Carrier Oils for CBD: How to Choose the Best One
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City.
If you’ve ever used a CBD oil, you’ve gotten more from the product than just cannabidiol (CBD). For multiple reasons, manufacturers include a carrier oil, too.
As its name suggests, a carrier oil delivers (or carries) the contents of the active compound. In this case, it’s CBD. In the realm of beauty products, carrier oils dilute essential oils because the essential oil may be too strong on its own. (For example, a lavender reaction from lavender oil can cause the skin to itch, burn, or break out in blisters.)
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various reasons. For example, most of them are nut-based or plant-based, and you could be allergic to them. Oils that are taken orally may not taste good to you. Reading the label is a smart move—as long as you know what you’re looking for.
This article explains the purpose of carrier oils and the possible side effects. It also describes the six carrier oils you’re likely to see in stores and online, including their advantages and drawbacks.
Marketing Outpaces Science
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol. It’s one of 100-plus chemicals in the cannabis plant that may have health benefits. It’s widely assumed that CBD oil can relieve arthritis pain, chronic pain, and chronic nerve pain as well as reduce inflammation, ease anxiety, and improve sleep. Researchers are actively studying other uses for CBD oil, particularly in terms of slowing cancer cell growth.
Purpose of CBD Carrier Oils
CBD products use different carrier oils, sometimes alone and sometimes in combinations. They serve several important functions:
One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. CBD is fat-soluble, which means that it dissolves in oil rather than water. Fat-soluble substances are better absorbed when digested along with fat, even in small amounts.
When you digest water-soluble substances, like sugar or many vitamins and minerals, your digestive tract sends them directly into your bloodstream (because blood is a water-based liquid).
Fat-soluble substances can’t be absorbed this way. Instead, your digestive tract sends them into fatty tissues and they’re distributed through your body by the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Any excess is stored in your liver and fatty tissues for later use.
All carrier oils are fat-soluble, which means CBD dissolves in it. Then the oil carries the CBD into the proper tissues so they’re more accessible by your body.
Know Your Tinctures
CBD products have introduced consumers to a new lexicon. For example, concentrated CBD oil usually taken through a dropper is known as a tincture.
CBD is a potent chemical, which means you don’t need much of it for a medicinal effect. However, this poses a problem when it comes to dosing. To deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form).
Added Health Benefits
Carrier oils sometimes include health benefits all on their own. For example, olive oil has gotten a lot of attention for its heart-healthy benefits.
If there’s an oil you’d like to get more of in your diet, adding it to your CBD regimen is one way to get it. (This said, it remains debatable whether one or two droppers of carrier oil a day is enough to have any tangible effect on your health. This is another CBD-related topic that falls under the category of “more research is required.”)
CBD Products Come From Hemp
CBD products almost always are derived from hemp, which is botanically and legally different from the marijuana plant. By law, CBD products can’t contain more than 0.3% THC (short for delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol ), which is the chemical in marijuana that creates a high.
Side Effects and Precautions
Most people don’t have side effects from common carrier oils. Some oils, though, may not be right for people with certain illnesses or who take certain medications. Always check with your healthcare provider before adding anything to your dietary regimen—even a “natural” product like CBD in a carrier oil. Natural doesn’t always mean safe.
If you have tree-nut allergies or other food allergies, be especially diligent about selecting CBD products with carrier oils you know are safe for you. All ingredients should be specified on the label.
For topical preparations, know that some carrier oils or other added ingredients may cause an itchy, red rash called allergic contact dermatitis. Others may cause a skin reaction after sun exposure. Be sure you’re familiar with the potential side effects of whatever products you’re using. And play it safe by testing a miniscule amount of topical oil on an obscure patch of skin to see if you develop a reaction.
What About Essential Oils?
Carrier oils aren’t the same thing as essential oils used for aromatherapy. Essential oils are highly concentrated, which is why they have a strong fragrance. Many essential oils can cause poisoning when ingested or absorbed through the skin, even in small amounts. This is true even if the oil comes from something that is normally safe to ingest, such as nutmeg.
Essential oils are often used topically (on the skin) after being diluted by a carrier oil. Essential oils themselves, however, should never be used as a carrier oil. Some topical CBD formulations may include essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus oils because of their purported health benefits.
