If you’ve never heard of the word liposomes before, you might immediately think of liposuctions and fat. And in fact, you’d be somewhat right – the root word “-lipo” does essentially mean fat.
CBD liposomes are a new way of consuming CBD where instead of mixing CBD in inert oils or smoking it directly in the form of a joint, you ingest it via a liposome, which is basically a tiny sphere of cholesterol with the ability to mix with water-based substances.
This might seem far more confusing than just taking CBD oil directly, but it’s actually revolutionizing the way in which medicines – and even food supplements – are being taken.
Could newly introduced CBD liposomes change the way cannabis is consumed? Keep on reading to find out.
What are Liposomes, Anyway?
To understand the CBD liposome market and its growth, you first need to actually understand what a liposome is.
Liposomes are very much what their name would suggest; small spheres of cholesterol – essentially fat – which contain naturally occurring phospholipids. Without making it even more complicated, phospholipids are a class of fats that can form lipid bilayers – as in the outer membranes of our cells. This means that they are essentially a double-ended fat molecule, one with a normal, hydrophobic fatty acid, and another with a head consisting of a phosphate group.
This might sound like endless, unimportant chemistry, but this is actually extremely significant for medicine and in terms of being able to understand the benefits of taking CBD liposomes as opposed to other forms of CBD like oils or edibles.
Generally speaking, fats and water do not mix; if you were to mix oil and water, you’ll find that, instead of mixing together like other liquids, the oil will settle on the surface. This is because of the electron charge of different molecules; water-based molecules have both a positive and a negative charge, similar in a sense to a conventional battery.
This means that, were they to try to bond with another substance, they could only do so with other water-based molecules because of their charge.
Fat-soluble molecules, however, have essentially no charge on either end. This means that, while fatty substances are happy to bond with one another, they cannot mix with water-based substances.
In the case of phosphate group liposomes, however, it’s a bit different. Because liposomes possess both the standard hydrophobic, non-electrically charged ends and a hydrophilic (that means it “likes” water!) end, they can bridge the gap between fat and water substances.
What this basically means in practical terms is that liposomes are able to help fat-based substances mix with water-based substances. When you imbibe cannabinoids (of which CBD is one), you have to contend with the fact that the active compounds are fat-based. This is why when you make cannabutter for use in baking, you have to use a butter to get the cannabinoids out, as they do not mix into water.
When you consume CBD or THC, your body has to work to separate the fat-soluble cannabinoids and mix it with the water components of your body – just like your bloodstream and your muscle tissue.
Due to the difference in charge type, this results in a certain amount of loss when you are imbibing cannabinoids, as some of it simply can’t be absorbed by the body. In using liposomes capsules, this can be averted.
By incorporating CBD into liposomes, the CBD molecules have a much easier time entering the body via its ability to adhere to compounds in the bloodstream. And more importantly, it means that more of the active CBD compound can become available for use, as opposed to other methods (like smoking or consuming edibles) wherein a large percentage of the CBD is lost through metabolism.
As you’ll see, this can have a huge benefit for those with a deficiency of endocannabinoid receptors.
Why CBD Liposomes are Particularly Effective
The endocannabinoid system is the system that runs throughout our body and is responsible for a variety of healing effects and regulatory controls, including things like cell regeneration and dopamine release. The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors, which are triggered by our body’s naturally-produced endocannabinoids.
However, it is possible for an individual to not have enough endocannabinoid receptors, or to not produce enough endocannabinoid molecules. This has been theorized to be partially responsible for the development of numerous conditions (such as Alzheimer’s disease and instances of chronic pain), but most significantly of al,l it means that certain people struggle to gain an effect from cannabinoids.
While this means that these people might not be able to get high from THC, it also means that CBD will have trouble being picked up by the body’s ECS system. For these people especially, CBD liposomes may have the potential to be incredibly helpful.
