Water Soluble CBD Explained

Water Soluble CBD Header

If you've done any research on cannabidiol, you'll have seen the term ‘CBD oil’ used all over the place. This term has become synonymous with CBD because CBD-rich extract sourced from cannabis is an oily substance. Additionally, many brands use additional oil carriers in popular products like capsules and tinctures.

Over the last few years, new advances in technology have enabled what the industry is calling water-soluble CBD. These new water-compatible products have important features that make them more effective and reduce the cost per dose when compared to traditional oil-carried offerings. A growing number of companies are adding water-soluble products to their line, or even replacing oil-based offerings altogether.

In this article, we compare water-soluble CBD oil with traditional CBD oil as well as look at how these products are produced.

What is Water Soluble CBD Oil?

Water Soluble Example

image credit: Folium Biosciences

Over the last few years, several new technologies have enabled CBD producers to create products now referred to as 'water-soluble'. These water-friendly compounds can be found in both liquid and powder forms and are most often used to produce tinctures, capsules, topicals, edibles, and drinks.

Despite the name, CBD and other cannabis molecules never actually dissolve in water, instead, they are transformed into a more water-friendly form. A more accurate term for these products would be 'water-compatible'. Despite this fact, the term 'water-soluble' has established itself across the CBD industry due to its use in the marketing of CBD products.

Side note: it’s a common misconception that CBD isolate is water soluble, but it is not. The CBD molecule itself is hydrophobic meaning it will not mix with water, even in an isolated crystalline form.

It's All About Bioavailability

Water and Oil Mixed

As we mentioned above, when CBD-rich material is extracted from cannabis, it takes an oil-based form. Just like any other type of oil, this substance and the cannabinoid content within it is hydrophobic meaning does not dissolve into water.

Bioavailability is defined as: "the amount of a substance that enters the bloodstream when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect."

Since our bodies are made of ~60% water, CBD naturally resists absorption into the bloodstream. This has a big impact on the bioavailability of some of the most popular and convenient forms of taking CBD including capsules, tinctures, topicals, edibles, and drinks. As an example, when oil-based CBD capsules or soft gels are swallowed, some studies show that as little as 4% of the substance actually makes it to the bloodstream. What this means is that up to 96% of the CBD ends up being flushed from the body without ever having an active effect.

The incompatibility with water also means that the small percentage that has an effect on the user has a delayed onset. For example, you may wait multiple hours for oil-based capsules to take effect.

The low levels of bioavailability and delayed onset have pushed the cannabis industry to find a solution.

While serious, these issues do not plague all forms of ingesting CBD. For example, the natural oil form works perfectly well for vaping. This is because the CBD and other cannabis molecules are carried by tiny vapor particles when atomized. These particles are easily absorbed by the lungs when inhaled.

Types of Water Soluble CBD

To create these products, the oil-form of CBD and the other cannabis molecules are emulsified (broken down into small particles) or carried by a hydrophilic (water-friendly) carrier. These forms require the use of a surfactant which reduces the surface tension between the oil and liquid.

There are several methods for making CBD products water-friendly that vary in effectiveness. Let's take a look at the most common methods used in the industry today:


Nanoemulsion Example

Nanoemulsions are today's best method of creating water-soluble CBD oil. These products are created by breaking up cannabis extract into 10-100 nanometer droplets.

The mechanical process used to create these nanoparticles requires a low amount of surfactants. This method also allows for all natural surfactants to be used. These benefits reduce the downsides associated with synthetic and high-surfactant use. Additionally, these particles are translucent which means they can be added to drinks without being visually detected.


Microemulsion Example

Microemulsions are 100-5000 nanometer droplets formed by solubilizing CBD oil in water. These emulsions are created using a chemical process have the downside of requiring high amounts of surfactants which results in some undesirable side effects for the user.


Liposome Example

Liposomes are water-containing spherical structures ranging in size from 50-5000 nanometers. They are made of an internal water-friendly (hydrophilic) compartment surrounded by a water-insoluble (hydrophobic) bilayer. CBD extract can be stored in the bilayer membrane. The downside to this method is it uses highly complex manufacturing procedures and requires high surfactant levels.

Benefits of Water Soluble CBD

There are quite a few benefits to water-soluble tinctures and capsules when compared to traditional oil-based products:

Better Value

Depending on the method used to create the water-soluble product, the bioavailability can increase as much as 500%. In this case, you'd need 1/5th the dosage for the same results. Often, the price per dose is lower compared to similar oil-based products.

More Effective, Less Waste

The higher bioavailability means that less of the product is wasted when ingested and more product is actively put to use.

Quicker Onset

These products more rapidly absorb into the body, they take less time to become active when compared to their oil-based counterparts.

Mixed into Beverages

Thanks to the developments in technology, cannabis molecules can now be mixed into water-based drinks and beverages.

Are you ready to try water-soluble CBD for yourself? Look for brands carrying these products in our database.


  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2689518/
  • https://foliumbiosciences.com/water-soluble-cbd-bulk-wholesale/
  • http://blog.sonomechanics.com/blog/water-soluble-cannabis-oil-microemulsion-liposomes-or-nanoemulsion
  • http://blog.sonomechanics.com/blog/water-soluble-cbd

Originally Published: July 19, 2018 | Last Updated: November 26, 2018

4 comments on “Water Soluble CBD Explained

  • Earl L. Kerr says:

    Very informative !!! THANK YOU !!!

  • Rod says:

    These process you mention are not water soluble but only a method of delivery that manipulates natural metabolic functions. These oils don not disappear and need further processing, enzyme production to further distribute nutrients to the blood stream as energy. A true water soluble technology is available for use by the body within minutes and is predictable. Know the difference! All of these technologies are acceptable technologies, Nano technology, emulsification have been introduced to the food supply for over a decade. Basically, the main difference is how the body metabolizes and processes these nutrients. As far as I know, Infusion Bioscience technology and Sproutly of Canada have patented a true water soluble CBD extract and infusion process, if this is true it will be the most simplest form for metabolism and far safer.

    • IntelliCBD says:

      Hey Rod, we are aware and agree that 'water soluble' is not an accurate term from a scientific perspective. We mention in the article that this term has caught on via its use by companies looking to market their products. Thanks for your feedback and the information you provide!

  • Ben says:

    I also feel that adding “Water Soluble” to any description is overkill. Nano CBD is 100% bioavailable because of its size, whether is dissolves completely in water or is “Water Soluble” by definition won’t make it any more bioavailable than Nano sized particles.

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