Which CBD Carrier Oil is Right for You?

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If you’ve ever used a CBD oil, you’ve gotten more from the product than just cannabidiol (CBD). For multiple reasons, manufacturers need to put CBD into carrier oils. You should always check the label of your CBD product and know what’s in it.

Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that are important to you for various reasons. Most of them are nut-based or plant-based oils that some people may be allergic to. Others might not taste good to you or, depending on how you’re using the CBD, might irritate your skin.

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol. It’s one of 100+ chemicals in the cannabis plant that may have health benefits.

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Benefits of CBD Carrier Oils

You can find CBD products using a bunch of different carrier oils, sometimes alone and sometimes in combinations. They serve several important functions.

Better Absorption

One key reason for using a carrier oil is that they improve the bioavailability, which means they help your body absorb the CBD oil. CBD is fat-soluble, which means that it dissolves in oil rather than water. Fat-soluble substances are better absorbed when digested along with fat, even in small amounts.

When you digest water-soluble substances, like sugar or many vitamins and minerals, your digestive tract sends them directly into your bloodstream (because blood is a water-based liquid).

Fat-soluble substances can’t be absorbed this way. Instead, your digestive tract sends them into fatty tissues and they’re distributed through your body by the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Any excess is stored in your liver and fatty tissues for later use.

All carrier oils are fat-soluble, which means CBD dissolves in it, and then the oil carries the CBD into the proper tissues so they’re more accessible by your body.

Easier Dosing

CBD is a potent chemical, which means you don’t need much of it for a medicinal effect. However, that poses a problem when it comes to dosing. To deliver appropriate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form).

Added Health Benefits

Carrier oils may have health benefits all on their own, which you may then benefit from. For example, olive oil has gotten a lot of attention for its heart-healthy benefits.

If there’s an oil you’d like to get more of in your diet, adding it into your CBD regimen is one way to get slightly more. (It’s debatable whether one or two droppersful a day is enough to have any tangible impact on your health.)

CBD products almost always are derived from hemp, which is botanically and legally different from the marijuana plant. By law, CBD products can’t contain more than 0.3% Δ-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high.

Side Effects and Precautions

Most people don’t have side effects from common carrier oils. Some oils, though, may not be right for people with certain illnesses or taking certain medications. Always check with your doctor before adding anything to your treatment regimen—even a “natural” product like CBD in a dietary oil. Natural doesn’t always mean safe.

If you have tree-nut allergies or other food allergies, be especially diligent about selecting CBD products with carrier oils you know are safe for you. All ingredients should be specified on the label.

For topical preparations, know that some carrier oils or other added ingredients may cause an itchy, red rash called allergic contact dermatitis. Others may cause skin reactions to sun exposure. Be sure you’re familiar with the potential side effects of whatever products you’re using.

What About Essential Oils?

Carrier oils aren’t the same thing as essential oils used for aromatherapy. Essential oils are highly concentrated, which is why they have a strong fragrance.

Many essential oils can cause poisoning when ingested or absorbed through the skin, even in small amounts. This is true even if the oil comes from something it’s normally safe to eat, such as nutmeg.

Essential oils are sometimes used topically (on the skin) after being diluted by a carrier oil. Essential oils themselves, however, should never be used as a carrier oil.

Some topical CBD formulations may include essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus oils because of their purported health benefits.

Before using these products, be sure you’re familiar with the ingredients and that you’re not allergic to any of them. Watch for side effects, as well.

Common Carrier Oils

Some CBD oils may contain one or more carrier oil. Any number of carrier oils are in use, but some are more common than others and have better-known safety profiles, as well.

Some of the most popular carrier oils are:

  • Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil

MCT Oil

MCT oil is the most common carrier oil for CBD products. It can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, but coconut is the most common source. On labels, it’s sometimes listed as fractionated coconut oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acid that your body can quickly absorb because it doesn’t have to break them down via digestion before sending them off to the lymph system. It also absorbs easily through the skin.

Long-chain triglycerides require more digestion time and short-chain triglycerides are often consumed by gut bacteria before they’ve had time to be absorbed, so MCTs are the most useful.

Pros:

  • Quick absorption due to molecular structure
  • 90% saturated fat, which also aids absorption
  • Light, thin oil
  • Almost flavorless
  • Doesn’t require chemical processing
  • Less expensive than some carrier oils
  • Slow to break down and go rancid

Cons:

  • Temporary digestive side effects in some (nausea, gas, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Possibly, excessive build-up of ketones in the body (dangerous with poorly controlled diabetes)
  • Not recommended for people with liver disease
  • May interact with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs

Additional Health Claims

Some scientific evidence suggests that MCT oil may:

While promising, much of this research is preliminary and more work is needed before MCT oil can be recommended for these uses.

If the label of a CBD product says “coconut oil,” it’s likely regular coconut oil and not MCT. While perfectly fine as a carrier oil, regular coconut oil may not have all of the same benefits of MCT.

Hemp Seed Oil

They come from the same plant, but hemp seed oil (sometimes called hemp oil) and CBD oil aren’t the same things. CBD comes from the flower while hemp seed oil, as you probably guessed, comes from the seeds.

The seeds contain fewer beneficial chemicals (cannabinoids and terpenes) than the flower and in much lower concentrations. However, they do contain some hemp phytochemicals that aren’t present in the flowers.

Using hemp seed oil as a carrier oil for CBD may contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” which basically means that combining parts of the plant may make each component more effective than it would be alone.

That makes it a common choice for “full-spectrum” products, which contain all of the component chemicals of the hemp plant rather than just CBD.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Lower solvency than MCT oil, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
  • Higher priced than MCT oil
  • Flavor (sometimes described as “sharp” or “herby”) may not be to your liking
  • Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, throat irritation, slow heart rate, high blood pressure

Buyer Beware

Some companies try to pass off hemp seed oil as CBD oil. Be sure to check the ingredients and amount of CBD a product contains before you buy it. All reputable companies should provide this…

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Read More: Which CBD Carrier Oil is Right for You?