Confusing CBD oil as a CBD tincture is incredibly common, but the extraction methods, base, and bioavailability can help differentiate between the two.

CBD Oil vs. CBD Tincture: Differences Worth Knowing to Choose the Right Product

By Jenny Menzel, H.C.

You’ve heard rave reviews about CBD’s health benefits like calming anxiety, easing pain, and regulating appetite, and you might be curious to see if this natural remedy will benefit you. While shopping for the best CBD oil, you’ll find products labeled as “CBD oil,” “CBD tinctures,” and even “CBD oil tinctures.” But are they the same thing? The short answer is — no, but it’s a little more layered than that.

After national legalization and recognition of CBD by the Federal Drug Association (FDA), the market flooded and went largely unregulated due to booming growth — tasking consumers with the responsibility of determining the quality of their CBD purchases until authoritative organizations could validate it. 

If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you’re doing your part to learn the CBD lingo and discern the differences between CBD oil and CBD tinctures. With much of the online literature using these terms interchangeably, arriving at the truth can be time-consuming. This article offers easy-to-understand definitions of CBD oil and tinctures and the differences between them.

What is CBD Oil? 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the dominant, non-psychoactive compound found in hemp-derived Cannabis sativa plants, which has become a top pick for fighting inflammation, pain, and other health complaints because of its low THC levels (the plant part that makes you feel high). 

Sometimes referred to as hemp oil, CBD oil is extracted from all parts of the hemp plant: flowers, leaves, stalks, and stems. Hemp seeds are an exception as the only part of the plant that doesn’t contain CBD — thus, the reason hemp seed oil is not the same as hemp oil. 

CBD Oil Ingredients

Depending on the CBD spectrum, varying ranges of cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and nutrients naturally found in the oil work together synergistically to positively influence the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in what’s known as an entourage effect. 

Quality CBD oil is often packaged in small, dark-colored bottles with a dropper screw top or a lid with a pump and contain a minimum of two ingredients — CBD oil and a base oil, commonly called a carrier. Carrier oils dilute the potent CBD extract to reduce the cost and make it easier to dose. Plus, studies have shown that combining CBD with additional fats increases its absorption into your system. Some manufacturers marry CBD oil with medicinal compounds other than a carrier, creating unique formulas marketable towards specific health complaints.

The most popular carriers for CBD oil include:

  • Coconut oil: Composed of unsaturated and saturated fats like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and long-chain triglycerides, coconut oil is a popular carrier due to its pleasant taste and range of individual health benefits. 
  • MCT oil: MCTs are 90% saturated oil and offer numerous heart and cognitive benefits, making MCT one of the most versatile carriers to infuse CBD oil into.
  • Hemp seed oil: Not to be confused with hemp oil, another name for CBD oil, hemp seed oil is extracted from hemp seeds packed with additional anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

What is CBD Tincture?

Stemming from the Latin word tinctura, meaning “to soak” or “moisten,” the traditional definition of “tincture” was first recorded in the 17th century and consisted of a medicine-alcohol mixture. Today, the word “tincture” has been expanded to define extractions from animal, plant, or chemical elements soaked in a mixture of alcohol and water. Tinctures are usually stored in small, dark-tinted bottles to protect them against sunlight and preserve shelf life — similar to the packaging of CBD oil.

While CBD is extracted by using solvents such as ethanol, CBD oil is not infused into an alcohol or water base. As a hydrophobic compound, CBD oil naturally repels water unless it is engineered into a hydrophilic form with the use of nanotechnology. Nanosized CBD oil can then dissolve into a liquid or water base — redefining itself as a CBD oil tincture when infused with ethanol to prolong shelf life.

How CBD Oil and Tinctures Compare

Make sure ingredients to confirm your CBD is infused in a suitable base oil or nano-emulsified as a water-soluble CBD tincture for the greatest absorption.

Confusing CBD oil as a CBD tincture is incredibly common. Here is a brief breakdown of their most distinct similarities and differences: 

1. Extraction Method

The use of chemical solvents like ethanol to extract CBD oil is common in the production of both CBD remedies. However, the exact process and resulting end products differ depending on the base.

2. Base

The defining difference between CBD oil and a tincture is the base. What is referred to as CBD oil is actually extracted CBD oil diluted into another carrier oil. Tinctures, on the other hand, use either water or a water and ethanol blend to carry extracted CBD oil. Only CBD oil that has gone through a nano emulsification process can be made water-soluble as a tincture. 

3. Bioavailability 

Oil and water don’t mix. That’s why CBD oil has been considered the most potent and preferred delivery method of CBD. However, nano CBD is a water-soluble tincture that may give CBD oil a run for its money. Since our bodies are made up of roughly 60% water, nanosized CBD oil that can easily dissolve with water may make CBD even more bioavailable. 

Key Takeaways

As you can see, there is room to argue against and in support of the idea that CBD oil and tinctures are one in the same, and it's likely you’ll continue finding these terms used interchangeably. Correctly discerning CBD oil from a CBD tincture may be a pointless venture into semantics, yet still worthy of consideration if it leads you to identify a quality CBD product that enhances your health. Check ingredients to confirm your CBD is infused in a suitable base oil or nano-emulsified as a water-soluble CBD tincture for the greatest absorption. 

  • Crockett J, Critchley D, Tayo B, Berwaerts J, Morrison G. A phase 1, randomized, pharmacokinetic trial of the effect of different meal compositions, whole milk, and alcohol on cannabidiol exposure and safety in healthy subjects. Epilepsia. 2020;61(2):267-277. doi:10.1111/epi.16419

Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.

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