Before using these products, be sure you’re familiar with the ingredients and that you’re not allergic to any of them. Watch also for side effects, which can occur soon after using them.
Common Carrier Oils
Some CBD oils may contain one or more carrier oils. Some common carrier oils are:
- Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
MCT oil is the most common carrier oil for CBD products. It can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, but coconut is the most common source. On labels, it’s sometimes listed as fractionated coconut oil, which means it contains more liquid than solid compared to normal coconut oil, thanks to fatty acids.
Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acid that your body can quickly absorb because it doesn’t have to break it down via digestion before sending it off to the lymph system. It also absorbs easily through the skin.
Long-chain triglycerides require more digestion time. Short-chain triglycerides are often consumed by gut bacteria before they’ve had time to be absorbed. So MCTs are the most useful.
- Quick absorption due to molecular structure
- 90% saturated fat, which also aids absorption
- Light, thin oil
- Almost flavorless
- Doesn’t require chemical processing
- Less expensive than some carrier oils
- Slow to break down and go rancid
- Temporary digestive side effects (nausea, gas, diarrhea, vomiting) in some people
- Possible excessive build-up of ketones in the body (dangerous with poorly controlled diabetes)
- Not recommended for people with liver disease
- May interact with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
Additional Health Claims
Some scientific evidence suggests that MCT oil may:
- Help with weight loss by reducing your appetite, increasing metabolism, and making your body burn calories faster
- Have benefits for people with autism, epilepsy, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Activate the immune system to fight yeast and bacterial overgrowth
While promising, much of this research is preliminary. More research is needed before MCT oil can be recommended for these uses.
Scrutinize Coconut Oil Labels
If the label of a CBD product says “coconut oil,” it’s likely regular coconut oil and not MCT. While perfectly fine as a carrier oil, regular coconut oil may not have all of the same benefits of an MCT.
Hemp Seed Oil
It may come from the same plant, but hemp seed oil (sometimes called hemp oil) and CBD oil aren’t the same thing. CBD comes from the flower while hemp seed oil comes from the seeds. The seeds contain fewer beneficial chemicals (cannabinoids and terpenes) than the flower and in much lower concentrations. However, they do contain some hemp phytochemicals that aren’t present in the flowers.
Using hemp seed oil as a carrier oil for CBD may contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” which basically means that combining parts of the plant may make each component more effective than it would be alone.
This quality makes hemp seed oil a popular choice for “full-spectrum” products, which contain all of the component chemicals of the hemp plant rather than just CBD.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower inflammation
- Ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids
- High antioxidant levels
- Good source of fiber
- Contains magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc
- Possible entourage effect
- Lower solvency than MCT oil, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Higher priced than MCT oil
- Flavor (sometimes described as “sharp” or “herby”) may clash with some palates
- Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, throat irritation, slow heart rate, high blood pressure
Some companies try to pass off hemp seed oil as CBD oil. Be sure to check the ingredients and amount of CBD a product contains before you buy it. All reputable companies should provide this information on their labels and websites.
Additional Health Claims
Hemp seed has been used medicinally for a wide array of conditions, most of which have not been researched enough to say for sure whether they’re safe and effective. The conditions include:
, for its anti-inflammatory properties and blood pressure and other conditions involving skin inflammation
Olive oil is probably the carrier oil you’re most familiar with. It’s certainly the best researched. It’s become one of the most commonly used cooking oils because of its many well-established health benefits:
- High in iron, vitamin K, vitamin E
- Rich in antioxidants
- Highly trusted
- Absorbed by the skin even faster than MCT
- Its long-chain triglycerides are slower to absorb than MCT (but may absorb more efficiently)
- Lower solvency than MCT, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Thicker than most other carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Flavor is relatively strong and may be distasteful to some people
Additional Health Claims
Thanks to a significant amount of research, olive oil is known to:
- Boost immunity
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
- Prevent blood platelet clumping, which can cause heart attacks
- Aid in blood clotting
- Improve gut-bacteria balance
- Support proper nerve function
- Prevent cognitive decline
- Protect bones from thinning (osteoporosis)
Avocado oil has become more popular for a variety of uses, including cooking, as researchers have learned about its health benefits. As a CBD carrier oil, it’s used most often in topical products, but you can also find it in products that are meant to be ingested.
