CBD Tincture vs. Oil: What Do They Really Do?
Ready to “add to cart” but don’t know what the heck a CBD tincture is compared to oil? We have all you need to know about the differences here.
If you’ve done any CBD shopping, you know the number of choices is borderline unreal.
CBD oils and tinctures may look like the same damn thing, but there is actually a difference.
We get into the nuts and bolts of it below, but to quickly answer your burning question: One is oil-based, and the other is alcohol-based.
CBD oil uses a carrier oil — commonly medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil — as its base, while CBD tincture uses an alcohol base.
CBD tinctures and oils are used to help ease many conditions. People use CBD for things like sleep and anxiety relief to things like help with pain and inflammation.
Tinctures have a reputation for fast-acting results, which makes them a strong choice for those looking to relieve pain.
A tincture also tends to live longer on your nightstand since its base is preserving alcohol and not oil.
Unlike CBD oils, tinctures are more challenging to find. Most CBD brands have a good selection of CBD oils to choose from, but for those looking for a tincture, you may have to search across a good handful of brands before finding one that suits you.
Plus, many brands use the term tincture to describe an oil and vice versa, so it can be annoyingly confusing. Scanning the ingredient list can help. If you see a carrier oil listed, you’ll know it’s an oil.
P.S. Tinctures may be extra bitter-tasting, though some brands try to help with flavoring. Don’t say we didn’t tell you.
CBD oil has the same potential benefits as CBD tinctures and is used similarly to CBD tinctures. It can be added to food and bevys, but it can also be applied to the body. (CBD massage oil is a thing, by the way).
CBD oil may not last as long as CBD tinctures, but it may not taste as earthy. It’s pretty easy to find CBD oil; most brands have a variety of CBD oils ranging across broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolate options.
CBD oils and tinctures need a base ingredient to make CBD products. The point here is to dilute your product so it’s safe for consumption. CBD tinctures and oils go about this in two different ways, and the extraction method varies too.
CBD tinctures use an alcohol base for dilution.
Manufacturers use high-proof alcohol to extract what they need from the cannabis plant. Plus, alcohol is also added to the item when it’s all done.
The point of this extraction method is to protect the precious cannabinoids at all costs and keep everything safe from oxidation.
OFC, there are a couple of downsides to this approach:
Since not too many folks love a bitter dose of anything, some brands try to offset the earthy taste by tossing in vegetable glycerin, flavors, or sweeteners. At this point, some may question why they don’t just eat a CBD gummy instead, and that’s a very valid question, TBH.
Like a good deal of CBD products, CBD tinctures may also feature extras like sleep supplements (often melatonin) or some good ole vitamins to sweeten the deal.
For CBD oils, the extraction method is either CO2 or ethanol.
Instead of using any alcohol, a carrier oil is used to dilute the product.
As we mentioned, many brands’ go-to choice is MCT oil, an ingredient usually made from coconut oil. Some other, less common carrier oil options include straight-up coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, etc.
The carrier oil of choice is mixed with CBD extract, and sometimes, brands also include other extracted compounds from the cannabis plant, like flavonoids and terpenes, for potentially extra benefits (a theory known as the entourage effect).
For those who want CBD and nothing but CBD, CBD isolate products don’t include extra compounds from the cannabis plant, meaning there’s likely zero THC in these products and zero or little earthy taste.
CBD oils are popular for those who don’t feel like eating a CBD gummy, which can often include added sugars and can become costly. Of course, an alternative to CBD oils is CBD capsules, which can be taken more easily on the go.
This ultimately comes down to personal preference and possible allergy restrictions.
If you know you’re allergic to MCT oil, one of the more commonly used carrier oils in CBD oil (coconut allergy peeps, this means you), opting for a CBD tincture makes sense — these products use an alcohol base instead.
Of course, if you’re trying to skip alcohol, opting for CBD oil might be the right choice for you.
The potency of your CBD will make the biggest difference in your experience, not so much whether you choose an oil or a tincture.
But CBD beginners, be sure you don’t overdo things initially and crank up to an intermediate or high dose (more on that in a sec).
Though they are not identical items, these liquid products are generally used in the same way — by mouth via a little dropper the product usually comes with.
If you like to get straight to the point, you can place your tincture dosage directly under your tongue, holding it there for about one minute.
This method is the more streamlined approach. The CBD flops directly into your bloodstream via your mucous membranes (cool and also gross). This way, your CBD can skip the tedious and time-consuming digestive process.
If time isn’t of the essence and you don’t love the earthy taste tinctures are lowkey famous for, you can sprinkle yours into your food or beverages.
It’s best to start with a low dose of either product (something like 10 mg per day) so you can see how CBD jives with your body first. Then, you can slowly work your way to a higher dose if you find it necessary.
Pro tip: Some CBD oils and tinctures are unflavored. Still, they may have a noticeable earthy hemp taste. Tossing them into a flavored beverage you already like may help dilute that bitter taste. Or, if you’re brave, you can test out flavored CBD oils and tinctures and see if they’re your cup of tea or not.
“We still don’t fully understand all of the mechanisms involved in CBD’s actions,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D, who studies CBD and its effects, primarily on PTSD.
The good news is that most of the official research done on CBD oil has shown that there are very few negative side effects from using it. However, CBD is not without some side effects. Most notably, in the clinical studies for epilepsy, sedation was one of the more common side effects. Decreased appetite and diarrhea were also seen in some patients. Depending on what other medicines they are taking, certain patients may need to have periodic blood tests to check on liver function.
In addition, CBD may cause some drug interactions. However, Bonn-Miller also adds that there is evidence that it does not have any dependence potential.
It’s always best practice to chat with your health care provider first if you can. This way, you can learn about any potential drug interactions and see if the potential side effects are worth it for the ailment you’d like to improve.
CBD oil and tinctures may seem like identical twins (and many brands seem to advertise them this way), but there are a few differences.
CBD tinctures are alcohol-based, while CBD oils use carrier oils to dilute products.
Tinctures may taste extra earthy and shouldn’t be applied to the body like CBD oils can. People with tree nut allergies may opt for tinctures since these do not use MCT carrier oil like most CBD oils.
Both types of CBD products may help with a slew of health ish, like better sleep, help with anxiety, pain, and more. Your doctor will know if CBD may interact with any medications you’re taking, so it’s always great to get their opinion before trying anything new.
Remember to start your doses off small to avoid any unsavory reactions (though CBD is generally well-tolerated and considered safe to use).
Last medically reviewed on June 13, 2023
- Bruni N, et al. (2018). Cannabinoid delivery systems for pain and inflammation treatment.
- Goldstein Ferber, S. et al. (2020). The “entourage effect”: Terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
- Iffland K, et al. (2017). An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: A review of clinical data and relevant animal studies.