the CBD oil you’re using has been grown organically and contains no pesticides. As for the type of oil, broad-spectrum or full-spectrum are most effective (as opposed to isolate).
We hope this answers all your questions about whether CBD should be taken with food. When taking CBD oil, remember that it will be more effective if you have food in your digestive system to increase the bioavailability and impact of the compound. Try and keep the foods you are eating alongside the CBD oil as healthy as possible and high in fatty acids to boost not only the CBD but also your digestive and immune system.