- Quickly and easily absorbed by your skin and digestive tract
- Nutty flavor may be more pleasant than some alternatives
- Especially good for topical uses
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in vitamins A, B, D, and E
- Much thicker than most carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Significantly more expensive than many carrier oils
- Higher allergy risk than many carrier oils
Additional Health Claims
Most of the research into avocado oil has been performed on animals, not people. Until researchers take this next step, preliminary evidence suggests that avocado oil may:
- Lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, which decreases the risk of heart disease
- Improve glucose tolerance and reduce insulin resistance, providing protection from diabetes
- Improve metabolic markers
Avocado oil is less likely than many oils to clog your pores, so it’s popular for topical use. Plus, its slow drying time may help it last longer than some topical preparations.
Avocado allergies are possible. If you experience itching in your mouth after ingesting avocados or avocado oil, don’t ingest any more before talking with your healthcare provider about it. Some allergies tend to occur together. People with avocado allergies may be especially sensitive to:
- Other fruits and vegetables
If you have an allergic reaction to any of these things, you should be tested for a reaction to the others as well.
Extreme Symptoms Are Possible
Extreme allergy symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, are uncommon (but possible) with avocados because digestive enzymes tend to break down the allergen before it’s absorbed into your body. Get emergency medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various health reasons. One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. Besides, to deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form). Carrier oils also may have health benefits all on their own. Four common carrier oils are medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, hemp seed oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.
A Word From Verywell
Many people are quick to ask: “Which CBD carrier oil is the best?” Now you know that the answer depends on several factors, including the type and uses of the CBD product, whether you have allergies or certain health conditions, and your personal preferences. So look at it this way: If you try one oil and don’t like it, you can always try a different one. Meanwhile, be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice along the way.
What is the Best Carrier Oil for CBD? The 7 Best CBD Carrier Oils
A carrier oil, also known as a base oil, is a plant-derived oil which is used to carry essential oils and plant supplements. Base oils are necessary since essential oils tend to be very strong and would otherwise cause an irritation without a base oil. Supplements such as CBD, absorb better with the help of carrier oil. Base oils are also used to infuse plants and plant compounds with food. Carrier oils are fatty vegetable oils which are derived from various parts of the plant. These oils are often very mild in terms of both flavor and essence. Base oils work to aid the absorption of the plant extracts that they are mixed with while providing therapeutic benefits of their own.
Similar to essential oils, each carrier oil has it’s own unique properties and benefits. Some base oils also provide great bioavailability and absorb better than others. For example, coconut MCT oil is the perfect base oil for making your own tincture. Arnica oi, on the other hand, is better used to treat localized aches and pains.
What are the best carrier oils for CBD
1. MCT Oil (Unrefined)
Unrefined coconut MCT oil is widely considered one of the best carrier oils around. This is because MCT oil absorbs better than most while providing greater CBD bioavailability. MCT Oil seems to come with a few remarkable benefits of its own.
- Anti-Bacterial Properties
- Cognitive Enhancer
- Packed with essential fatty acids
- Skin Health
The difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil is stark, so be sure to look for unrefined coconut MCT oil. Unrefined coconut MCT oil comes from the meat of fresh coconuts and doesn’t undergo chemical processing.
2. Hemp Seed Oil
Like Hemp Seeds, hemp seed oil is considered a superfood in part because it is packed with essential fatty acids. This hemp-based oil is linked to a variety of health benefits such as
- Reduced inflammation
- Brain protectant
- Reduced risk of heart disease
Hemp seed oil is packed with benefits and works well as a carrier oil. You might consider using hemp seed oil for projects involving balms and pastes.
3. Sunflower Oil
Organic sunflower oil is loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. Sunflower oil is inexpensive and worthy of consideration for any DIY CBD project. Similar to coconut MCT oil, sunflower oil provides benefits of its own:
- Skin Health
- Anti-Oxidant Booster
- Promotes the regeneration of new skin
- Soothes skin irritation
Sunflower oil is a healthy alternative to traditional cooking oils and is eco-friendly too! This oil works as a great carrier oil for CBD but also works effectively with most essential oils.
