CBD Gummies Just Don’t Work Very Well… Here’s Why

4 min read

With the passage of the Farm Bill—an act which federally legalized industrial hemp—more and more CBD products are coming to the forefront. From vape pens to CBD edibles and various CBD oils, consumers now have a wider variety of hemp products from which to choose.

This is good news for individuals suffering from a health condition that CBD has been found to help. Medical News Today reports that this includes chronic pain and inflammation-based conditions, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, type 1 diabetes, and neurological disorders.[1] It can also potentially provide preventive benefits for serious medical conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Yet another way to take in this chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant falls under the category of dietary supplements. It is CBD gummies and, though this option can be a delicious way to get CBD in your system, they don’t always work as well as you’d think. Here’s why.

Any time you consume a supplemental dietary product orally, CBD gummies included, bioavailability of the ingredients within that product must be considered.

Bioavailability refers to the rate in which a substance—in this case, CBD—is able to be absorbed and available for use.[2] The reason for this reduced absorption is at least partially due to first-pass elimination, which research explains is when part of the drug is metabolized during the digestive process.[3]

This means that, even if the product contains a certain number of mg of CBD within the gummy bears, not all of it is able to reach the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Thus, it may not be as effective as CBD products that aren’t subjected to digestion.

This isn’t just an issue that impacts CBD gummies either. According to the University of California, Berkeley, the human body also typically utilizes only approximately 5 percent of the manganese and 30 to 40 percent of the calcium we consume.[4]

Research confirms that bioavailability varies by the type of CBD products consumed. For instance, CBD tinctures tend to have greater bioavailability since they are administered sublingually (which means under the tongue). This type of administration enables them to directly access the bloodstream via the sublingual gland.

The rate of absorption with CBD tinctures is thought to be somewhere between 12 and 35 percent.[5] That makes this option 2 to 6 times better for bioavailability than oral consumption.

One animal-based study published in the journal Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy also found that intranasal delivery has a bioavailability of 34 to 46 percent compared to oral CBD bioavailability that can range from 6 to 33 percent.[6]

Based on these results, CBD received through the nasal cavity is absorbed 5 to 8 times better than CBD taken orally. This same study found that transdermal gel application showed positive results as well.

Another reason CBD gummies just don’t work very well is that the CBD is not directed to the exact area of the body this hemp plant supplement is most intended to help.

Put simply, when you take CBD gummy bears, the CBD is sent to many different areas of your body via your endocannabinoid system. However, when you apply a CBD hemp oil, you’re able to direct the CBD’s positive effects to that one area that is damaged, injured, or otherwise inflamed. This can be helpful if your reason for taking CBD is related to one specific area of the body.

Case in point: a study published in the Pain journal found that local administration of CBD helps block pain associated with osteoarthritis.[7] It also noted that locally applied CBD has a preventive effect on the nervous system, reducing additional nerve damage within osteoarthritic joints.

Not only does delivery method matter, but so too does product quality. How can you tell whether the CBD product you’re purchasing is the purest CBD possible, making it high-quality?

The answer to this question depends somewhat on the type of CBD product you want to use. For example, if it is CBD oil you’re interested in using, the Ministry of Hemp shares that there are five ways to better identify whether that oil is a high-quality product.[8] They are:

Some of these same suggestions also apply to other CBD products, enabling you to tell the difference between what is likely to be a great product and one that probably won’t provide your desired results.

It can also be helpful to look at star ratings of products before making a purchase decision. If the one you’re interested in only has a 1-star rating, this is a quick way to tell that it isn’t living up to its claims. Alternatively, if it has a 4 or 5-star rating, that is a good indicator that many people have been satisfied with its use.

In addition to star rating, it is hopeful that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will someday soon develop a set of clear CBD regulations. Especially since CBD companies are specifically requesting this governmental agency’s involvement to add more legitimacy to their product lines.[9]

In the meantime, whether you choose to consume CBD gummy bears or another type of CBD product, it’s important to use it safely.

For example, CBD may interact with some prescription medications. Among them are some drugs metabolized by CYP450 enzymes, such as steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, beta blockers, and antidepressants, among others.[10]

For these reasons, it is best to follow your doctor’s advice regarding CBD as this can help reduce any unwanted negative side effects.


[1] Johnson, J. “Everything You Need to Know About CBD Oil.” Medical News Today. Jul 27, 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317221.php

[2] “Bioavailability.” Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bioavailability

[3] Pond, S.M. & Tozer, T.N. “First-pass elimination. Basic Concepts and Clinical Consequences.” Clinical Pharmacokinetics. Jan-Feb 1984;9(1):1-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6362950

[4] “Nutrients: They’re Team Players.” Berkeley Wellness. Feb 27, 2019. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/nutrients-they-are-team-players

[5] Cadena, A. “What is CBD Bioavailability and Why Does It Matter?” CBD+ Origin. Jun 26, 2018. https://medium.com/cbd-origin/what-is-cbd-bioavailability-and-why-does-it-matter-69d9a2e37e6c

[6] Paudel, K.S. et al. “Cannabidiol Bioavailability After Nasal and Transdermal Application: Effect of Permeation Enhancers.” Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. 2010;36(9). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/03639041003657295

[7] Philpott, H.T. et al. “Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.” Pain. Dec 2017;158(12):2442-2451. Doi: 10.1097.j.pain.0000000000001052. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5690292/

[8] Rollin, J. “Top 5 Ways to Identify High Quality CBD Oil.” Ministry of Hemp. Dec 15, 2017. https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/identify-high-quality-cbd/

[9] LaVito, A. “The Cannabis Industry is Begging the FDA for Some CBD Regulations as Gottlieb Heads to the Hill.” CNBC. Feb 27, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/27/the-cannabis-industry-is-begging-the-fda-for-some-cbd-regulations.html

[10] “Drugs that May Interact with CBD Oil.” CBD Oil Review. https://cbdoilreview.org/cbd-cannabidiol/cbd-p-450-enzyme/