As the liposome is made up of both fat-compatible and water-compatible molecules, it means the active compound is able to be carried into the body’s bloodstream very efficiently. This may help overcome certain deficiencies inherent in suffering from an endocannabinoid receptor deficiency.
Moreover, this makes CBD liposomes extremely useful for those who may have an endocannabinoid deficiency; liposomes increase the base transference rate of CBD into the human body, regardless of the body’s ability to process cannabinoids.
This all seems to add up to making CBD liposomes the best possible choice as far as the method of CBD ingestion, right?
CBD Liposomes: Are They Worth the Extra Cost?
The problem with considering CBD liposomes over more traditional methods of CBD consumption, such as CBD oils or dabs (or even regular smoking marijuana), is that there isn’t as much research undertaken into liposomes.
Though originally discovered over 60 years ago, liposomes lack the breadth of research conducted into the other methods of CBD intake. In essentially every study conducted into the efficacy of CBD, pure CBD extracts suspended in oil are used as the administrator.
We aren’t 100% sure of the total effect that using CBD liposomes has in terms of a replacement for CBD oils. Though we understand the mechanisms behind CBD liposomes, there isn’t really much knowledge with regard to their long-term impacts on the human body.
Additionally, liposomes have only been used in the “niche” pharmaceutical market, often considered unnecessary to delve too much into. While it is true that, in recent years, this has changed, there is still not a lot of research conducted into the merits and overall benefits of liposomes.
There has, however, been a significant study into the uses of liposomes, conducted by researchers for the Journal of Controlled Release. In the study, researchers looked into the ability of transdermal liposomes for delivering CBD, and whether or not it demonstrated an increased efficiency compared to other methods.
The study concluded that CBD and phosphatidylcholine, the form of liposome used in the experiment, formed a eutectic mixture; meaning that the mixture was actually a true mix of substances (the same as if the CBD was mixed into oil).
The study then tested transdermal cannabidiol application into mice, and found that through mixing it with liposomes, CBD intake and rate of efficacy was significantly increased. The experiment essentially demonstrated that, by mixing CBD with liposomes, you are able to get the skin to absorb it, thereby allowing for a potentially new form of CBD intake.
Previously, you needed to either smoke, vaporize or ingest CBD orally, which exposed you to the risk of losing some of the active compound through biological inefficiencies within the digestive system. Though there exists a multitude of topical CBD products, the rate of topical absorption of cannabinoids remains relatively low.
Lodzki et al.’s study revealed that liposomes enable CBD’s absorption into the skin, showing even greater levels of efficacy than if imbibed in more “traditional” ways. This is of particular significance when treating localized injuries or sites of inflammation, as the ability to apply CBD directly to an affected area would allow the active compound to work on the CB2 receptors in that specific area.
[Related article: Does CBD really work to help reduce inflammation in arthritis?]
So, Will CBD Liposomes Change Everything?
At present, it’s impossible to say whether or not the cannabis market will be significantly affected by the appearance of CBD liposomes. Despite their existence for over half a century, liposomes are still new in the sense that there is a lack of in-depth studies conducted into their efficacy.
Simply put, we don’t know enough about the long-term effects of liposomes, nor do we absolutely understand their rate of efficiency other than the demonstrated increased rate of initial absorption.
Additionally, CBD liposome production is a great deal more expensive than CBD extracts into oils, so manufacturers have less of an incentive to switch from one production method to another.
Final Thoughts on CBD Liposomes
As interesting as it would be to be able to use the seemingly advanced technology of CBD liposomes in the world of cannabis, we simply don’t know enough about them to make the switch.
Perhaps with a few more years of additional study – and a backlog of demonstrated efficacy – people could begin to make the switch to using liposomes and experience a reduction in CBD loss during consumption. Until then, CBD liposomes will likely be limited to those with an endocannabinoid receptor deficiency, and/or those that want to experiment with new and interesting ways to consume therapeutic cannabinoids. CBD liposomes may not be a reality today, but they might become the cannabis intake method of choice in the future.
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