By Luke Sumpter

During its recent surge in fame, CBD has started to show up pretty much everywhere, from candy and teas to cosmetic products. The mass infusion of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid into everyday consumer items even encompasses dog treats, toothpicks, and potato chips. While scrambling for niches that serve as suitable vessels for cannabidiol, you better believe that manufacturers didn’t forget about one of the most fundamental needs for human survival: water.

At face value, the idea of CBD water seems impervious to failure. We all depend on water. Consumers in the United Kingdom purchased over 2.5 million litres of bottled water[1] in 2020 alone. When faced with a chilled supermarket shelf, wouldn’t you rather opt for a bottle of CBD-infused H₂O (with flavorings and botanicals to boot) over the bland alternatives? Surely players in the CBD industry could secure a piece of this very big pie?

It all seemed so promising. But there’s a reason you haven’t heard, seen, or tasted much in the way of CBD water. Questionable product design and hefty price tags have contributed to things falling flat, and the volatile nature of cannabidiol has caused problems to bubble up. Find out everything you need to know about CBD water, if it lives up to the hype, and whether or not this niche needs quenching in the first place.

What Is CBD Water?

CBD water is exactly what it says on the tag. But why infuse CBD into water in the first place, especially when consumers already have access to high-CBD cannabis flowers, CBD oils, isolates, and edibles?

Well, CBD water has the potential to shine where other products don’t. Based on its very nature, it could provide an edge in any situation where hydration takes center stage—from athletes guzzling down after a training session to weekend warriors and gym-goers pushing their bodies in their spare time. A bottle of water also provides a more socially normative means of ingesting cannabidiol at the workplace compared to, say, unscrewing the cap of a tincture mid-email or stuffing a vape full of flower during a coffee break.

Ongoing trials testing CBD against models of pain[2], inflammation[3], anxiety[4], and a host of other conditions have stirred up some serious curiosity in new CBD products. Although these studies remain inconclusive—there’s an urgent need for clinical trials—consumers are thirsting to see if CBD has a place in their lives.

This all seems great. But the support for CBD water remains at a simmer. Before we take a look at factors creating a bottleneck, let’s find out how CBD water works as a product.

CBD Water: Is the Market Sinking or Swimming?

CBD Isn’t Water-Soluble: A Problem Solved

If you’ve spent any time with cannabis in the kitchen, be that whipping up brownies or more sophisticated dishes, you’re likely aware that cannabinoids are fat-soluble. Most recipes call for a generous dollop of butter or coconut oil to allow THC, CBD, and other key constituents to homogenise into a mixture.

As the ultimate low-calorie beverage, water contains no fat at all—zilch. Plus, oral CBD has a notorious reputation for its poor bioavailability; only 13–19% of CBD taken by mouth[5] makes it to target cells. So, how does CBD water work? Does CBD just sit on the top as a fatty film? And are consumers expected to pay for CBD that their body will mostly eliminate? Manufacturers realized how unattractive that sounds, and found ways to sidestep this issue.

Researchers have developed nanoemulsion[6] formulations that manufacturers are now employing to make CBD water a possibility. This technique uses emulsifiers to encase CBD in tiny droplets, making the cannabinoid water-compatible. Not only does this enable manufacturers to mix the two with relative success, but it makes CBD more bioavailable. Some bioscience companies are taking things a step further, using proprietary techniques that one-up water-compatible CBD with truly water-soluble preparations[7].

The Real Issues With CBD Water

So, there you have it. Clever minds have figured out a way to add hydrophobic cannabinoids into bottles of water. But a number of other issues stand in the way of CBD water and widespread adoption.

  • CBD Water Contains Minimal Amounts of Cannabidiol

CBD water entered the market much later than CBD oils, extracts, and isolates. These original products set the bar high, conditioning customers to expect a good quantity of the cannabinoid in return for their hard-earned money. For example, a mid-strength full-spectrum CBD oil offers 2,000mg of CBD per bottle and an impressive 10mg per drop.

In comparison, most CBD waters are rather diluted, to say the least. Most products contain 2–5mg of CBD—per bottle. This means consumers need to neck at least two cans of CBD water to access the same quantity infused into a single drop of CBD oil. However, some CBD beverages offer a higher content of 10mg. While an improvement, this still only provides the equivalent of a single drop of mid-strength CBD oil.

Clearly, manufacturers are relying on the novelty and utility of CBD water. The convenience of grabbing a bottle while passing through the store on a lunch break might appeal to some, but a quick look at the CBD contents will turn enough consumers off before they get the product to the checkout.

  • CBD Water Is Expensive

Among those who manage to get past the lack of CBD within the water, a large share will likely revolt when they see the price tag. A canned 250ml CBD beverage in the UK, containing 10mg of CBD, costs around £1.99 (€2.34). However, a low-strength full-spectrum CBD oil costs around £25.51 (€29.95) for a 10ml bottle containing 500mg of CBD. Therefore, opting for the oil will cost you roughly 50p (€0.59) per 10mg.

  • CBD Degrades When Exposed to Air and Light

Despite different tags displaying unique artwork and origin stories, most commercial bottled waters have one thing in common: transparent plastic bottles. As far as standard water goes, it serves a good purpose (mass pollution and plastic leaching aside). That’s because sunlight and air do little to change the status of water (outside of the influence of temperature). However, the same can’t be said for CBD.

As a meroterpene (part terpene, part phenol), CBD doesn’t fare well when exposed to light and air, especially over prolonged periods. The CBD concentration in a crate of bottles situated under supermarket lights will start to dwindle well before a customer gets the chance to taste the contents.

However, some companies have sidestepped this issue by opting for opaque cans. While an improvement, customers can’t reseal cans, which leaves the contents exposed to air if not consumed fairly quickly—another factor that takes a toll on CBD composition. In the future, we’ll likely see more CBD water products available in opaque glass bottles to solve this problem (though this will likely drive the price even higher).

Should You Drink CBD Water?

It’s entirely up to you. If you favor convenience and don’t mind the impact on your wallet once in a while, dive right in. You’ll likely get on well with these products if you purchase them before you hit the gym or go on a run. Try introducing CBD water into these situations and see how it works for you. However, if you’re more economical and have experience with other CBD products, the price and concentration of CBD water probably won’t scratch your itch.

External Resources:
  1. Bottled water consumption volume 2013-2020 | Statista
  2. The Role of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Chronic Pain Management: An Assessment of Current Evidence | SpringerLink
  3. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation
  4. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders | SpringerLink
  5. A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans
  6. Development of a Novel Nano­emulsion Formulation to Improve Intestinal Absorption of Cannabidiol - FullText - Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids 2019, Vol. 2, No. 1 - Karger Publishers
  7. Water-Soluble CBD: A Game Changer for Consumer Packaged Goods
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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