What is the purpose of a carrier oil?
Carrier oils provide a practical way of increasing what’s known as the bioavailability of CBD. Bioavailability refers to how much the human body can process of a substance at a time, after which all the benefits are wasted. An analogy would be taking thousands of milligrams of Vitamin C at one time, which is useless, because the body can only process 100% of a 200 milligram dose.
CBD, reduced to its purest form, is a white powder. It’s too difficult to isolate single grains of pure CBD to measure out a dose without taking more than the body can absorb at a time. Diluting CBD in a carrier oil makes it easier to measure the dosage and make sure that you get maximum benefit from the product.
These oils are also one simple way in which CBD is extracted from hemp. CBD is only one of 60 biochemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. An easy and common method of extraction dips plants into another oil, releasing the cannabidiol (CBD) into the carrier. In this process, the CBD bonds with fat molecules in the oil. Each kind of vegetable fat has different benefits for the user.
What are the most common carrier oils?
Many different oils are commonly used, including MCT (fractionated coconut oil), hemp seed, avocado, olive, grape seed, and palm oils. 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 use other oils, like cold-pressed orange oil, to add flavor. Some have health advantages of their own to add to the potency of CBD. Which one is best for you may just come down to what you need or like.
Each kind 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.
Fractionated Coconut Oil (MCT)
Fractionated coconut oil is a very effective carrier for CBD because it contains 90% saturated fat. That may sound like it has the potential to clog your arteries. But it’s not because the saturated fats in coconuts are primarily made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Fractionated coconut oil is made from regular coconut oil. But in the process, the long chain fatty acids are removed. Medium chain fatty acids work differently on the metabolism. They go directly to the liver, where they can give you an energy boost. Since the fractionated oil has no flavor at all, and no smell, it is considered by many in the industry to be the best carrier oil of all for sublingual use.
If you find a product that says it’s made with MCT oil, and not just fractionated coconut oil, it means it’s a laboratory blend of coconut and palm oil. MCT doesn’t refer to the plant source of the oil, but the kinds of fat molecules it contains.
Hemp Seed Oil
There is some 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. Even more curious is the fact that hemp seed oil doesn’t improve bioavailability, unless it’s mixed with other oils that do. CBD is fat soluble—it dissolves in fats rather than water—so a saturated fat is more efficient. Hemp seed oil only contains 11% saturated fat.
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, as well as being more expensive. Because of its viscosity and slow drying time, avocado oil is better for topical CBD products.
Olive oil is among the healthiest foods you can eat. As 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, an olive oil CBD carrier may 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.
Grape Seed Oil
This is the least oily of the oils listed here, making it better suited to products for hair or skin. It contains mostly polyunsaturated fats, which are the least effective carrier oils, since saturated fats absorb CBD most effectively.
Palm oil is another oil that can be processed to remove long chain fatty acids and leave only the high concentration of medium chain triglycerides. One of the big issues with palm oil is the association with devastation of the rainforests and loss of animal habitats. However, recent developments in agricultural practice have made it possible to produce palm oil sustainably.
Which Carrier Oil is the Best?
There really is no “best” carrier oil because each kind of oil suits specific applications and needs. Some are better for topical treatments or products for skin and hair, like grape seed and avocado oils, and others are better for tinctures. Some oils, like olive oil, may be harder for the body to metabolize, but it has its own health-giving properties to make up for any loss in CBD effectiveness. Depending on your personal needs and preferences, different oils will be best for you and may require some experimentation.
CBD Oil Carriers: MCT Oil Vs. Hemp Oil
Those who are new to CBD oil may be unfamiliar with the nuances surrounding the different types of oil on the market. When you scroll by several social media posts or hear podcast ads, it can be easy to lump all CBD oil together. However, before you buy CBD online, there are plenty of distinct, key differences you should take into account.
When it comes to consuming CBD, all CBD oil products are fundamentally the same. Whether you administer the CBD oil orally, topically, sublingually, or with food, it acts upon the same mechanisms. When you consume CBD, you’re stimulating the cannabinoid receptors of the body’s Endocannabinoid neurotransmitter system to help them better regulate important bodily functions.
Where these forms of oils differentiate, however, lies in the carrier oil that the CBD is infused with. There are numerous forms of carrier oils available, but in this guide, we’ll focus on the key differences between the two most popular forms of CBD carrier oils: MCT oil and hemp oil.
What’s is a CBD Carrier Oil?
When you’re buying a “CBD” oil, you aren’t just getting the CBD, but a plant-based fat known as it’s carrier oil. Combining this carrier with the CBD extraction does not dilute or interfere with its contents. In fact, mixing it with more fat-soluble molecules allows more CBD concentration to be retained and metabolized by your body. The more bioavailability and molecule retention an oil has, the more users can reap the most benefits from their CBD.
Pure isolate CBD distilled from the cannabis plant is akin to a white, tasteless crystalline powder. Tying to measure a dosage of this isolated piece by piece can be a tedious, time-consuming annoyance. Additionally, with no fat molecules to bond to, users run the risk of losing wasted CBD content, and thereby, lower effectiveness. For a good carrier oil, users will want to look for a substance that is natural, high in fat solubility, and may bring additional therapeutic properties to the CBD.
Hemp Seed Oil
Given that they come from the same plant, it can be easy for consumers to conflate CBD oil with hemp seed, or sometimes advertised as just hemp, oil. After all, what would be a better carrier oil for a plant’s chemical compound derivative, than the oil from the plant itself? Don’t let the name fool you though; despite being a byproduct of the hemp plant, hemp oil generally has little to no inherent CBD or cannabinoid content in it.
Granted, hemp oil shouldn’t be written off as an entirely useless substance; research has well-documented its benefits as an incredible source of diverse nutritional value. Furthermore, it is a natural moisturizer, making it a great non-toxic addition to your skincare routine. However, CBD also has moisturizing properties (with other effective health benefits), and given that it only has around an 11% saturated fat content, hemp is a rather weak and inadequate carrier oil for CBD concentrations.
Unlike hemp oil, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is an extremely effective carrier of both fat molecule and CBD content, bonding them with a uniquely powerful potency. Unlike other fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids directly target the liver, giving you both a powerful energy boost, along with the maximum serving of cannabinoids sufficient to meet your therapeutic needs. The “MCT” distinction refers to the type of fatty molecules present rather than the plant source, but by and large, fractionated coconut oil is the most effective, well-rounded option.
Since fractionated coconut oil is flavorless and odorless, it can be seamlessly blended into any food or drink without any issue. It also has 90% saturated fat content, endowing it with powerful retention of CBD content. It also builds upon CBD’s effects with anti-inflammatory pain relieving properties of its own.
As always, consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional before adding CBD to your supplement regimen.
*The legal landscape around CBD is unclear and changing rapidly both at the Federal and State level. The information on our website and any other communication regarding legality which you may receive from any representative is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or medical advice. You must make your own judgment regarding whether you should purchase CBD in your jurisdiction. You should contact your attorney and your healthcare professional to obtain more specific guidance.