Medicinal uses of the cannabis plant (e.g., medical marijuana, hemp) have now been legalized in most US states. In addition to terpenoids and flavonoids, the plant may contain over 85 different types of therapeutically active compounds known as cannabinoids, the main two of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
In recent years, medications based on concentrated cannabis extracts have become popular because they allow many routes of administration that are preferable to smoking the plant itself.
Oral administration using cannabis extract-infused food (edibles) or beverages is potentially one of the most convenient routes because it does not require special equipment and is appropriate for most patients.
There are, however, several important challenges.
Concentrates are sticky, viscous and hydrophobic substances, which are difficult to handle and incompatible with water. When consumed as edibles, they act through gastrointestinal absorption and exhibit delayed (up to several hours!) onset of action.
Formulating “medicated” beverages has also been challenging due to cannabis extracts’ poor solubility in water, which severely limits the deliverable doses.
In addition, poor water solubility results in low bioavalablility: only a small fraction of orally administered cannabinoids is absorbed, requiring patients to consume a lot more than would otherwise be necessary.
Luckily, the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries have a well-established solution for overcoming these challenges: the delivery of a water-insoluble drug can be tremendously improved by formulating it as a nanoemulsion.
Cannabis extract nanoemulsions (nano-cannabinoids) provide exceptionally high bioavailability and therapeutic effect, and are absorbed by the body, either orally or through the skin, very rapidly and completely.
In fact, the uptake starts to occur in the mouth almost immediately upon oral administration.
This means higher potency and faster onset of action for lower doses. In addition, nano-cannabinoids are water-compatible and can be easily mixed into beverages at essentially any desired concentration.