As interest in cannabidiol (CBD) continues to grow, so does the variety of CBD products available. Many people may confuse or use the terms “CBD oils” and “tinctures” interchangeably. However, they are different products with varying production methods.

CBD is one of many phytochemicals found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) and leading research recognize the many potential health benefits and limited short-term side effects of CBD use, more research is still necessary to better understand the long-term implications.

CBD has grown in popularity in recent years, with manufacturers selling a variety of CBD products such as oils and tinctures. Although both products are similar and share many benefits, their compositions and the methods that manufacturers use to produce them vary.

This article explores the differences between CBD oil and tinctures, their benefits, and how to use and choose CBD products.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

CBD oil and tinctures are similar products that both contain CBD derived from hemp or other plants in the Cannabis sativa family. While people may interchange the terms “CBD oil” and “CBD tincture,” they are different products.

The main difference between the two is the method of extracting CBD. For oil, manufacturers use carbon dioxide, but for tinctures, they utilize alcohol.

Using heat and pressure, manufacturers use the carbon dioxide method to separate CBD from the plant. Manufacturers generally regard this as the quickest and most efficient way to extract the substance. It is also environmentally safe, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also note that the method is safe.

Click here to learn more about some of the best tasting CBD oils.

The process of creating a CBD tincture typically involves soaking cannabis in alcohol and slowly heating the mixture. This infuses the alcohol with CBD, which the manufacturer then boils or dilutes.

Click here to learn more about CBD tinctures.

Through these different extraction methods, manufacturers end up with slightly different products: CBD oil contains CBD suspended in a carrier oil, while tinctures are typically glycerin- or alcohol-based solutions.

Generally, CBD oils will also contain a higher potency of CBD, but tinctures will have a longer shelf life. Additionally, people can use CBD oil orally or topically, but it is not advisable to use tinctures on the skin.

CBD displays many potential health benefits and has become a popular aid for many health conditions.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties: In a review, researchers found that CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects. A 2018 study also found similar results with oral forms of the substance.
  • Reducing chronic pain: A 2019 study suggests a link between CBD use and reduced chronic pain. In the research, 94% of participants reported improvements in their quality of life. A small 2020 trial also indicates that CBD may be beneficial in reducing intense pain, sharp pain, and cold itchy sensations.
  • Helping with anxiety: A 2015 review notes that CBD could help reduce anxiety-related behaviors. A 2019 study further indicates this, suggesting that it could lower anxiety and help people living with anxiety disorders.

According to a 2020 study, there are few adverse effects noted with acute use of CBD, while chronic use has links with mild adverse effects.

However, this does not mean long-term effects are not possible. A 2018 study notes that more research investigating potential long-term side effects is necessary.

The FDA warn that CBD products may result in:

  • liver injury
  • damage to male fertility
  • changes in appetite
  • drowsiness or sleepiness
  • irritability or agitation
  • diarrhea

It is advisable for people to speak with their doctor before taking any products containing CBD, as some evidence suggests that the substance may interact with certain medications.

The legal status of CBD in the United States is complex. Currently, hemp and hemp-derived products are permitted under the Farm Bill, as long as their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is less than 0.3%. This is the cannabinoid that people associate with the sensation of feeling “high.”

However, there is still some confusion over the specifics. If in doubt, people may wish to check the laws within each state.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) note that people can travel with medical CBD products with a THC content under 0.3%.

The CBD Awareness Project also acknowledge the challenges of navigating state, local, and federal laws regarding CBD. They provide an up-to-date list of the legal status of medical and recreational uses of CBD and other related products by state.

It is vital for a person to follow all instructions on the packaging and not exceed the correct dose on the label. People who are new to CBD should start with the lowest possible dosage. Once they know how their body reacts to the substance, they can gradually increase the dose.

People can mostly use CBD oils and tinctures in a similar way. A popular method is orally ingesting the product, and with this in mind, CBD products are typically available in a variety of flavors.

People can also consume CBD by placing one full dropper of the product under their tongue and holding the liquid for 30–90 seconds before swallowing.

In addition, a person can add CBD oils and tinctures to food and beverages. However, it is not advisable to do this with CBD oils, as it will likely not mix well, while some CBD oils may leave an unpleasant oily taste. However, water-soluble tinctures typically mix well in food and drink.

People can also apply CBD oil directly to their skin, but they should not try this with tinctures, as it will not be as effective and may irritate the skin. Individuals may also wish to attempt a patch test before applying CBD oil to check for any allergic reactions to the substance.

Learn more about CBD oil and skin here.

It is also important for people to speak with a healthcare professional before using a CBD oil or tincture. A doctor can help ensure a person is safe to use the product, and that these products will not interact with any current medications.

At present, the FDA do not regulate CBD products. A 2017 study also suggests that several CBD goods available online may include inaccurate labels. Therefore, when purchasing CBD oils or tinctures, it is advisable for people to look for products that:

  • contain no more than 0.3% THC, as per the Agriculture Improvement Act
  • have proof of third-party testing by an ISO/IEC 17025-accredited laboratory
  • pass tests for pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and microbes
  • pass product potency evaluations and safety testing
  • are not from a company subject to an FDA warning letter
  • are from a company that provide certificates of analysis for all their products

Additionally, people may also consider:

  • price
  • CBD potency
  • customer reviews
  • retailer and manufacturer reputations

Read our complete buyer’s guide to CBD here.

There is growing interest in CBD products, while some of the most popular items include oils and tinctures. Research suggests that the substance may have several potential health benefits.

While they are similar, manufacturers produce these products in different ways. Typically, CBD oil uses a carbon dioxide extraction method, while tinctures use alcohol to extract the substance.

Always consult with a doctor before trying CBD products for the first time.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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