CBD Oil vs. Essential Oil
As more of us turn to CBD oil for health and wellness, many might be introduced to the term essential oil for the first time. While not the same as CBD oil, there are some key differences and similarities we’ll point out in this post.
Whether you’re a long-time user of essential oils or a first-time user of CBD, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these two types of oils. What is CBD essential oil ? Can you mix CBD oil with essential oils? We’ll answer all of your questions and more.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant. The most potent compounds in cannabis are CBD and THC, the chemical responsible for making you high. In the last few decades, researchers were able to identify what made CBD work to provide therapeutic relief.
Known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), this complex bio-function is present in every animal, including humans This system allows for cannabinoids to stick to your cb1 and cb2 receptors. When cannabinoids, like CBD, enter our body, the ECS is triggered to provide a positive immune response.
Benefits of CBD Oil
CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for much of its health benefits, including:
- Sleep Aid
- Skin Relief
- Heart Disease
Different Types Of CBD Oil
CBD oil typically comes in two types, Full-Spectrum and THC-Free.
1. Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
Full-Spectrum CBD contains the entire profile of the cannabis plant. That means, when taking a full-spectrum variety, you’re ingesting over 100 compounds present in cannabis. Think of it as eating steel-cut oatmeal vs. rolled oats.
Full-spectrum contains all the “essential ingredients” present in the cannabis plant. When taken together, these compounds create a synergistic effect known as the ‘entourage effect.’
2. THC-Free CBD Oil
Just as the name implies, THC-free CBD contains no THC, the chemical responsible for making you high. While CBD, by law, contains no more than 0.3% THC (trace amounts of THC far below to have a psychoactive effect), some might feel more comfortable with this option. For example, if you’re taking a drug test, THC-Free CBD can be an excellent product to take, but you might not receive the same therapeutic relief as you would with a full spectrum.
Image from Unsplash by user Chelsea Shapouri
What Is Essential Oil?
Essential oils are used primarily in aromatherapy, a type of healing method that uses plant compounds to promote health. These compounds are called essential oils. When using essential oil for aromatherapy, you’ll often notice strong scents, which are the plant’s essence.
Aromatherapy oils usually contain very minimal essential oil – around 3% plant extract to 97% carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Essential oils work by penetrating the skin and smelling the oil itself through aromatherapy. They are used in a variety of products including the following:
- Body Lotions
- Bath Salts
- Hot Compress
- Facial Steam or Inhalers
- Humidifiers or Diffusers
Different Types of Essential Oil and Their Benefits
When inhaling, essential oils work with your limbic system to provide relief. Your limbic system regulates mood and emotions, which is why many people report feeling more calm and relaxed after aromatherapy. While there are more than 80 types of essential oils, the most popular ones include the following:
- Frankincense: Helps with inflammation, mood, and sleep
- Chamomile: Provides relaxation
- Lavender: Help ease stress
- Sandalwood: Improves focus and calms nerves
- Bergamot: Helps skin conditions like eczema
- Peppermint: Energy booster. Great for digestion
- Rose: Helps reduce anxiety
- Lemon: Digestion and headache relief
- Tea Tree: Treats infections
- Jasmine: Helps improve libido
- Eucalyptus: Powerful anti-microbial
Biggest Differences: CBD vs. Essential Oil
The biggest difference is how both interact with your body and how they are ingested. CBD works with your ECS system, focusing on the cannabinoids present in your body. When taken, usually as a tincture, receptors in your body send signals to your brain via the ECS system to lower inflammation .
Essential oils work via the limbic system and don’t target inflammation biomarkers. CBD oil must be consumed or ingested through the mouth, while essential oils are absorbed through the skin.
Aromatherapy is also less studied than CBD, meaning there’s not as much hard data on its effectiveness vs. CBD’s reputation.
Image from Unsplash by user Crystalweed
Similarities: CBD Oil Essential Oil
Both CBD and essential oils improve mood, reduce stress, and provide a calming sensation after use. They’re also plant-based compounds, meaning mother nature provides the healing effect. Because of environmental toxins, more people are looking for “natural” relief from their symptoms. This means nothing synthetic or artificial, which both CBD and essential oils provide.
