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CBD oils and CBD tinctures are almost the same but not quite. Find out how they differ and which is better for you. Are CBD oils and tinctures the same thing? What are they made of? What do they do? Let’s take a look at the differences between CBD oils and tinctures.

What’s the Difference Between CBD Tincture and CBD Oil?

CBD oil uses an oil carrier and has a mild taste, while CBD tincture uses an alcohol base with a very bitter taste.

CBD oil and CBD tincture are terms used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. While both products contain CBD hemp extract – and are equally effective for pain relief, sleep, and anxiety – the extraction method manufacturers use is different, as are the baseline ingredients, consistency, flavor profile, and shelf-life.

CBD tincture vs. CBD oil

CBD Oil CBD Tincture
CBD in oil base CBD in alcohol base
Mild, earthy hemp flavor Very bitter taste
Slower absorption Faster absorption
Takes over 10 minutes for onset of effects Immediate relief, similar to taking a hit of a joint
Heavier, oily consistency Thinner, less oily consistency
Shorter shelf life: 12-18 months Longer shelf life: 3-5 years
Useful if you want to avoid alcohol completely Useful if you’re allergic to coconut
Equally effective for pain, anxiety, sleep Equally effective for pain, anxiety, sleep
More popular, wider product options available Less common than CBD oils

What is CBD oil?

As the name suggests, CBD oil is an oil-based product carrying a CBD hemp extract. The CBD hemp extract is pulled from the stalks, leaves, and flowers of hemp plants, a type of Cannabis sativa L. variety carrying no more than the legal 0.3% THC limit. Manufacturers dilute the extract in a carrier oil. Common carrier oils include medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), hempseed, coconut, or olive oil.

Oil-based CBD oil. Photo: Cornbread Hemp

What are CBD tinctures?

CBD tinctures are similar to CBD oils but with CBD hemp extract dissolved in 60-70% distilled alcohol and water. The CBD hemp extract and food-grade alcohol solution are typically mixed with other additives such as sweeteners, flavorings, or vegetable glycerin to mask the strong taste. Manufacturers might also add botanicals, herbs, supplements, or natural substances. Typical additional ingredients include melatonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and peppermint extract.

Alcohol-based CBD tincture. Photo: Sisters of the Valley

CBD oil vs. CBD tincture: What are the differences?

As mentioned, there are several differences between CBD oil and CBD tinctures. Knowing the differences gives you a better idea of which one suits your CBD requirements the best. The differences between CBD oil and CBD tinctures include:

1. Shelf-life

CBD oil stays fresh for roughly 12-18 months if stored correctly with the lid on away from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight. If stored incorrectly, the shelf-life can diminish significantly (6-12 months).

CBD tinctures have a shelf-life of up to 5 years, if not more. The high-grade alcohol acts as a robust preservative preventing bacteria, contaminants, and other pathogens from growing inside the bottle or container.

If your CBD oil or tincture is past its shelf-life date and you’ve consumed it, the strength, potency, and flavor profile reduces. You likely won’t experience any adverse health problems or side effects. However, we recommend you buy a new one to be on the safe side.

2. Taste and flavor

As a general rule, CBD tinctures have a better taste and flavor profile simply because natural flavorings are often blended in with alcohol and CBD extract. Without additional flavorings, CBD tinctures are very bitter and pungent without a harsh hemp taste. CBD oils are less bitter but have a much stronger earthy hemp flavor. Of course, this is all dependent on the product you purchase and the additional ingredients.

3. Consistency and texture

CBD tinctures are thinner and less oily, while CBD oils are thicker and a little more on the greasy side, especially when MCT is used as a carrier. Neither is better than the other here. It’s all about preference. If you dislike consuming thicker, more viscous substances, stay away from CBD oils. Likewise, if you prefer a thinner consistency when it comes to liquids or drops, go for CBD tinctures.

Which is better: CBD oil or CBD tincture?

CBD oils and CBD tinctures are equally effective and efficient at delivering your body the much-needed CBD it needs. The choice really comes down to your own personal requirements.

If you’re particularly sensitive to alcohol-based products or dislike the idea of consuming anything alcohol-related, CBD oils are your best bet. They’re also highly versatile and better than CBD tinctures when you add them to food and drinks.

However, CBD tinctures have one major benefit over CBD oils: enhanced solubility. The alcohol held in hemp tinctures is water-soluble, allowing CBD and other valuable plant compounds better absorption in your body.

What’s the best way to take CBD oils and tinctures?

The best way to take CBD oils and tinctures is sublingually or under the tongue.

