Why Water Soluble Cannabinoids are the Next Big Thing in the Cannabis Industry
"Water-soluble cannabinoids" is a popular buzzword phrase on the cannabis scene. Canna-beverages have made a grand entry into the non-alcoholic beverage market, with a 2019 market value of $919 billion. This figure is projected to grow significantly over the course of the next eight years due to cannabis legalization across the globe and the shifting customer preference towards healthier beverages. Even Coca-Cola is eyeing the space.
Gummies, capsules, chocolates, and other edibles have come a long way. Consequently, manufacturers have been challenged to find creative ways to infuse beverages with potent and tasty cannabinoids. However, one major challenge exists; water and oil do not mix well.
Cannabinoids are bioactive compounds found in cannabis as well as hemp.  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are by far the most popular cannabinoids. They occur as lipophilic or fat-loving compounds. This means that they cling to fat molecules and repel water molecules. When cannabinoids are mixed with lipids such as coconut oil to make canna-butter (a common ingredient in edibles), the fat-loving cannabinoids bond seamlessly with the coconut oil.
When it comes to water-soluble cannabis beverages, it's a different ball game.
Problems With Cannabis Beverages
Our bodies are almost 70% water, so naturally, the bloodstream quickly absorbs water-soluble molecules. Since cannabinoids are fat-loving molecules and can never mix with water, cannabis beverages aren't always pleasant to drink. Common canna-beverage complaints include:
Poor mixing results in cannabinoids settling at the bottom, or floating on the surface of the beverage. This affects both the appearance and taste of the beverage.
Delayed onset of action as the fat-loving cannabinoids are slowly absorbed by the digestive tract.
The solution seems to be water-soluble cannabinoids, a mix where cannabinoids seemingly disappear into the water. But how exactly do you go about creating water-soluble cannabinoids?
Water Soluble Cannabinoid Technology
Technology has overcome some of the inherent challenges present in creating water-soluble cannabinoids. Creating macroemulsions (what you get when you mix two immiscible liquids like oil and water) is relatively affordable and straightforward. The problem is that macroparticles are visible in the liquid, form a cloudy suspension, can be tasted, and typically sink to the bottom of the beverage because of their weight. These factors combined result in an unpleasant experience, both in terms of appearance and taste. Now, let's talk about microemulsions.
Microemulsions allow for cannabinoids to be broken into tiny particles that can attach to water molecules. Since the human body is 70% water, the body can efficiently absorb these compounds. Easy absorption means no delayed onset of cannabis effects. Tiny particles that can bond with water also means no thick, cloudy suspension to choke down.
Water Soluble Cannabinoid Technology Solutions
Several companies have embraced advanced technological solutions in the formulation of cannabis-infused beverages. These businesses include Koan, Sproutly Canada, Emerald Health Therapeutics, Trait Biosciences, and Vitality Biopharma. Below are some of the tech solutions these cannabis manufacturers have embraced:
1. High Amplitude Ultrasonication
High amplitude ultrasonication is a simple way of breaking down emulsions using ultrasonic waves.  It is cost-effective but may not be as successful as other methods in reducing the particle to blend cannabinoids with water molecules.
Microfluidization uses high-pressure homogenization to "cut" cannabinoids into extremely fine particles.  It is an effective method of creating water-soluble cannabinoids that are undetectable to the human eye or tongue.
Microencapsulation entails enclosing cannabinoids in a thin film to make them dissolve in water easily.  In this technique, the cannabis oil is fermented, and the sugar molecules attach to the cannabinoids. As much as it effectively emulsifies cannabinoids, the addition of sugar detracts from the title of "healthy alternative."
Nano-technology enables the breaking down of cannabinoids into nanoscopic particles using a highly scientific process. Generally, nanoparticles deal with sizes equal to or less than 100 nanometers in at least one dimension. This process occurs at a molecular level to increase the absorption of cannabinoids.  Because nano-sized particles attach more readily to water and lipid molecules, they have increased bioavailability and enhanced therapeutic effects.
Benefits of Water Soluble Cannabinoids
They make it possible to mix cannabinoids in water
Cannabinoids and water do not mix naturally. Nano-emulsification can help to solve this problem by allowing the cannabinoids to be dispersed evenly through the water. With this, it becomes possible to create pure and sparkling CBD-infused beverages.
It's easy to have a love-hate relationship with cannabis mocktails, a deep love for the potency and effects, and a deep loathing for the herbal taste. With nano-technology, it is possible to transform this relationship into one of pure love. Breaking cannabinoids into nano sizes makes it possible to craft the beverage with any desired flavor.
Enhances onset of effects
With cannabis edibles, you're often advised to "start low and go slow" since onset takes a longer time due to digestion. Once ingested, cannabinoids have to go through the digestive process before they can finally hit the bloodstream. Usually, this should take 1-2 hours. On the contrary, water-soluble cannabinoids are easily absorbed through the walls of the stomach and intestines. It takes a shorter time for the effects to be appreciated. The results may set in within five minutes and last for up to 90 minutes, depending on the microemulsions technique.
Challenges of testing water-soluble cannabinoids
Unfortunately, a few setbacks exist when developing absorption effective water-soluble cannabinoids. A major one is inconsistencies in testing. Many labs fail to separate cannabinoids from water before testing potency, resulting in inaccurate reports on product effectiveness. Another setback is the lack of standardization in machinery to enforce consistent measurement results—for example, UHPLC equipment vs. LC-MS for micro CBD testing. [6,7]
Water soluble cannabinoids poised to revolutionize the cannabis beverage Industry
As mentioned earlier, the demand for cannabis-infused beverages is on the rise. With more countries moving to legalize cannabis, the growth trajectory is limitless, with estimates from Bloomberg placing the 2022 market value of the cannabis beverage industry at 600 million dollars.
Water-soluble cannabinoids will make it possible to create a wide variety of beverages that are pleasant to drink, available in endless flavors. Adopting this technology is bound to be a turn-key solution for the cannabis beverage industry and fuel its growth along the projected trajectory.
Start with Koan
Unfortunately, some companies over promise and under deliver. It's important to carry out due diligence when searching for the best water-soluble cannabinoids. Koan Cordials are a brand new way to experience cannabis. These cordials come in a small bottle with big feelings, made from a mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes, giving them botanical flavors and accurate potency. Each blend is crafted to cultivate different emotional experiences. The nano-emulsion technology guarantees cannabinoid solubility and consistent dosing, and each cordial is 100% natural with no fillers or cutting agents. Experience the future of the cannabis beverage industry with Koan!
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Reviewed for scientific accuracy by Skyler Quisenberry.