Drusus A. Johnson, Mark P. Funnell, Liam M. Heaney, Thomas G. Cable, Patrick C. Wheeler, Stephen J. Bailey, Tom Clifford, and Lewis J. James


September 22, 2023


Introduction: Cannabidiol (CBD) is a nonintoxicating phytocannabinoid used in clinical treatments and sold widely in consumer products. CBD products may be designed for sublingual or oral delivery, but it is unclear whether either is advantageous for CBD absorption. This study compared CBD pharmacokinetics after providing CBD oil as sublingual drops and within orally ingested gelatin capsules, at a dose relevant to consumer products.

Materials and Methods: Eight males completed three conditions in a participant-blinded, randomized crossover design. Participants received the following combinations of placebo and CBD-containing (69 mg/mL) hemp oil in capsules and as sublingual drops: placebo capsules/placebo drops (Placebo), CBD capsules/placebo drops (CBD-Caps), and placebo capsules/CBD drops (CBD-Drops). Blood samples, blood pressure, and subjective scales were obtained/completed hourly for 6 h and at 24 h.

Discussion: Plasma CBD concentrations were not different between CBD-Caps and CBD-Drops (interaction effect p=0.76). Peak CBD concentration (28.0±15.6 vs. 24.0±22.2 ng/mL), time of peak CBD concentration (4±1 vs. 4±2 h), and area under the concentration curve (45.3±20.3 vs. 41.8±23.3 ng/mL·6 h) were not different between conditions (p≥0.25). Cardiometabolic outcomes (plasma glucose/triacylglycerol, heart rate, blood pressure), liver function (plasma alanine aminotransferase/aspartate aminotransferase), kidney function (plasma creatinine), and subjective feelings/symptoms were not different between conditions (p≥0.07).

Conclusions: Plasma CBD profiles were comparable between CBD-Caps and CBD-Drops, suggesting that there were not meaningful differences in routes of CBD absorption between conditions. This implies that CBD oil delivered sublingually is swallowed before oral mucosal CBD absorption occurs, which may have implications for research design, CBD product design, and consumer product choice.

DOI: 10.1089/can.2023.0117


Johnson, D. A., Funnell, M. P., Heaney, L. M., Cable, T. G., Wheeler, P. C., Bailey, S. J., … & James, L. J. (2023). Cannabidiol Oil Ingested as Sublingual Drops or Within Gelatin Capsules Shows Similar Pharmacokinetic Profiles in Healthy Males. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.