Sublingual application of any CBD product, be it oils, tinctures, or concentrates, is far better and more efficient than simply placing it in your mouth and swallowing. The reason why sublingual application is more efficient is the way it enters your body.

Under your tongue, there’s a surface of soft tissue, which is primarily a mucous gland. When oils and tinctures come into contact with the soft tissue, CBD and other valuable plant compounds diffuse into its microcapillaries and enter directly into the bloodstream, resulting in a quicker onset of effects (within 15-20 minutes).

The best way to consume CBD oils and tinctures is by placing 1-3 drops under your tongue for 20-30 seconds, allowing the CBD and all other beneficial plant compounds time to absorb into the soft tissue and directly enter the bloodstream.

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Enjoy your CBD oil or tincture with fats

For best results, consume the oil or tincture with a meal rich in fats. Salmon, eggs, cheese, avocados, and meats are excellent sources of good, nutritious fats.

The reason why this is beneficial is that CBD isn’t water-soluble; it’s fat-soluble. Your body is made up of roughly 60% water, making it a less-than-ideal environment for CBD to absorb into the body. Fatty foods help facilitate better CBD solubility and absorption, causing more enhanced effects and benefits.

Research shows CBD taken with fatty foods increases the CBD content in your body by at least four times (maximum 14-times).

Are CBD oils and tinctures safe?

Yes, CBD oils and tinctures are generally safe, well-tolerated, and won’t cause you harm.

However, always be aware CBD oils and tinctures aren’t created equal. Knowing what to look for is easy, but only with the proper guidance and foreknowledge before making a purchase.

How to find high-quality CBD oils and tinctures

As mentioned, finding high-quality CBD oils and tinctures is easy, but only if you’re armed with prior knowledge before buying. If you jump straight in and pick the first CBD product you come across, you might end up with something unsafe or packing more THC than you bargained for.

For you to find the best CBD oils and tinctures on the market, we recommend looking for the following:

Third-party testing — Third-party testing is among the most important things to look out for when purchasing CBD oils and CBD tinctures. Third-party testing refers to CBD companies sending their products to accredited, independent laboratories for testing and analysis. Laboratories ensure the CBD and THC levels are correct and no contaminants are present in the extract. Once testing is complete, Certificates of Analysis (COAs) are issued, proving product testing is complete, and everything is above-board.

Certifications — Similar to third-party testing, certifications from accredited regulatory hemp agencies and organizations are vital. The two most common and well-respected are the USDA and the US Hemp Authority certifications. Companies obtaining either or both show a commitment to proper manufacturing and production practices, which is vital in an industry lacking regulatory oversight.

Hemp source — Knowing where a company sources its hemp is essential. Some hemp source locations are better than others, such as California, Oregon, Washington, and Kentucky. Each of these US states has long-standing hemp pilot programs and years of experience in hemp cultivation. Be wary of imported hemp from international locations. Some international countries have less stringent hemp regulations and could produce contaminated hemp.

Extraction method — The extraction method goes hand-in-hand with the hemp source. Knowing how manufacturers pull the CBD hemp extract from the hemp plant gives you an idea of how clean and rich in plant compounds it is. Many consider carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction the pinnacle of extraction methods. It’s clean, effective, and produces safe extracts for CBD oils. Ethanol is also a decent extraction method.

Which is better, CBD oils or tinctures?

Whether it’s reducing stress, helping with sleep or boosting appetite, both CBD tinctures and oils work well and only really differ on taste and quality of ingredients. CBD oils and CBD tinctures are two great ways of consuming all the goodness of hemp and its valuable compounds. You won’t feel intoxicated, nor will you experience a high from consuming them.

Based on what we’ve discussed here in the article, we believe the choice between CBD oils and CBD tinctures is yours. Just remember, no matter which one you go for, always make sure the company you buy it from is legitimate. Always check for third-party testing and certifications from regulatory organizations. You should also find out where the company sources its hemp and which extraction method it uses.

CBD Tincture vs. CBD Oil: What’s the Difference?

The use of CBD is an increasingly popular but controversial topic, sparking numerous debates around the world. Previously misunderstood and held among controlled substances, CBD is now said to have numerous benefits for our well-being.

In light of this, a myriad of CBD products keeps popping up in the market today — including CBD oils, tinctures, hair creams, gummies, soft gels, salves, vapes, and so on. Each of these forms has its pros and cons, but there are two product types that are notoriously confused with each other.

We’re talking about CBD oils and tinctures.

Despite being two different products, they are often mistaken for each other due to a similar route of administration. However, based on their method of extraction, taste, and other factors, they are miles apart.

