What's the deal with Carrier Oils?

October 13, 2022

Although carrier oils are a vital part of CBD products, particularly tinctures and oils, it can be challenging to find unbiased, cannabis relevant information about them. A quick Google search will lead you to a lot of articles coming from the essential oil and aromatherapy industries. You might also find information about makeup and beauty products, or carrier oils and soaps. While all this is great, it doesn’t necessarily tell us much about CBD.

Carrier oils are important. We’re not only consuming them along with our CBD, but they can make a difference in our products and have an impact on things like absorption rates. Additionally, some oils may digest better than others.

Since this is such an important topic and a big part of the CBD world, we thought it was about time we dove into carrier oils – what they are, what they do, and how that impacts you.

What are Carrier Oils?

While we’re discussing carrier oils within the context of CBD, it might not be a bad idea to start with the essential oil community and see what they have to say, particularly since that’s where the majority of conversation is taking place. Within this community, carrier oils are a way of diluting a very strong extract in order to make it safer for topical use. While there are a variety of kinds that are possible to use, emphasis is put on organic and good quality oils without synthetic or added ingredients.

In terms of the CBD world, however, carrier oils are often less about skin contact, and more about consumption (besides topicals, of course). Regardless, oils help carry the CBD into our bodies. This is important, because we have two tracks for absorbing substances – water-soluble and fat-soluble. Since CBD is a fat, it gets absorbed by our lymphatic system. When we consume CBD with something high in fat content (like a fatty oil), it helps prep our lymphatic system for digestion. Simply put, whether topically applied or consumed, carrier oils help our bodies absorb CBD.

Additionally, the type of oil used can also impact the flavour of the CBD product, and some people may be allergic or experience adverse reactions to others. Some oils may also have health benefits themselves, such as the heavily researched olive oil.

Bioavailability

An important consideration for a carrier oil is how it impacts CBD’s bioavailability. Put simply, bioavailability is how much of something is absorbed by your body, most often referring to drugs. When consuming something, not all of the substance actually gets absorbed. Some of it tends to be wasted, digested, or otherwise. Different substances have different levels of bioavailability.

Besides the unique properties of different substances and chemicals, bioavailability can be impacted by other variables. Individual factors like age, sex, stress, etc., can have an impact on how our bodies absorb things. When a substance has higher bioavailability, less of it is needed to produce the same effects. This is important, especially with CBD, as getting the most value for your money and use out of your product is always desirable. It will also impact dosage calculations.

Carrier oils can help support CBD and its absorption into our bodies. There’s been research to suggest that we can increase CBD’s bioavailability by consuming fatty foods at the same time (avocados, fish, peanut butter, etc). Ultimately, fatty oils may be able to increase the amounts of CBD that are being absorbed by our bodies.

While not CBD related, this study found that using verapamil and clove oil increased bioavailability. Another study, though locked behind a paywall, suggests that oil type and composition has an impact on the bioavailability of various vitamins. When testing whether coconut, olive, or soybean oil increased caffeic acid (a compound found in coffee, tea, and medicines) bioavailability, this study found that the coconut oil appeared to be the most effective. While none of this research is CBD applicable, the important thing to note is that some oils may have the ability to help increase the bioavailability of a substance. How relevant this is to CBD, and how much a specific oil may impact CBD’s bioavailability is harder to assess, however. More research is needed before we have additional CBD specific information.

TYPES OF OILS

There are lots of oils you may see used as carrier oils and everyone seems to have a preference. Here, we’ve broken down some of the commonly used carrier oils and what we know about their pros, cons, and other effects.

MCT OIL

Short for Medium-chain triglycerides, MCT oil is very commonly used for CBD products and often extracted from coconut. Studies have suggested that MCT oil is quickly absorbed and processed by our bodies. Made up largely of saturated fats, MCT oil has the potential to help increase CBD’s bioavailability. It’s also slow to go bad and doesn’t really taste like anything, which can make it a great option for a CBD product.

It’s for this reason that we sustainably sourced MCT oil for our 1500 | CBD Oil. Check out more about our sourcing and MCT here.

However, we have seen some people reporting digestive issues with MCT oil.

OLIVE OIL

Another popular carrier oil, olive oil has been well researched for its potential health benefits. There’s been some research to suggest that it may help increase bioavailability through the skin, which could be beneficial in the use of topicals. However, olive oil is also thicker and has a stronger flavour, which might be undesirable for some products. It’s also considered to be a long-chain triglyceride (in contrast to MCT oil being a medium-chain triglyceride), which means that it takes longer to be absorbed into our bodies.

COCONUT OIL

Although MCT oil is often extracted from coconuts, there is a difference between it and coconut oil. MCT oil is often refined and stripped of other compounds to ensure that its fatty properties are more concentrated. Coconut, in contrast, while it does contain a decent amount of MCT compounds, also contains a lot of long-chain triglycerides, which slows down absorption rates.

HEMP OIL

Although sometimes conflated, hemp oil and CBD oil are different substances. CBD comes from the resin of a hemp or cannabis plant, which is often located in the budding flowers. In contrast, hemp oil is often extracted from the plant’s seeds and contains trace amounts of cannabinoids, if any.

A common topic within the health and wellness sphere, hemp oil has been associated with several health benefits, though more research may be needed before we know anything for certain. It may have a more distinctive taste, which some people may not prefer.

Due to its association with CBD oil, it can be challenging to find more specific information about how hemp oil impacts bioavailability.

TL;DR

Carrier oils matter when it comes to our CBD products. Not only do they effect things like taste and may come with potential health benefits, they also impact how much CBD is actually being absorbed into our bodies. The more you know about different carrier oils, the more you’ll be equipped to make educated decisions about which products work best for you. Having more information about what you’re putting into your body is never a bad thing.

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