Learn exactly what makes a great carrier oil and how it affects your CBD bioavailability. Plus, why Olive Oil and Palm Oil are poor choices for your CBD selection. CBD oils can be made with MCT, hemp seed, avocado, olive oil, and more. What’s the difference? Does the carrier oil matter? We explore this topic in-depth.
CBD & Carrier Oils: Which to choose?
Knowing what goes into the blend is a pretty good start when deciding on your preferred CBD oil. Not only are there many sub-par CBD oils on the market, the way your body processes CBD has a lot to do with the ingredients. So what is a carrier oil, and how does it influence your CBD usage? Read on to find out.
What is a CBD Carrier Oil?
Carrier oils or “Base oils” have been around for a long time. You may have heard of them from aromatherapy or massage botanicals (where the oil “carries” the essential oil to your skin). The method with CBD is relatively similar – the choice of carrier oil delivers the compound to your body. Only here, it applies to topical creams and the other absorption methods (buccal, sublingual, and digestion – more on those here).
Why do we need CBD carrier oils?
After extraction from the cannabis plant, the CBD compound is distilled into isolate, broad, or full-spectrum (depending on the level of filtration). In both instances, this compound needs to be diluted by a carrier oil for five main reasons.
1. Ease of Delivery
A carrier oil assists the body in processing the CBD you take. As CBD is lipophilic (science-speak for “loves fat”), it binds easily with fat molecules, which helps strengthen the substance’s absorption by the body, and therefore increasing bioavailability (what’s that? check out our article here).
2. Maintaining Freshness
Carrier oils are needed to ensure your CBD remains stable and potent for longer. For example, some vegetable oils quickly deteriorate, and the potency of the product is lost. However, as olive oil, coconut oil, and hemp seed oil all oxidise at a slower rate, they retain the freshness of the compounds within and increase the CBD’s shelf life.
3. Diluting CBD
Following extraction, the CBD concentrate is exceptionally high. Still, your body doesn’t require large amounts of CBD to see a result (in fact, higher concentrations can lead to adverse side effects!) In addition, diluting the compound makes it much easier to create a consistent dosage, helping you adjust to find a level that’s right for you.
4. Providing taste
Once the CBD has been isolated from the plant, you’re left with a rather bland product with no distinctive taste or smell. In the same way that we use specific cooking oils in the kitchen for particular tastes, carrier oils create more exciting flavour combinations. We go one step further and add additional mouth watering flavours!
5. Carrier oil nutritional Benefits – don’t believe the hype?
Some types of oil may have nutritional health benefits; olive oil has gotten a lot of attention for its mood-improving, heart-happy health bonuses. That being said, it’s pretty questionable whether three drops of CBD oil per day is enough to see any actual benefit on your health. Plus, olive oil isn’t the best carrier for CBD, but more on this below.
What types of CBD carrier oil are there and what’s best for me?
We know it might seem like quite a granular question, but it’s one we get asked about regularly. Your decision should be down to how you use the product and your personal preferences. The essential thing is making informed choices about what you put in and on your body.
MCT Coconut oil: a great all-rounder.
Coconut oil is made by pressing the copra, or the kernel of coconuts. This oil is then processed in a method known as “fractionating”, where larger fat molecules are removed, leaving smaller ones known as MCTs (or medium-chain triglycerides). These molecules are processed and absorbed by your body more quickly than larger fats, which boosts bioavailability.
Furthermore, the environmental impact of coconut oil is pretty low. Growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides, and coconuts are harvested by hand instead of machines.
Hemp seed oil: not so bioavailable.
Hemp seed oil is often confused with CBD oil made from hemp leaves or flowers. However, there are no terpenes or cannabinoids in hemp seed oils.
Now, you might expect hemp seed oil to be the perfect carrier oil for CBD – it’s found on the same plant, after all. Again, however, it comes back to the question of bioavailability. Because MCT oil has more saturated fat than hemp seed oil, it can carry more CBD molecules, thus delivering more cannabidiol to our body’s cells for absorption.
Olive oil: Great for health, bad for bioavailability.
Olive oil is one of the earliest human cultivated fruits, and the health benefits of this “liquid gold” have been widely celebrated since the Romans. But, we’re sad to say, olive oil isn’t a great carrier for CBD.
Olive oil contains a high number of large monounsaturated fats and additional molecules. These are great for nutrition, but they slow the process of absorption and reduce the CBD’s bioavailability. While olive oil is noted for its antioxidants, the viscous liquid can make it difficult to dose correctly.
Palm oil: Good for CBD, bad for the Environment.