In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at CBD oils and tinctures, what they are and how they differ. We’ll also cover their ingredients, health benefits, and how to use them.

What is CBD?

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol — a natural compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s one of the two major cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana — the two sources that are used for extraction. As more research bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), continue to share information about the purported benefits and side-effects of CBD, scientists are fueling more resources into the research on its potential applications.

CBD is said to have myriads of health benefits:

  • Stress relief
  • Clearing of Acne
  • Anxiety relief
  • Pain reduction
  • Improved sleep
  • Inflammation relief
  • Neuroprotection

What Is CBD Tincture?

A tincture is a herbal extract that is made by using alcohol and water to extract compounds from a plant.

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In the same vein, a CBD tincture is a herbal extract that is made by using alcohol and water to extract CBD from the Cannabis sativa plant.

A CBD tincture is more or less a suspension of CBD in alcohol. CBD is usually suspended in about 60 to 70% distilled alcohol. Tinctures are incredibly bitter, so you can commonly find them loaded with additives to improve the taste. Such additives include cinnamon, vegetable glycerin, peppermint, sweeteners, or other flavorings. Other ingredients such as vitamins or supplements may be added to further support or boost the said health benefits of CBD.

Despite the taste, the use of alcohol in a CBD suspension increases the shelf life of CBD. CBD tinctures can be preserved for as long as three to five years.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is made from oils that have been extracted from different parts of the hemp plant such as flowers and leaves. When these oils are extracted, they are also suspended in a carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. Due to this method of extraction, CBD oils are the most potent and expensive CBD products. The extracted oil may also contain other substances such as adjunctive cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Ingredients Found in CBD Tincture vs CBD Oil

Ingredients in CBD Tincture

CBD Tinctures are less potent than CBD oils because of their composition. While CBD oils are a mixture of hemp extract and carrier oils, CBD tinctures are made up of the following:

  • Distilled alcohol (60-70%)
  • Herbs
  • Water
  • Chlorophyll
  • Essential vitamins
  • Essential oils
  • Sweeteners

Ingredients in CBD Oil

CBD oil is made from an oily resin containing cannabinoids and terpenes. Other ingredients that you may find in CBD oils include:

  • Carrier oils
  • Supportive ingredients (vitamins, minerals, etc.)
  • Essential oils
  • Flavorings

Differences between CBD Tincture and Oil

With the same active ingredient, CBD oil and tinctures have many similarities. Some of these similarities include their methods of use and their alleged therapeutic effects. However, there are also some obvious differences, such as:

1. Taste

Both CBD oil and tinctures taste relatively bitter, although tinctures are said to have a stronger flavor. Since CBD oils are also diluted in a carrier oil, they taste milder than tinctures. For that reason, both formats are often flavored with essential oils or sweeteners.

2. Base

CBD oils have an oil base. It is usually made of carrier oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or hemp seed oil.

CBD tincture has alcohol as its base. CBD is usually suspended in 60 to 70% distilled alcohol to make a tincture.

3. Shelf Life

CBD tinctures have a much longer shelf life than CBD oils. This is caused by the alcohol content of the tincture. Ethyl alcohol acts as a preservative and can make CBD last for as long as five years. CBD oil does expire as it shows signs to determine if it has gone bad. An extra tip for the preservation of any CBD products is to keep them away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

Which is Better: CBD Oil or Tincture?

CBD oils and tinctures have the same uses and benefits. There is no clear-cut way to determine which is better than the other. It all depends on personal preferences and sensitivities.

CBD oils may be a better choice if you do not fancy the taste of alcohol and are looking for something with consistent potency throughout batches. CBD tinctures might be better if you’re looking for a product with a longer shelf life and don’t mind the harshness of alcohol.

How to Use CBD Oil and Tincture

The main route of administration for CBD oils and tinctures is through sublingual use. In other words, you need to take the extract under the tongue, where it gets absorbed through tiny capillaries in your mouth. This allows CBD to bypass the first-pass metabolism by avoiding the liver.

If you don’t like the flavor of CBD oils and tinctures, you can add a few drops to your beverages or mix them with food. However, this way, less CBD will enter your bloodstream because it will have to pass through the digestive system first.

There are also products like capsules and edibles such as gummies, both of which can contain CBD oil or tincture as a base. Finally, you can infuse CBD oils and tinctures into topical formulations if you’re looking for relief from localized problems.

CBD tinctures and oils should never be vaped because they are not suitable for this consumption method. There are special CBD vape oils made from distillates and terpenes; however, food-grade tinctures and oils contain additional ingredients that may turn out toxic when you heat them, so always make sure that you’re vaping a product that’s designed specifically for that purpose.