4. Avocado Oil
Avocado lovers rejoice! Your favorite food makes a great carrier oil as well. As a base oil, Avocado oil isn’t as effective as MCT oil, but it is packed benefits. If you love healthy fats you probably have some level of avocado addiction – for good reason too. Avocado oil provides:
- High Vitamin A, B, D, and E content
- Skin Nourishment
- Rich in Oleic acid – a healthy fat
- High in Lutein
Organic avocado oil promotes the absorption of nutrients into the skin and is the perfect carrier oil when making your own CBD skin products. Avocado oil, which is loaded with healthy fats, continually works to keep your body running optimally.
5. Grapeseed Oil
Grapes are well-known for their anti-oxidant properties. Not surprisingly, grapeseed oil is loaded with these same anti-oxidants. Unlike Avocado oil, Grapeseed oil is very light and feels smoother on the skin. Grapeseed oil works great when used as the base for massage oil.
- May reduce Wrinkles
- Great for dry or irritated skin
- High in Vitamin E
Make a CBD massage oil? Consider using grapeseed oil as your base and adding additional essential oils for fragrance and effect.
6. Pomegranate Seed Oil
Pomegranate seed oil is one of the most therapeutic carrier oils available. Loaded with vitamins and essential fats, pomegranate seed oil is packed with remarkable benefits.
- Immune Boost
- Heart Health Benefits
- Punicic acid found in pomegranate seed oil is linked to preventing cancer
- Healthy Hormone Optimizer
- Promotes digestive health
- May improve cognitive functions
- And More!
The list of benefits associated with pomegranate oil is endless. Pomegranate oil is a favorite carrier oil for skin care products. With all its other benefits, pomegranate seed oil is an ideal choice for a base oil. Consider adding CBD to the mix and take your skin care routine to the next level.
7. Arnica Oil
Arnica is linked by research to anti-inflammatory properties and is a popular alternative for treating sprains, muscle soreness, and bruises. This powerful flower is attributed to aiding with:
- Aches and Pains
- Sprains and Muscle Soreness
- Heals insect Bites
This potent base oil requires you pay a bit more attention. In high, concentrated dosages Arnica can be toxic. If used correctly, however, when combined with CBD arnica can act as a phenomenal pain-aid that provides powerful natural relief.
More With CBD
With a better understanding of carrier oils under your belt, you are now ready to tackle your own CBD projects. Below we’ve included three posts that highlight our favorite DIY CBD projects.
- Interested in making your own CBD oil tincture? Check out our DIY CBD projects post with a complete breakdown.
- Check out our post on how to Infuse CBD Isolate. This is great for anyone who wants to cook with CBD.
- Here we explain how to use CBD oil in our complete guide to CBD oil.
Instead of overpaying for CBD infused products, make your own CBD infused treats with our CBD isolate and your choice of carrier oil. Pure CBD isolate powder is the most versatile CBD product available. Any CBD product you can imagine is made by infusing pure CBD isolate powder with the carrier oil of your choice. From CBD vape juice to CBD guacamole the possibilities are endless. Not every brand is willing to sell CBD isolate, this is because you can make so many CBD infused creations out of CBD isolate. While other brands may be wary, at Bloom, we always have CBD isolate for sale online.
Finally, are you looking for more information about Hemp and CBD? Be sure to follow us on social media @bloomhemp or check out our CBD 101 Guide!
The Best Carrier Oil For CBD: Why Carrier Oils Matter
Did you know that the CBD oil you purchase, is never just CBD? There is always a carrier oil involved.
If you’re taking CBD in the hopes of attaining greater well-being, it’s a worthwhile cause to look into the types of carrier oils that popular manufacturers are using, so that you can choose the best CBD carrier oil with the most health benefits to share.
In this article, we’ll look into what a CBD carrier oil is, why it’s important, go over popular types of carrier oils for CBD, and let you know how to choose the CBD oil tinctures to fit your wellness goals.
What is a CBD carrier oil?
A CBD carrier oil, often called a base oil, is a plant-derived solution that is used to help carry the contents of the active compound, CBD.
What does a CBD carrier oil do?
The best carrier oil for CBD will ensure delivery, potency, and freshness.
