At this point you should’ve made it through our ultimate beginner's guide to CBD (if not, that’s a great starting point) and be well on your way to becoming a bona fide CBD expert. The next step? Learning about CBD carrier oils. During your CBD journey, whether just by doing some amateur detective work when reading, or CBD oils can be made with MCT, hemp seed, avocado, olive oil, and more. What’s the difference? Does the carrier oil matter? We explore this topic in-depth. CBD oils contain a carrier oil that impacts absorption and helps with dosing. You should know the benefits and possible side effects these oils offer.
Which CBD carrier oil is the best?
At this point you should’ve made it through our ultimate beginner’s guide to CBD (if not, that’s a great starting point) and be well on your way to becoming a bona fide CBD expert. The next step? Learning about CBD carrier oils.
During your CBD journey, whether just by doing some amateur detective work when reading, or just by taking CBD products yourself, you’ve realised that what you get isn’t just pure CBD in most cases.
Some CBD oils or CBD sprays contain added flavours to make them more palatable. But these additives don’t even explain the one staring us in the face — CBD oil .
However, most CBD oils, including our CBD oils, consist of an additional carrier oil that makes it easier for you to consume your daily dose of CBD. Time to dive in and learn more about this essential CBD oil ingredient!
What is a carrier oil?
Carrier oils dilute another natural oil or substance to make the latter easier for your body to ingest. But, we don’t just use carrier oils to make CBD comfortably digestible. For example, many essential oils require a carrier for safe application to the skin. Otherwise, they can cause epidermal irritation.
No matter what the use, most carrier oils share common properties. They have a light scent or flavour. More importantly, though, they don’t interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the substance that’s been mixed into your carrier oil—if anything, they make it easier!
Why does CBD need a carrier oil?
Hemp plants go through one of several extraction processes to separate out CBD for our intake. The resulting CBD will come in a variety of colors. CBD isolate is a white powdery substance. Meanwhile, broad spectrum CBD appears brown or dark green.
There are, of course, differences between CBD isolate and broad-spectrum CBD . But either base will require you to use a carrier oil for three main reasons.
1. It makes dosage a breeze
Whether you choose our CBD drops or a CBD spray , you’ll always want to keep track of how much cannabidiol you’re taking each day. A carrier oil makes it easier for you to ingest just the right amount.
When we extract CBD from hemp plants, it has a very high concentration of CBD. You don’t want to take this much at once, so a carrier oil helps to dilute it. Once it’s diluted, it’s easier for you to measure how much you take daily.
2. Carrier oils boost bioavailability
Your body has an easier time processing CBD if it comes mixed in a carrier oil. The hemp-derived compounds bind with the oil’s fat molecules, and we have natural internal processes that know how to break down that fat.
With the right carrier oil, hemp has a higher bioavailability. This term just means your body can process more CBD when it’s attached to fat molecules.
3. It’s easier to take
The last CBD benefit is a pretty direct one for you. There’s a reason why no one sells plain old CBD powder — it doesn’t taste good.
Mixing your CBD with a carrier oil, and perhaps a few natural flavourings, makes taking it that much more of an enjoyable experience. Since we recommend taking CBD oils sublingually—where you let the CBD oil sit under your tongue for 90 seconds—you’ll want them to taste good!
Which carrier oil should I choose for my CBD?
Carriers make CBD intake easier on your body and on you. But not all CBD oils are created equal — and you want to know which carrier oil is the best partner for your hemp-based products.
Let’s start by pointing out that there’s no single right answer to this question. In most cases, it’s up to the manufacturer and the customer to decide which carrier oil works best for them. But we want to break down what we know about each option — and let you make the final decision yourself.
Option 1: Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains long and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which makes it an excellent carrier option. Before you can use it, though, it has to go through fractionating. This process skims the large fat molecules from the oil.
What’s left behind are the MCTs, which the body can easily break down, unlike long-chain versions. Clearly, the ease with which we process coconut oil makes it an ideal carrier for CBD.
On top of that, coconut oil has a sweet flavour, one that masks the earthy tang of CBD.
Coconut oil in its liquid form has the perfect thin consistency, too. It’s easy to dose with precision. We believe in the power of MCTs and coconut oil, and that’s why you’ll find it as the carrier oil of choice in our CBD o il .
Option 2: Hemp seed oil
Another popular option is hemp seed oil, and you’re probably thinking, “hemp seed oil makes a lot of sense for a hemp-based product!” And while hemp seed oil doesn’t contain any additional CBD, it does make for a great natural partner.
The major hemp seed oil benefit comes from what’s called the entourage effect. This theory posits that CBD’s effects get amplified when delivered alongside other hemp compounds.
This natural synergy works for us — and that’s why we use hemp seed oil as the carrier in our 600mg CBD drops .
Option 3: Olive oil
Olive oil is delicious, and it has so many body-bettering benefits . Splash it over a salad or use it to roast tonight’s veggies. Either way, you won’t be disappointed in the way it tastes. But flavour and ability as a carrier are two separate categories. Olive oil contains a high amount of monounsaturated fats, which the body takes a while to process.
