3 min read

What’s Nanoemulsion, and Why Do I See It Everywhere?

ByTrichome Team

August 2, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’ve been to a dispensary in the last year, chances are, you’ve seen an edible or drinkable CBD or THC product boasting that it’s “nanoemulsified.” In fact, nanoemulsified consumable cannabis creations compose one of the fastest-growing categories in the cannabis industry, predicted to exceed $14 billion in value globally by 2024. 

But is it just another fad? Does nanoemulsifying make a difference in product quality or potency? What additional ingredients are used to create nanoemulsions?  

We’ll answer all these questions and more. 

Emulsions and Nanoemulsions, Explained

Let’s start with some basics. An emulsion is a mixture of liquids that are normally unmixable, like oil and water. But, like your favorite salad dressing does, emulsions will separate out over time if they are not stabilized. 

An emulsion can be stabilized with the addition of a surfactant or emulsifier. Surfactants are compounds that typically have both polar (water-soluble) and non-polar (hydrophobic) parts. The surfactant creates an outer, water-soluble layer that encapsulates the oil, preventing the oil droplet from increasing in size, and thus allows the emulsion to stabilize.

Think of a salad dressing made of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Vinegar is mostly water, and oil doesn’t like water—so it’s not going to readily mix with it. A teaspoon or two of an emulsifier like Dijon mustard, however, encourages a more stable, blended product. 

The “nano” in nanoemulsions applies to the scale of the particles, with the oil droplet sizes below 100nm. To create nanoemulsified cannabis products, cannabinoid-containing oil droplets are reduced in size significantly—down to nanoparticles—using techniques such as ultrasonic cavitation. Those nanoparticles are then coated with a surfactant (of which there are many natural varieties), making it easier for them to mix with water. This method has been used by the pharmaceutical industry, food industry and others for many years because of its ability to increase bioavailability and uptake. 

Nanoemulsions, Dosing and Bioavailability 

Cannabinoids are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve in fat, not water. This creates limits on the types and varieties of edible or drinkable cannabinoid products that can be created, and can also mean that judging the effect or onset time of an edible or infused beverage is difficult as you’re waiting for it to be absorbed. Since our bodies are mostly water, cannabis tinctures, for example, have relatively low bioavailability—they just don’t mix. 

The smaller particle size of nanoemulsified products solves for this issue by increasing solubility and bioavailability. Basically, because they’re water-friendlier and smaller, nanoemulsified cannabinoids more easily pass into the blood and are taken up by the body faster and in higher amounts. You’re able to use less to get the same effect as traditional edibles, and the onset is five to ten minutes versus 30 minutes or more, providing more instant relief and helping you dose more easily. 

The nanoemulsion method may also protect cannabinoids from oxidation, which can extend shelf life. They’re non-toxic and safe to use in a variety of formulations, like edibles, liquids, creams, sprays, foams and more. Many companies use natural emulsifiers, like proteins, polysaccharides, phospholipids, biosurfactants and saponins. And, as an added bonus, this method tends to mask the taste of cannabinoids, allowing for higher doses in smaller edibles without added bitterness. 

Have more questions about nanoemulsion? Feel free to contact us.