Another similarity is that CBD and essential oils usually require a carrier oil – which your primary ingredient is mixed with an oil base to dilute the solution. CBD and essential oils are very potent in their purest forms, so you’ll always want to mix the oils with a base ingredient to maximize results.
Can You Use CBD and Essential Oils Together?
According to the World Health Organization, CBD is safe to use. As mentioned, CBD has also been studied more extensively than essential oils. In China, herbalists have used combination oil therapy for thousands of years.
Because of CBD’s safe and effective profile, we can assume the two are safe to use together. As always, check with your doctor before starting a CBD regimen and let them know if you plan on mixing CBD with essential oils.
As you can see, CBD oil and essential oils have a myriad of useful applications. They can be combined to create a CBD essential oil which will provide the best of both worlds. Both types of oil are considered safe to use, with minimal and rare side effects.
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 private practice 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.
WHICH IS BETTER: CBD OIL OR ESSENTIAL OILS?
Let’s cut right to the chase, they are both amazing in their own ways, but one certainly stands out as a more holistic approach to what ails you.
Occasionally we get asked some form of this comparison question, “which is better. X Essential Oil or CBD Oil?” or “is copaiba oil really better than CBD?” As with most topics in wellness, it can be difficult to separate the science from the marketing hype, so let’s break it down for you here by starting with a little pertinent scientific information on the endocannabinoid system, essential oils, and CBD oil.
The Endocannabinoid System
Have you ever heard of it? It’s totally fine if you haven’t, because it was actually only discovered a few decades ago. In science, a discovery that is only a few decades old is often not fully developed, and true to this pattern, science is still discovering new tidbits about the endocannabinoid system all the time, especially as we decriminalize cannabis.
The Endocannabinoid system’s primary focus is to create a perfect balance within the body, sometimes also called homeostasis. It releases and regulates different internal cannabinoids in reaction to anything, external or internal, that threatens to throw the body off balance. Sometimes this reaction is in response to a physical health threat, but much of what the endocannabinoid system deals with is the mental/neurological/energetic side of the threat.
A good example is stress, whether it is related to a internal stress like a health issue or an external stress, the endocannabinoid system regulates the internal chemical release around that stress. This is why the endocannabinoid system is often considered a type of subconscious emotional regulatory system.
There are 4 internal endocannabinoids that are the most well understood currently:
Oxytocin. Oxytocin in an internal endocannabinoid molecule that is often associated with being strictly a female hormone. It’s actually produced and used by both males and females. Oxytocin is generated during labor, orgasms, and sexual activity, but it’s also produced during other affectionate expressions, like during hugs and moments of bonding. It’s also associated with empathy, trust, and generosity.
Serotonin. Serotonin is another well-known molecule, although it is uncommon to know it as an internal endocannabinoid. Interestingly, serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is primarily made and regulated by the gut, bringing truth to the old saying that “the way to a person’s heart is through their tummy.” Many happy feelings, such as the feeling of safety, positivity, and calmness mostly come from within your stomach and intestines.
Anandamide. This cannabinoid is a big influencer in your mental health. It is often called the ‘bliss molecule’ as it promotes relaxation and feelings of happiness. Anandamide is produced within human cell membranes and is a neurotransmitter which interacts with both CB1 and the CB2 receptors.
Acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter responsible for attention, memory, creativity, and neuroplasticity. The cool thing about this cannabinoid is that depending on where it is in the body, it can have opposing effects. Acetylcholine interacts primarily with the CB1 receptor.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
In telling you about the Endocannabinoid system I mentioned the neurochemicals above as well as the receptors where the body uses the neurochemicals. There are two primary receptors in the Endocannabinoid system for both internal and external cannabinoids, CB1 and CB2. These are important when comparing Copaiba and CBD oil because it will help you see the difference in the two substances and how they work on the body, and perhaps more importantly, in their therapeutic uses.
CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and both CB1 and CB2 receptors in certain peripheral tissues. CB1 receptors are neuromodulators as well as immunomodulators meaning the play a big role in both your mental health as well as your immune system health, they are specifically involved in the pituitary gland, immune cells, and reproductive tissues.