Palm Oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Two types of oil can be produced; crude palm oil is made by pressing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil comes from mashing the stone in the middle of the fruit. Just like coconut oil, palm oil can be fractionated to create an MCT oil.
You’ve probably heard of the bad reputation palm oil has for its environmental effects – namely, that acres of rainforest are being cut down to keep up with the massive demand for palm oil (palm oil is used in everything from pizza to toothpicks!). This contributes to the loss of habitats for vulnerable animals and accelerates climate change due to palm trees’ valuable role in absorbing carbon dioxide.
In conclusion: what is the best carrier oil for CBD?
The best carrier oil for CBD will feature a high rate of bioavailability. For this reason, MCT oil is your best bet. It has higher fat-soluble compounds that ensure a greater absorption rate and ensure you receive the greatest benefit from the cannabinoids.
What’s in Your CBD Oil? Why Carrier Oil Matters
CBD oils can be made with MCT, hemp seed, avocado, olive oil, and more. What’s the difference? Does the carrier oil matter? We explore this topic in-depth.
If you look at the label of your CBD oil, you’ll see that it contains more than just hemp extract.
As the name suggests, CBD oils also include an oil — which is usually some form of vegetable oil or vegetable glycerine.
These oils serve an important purpose — to help deliver the active component — in our case, CBD — to the body.
There are many different carrier oils used in CBD products — coconut, MCT, palm, olive, avocado, hemp seed, sesame, and grape seed oil — each with their own set of positives and negatives.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about carrier oil selection. We cover MCT, olive, hemp seed, grape seed, and glycerine — including the pros and cons of each.
So let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- 1. Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil
- Pros & Cons of Hemp Seed Oil
- Pros & Cons of Grape Seed Oil
What is a Carrier Oil?
As the name implies, a “carrier oil” carries the CBD and other phytochemicals. It’s a simple solution. The carrier oil acts as a solvent to dissolve the compounds of the hemp plant to make them easier to use.
This concept isn’t unique to CBD products. The same concept applies when making Kool-aid by dissolving the flavored powder into water, or when making soapy water to wash the dishes.
The only difference here is that a fat is used instead of water. This is because cannabinoids are soluble in oils and fats instead of water.
What Are the Benefits of Adding Carrier Oils to CBD?
There are three main reasons carrier oils are used. Let’s cover each one in more detail.
1. Carrier Oils Enhance CBD Absorption
One of the main reasons CBD oil manufacturers dilute hemp extracts like CBD in a carrier oil is to improve absorption in the gut. This works because CBD is a fat-soluble substance.
This is important because the body has two separate pathways for absorbing compounds into the body — a water-soluble pathway and a fat-soluble pathway. This all happens at the working unit of the intestinal tract known as the microvilli (pictured below).
Water-soluble compounds like most amino acids, sugars, and minerals can travel directly through the gut lining into the water-based blood. From here, they’re transported around the body. In the diagram above, water-soluble substances enter the red portion under the surface (the blood).
Fat-soluble substances on the other hand — like CBD — can’t go directly into the bloodstream. They first need to get packaged up into tiny droplets called micelles. These micelles then enter the fatty lymph tissue — a network of fat-based compounds and immune cells. They then travel up the body through the lymph, eventually entering the bloodstream directly above the heart. In the diagram above, the lymph is the green tubes (called lacteals). These lacteals carry the CBD (and other cannabinoids) to the lymphatic system.
Absorbing fats in this way requires a series of enzymes in the digestive tract to prepare the fat molecules for absorption by breaking them down and turning them into micelles. When we eat fats, taste receptors in our mouth send signals to the digestive tract to get these enzymes ready.
When we take CBD alongside other fats, it helps prime the body for this effect — signaling the rest of the body to prepare for fat absorption — which effectively increases the amount of CBD the body can absorb.
2. Carrier Oils Make Measuring Doses Easier
The difference between 5 mg and 50 mg of pure CBD crystals is minuscule — 50 mg of this highly-refined source of CBD is about the size of a match head.
Getting precise doses like 7.5 mg requires a precision scale and can’t be done accurately with the naked eye. We need special equipment for this, which simply isn’t realistic for most CBD users.
The solution is to first dilute the CBD crystals into a carrier oil at a predictable amount — such as 100 mg, 300 mg, 600 mg, or 1000 mg CBD per bottle like you’ll find listed on most CBD oils.
From here, the larger volume of the oil with CBD dissolved is much easier to measure. The same 50 mg dose can be measured by counting the drops of oil or measuring the fluid in a measuring spoon. It makes dosing CBD significantly more accurate and consistent.