All CBD products contain more than just CBD. They also contain a carrier oil that comes from a variety of plant-based fats. Rather than making the CBD less “pure,” the carrier oil actually makes the CBD more efficient. Depending on the type of carrier oil, it can have other health benefits as well.
The purpose of this article is to explain what a carrier oil is and why they are used in CBD products. We’ll also discuss the common types of carrier oil and explain why you may choose one over another.
What is a Carrier Oil?
Carrier oils, also known as base oils or vegetable oils, are natural extracts from the seeds, kernels or nuts of a plant in an oil form. Until recently, carrier oils were most commonly associated with essential oils. They are used to dilute essential oils so they can be safely ingested or applied to the skin.
The role of carrier oils is similar with CBD. They dilute the pure CBD or hemp extract to help deliver the CBD and other cannabinoids efficiently to the body. In the case of CBD tinctures or drops, the carrier oil can also influence the taste and color of the final product. This isn’t surprising since CBD tinctures contain about 3% CBD or hemp extract and 97% carrier oil.
Why are Carrier Oils Used in CBD Products?
Carrier oils provide a practical way of increasing the bioavailability, or absorption rate, of CBD in the human body. CBD is a fat-soluble compound so it can’t get into the bloodstream on its own. The carrier oil breaks down the CBD molecules into smaller particles that can be more efficiently absorbed into the body.
Diluting CBD in a carrier oil also makes it easier and more practical to measure dosage. In its purest form, CBD is a white, powdery substance. It’s difficult to isolate single grains of pure CBD to measure out a dose without taking more than the body can absorb at a time. By mixing it with a carrier oil, it becomes much easier to measure serving sizes in milligrams of CBD for maximum efficiency.
What are the Most Common Carrier Oils in CBD Products?
If you already have a CBD product, you can see the carrier oil used in it by looking at the product label. It will typically be shown in the ingredients list of the “Supplement Facts” box on the back of the product.
The most common carrier oils used in CBD products are:
- Fractionated coconut MCT oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
Some add a trace of noticeable flavor, like olive or avocado oil, while others have almost no flavor at all. There are some products on the market that blend in other oils, like grapeseed oil, to add flavor. Some have health advantages of their own to add to the potency of CBD.
Each type of carrier oil has a different chemical bonding process between the CBD and the fat molecules. As a result, the bonding process with each oil will have somewhat different effects, and make some oils better suited to topical treatments than to tinctures.
Let’s discuss these common carrier oils and their unique benefits in more detail.
Fractionated Coconut MCT Oil
Fractionated coconut MCT oil is the most popular choice of CBD manufacturers. It’s very effective because of its lack of flavor, high saturated fat content (90%) and a significant amount of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are highly regarded to their size as fat molecules. Their small size makes them more readily and easily absorbed by the body.
This carrier oil is also regarded as beneficial for extending the shelf life of CBD tinctures. It can be less likely to break down within a year and go rancid than some other carrier oils.
Hemp Seed Oil
There is sometimes confusion among consumers about the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. They come from the same plant, but they aren’t the same thing. True to its name, hemp seed oil is made from the seeds of the hemp plant which don’t contain any CBD. And although hemp seed oil only contains 11% saturated fat, it does have benefits. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids so it can be an effective health supplement on its own.
Some people believe that using hemp seed oil as the carrier oil for CBD products is optimal because it further enhances the entourage effect. The theory being that a product with all the naturally-occurring compounds from the hemp plant will produce synergistic benefits.
Olive oil is among the healthiest foods that you can eat. A major staple of the Mediterranean diet, it has been studied extensively in recent years to determine why people from the Mediterranean region have lower rates of some diseases. Olive oil, rich in antioxidants, protects against many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some kinds of cancer.
So if you don’t already have olive oil in your diet, having it as the carrier oil can be a good choice.
It is a thicker oil, high in monounsaturated fats, with a strong fruity flavor. Because the larger fat molecules in olive oil take more effort for the body to process, it’s possible that less CBD can be absorbed in an olive oil carrier. But there are the other health benefits to consider.
Like olive oil, avocado oil is high in oleic acid and vitamins. It has a nutty flavor and it is more viscous than other oils. It’s also more expensive so it’s rare to find CBD products that use avocado oil as the carrier.
Because of its viscosity and slow drying time, avocado oil is considered by some to be better suited for topical CBD products.
Choosing the Best Carrier Oil for You
There isn’t a single carrier oil that is considered to be the “best” for everyone. Each different type of carrier oil has its own advantages, disadvantages and health benefits on its own. Consider any allergies that you have when choosing a carrier oil. For example, those with coconut oil allergies should avoid CBD products that use a coconut MCT carrier oil.
Depending on your personal needs and preferences, different oils will be best for you. Finding the one that best suits your needs may require some experimentation with different CBD products.
List of CBD Brands by Carrier Oil
For those who want to choose a product based on its carrier oil, we’ve put together a list of popular CBD brands based on the carrier oil used. This list can help you find a product from a reputable brand that best fits your needs.
Please note that our list only refers to the sublingual CBD oil drops that each brand carries. These brands may carry other products such as topicals, vape liquids, and capsules that contain different ingredients. If you have allergies or are sensitive to particular ingredients, we highly recommend that you review the list of ingredients on the company’s website before making your purchase.
Also, note that some brands are in multiple categories because they have multiple different flavors or types of drops. The specific flavor or type of product is mentioned next to the brand name where applicable.
Coconut MCT Oil
Lazarus Naturals (flavored tinctures)
4 Corners Cannabis (Blue Label)
Charlotte’s Web (Chocolate Mint, Lemon Twist, Orange Blossom, Isolate)
Hemp Seed Oil
Charlotte’s Web (Olive Oil Flavor)
Joy Organics (Mint, Natural)
4 Corners Cannabis (Green Label)
Lazarus Naturals (High Potency and Standard Potency – Blended Hemp Seed Oil and Coconut Oil)
Ananda Hemp (Hemp Seed oil and MCT Oil)
Does the carrier oil (MCT coconut vs hemp oil) influence the best time to take CBD capsules – with or without food ? At 50+ mg 3x a day for extreme anxiety I’d like to get the quickest delivery and still have good bioavailability due to $. Capsules or edibles are the only option for my husband.
The carrier oil used in the product should not generally influence the best time or way of taking them. But you may want to experiment with the timing and method to find what works best for him.