February 28, 2022

What Is The First Pass Effect & How Can I Outsmart It With My CBD?

After you swallow CBD oil, what happens?

It might seem like your cells would start absorbing it right away, sending its goodness throughout your body. But pump the brakes — anything you consume has to be metabolized first.

During this metabolic process, sometimes called first pass metabolism or the first pass effect, the compounds in CBD oil are transformed into water-soluble compounds so the body can utilize and then excrete them. If this didn’t happen, those compounds would hang out in your body forever.

So the first pass effect is a natural and good thing, but it does have a downside: It reduces the potency of your cannabidiol (CBD).

The first pass effect is unique to CBD taken orally (like via tinctures or edibles), which can be quite the conundrum if you prefer these products. But there are ways around it — “first pass effect hacks,” if you will — that protect the potency of your CBD so you can enjoy max results.

Ready to earn your stripes as a first pass effect smarty pants hacker? Let’s go.

How Is CBD Metabolized During The First Pass Effect?

Understanding the first pass effect is important for CBD because it can affect the bioavailability of your CBD products. You could have the most primo, organic CBD oil around, but if your body is giving it a one-two punch after you take it — it won’t do you much good.

The concept of the first pass effect is simple.

  • After ingesting something (like CBD), it passes through the GI tract and gets sent to a specific area in the body before it hits the bloodstream.
  • CBD passes through the GI tract and goes to the liver, where the compounds are metabolized to make them water soluble.
  • Then it sends those metabolites into the blood and throughout the body.

This differs from inhalants, sublingual, and transdermal CBD, which enter the bloodstream before they reach the liver.

The first pass effect doesn’t only apply to CBD. It influences the absorption of pharmaceutical drugs and other substances, like alcohol, and the psychoactive cannabis compound THC.

It’s also a factor in why some people “feel” CBD and other drugs differently.(1) How your body metabolizes things is unique.

What’s really interesting is that first pass metabolism doesn’t always result in diminished potency. For alcohol, the metabolites produced in the process can actually be stronger and more toxic than the alcohol consumed.(2)

But when it comes to CBD, the first pass effect can make ingested products less effective.(3)

How To Avoid The First Pass Effect

You’ll probably agree that weaker CBD isn’t a good thing. After all, you paid for a certain potency. So, how can you get around the first pass effect?

You have a few options, actually.

Don’t Take CBD Orally

Since the first pass effect only applies to CBD you take orally, you could theoretically just not use oral CBD products.

However, this may not be a simple decision.

Inhalants, topical CBD, and transdermal CBD bypass the first pass effect, but every form of CBD has its pros and cons.

  • Inhaling (smoking) anything carries health risks. It also takes effect quickly and doesn’t last as long as oral administration.
  • Transdermal CBD patches slowly release CBD into the bloodstream, so this route might not provide relief fast enough.
  • Topical CBD soothes the area you apply it to, but it doesn’t enter the bloodstream. This is great for aches and pains but doesn’t have the same whole-body benefits as CBD you ingest.

CBD gummies, tinctures, softgels, and edibles are essentials for those looking for holistic effects that last. That’s not something you can replicate with other forms of CBD.

You might have noticed that we didn’t mention one very popular delivery method: sublingual CBD. Let’s soak that one up now.

Supplement With Sublingual CBD

Some might categorize sublingual administration with oral administration because sublingual quite literally means “under the tongue.” This sounds like an oral method, but sublingual is actually its own thing.

  • Oral administration means that you’re going to swallow the substance.
  • Sublingual administration (aka sublingual absorption) means you’re going to absorb it through the mucous membranes in your mouth, allowing it to enter your bloodstream.

You can bypass the first pass effect with sublingual absorption by holding CBD oil drops under your tongue before swallowing. But since you do ingest the rest, some of it will be subject to the first pass effect.

Think of sublingual absorption like an add-on to ingestion: Your mouth won’t fully absorb everything you drop under your tongue or spray in, but it will fast-track some of the CBD into your bloodstream.

Now, if only there were a way to help CBD you take orally bypass the first pass effect. Oh, wait — there is! Let’s learn about that.

Increase CBD Absorption With Nanotechnology

If you’re thinking, “The only way you’re going to take my CBD edibles away from me is by prying them out of my cold, dead hands…but I also don’t want the first pass effect to ruin them.” — Nanotechnology is your best friend.

Nanotechnology makes particles of substances super duper tiny. So small, in fact, they can actually slip through the metabolic radar of your body. As a result, your CBD doesn’t get diluted after you take it. These full-strength nanoparticles allow up to a 90% absorption rate.

Your body is also able to absorb nano CBD faster than regular CBD, which is a win no matter what form of CBD you’re using.

CBD made with nanotechnology is called nano CBD.

At Pure Craft, we’ve worked with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create the most effective CBD out there using nanotech. All of our CBD products are made with nano CBD, so you can enjoy them without worrying about the first pass effect.

Can’t get enough CBD hacks? Head toBiohacking With CBD For Optimal Wellness for more ways to optimize the effects of your CBD products.

A Hard Pass On The First Pass Effect

Now you’re practically an expert on how to increase CBD absorption by avoiding the potency-ruining first pass effect!

Sure, you could pass on taking CBD orally, or use it sublingually..

But as you well know, nano CBD is the clear choice for getting the absolute most out of your CBD products, edible or otherwise. Why would you use anything else?



  1. Herman, TF, et al. (2021). First Pass Effect. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
  2. (2007). US Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Alcohol Alert. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/AA72.pdf
  3. Ujváry, I, et al. (2016). Human Metabolites of Cannabidiol: A Review on Their Formation, Biological Activity, and Relevance in Therapy. Cannabis and cannabinoid research. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2015.0012

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