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How to use CBD tincture and CBD oil

For first-time users and more experienced consumers alike, the vast array of cannabidiol (CBD) products available today can easily become a bit confusing.

The United States market is saturated with a seemingly endless number of CBD products, particularly since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. These CBD products include everything from the ever-popular CBD gummy to CBD topicals, CBD drops, CBD soft gels, CBD pre-rolls, tinctures, and oils, giving consumers numerous ways to take CBD. With so many options, it’s important to remember that there is no universal best way to consume CBD — it’s all about trying things out and discovering what works best for you.

Despite the wide availability of CBD products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to establish an official serving size for CBD, so dosing and consumption methods are a matter of individual preference and need. For those who want a more precise dosing method, CBD tincture and CBD oil are two good options. Read on to learn more about CBD tinctures and CBD oils, how they work, and how to use them.

CBD tincture vs CBD oil

One of the potentially confusing areas in the world of CBD has to do with CBD tincture vs CBD oil. The primary difference between the two has to do with how they are produced.

Tinctures are made using alcohol as a solvent. Plant material is soaked in high-proof alcohol for an extended period of time. As it soaks, the alcohol pulls out many of the chemicals contained in the plant material. The final product contains a very high percentage of alcohol plus all the chemicals extracted from the plant — including cannabinoids and terpenes. Producers sometimes add flavors, sweeteners, essential oils, or other chemicals to the final product to enhance the flavor or create a different set of effects.

CBD oil is a cannabis extract in oil form. There are many different methods for extracting compounds from cannabis. Many CBD products today are made using a supercritical CO2 extraction process to pull out all the cannabinoids and terpenes. The extracted compounds are then processed into the final CBD oil product. In some cases, producers will remove THC or other cannabinoids and terpenes, so that the final product contains only CBD.

You may occasionally see CBD oil labeled as hemp oil. Typically, when you see this, it is because the CBD oil was extracted from a hemp plant, which is defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC. This type of hemp oil is basically the same as any other type of CBD oil. The only thing to watch out for is hemp seed oil. This is an oil made exclusively from the plant’s seeds, and while hemp seed oil is nutritious, it does not contain CBD or any other cannabinoids. Hemp seed oil is not CBD oil, so carefully read the label to be sure you’re getting the right product.

Ultimately, tinctures and CBD oil are similar in that they are both liquid forms of CBD extract, which can both be consumed in a variety of ways. The main differences have to do with how they are produced, and the type of liquid used to deliver the CBD to a consumer’s body.

How to take CBD oil

There are numerous ways to take CBD oil. For many users, this is one of the benefits of CBD oil. Some of the more common ways include dropping the CBD oil directly into your mouth or letting the CBD oil soak in under your tongue. Similarly, you can mix it into other foods and beverages to create your own CBD edibles. In some cases, depending on the oil and the reason the oil is being used, consumers may apply it topically. Finally, there are also some versions of CBD oil that have been mixed with a carrier oil, making it suitable for use in vape pens. If you are using one of these products, make sure that the oil you purchase is compatible with your vape pen and from a well-known, established producer.

There is no single best way to take CBD oil. It simply depends on your own personal preferences and reasons for taking CBD oil. Experiment to discover what works best for you.

What is a CBD tincture?

A tincture is a concentrated plant extract made by soaking plant material in a potable alcohol solvent for several weeks. As it soaks, the solvent pulls out many of the chemical compounds in the plant material, creating a substance that is rich in the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals produced by the cannabis plant.

A tincture is a concentrated plant extract crafted by soaking the plant in a solvent such as alcohol or food-grade oils for several weeks. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The first official record of cannabis tinctures used in Western medicine appeared in an 1843 medical journal. The journal featured a recipe, and soon after its publication, apothecaries and medicine producers began to make and sell their own versions of the product.

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CBD tinctures are geared specifically toward pulling out high levels of cannabidiol from the plant. From there, it can be refined in different ways so that the final product can include various combinations and concentrations of other cannabinoids and terpenes.

How do CBD tinctures work?

CBD tinctures are usually taken sublingually and absorbed into the bloodstream by capillaries in the cheek, gums, and under the tongue. To promote maximal absorption, the liquid should be rubbed into the tissue inside your mouth. After letting it soak under your tongue, you can swallow the tincture so that the remainder of the CBD is absorbed through your digestive system. Once in your bloodstream, the CBD in the tincture interacts with your endocannabinoid system, potentially helping your body self-regulate and achieve homeostasis.

