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Advances in Edible Nanoemulsions

Written by Petar Petrov

Nanotechnology has been a powerful source of innovation within the cannabis industry, breaking down one of the biggest roadblocks to cannabinoids realized potential–their hydrophobic nature and respective low bioavailability.

A review of the advancements in this niche was published in the journal Progress of Lipid Research and highlights nanotech in relation to edibles and nanoemulsions.

Advantages of Nanoemulsions

The two most common types of nanoemulsions are oil-in-water (O/W) and water-in-oil (W/O). O/W nanoemulsions are made up of small oil droplets dispersed within water, whereas W/O nanoemulsions are constructed the other way around, with small water droplets dispersed in oil.[1] Nanoemulsions fall in the middle of the emulsion size spectrum, between emulsions and microemulsions, and as such pose a happy medium.

Nanoemulsions are also significantly more stable than emulsions from a kinetic standpoint because of their smaller size, which “reduces the tendency for gravitational separation.”[1] This quality prolongs shelf life.  Moreover, the smaller the size of the droplets, the more quickly and fully they are digested in the gastrointestinal tract, which increases and reduces the time of onset.

Conversely, their bigger size compared to microemulsions comes with several advantages. They can be formulated from a much wider range of ingredients, and, more importantly, from natural emulsifiers, as opposed to the synthetic surfactants that are a driving force of microemulsions.

Approaches to Making Nanoemulsions

There are two main approaches to making nanoemulsions: low- and high-energy.

Low-energy methods rely on spontaneous emulsion, triggered by a specific change in the composition or temperature of a system containing oil, water, and surfactant.

In contrast, high-energy methods employ intense mechanical forces to set the emulsion in motion.

Natural Ingredients-Based Nanoemulsions

This is an increasing demand and scientific interest in nanoemulsions made entirely with natural food ingredients and, more specifically, plant-based rather than animal-based, such as oils, phospholipids, proteins, polysaccharides, biosurfactants, or saponins from plant materials.

This is very difficult with low-energy methods because these natural ingredients aren’t soluble enough on their own to emulsify spontaneously. However, high-energy methods work with a wide variety of emulsifiers.

“Typically, plant-based emulsifiers have to be highly water-soluble, surface active, have rapid adsorption kinetics, and be present at a high enough concentration to cover all the oil droplet surfaces formed during homogenization,” said the authors of the review.[1] “Nanoemulsions are highly effective at increasing the bioavailability and bioactivity of orally administered hydrophobic bioactives.”

Greater research into this area can lead to products with higher bioavailability of cannabinoids and thus greater effects felt more quickly.

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  1. McClements, DJ. Advances in edible nanoemulsions: digestion, bioavailability, and potential toxicity. Progress in Lipid Research. 2021;81:101081.

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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