Plus, olive oil can be quite viscous, which makes it tough to dose. In the end, it’s not as efficient as coconut oil for these reasons and so we decided against using it in our CBD oils. However, if you’re whipping up a batch of CBD oil at home, olive oil can work — and many people use it as their carrier of choice. Plus, it tastes nice and goes well with the natural flavour of CBD.
Option 4: Palm oil
Palm oil functions very similarly to coconut oil, when it comes to carrying CBD into your body. It has MCT, which makes it easy for your body to break it down.
However, palm oil contributes significantly to global deforestation . Acres of rainforest disappear in order to harvest it, and the loss of this habitat has a slew of devastating side effects. Not only do animals lose their homes, but losing trees contributes to global warming, too.
So, using CBD from an eco-conscious standpoint, we avoid palm oil as a carrier. However, if you have a bottle that you want to get rid of, you can use it as a temporary carrier before moving onto something better for the planet.
Learn more about CBD oil
At BeYou, we take our place in the CBD industry seriously. As such, we’ve helmed research into carrier oils and how they interact with our bodies — and our CBD, too. Whether you’re buying CBD in the form of CBD drops , or CBD spray , you can always trust our quality standards.
We want you to feel as confident in our choices as we do. That’s why we have a CBD blog filled with CBD-centric tips and insight. For first-time users, this information can help you choose the right CBD products for you. Of course, our team is always here to answer your questions.
What’s in Your CBD Oil? Why Carrier Oil Matters
CBD oils can be made with MCT, hemp seed, avocado, olive oil, and more. What’s the difference? Does the carrier oil matter? We explore this topic in-depth.
If you look at the label of your CBD oil, you’ll see that it contains more than just hemp extract.
As the name suggests, CBD oils also include an oil — which is usually some form of vegetable oil or vegetable glycerine.
These oils serve an important purpose — to help deliver the active component — in our case, CBD — to the body.
There are many different carrier oils used in CBD products — coconut, MCT, palm, olive, avocado, hemp seed, sesame, and grape seed oil — each with their own set of positives and negatives.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about carrier oil selection. We cover MCT, olive, hemp seed, grape seed, and glycerine — including the pros and cons of each.
So let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- 1. Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil
- Pros & Cons of Hemp Seed Oil
- Pros & Cons of Grape Seed Oil
What is a Carrier Oil?
As the name implies, a “carrier oil” carries the CBD and other phytochemicals. It’s a simple solution. The carrier oil acts as a solvent to dissolve the compounds of the hemp plant to make them easier to use.
This concept isn’t unique to CBD products. The same concept applies when making Kool-aid by dissolving the flavored powder into water, or when making soapy water to wash the dishes.
The only difference here is that a fat is used instead of water. This is because cannabinoids are soluble in oils and fats instead of water.
What Are the Benefits of Adding Carrier Oils to CBD?
There are three main reasons carrier oils are used. Let’s cover each one in more detail.
1. Carrier Oils Enhance CBD Absorption
One of the main reasons CBD oil manufacturers dilute hemp extracts like CBD in a carrier oil is to improve absorption in the gut. This works because CBD is a fat-soluble substance.
This is important because the body has two separate pathways for absorbing compounds into the body — a water-soluble pathway and a fat-soluble pathway. This all happens at the working unit of the intestinal tract known as the microvilli (pictured below).
Water-soluble compounds like most amino acids, sugars, and minerals can travel directly through the gut lining into the water-based blood. From here, they’re transported around the body. In the diagram above, water-soluble substances enter the red portion under the surface (the blood).
Fat-soluble substances on the other hand — like CBD — can’t go directly into the bloodstream. They first need to get packaged up into tiny droplets called micelles. These micelles then enter the fatty lymph tissue — a network of fat-based compounds and immune cells. They then travel up the body through the lymph, eventually entering the bloodstream directly above the heart. In the diagram above, the lymph is the green tubes (called lacteals). These lacteals carry the CBD (and other cannabinoids) to the lymphatic system.
Absorbing fats in this way requires a series of enzymes in the digestive tract to prepare the fat molecules for absorption by breaking them down and turning them into micelles. When we eat fats, taste receptors in our mouth send signals to the digestive tract to get these enzymes ready.
When we take CBD alongside other fats, it helps prime the body for this effect — signaling the rest of the body to prepare for fat absorption — which effectively increases the amount of CBD the body can absorb.
2. Carrier Oils Make Measuring Doses Easier
The difference between 5 mg and 50 mg of pure CBD crystals is minuscule — 50 mg of this highly-refined source of CBD is about the size of a match head.
Getting precise doses like 7.5 mg requires a precision scale and can’t be done accurately with the naked eye. We need special equipment for this, which simply isn’t realistic for most CBD users.
The solution is to first dilute the CBD crystals into a carrier oil at a predictable amount — such as 100 mg, 300 mg, 600 mg, or 1000 mg CBD per bottle like you’ll find listed on most CBD oils.
From here, the larger volume of the oil with CBD dissolved is much easier to measure. The same 50 mg dose can be measured by counting the drops of oil or measuring the fluid in a measuring spoon. It makes dosing CBD significantly more accurate and consistent.
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.
Femi Aremu, PharmD, is a professional pharmacist with experience in clinical and community pharmacy. He currently practices in Chicago, Illinois.
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.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publishing. CBD products are everywhere. But do they work?
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