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 tincture oil
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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 OilCBD Tincture
CBD in oil baseCBD in alcohol base
Mild, earthy hemp flavorVery bitter taste
Slower absorptionFaster absorption
Takes over 10 minutes for onset of effectsImmediate relief, similar to taking a hit of a joint
Heavier, oily consistencyThinner, less oily consistency
Shorter shelf life: 12-18 monthsLonger shelf life: 3-5 years
Useful if you want to avoid alcohol completelyUseful if you’re allergic to coconut
Equally effective for pain, anxiety, sleepEqually effective for pain, anxiety, sleep
More popular, wider product options availableLess 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. 

CBD oil bottle
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. 

Example of a hemp CBD tincture bottle
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 has a shorter shelf-life than CBD tincture products. 

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. 

Taking CBD oil under the tongue

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. 

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. 

CBD oil next to hemp flower

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. 

Related: Guide to Buying the Best Quality CBD Products

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. 

CBD oil bottle with cannabis plant

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.

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