Unlike capsules, sublingual tabs, topical patches and gels; the use of chewing gum as a route of administration has been overshadowed by its more familiar applications such as freshening breath and whitening teeth. However, did you know that chewing gum increases alertness, provides excellent absorption of active ingredients into the bloodstream and dates back thousands of years? That’s why it’s fast becoming the delivery method of choice for many people taking CBD.
But first let’s take a look at the history of the humble chewing gum.
Chewing gum dates back thousands of years
In its contemporary applications, chewing gum is considered a consumer good aimed to provide good flavour and aroma. Most commonly it is used to correct foul breath or to maintain pearly white teeth. However, chewing gum as a vehicle for a therapeutic use dates back to Neolithic times. A 5,000 piece of chewing gum was discovered on the west coast of Finland. It was a lump of birch bark tar – birch bark contains phenols, which are antiseptic compounds, which explains why it was chewed.
The ancient Mayans, as well as the Aztecs that followed, would chew white coloured resin from the sapodilla tree: called chicle. They did so to stave off hunger, freshen breath and keep teeth clean. The first medical chewing gum that was commercialised was done so in 1924, and was called Aspergum. It was designed to be an analgesic chewing gum, with aspirin as the active ingredient.
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What exactly is chewing gum?
Chewing gum comprises of a water-soluble bulk coupled with a water insoluble gum base. The water-soluble bulk contains sweeteners and other components which depend on the application of the chewing gum. An example of a natural sweetener is xylitol, and this would be dissolved in a water-soluble base. Xylitol (used in Endoca CBD Chewing gum) contains almost half of the calories that conventional sugar would contain, and does not contribute to the development of insulin resistance (the key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes).
The water insoluble gum base mainly consists of elastomer which gives the gum it’s “chewiness”. An example of a gum base is chicle, which has desirable elongation properties and elasticity. Unlike synthetic gums, chicle is also biodegradable and is more environmentally friendly. 560,000 tons of chewing gum is consumed per year worldwide, with majority of the chewing gums available on the market being synthetic. This leads to a significant environmental problem, clogging up drainage systems and waterways which are ecologically very important. Being biodegradable, the chicle gum base does not present this problem. Imagine the impact on the environment if we all changed from synthetic to chicle based chewing gum!
CBD chewing gum – get more cannabinoids into your body
Manufacturing a therapeutic gum can be a challenge, especially the design and formulation. Making sure that a sufficient amount of the active ingredient is released during chewing is of prime importance. Depending on solubility of the active ingredient, it could be in either the water soluble bulk or water insoluble gum phase. If the active is lipid soluble, such as cannabidiol (CBD), it usually requires further formulation development to be released in the saliva. It can be combined with an amphiphilic (is soluble in water and lipids) substance such as lecithin. Lecithin acts as an emulsifier and dissolves the CBD in the saliva. As lecithin is a phospholipid, it may also increase permeability of CBD across the oral mucosal layer, as it has shown to do so for other active compounds. This is because phospholipids have good compatibility with biological membranes, and can aid the transport of other compounds across them.
Oral vs chewing gum: bioavailability comparison
When CBD gum is chewed, CBD is released into the saliva, as long as it is formulated with an emulsifier to make it soluble in the saliva e.g. lecithin. This exposes CBD to the highly abundant capillaries below the tongue, and provides a pathway for it to enter the systemic circulation. It by-passes the first pass effectas a result.
On the other hand, the bioavailability of CBD taken orally was reported to be 6%. This is because of the actions of enzymes of the gastrointestinal lumen, gut wall enzymes, bacterial enzymes and hepatic enzymes on CBD as it travels along the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Even with CBD chewing gum, CBD can end up moving through the GI tract, as some of the saliva may be swallowed.
How to get the best absorption from your CBD chewing gum
An advantage of chewing gum is that it can also provide sustained release of CBD, which would get absorbed via the sublingual pathway. This mainly depends on the design of the chewing gum, and whether the CBD is put in multiple layers, which can prolong a more sustained release. Thus, the release of CBD is governed by chewing the gum, or mastication, which causes more layers to break down with time. As the layers break down, more CBD is released into the saliva.
Ultimately the bioavailability of CBD chewing gum is governed by the user. If the user swallows the saliva, it will present the same bioavailability seen with oral administration. However, if the user keeps saliva in their mouth, it will follow the bioavailability seen via the sublingual route, which is much higher than oral. So as a rule of thumb, when chewing try to keep the saliva in your mouth as long as possible in order to get the most CBD absorption.
CBD Capsules or Chewing Gum? Depends why you want to take it
As the oral route of administration provides a slow release of CBD in the blood circulation but consequently a slower elimination, it can be useful to treat diseases which require a sustained level of CBD in the blood. On the other hand, CBD chewing gum can provide a rapid effect of CBD, with fast absorption. Finally, a study showed that the act of chewing gum improved both alertness and mood. This points to further mechanisms in which CBD chewing gum may be beneficial in other ways (apart from providing the therapeutic aspects of CBD). One theory is that chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain! This would in turn give CBD a more pronounced cognitive effect when delivered via the chewing gum.
So if chewing CBD has got you intrigued, check out Endoca Chewing Gum, a perfect example of a natural and organic CBD chewing gum using chicle from the Central American rainforests. It is ethically produced, with natural and biodegradable materials, to provide an enhanced effect of CBD with minimal impact on the environment. Our CBD chewing gum aims to continue the traditions of the ancient Mayan people in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with a proven scientific rationale.