Water-Soluble Products and Our Bodies

According to Train Biosciences CSO Ronan Levy, the water-soluble revolution opens the door to “sitting down with a bottle or a glass and drinking and socializing”—except with cannabis instead of alcohol. In this article, we will examine the differences between fat and water solubility as well as how our bodies process and retain such substances.

Fat-Soluble Substances

Fat-soluble substances, as the name suggests, dissolve in fat but not in water. When they enter the intestine, fat-soluble substances are absorbed by fat globules and distributed to the bloodstream. The body stores these substances when they are not in use, depositing them in fatty tissues and the liver. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all examples of fat-soluble vitamins. Because our bodies hold onto them, these are also the vitamins capable of causing hypervitaminosis—a dangerous state of toxicity from excessive storage of vitamins—if overconsumed.

Cannabis in its natural form is fat-soluble, which is why it is stored for long periods of time in the body and why it can be detected several weeks after use. The fat solubility of cannabis has posed challenges for innovators seeking to introduce cannabis-infused beverages or solutions to the market. Oil does not dissolve in water, which leads to separation within the liquid. Cannabinoid nanoparticles dissolve in water due to their small size, but cannabis oil in its pure, extracted state does not. 

The body also takes longer to process fat-soluble substances, metabolizing them farther along in the digestive process. This produces a delayed onset of effects when cannabinoids are ingested. 

These issues have made the incorporation of cannabis into potable beverages a challenge. The fat solubility of cannabinoids means drinks must be shaken in order to ensure a good mixture, which rules out carbonation. The delayed onset of fat-soluble cannabis oil’s psychotropic effects also creates a danger of overconsumption.

Water-Soluble Substances

Water-soluble substances dissolve in water, making them easily and quickly soluble within the body. Although they are transported to bodily tissues just like fat-soluble substances, water-soluble substances cannot be stored within the body, so excess amounts simply pass through the body in urine or feces. Vitamins C and B complex are examples of water-soluble vitamins; taking them does not come with a risk for hypervitaminosis.

Once absorbed by the body, water-soluble substances usually do not stray beyond the blood and interstitial space between cells. Being water-soluble also affects the way substances enter different tissues. Rifampin, a fat-soluble antibiotic, reaches the brain quickly upon absorption; the water-soluble antibiotic penicillin does not. Fat solubility is associated with the ability to permeate cell membranes much more quickly than water solubility.

In terms of cannabis, water-soluble cannabinoids would improve the user or patient experience in a number of ways:

Precise dosing. Dissolving traditional cannabinoids in water leads to separation, making exact dosing a challenge. Water-soluble cannabinoids will evenly distribute throughout the solvent, ensuring precise dosing.

Rapid processing. The body processes water-soluble substances much more quickly than it does fat-soluble substances. Molecules dissolved in water can also enter the bloodstream through more areas, including the mouth, small intestine, and stomach. This means the effects of water-soluble cannabinoids can be felt within just five minutes.

Rapid removal from the body. Water-soluble cannabinoids act quickly and end quickly. Typically, their effects are over within 1.5 hours, akin to the effects of alcohol. 

Better flavor. Whether for medicinal doses or consumer products, water-soluble cannabinoids remove the strong flavor of fat-soluble cannabinoids. 

The Technology of Increasing Water Solubility in Cannabis

Surprisingly, the synthesis of cannabinoids is actually toxic to the cannabis plant. This is why the plant produces the substance in its buds and not farther down in its stem. Our bodies also treat cannabinoids as toxins, and in order to neutralize them, our metabolisms tag a sugar molecule onto them. This process is known as glycosylation, and it transforms the cannabinoid from a fat-soluble substance to a water-soluble one. 

Researchers are developing ways to initiate this process within cannabis plants themselves so that the plants attach sugar molecules to cannabinoids. This detoxifies the molecules, allowing cannabis plants to produce glycosylated cannabinoids in their leaves, stems, and roots without detriment. It also produces a great number of water-soluble cannabinoids. Existing fat-soluble cannabinoids can also be glycosylated through fermentation. This allows producers to create water-soluble cannabinoids from traditional extracted oils.

The coming years will likely see large advances in water-soluble cannabis, with significant implications for the pharmaceutical and medical industries. 



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Biehl, Zoe. “Water-Soluble Cannabinoids Revolutionizing the Adult Beverage Industry.” Cannabis Tech, 28 May 2019, www.cannabistech.com/articles/water-soluble-cannabinoids-revolutionizing-the-adult-beverage-industry/.

“Water Soluble vs. Fat Soluble Vitamins.” Tespo, 13 June 2019, gettespo.com/blog/water-soluble-vs-fat-soluble-vitamins/. 

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