CBD tinctures are usually taken sublingually and absorbed into the bloodstream by capillaries in the cheek, gums, and under the tongue. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Why use CBD tinctures?

In recent years, tinctures have become an increasingly popular way to take CBD. There are many benefits to using CBD tinctures. First, they are easy to dose, as you can easily figure out and adjust the amount of CBD you need to achieve your desired results.

For example, a 30-milliliter bottle of CBD that contains 300 milligrams of CBD has 10 milligrams of CBD per one-milliliter dropper, the standard size for most bottle droppers. Knowing that, you can choose to use half a dropper (five milligrams) or whatever amount you desire and then adjust your dose with each use, as needed.

Another benefit of CBD tinctures is their high bioavailability, meaning the body is able to effectively utilize more of the cannabinoids in a tincture administered sublingually (held under your tongue for 15 minutes). Compared to other consumption methods and products, tinctures can deliver the same effects with a lower dose, cutting down on possible side effects, and saving money.

A tincture is also a smokeless, vapeless alternative that mitigates the potential harms associated with smoking and using a vape pen. There’s also virtually zero cleanup involved with a tincture, even when taken with morning coffee or an afternoon tea, making it an especially easy way to consume CBD.

There’s also virtually zero cleanup involved with a tincture, even when taken with morning coffee or an afternoon tea. Photo by: (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

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Finally, it’s basically impossible to overdose on CBD, regardless of what form it’s in. Studies found that CBD had no adverse side effects at amounts up to 1200 milligrams daily, even when taken for several months.

How to use a CBD tincture

Before consuming, shake the bottle to ensure that the solution is fully mixed, then use the dropper to measure out the dosage you want to take. From there, the most effective way to do it is to squeeze the dosage under your tongue. Hold the liquid in your mouth for up to 15 minutes, rub it into the tissue of your mouth to maximize absorption, then swallow.

Wait approximately 60 to 90 minutes to evaluate the dose’s effects. If you need more, take another dropper-full and repeat the above steps. It’s helpful to consume CBD with a high-fat meal or snack, as CBD is fat-soluble, and the fat increases its absorption by four to five times.

What to keep in mind

When taking CBD tincture, keep the following pointers in mind to maximize its effects.

Have a specific goal that you want to achieve with CBD, as this will help you determine the best product and dose for your particular needs. Start with a low dose, and slowly work your way up until you find the optimal dose for you and your goals. Your weight, body chemistry, and genetics all affect how CBD works on your system, so pay attention to what feels best to you, and what enables you to accomplish your objectives.

Remember that a tincture is likely to have a double onset. The first onset will happen very quickly as the CBD is absorbed into your bloodstream through the tissue in your mouth, and the second onset will occur later, when the CBD you swallowed is finally absorbed via the digestive tract.

Read the label to understand more about the CBD in your tincture. Remember there are many different products available today, so pay attention to the type of CBD extract you’re purchasing. There are three primary types of extract:

    CBD means the CBD was extracted along with all other cannabis-derived terpenes and cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC
  • Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains the same array of cannabinoids and terpenes as full-spectrum CBD, but it is entirely THC free is made by stripping away all cannabinoids and terpenes, leaving behind only pure CBD

One final note: if you’re currently taking medication, it’s important to discuss CBD use with your doctor to determine if there might be any possible interactions between the CBD and your medication.

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Final takeaway

Recent legal changes have made it easier than ever to access CBD. As a result, there is a seemingly endless variety of products to choose from, delivery methods for getting CBD into your body, and ways to consume CBD.

Whether it’s CBD gummies, drops, soft gels, capsules, flower, pre-rolled joints, oils, or anything else, the key is to understand what each different product is, so that you can get the right CBD product for you and your body. Experiment with different products and try out one dosage after another until you discover how much CBD you need and which types of products are best in order to achieve your ideal CBD journey.

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 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 Oil CBD Tincture
CBD in oil base CBD in alcohol base
Mild, earthy hemp flavor Very bitter taste
Slower absorption Faster absorption
Takes over 10 minutes for onset of effects Immediate relief, similar to taking a hit of a joint
Heavier, oily consistency Thinner, less oily consistency
Shorter shelf life: 12-18 months Longer shelf life: 3-5 years
Useful if you want to avoid alcohol completely Useful if you’re allergic to coconut
Equally effective for pain, anxiety, sleep Equally effective for pain, anxiety, sleep
More popular, wider product options available Less 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.

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.

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 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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.