CB2 receptors are found primarily in peripheral tissues. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors CB1
activation appears to relieve inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
So now we know what the system is that both CBD and Copaiba essential oil act on and the receptors that are involved, let’s take a look at each CBD and Copaiba a little closer.
First, let’s look at Copaiba. Essential oils are wonderful wellness tools and can be used for a myriad of ailments. The essential oil most often compared to CBD oil is Copaiba oil, although a few other oils, like Rosemary, share very similar terpene profile to the Copaiba, and that drives the comparison of CBD and Copaiba.
Copaiba essential oil comes from the Copaifera tree, which like another popular essential oil, Frankincense, can be found throughout South America. The Copaifera tree produces a resin, that is steam-distilled, and the end product is copaiba essential oil.
Copaiba oil has recently been subject to some fairly intense scientific exploration. Early studies show evidence of Copaiba’s legitimate healing capabilities in antibacterial wound-healing and anti-inflammation. Once these studies were released, many oil-lovers started shouting from the rooftops that Copaiba is the new “legal” CBD oil.
Copaiba’s medicinal properties are largely related to the terpene content, specifically beta-caryophyllene, which is also an ingredient/property in CBD oil, thus compounding the oil-markets excitement and lots of confusion.
Copaiba is touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory, and it is, but it is different from CBD in how it reacts in the body, or how the body can put it to use. Copaiba has a single pathway, through terpene beta-caryophyllene, to act on inflammation and pain through the endocannabinoid system on only the CB2 receptor.
One of the drawbacks of Copaiba over CBD oil is that it is still an essential oil, and although it is a unique essential oil because it is safe to use internally in low doses. Unless you are under the care of a qualified Clinical Aromatherapist, I would discourage this at home because dosing is difficult to calculate and measure. The side effect of ingesting too much Copaiba oil will cause general tummy distress, such as pain, nausea, and vomiting. Prolonged ingestion can lead to damaged stomach and intestinal lining.
In comparison, CBD oil is a lot like an essential oil in that it is derived from plants and is natural and has been used for many years in healing and wellness. Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is a cannabinoid sourced from the cannabis sativa genus of plants, usually from industrial hemp plants (not marijuana). CBD is often confused with THC (from marijuana), but even though the are both cannabinoids, CBD is legal in all 50 states and is non-psychoactive. This means that despite what some essential oil purveyors may try to lead you to believe, CBD oil does not trigger a ‘high,’ anxiety, or euphoria. It triggers a mild sense of relaxation, if any physical sensation is noted at all.
The medicinal properties of CBD oil are attributed to two ingredients/properties, both terpenes (like you find in Copaiba oil) and cannabinoids (found only in the CBD oil). CBD oil is pretty unique in that especially when using whole-plant extracts, CBD oil can contain many different compounds, each with its own unique effects on the endocannabinoid system. Through this interaction and with the benefit of a broad range of healing compounds, CBD has demonstrated huge potential as a treatment option for lots of health issues, including mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, autoimmune disorders, pain issues, cancer, inflammatory diseases and so much more.
As mentioned, CBD oil does contain beta-caryophyllene which acts on the CB2 receptors, and yes, this is the same terpene as Copaiba. CBD’s benefit over Copaiba is really in its influence over the entire endocannabinoid system, both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD targets pain and inflammation in multiple ways, even beyond the beta-caryophyllene terpenes.
Currently, there is no recommended maximum dosage for CBD oil, and there are some documented acute treatments using upwards of 1,000 mg of CBD oil a day. While that isn’t a dose I would recommend without consulting your Wellness Practitioner, over-the-counter dosages are regarded as safe and perfect for oral consumption.
So which is better?
Copaiba, while a good essential oil with many healing properties, simply does not stack up to the healing ability of CBD oil. As mentioned, Copaiba’s health benefits come only from its beta-caryophyllene contents that act on a single receptor, CB2. Whole-plant CBD (not CBD isolate) oil benefits from a synergistic effect between all the complex compounds, like the cannabinoids and terpenes. Multiple studies have confirmed the various compounds in CBD are stronger when working together, instead of isolating their parts. Copaiba would be considering isolating only one of CBD’s beneficial parts.