How CBD Oils and Tinctures Work

After absorption into the body, CBD oils and tinctures interact with the endogenous cannabinoid system, also called the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system is a cell-signaling system that was discovered in the 1990s. It is not as extensively understood as other systems in the body such as the central nervous system. More research needs to be carried out to learn more about it.

The endocannabinoid system works through the synergistic actions of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids produced by the body, and enzymes. Two of the most important endocannabinoids produced by the body are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

Two of the major cannabinoid receptors discovered thus far are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system. The CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system, such as the cells of the immune system.

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Endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain effects on the body. The type of effects depends on the location of the cannabinoid receptor.

When they are done with their work, the endocannabinoids are broken down by enzymes. The enzymes responsible for this are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which degrades AEA and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which degrades 2-AG.

At the moment, researchers have found out that the endocannabinoid system affects several aspects of our well-being such as our appetite, digestion, sleep, fertility, and memory. It is said to exert effects on the central nervous system and immune system as well.

CBD oils and tinctures work on the endocannabinoid system as exogenous cannabinoids. They mimic the actions of the endocannabinoids produced by the body by binding to the cannabinoid receptors and eliciting effects on the body.

This is especially beneficial when the human body is lacking in these endocannabinoids. A deficiency in endocannabinoids is said to cause illness in some people.

How to Choose CBD Oil and Tincture

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on CBD are not as straightforward as they are with many other foods and drugs — so it’s important to be diligent and do your research on whatever brand you intend to purchase from. And no, a celebrity or influencer’s promotion of a product does not count.

1. Hemp Source

It is important to know the sources of the hemp plants used to source the CBD used in oils and tinctures. You want to be sure the CBD is of good quality. You also want to be sure that you are getting good value for your money. Manufacturers of CBD oils and tinctures should be transparent about the sources of the hemp plants they use. US-grown hemp plants are the preferred option.

2. Third-party Testing

Third-party testing simply means testing that is carried out on CBD oils and tinctures by a lab that is not affiliated with the manufacturer’s company in any way. These independent labs check that the level of THC is less than 0.3% and for the presence of contaminants such as pesticides or heavy metals. Third-party lab testing is an extra source of confirmation that you are purchasing a safe product. As such, it is very important for you to ensure that any CBD oils or tinctures you buy have undergone third-party testing.

3. Cannabinoid Spectrum

Other cannabinoid compounds can be present in some oils and tinctures. The labels and the actual ingredient list must show the same thing. For instance, a product that is labeled a CBD isolate should have CBD as the only cannabinoid listed. Products that have been labeled broad-spectrum products will have other cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) and terpenes, but not Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Products that are labeled full-spectrum will have a small amount of THC, less than 0.3%.

4. Customer Feedback

Whatever CBD brands you are trying to purchase should have a lot of positive reviews. A lot more positive ones than negative at least. These customer reviews should also be easy to find. There should be feedback on their website and perhaps on their social media as well. Customer feedback can help you know what to expect from a particular manufacturer. You can even get insights on additional information such as their delivery times, etc. In the case of negative comments, it is a good opportunity to see how they respond and hopefully resolve the issues. Signs of attempts to stifle customer feedback such as limiting comments on Instagram posts should make you very suspicious.

Summary

CBD oils and tinctures are two different products with similar uses and routes of administration. They differ based on their methods of extraction, carriers, shelf life, and taste.

If you don’t mind a stronger flavor, tinctures are a good option for a long-lasting product due to their longer shelf life. However, they also contain chlorophyll and other plant compounds that bind with alcohol — and they aren’t necessary to maintain the therapeutic value of CBD.

That’s why many people prefer CBD oils over tinctures. Not only do they taste milder, but they also are more consistent when it comes to potency and the overall phytochemical profile of the product. They are also carefully filtered to get rid of unwanted plant matter.

Since the FDA regulations concerning CBD products are unclear compared to other foods and drugs, it’s important to do your research if you want to choose safe products. Some pointers to help you purchase safe CBD products include organic hemp, third-party testing, positive customer feedback, and information about the cannabinoid spectrum.

References

  1. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. The Permanente Journal , 23 .
  2. Hurd, Y.L., Yoon, M., Manini, A.F. et al. (2015). Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage. Neurotherapeutics 12.
  3. Flachenecker, P., Henze, T., & Zettl, U. K. (2014). Nabiximols (THC/CBD oromucosal spray, Sativex®) in clinical practice-results of a multicenter, non-interventional study (MOVE 2) in patients with multiple sclerosis spasticity. European neurology , 71 (5-6), 271-279.
Nina Julia

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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