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Carrier Oils for CBD Products: Taste, Bioavailability, Absorption

Carrier Oils for CBD Products: Taste, Bioavailability, Absorption

A carrier oil is needed for CBD products unless you are looking for a CBD Isolate powder.  When CBD is extracted from hemp, it is highly concentrated and generally very thick. It needs to be diluted in order to be administered as an oral supplement.  This is why consumers will see CBD products stating specific mg amounts per bottle (e.g., 250mg, 500mg, 3000mg).

A carrier oil is simply a fatty oil usually derived from the seeds, nuts or kernels of a plant. They tend to be referred to as vegetable oils, base oils, or fixed oils.  When selecting a carrier oil for CBD products, bioavailability and absorption are major factors. CBD oil’s bioavailability is largely determined by the types of fat molecules contained in the carrier oil. There are many different types of fat, and the way they vary on a molecular level affects how well it can transport CBD into your system.

Additionally, selecting a carrier oil is also evaluated on flavor, consistency and cost. Look for brands which also use sustainable and organic carrier oils - the cost of the product will be higher, but it's worth it for your health and the planet.  Here are some pros and cons of the most popular carrier oils in the CBD industry.

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated Coconut Oil has an abundance of saturated fats, particularly medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Medium chain triglycerides are smaller fat molecules which are easily absorbed by the body, directly through the liver.

When used as a carrier for CBD, MCT provides greater bioavailability. When cannabinoids breakdown, they are stored in fat, which means they are best administered with fat to increase absorption.  MCT's are absorbed by the liver, where they can either be used as an energy source on the fly or turned into something called ketones. You may have heard of the word ketones in reference to ketosis - a metabolic state achieved through a "keto diet". This diet involves reducing carbohydrate levels to a low enough level over time that the body and brain are forced to switch from running primarily on glucose for energy, to running on an alternative source of fuel: ketones. This is why MCT products can be a very helpful energy source on a keto lifestyle.

MCT naturally excels as a carrier oil in a number of categories. It has little to no flavor, which makes it a great choice for making tinctures. Additionally, it is thinner than most oils, making it easy to dispense and measure. MCT is also known to have natural antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties – and it does not need refrigeration.

Fractionated Palm Oil

Fractionated Palm Oil is very similar to Fractionated Coconut Oil (another MCT oil). Both of these oils are inexpensive, absorb quickly, have almost no aroma and have a very long shelf life at room temperature without rancidity. When looking at a product label, the brand should include the source of the MCT - from coconut or palm.

If a brand is using Fractionated Palm Oil as a carrier for their CBD products, we ask that you research the sourcing of that Palm Oil as the manufacturing process is often connected with deforestation, animal cruelty and climate change.  Please ensure the Fractionated Palm Oil is coming from eco-friendly sources. 

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the cannabis sativa plant, the same plant that produces CBD.  Many may feel this is a perfect carrier oil by default, however, it is a generally inefficient carrier of CBD on its own.  To reach its full potential, it must be mixed with oils with higher bioavailability, such as MCT oil.

Buyer Beware: some companies try to pass hemp seed oil as being the same as CBD oil. Amazon is selling a bunch of these oils.  Look for brands which include Certificate of Analysis test results for their products which show the amount of CBD and other cannabinoids included in their products.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is among the healthiest foods you can eat. 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.

It is a thicker oil, high in monounsaturated fats, with a strong fruity flavor (many people dislike the taste of Olive Oil based CBD products). 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.  Look for any kind of absorption studies for brands using olive oil as a carrier oil.

Avocado Oil

Like olive oil, avocado oil has high concentrations of oleic acid, antioxidants and vitamins, however, it is much thicker. The pulp of the avocado is pressed to produce this oil which has a nutty taste and can be added to CBD oils to increase viscosity.  When considering cost, Avocado oil is one of the more expensive oils on this list.  Many CBD brands opt to use Avocado Oil in skincare products vs. sublingual oils as avocado oil has additional benefits for the skin.

Grape Seed Oil

Grape seed oil is thin and has a wine-like aroma. It is isn’t very greasy, so grapeseed oil is often incorporated into skin and hair products. Unfortunately, grape seed oil primarily consists of polyunsaturated fats which doesn’t make it the best carrier oil for CBD.

Other Oils

Flaxseed Oil – it has nutritional benefits however, it primarily consists of polyunsaturated fats which are poor carriers for CBD.

Salmon oil, pomegranate seed oil, sunflower oil, etc.