Without the help of a carrier oil, your body would be unable to meet the demand of fully processing the CBD you’re consuming. When CBD is combined with a fatty plant-based oil, it directly binds with the fat molecules that your body is familiar with processing, strengthening CBD’s absorption and bioavailability. Did you know? CBD is a lipophilic substance, so it combines seamlessly with dietary fats.
Measuring out a particular dose of pure CBD, which is essentially just CBD isolate powder, would be close to impossible. As CBD is commonly used in therapeutic or medical settings, it’s easier to ensure proper dosage when CBD is evenly distributed into a carrier oil. A key aspect of using CBD with success is maintaining consistency and figuring out the dose that works best for you.
Active CBD compounds can maintain both stability and potency for long-lasting freshness when they’re put into a carrier oil. If you think about the olive oil or coconut oil in your pantry, it’s maintained freshness much longer than the fruits & vegetables in your fridge. This is because fats oxidize at a slow rate, the result of their specific chemical structure.
What are the most common CBD carrier oils?
- High concentration of fat soluble compounds
- Naturally anti-fungal & antibacterial
- Smooth taste
- Could cause stomach upset
MCT oil sourced from palm & coconuts is a go-to choice for premium CBD brands. Out of all of the popular CBD oils, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, fractionated coconut oil and MCT oil has the highest concentrations of fat soluble compounds. MCT molecules are smaller than normal molecules, which make them easier for the body (especially, the liver) to process. With a thin texture and smooth taste, oral consumption is no fuss. Additionally, it’s keto-friendly!
Keep in mind, MCT oil has been known to sometimes cause an upset stomach upon first administration. This is common due to it’s high-fat content and will typically subside with consistent usage.
- Rich in antioxidants
- Abundant omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids
- Natural hemp byproduct
- Possesses a sharp flavor
- Often confused with CBD oil
Hemp seed oil contains numerous essential fatty acids, including the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids . Throughout the years its been touted as a natural alternative to heal common issues of the skin due to its natural which is high in oleic acid, good fats, and antioxidants. However, as a carrier oil, hemp does not possess the highest bioavailability with medium chain triglycerides and the taste is often too sharp for those who don’t appreciate hemp’s natural flavor.
Hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of hemp plants, while CBD is extracted from the leaves and flowers of hemp plants. However, many companies often try to pass off hemp seed oil as CBD oil, which it is not. Learn more about this prominent issue happening within the CBD industry on the amazon marketplace, and check out our blog on how to make sure you’re buying real CBD oil.
Olive oil has long been studied as a major cornerstone within the mediterranean diet. It’s rich in antioxidants and revered as an essential fatty acid staple.
With a strong nutty taste and a thick consistency, olive oil is not as covert of a carrier oil as MCT oil. Additionally, Olive oil features monounsaturated fats as its primary fat molecule, which require more processing and absorption, resulting in less bioavailability.
What is the best carrier oil for CBD?
The best carrier oil for CBD will feature a high rate of bioavailability. For this reason, we consider MCT oil to be the best carrier oil for oral CBD, as it has higher than normal fat soluble compounds that ensure a greater absorption rate.
However, keep in mind, just because two companies use the same type of carrier oil (i.e. hemp seed oil), it doesn’t mean that they’re created equal. The company’s CBD sourcing & extraction practices, flavoring, and nutritional additives play a large role in the quality of their carrier oil, and the overall efficacy of their product.
Which carrier oils does Neurogan offer?
All Neurogan CBD oils are made with MCT oil. We choose to use MCT oil as our CBD carrier oil for its ability to absorb easily into the body, and for the taste (which our customers love!).
If you’re looking to start your own CBD private label with Neurogan, you’ll have your choice of customizing your product with either hemp seed oil or MCT oil. This is just one of the many customizations that is possible with any one of our 40+ products when you private label your CBD with us. To start your own CBD brand with Neurogan, contact us.
It’s difficult to determine a “best” CBD carrier oil due to CBD’s wide range of uses. Some carrier oils might be better suited for topical CBD products, while others work best when ingested. In the end, it comes down to your own researched, personal preference.
If you know that your body has responded well to hemp seed oil, olive oil, MCT oil, or any other popular nutritional oil in past, it’s useful to seek a CBD product that uses it as their carrier oil. You are the foremost expert on what works best for your body.
Please reach out to us with all of your questions and we’ll be happy to help.