To be clear, not all CBD oils are made with coconut oil. There are plenty out there that are infused in olive oils or natural hemp seed oils, and they do indeed work just fine – depending on how their manufacturers extract and process them.
If you’ve got a curious mind, as we do, you’ve likely wondered why we take CBD oil rather than just plain CBD by itself. If CBD is the only active therapeutic compound in a CBD product, why can’t we just swallow a spoonful of it and be done with it?
Here’s how it works: lipids (the scientific word for fats) stick to the walls of whatever internal transport system they’re traveling through. Think about our blood vessels, for instance: you’ve heard of clogged arteries and plaque buildup that causes heart disease. Well, this is due in part to high amounts of bad fat in the system. These lipids stick to the artery walls and do not break down easily (metabolize), so they just sit there and accumulate.
The Science Behind Coconut Oil and CBD
But why is CBD oil often made with coconut oil? We all know that hemp (where many CBD oils come from) produces a natural oil from its seeds, so why don’t we just use hemp seed oil instead? The answer comes down to lipids and how the human body absorbs them.
Without coconut oil, a large percentage of CBD molecules simply end up making their way to the liver, at which point they’d be treated as waste and simply excreted through urine. This is why you want to select a CBD tincture that uses coconut oil over olive oil or some other type of oil.
Coconut oil is pretty much the perfect carrier oil for CBD because of its saturated fat content. The way that cannabinoids work molecularly is that the higher the lipid content of the oil they are in, the better and more efficiently they can absorb. Conveniently, coconut oil contains up to 90% saturated fat, as opposed to olive oil and hemp seed oil which only contain around 14% and 11% fat content, respectively.
These lipids come in forms of either medium-chained or long-chained triglycerides and the body transports each type differently through biochemical transporters. Medium-chain triglycerides absorb and break down quickly whereas long-chained triglycerides require certain enzymes to help absorption and breakdown.
In order to understand what makes the best carrier oil for CBD, you need to understand why companies take the time and effort to infuse CBD into oils in the first place. Why not just sell pure CBD? Pure CBD, also known as CBD isolate, forms a white powder. Not only would it be extremely difficult to measure out a serving of CBD isolate grain by grain, but more importantly, your body would be unlikely to process the majority of the CBD you take in. For this reason, CBD is often infused into oil-based solutions, where it binds with fat molecules your body is already prone to breaking down. Once the CBD is evenly distributed throughout the oil, it is possible to evenly measure consistent amounts of CBD that your body can process.
Olive oil has a light fruity taste, which may be noticeable in some tinctures. Additionally, olive oil tends to be thicker, which may affect the measuring process. Monounsaturated fats are the premier fat molecules in olive oil, generally in the form of oleic acid. These larger fat molecules require more processing which may reduce the amount of CBD your body absorbs. However, oleic acid may help reduce inflammation. Further, olive oil is packed with antioxidants.
What Makes An Oil the Best Carrier Oil?
Bioavailability is the biggest concern when determining the best carrier oil. Bioavailability, in this case, refers to the proportion of CBD your body can process compared to what it takes in. CBD’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. Besides bioavailability, individual differences between oils such as flavor, consistency, and cost may affect their viability as carrier oils. We will do our best cover the pros and cons of the most popular carrier oils in the CBD industry.
Although hemp seed oil may seem like it should always be the carrier oil of choice, 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. That is why we add fractionated coconut oil to our full spectrum tinctures . Another thing to note is that some companies try to pass hemp seed oil as being the same as CBD oil. This is not true, so make sure you are buying a product with verified levels of CBD in it. Any reputable CBD company should clearly display the amount of CBD in their products and preferably have test results to support their claims.
Similar to olive oil, avocado oil has high concentrations of oleic acid. However, it is much thicker. Avocado oil has a nutty taste and can be added to CBD oils to increase the viscosity. Avocado oil is often chosen for topical applications due to its slow drying time and abundance of vitamins A, D, & E. One downside of avocado oil is that it’s one of the most expensive on this list.