CBD Oil vs. CBD Tincture: What’s the Difference and How to Choose

One of the areas that can be confusing is the difference between CBD oils and CBD tinctures, they are not exactly the same, but many companies use the terms interchangeably. Let’s dive into some of the differences and the similarities.
Written by 
Zora Degrandpre, MS, ND.
|Last Updated:
CBD Oil vs. Tincture

There is much to be confused about in “CBD World”. There’s lots of hype, lots of promises and sometimes, misleading and confusing use of terminology.

CBD Oils

CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from hemp, is not water soluble– but it IS fat soluble. CBD oils dissolve the CBD in a number of different carrier oils, either as pure oils or a mixture. The most commonly used oils to produce CBD oil are:

  • Coconut oil
    • Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids, but is also high is some saturated fats–this may lead to higher cholesterol levels. Overall, the health benefits of coconut oil are not clear. [1]
  • MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil
    • Triglycerides are a type of fat and MCTs are easily absorbed by the body and used as an energy source. It is usually derived from coconut oil and is thought to help with weight loss, energy levels and to reduce inflammation. It may have benefits in increasing exercise endurance [2], support gut bacteria for digestive health [3] and may improve insulin sensitivity[4] along with cognitive benefits. [5]
  • Glycerin derived from vegetable sources
    • Glycerin is a sugar alcohol– a sort of chemical hybrid between sugars and alcohols. It occurs naturally in plants and is the “backbone” of the triglycerides. Ingested, it may help maintain bowel regularity and can increase body hydration.[6]
  • Hemp seed oil
    • Hemp seed oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids including gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and alpha linolenic acid (ALA), other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), protein, Vitamin E, chlorophyll, phytosterols and antioxidants. Pure hemp seed oil does NOT contain CBD– if there is any, it is because the process was not well controlled and likely came from contamination with flowers and leaves of adult plants. It is considered one of the more nutritious oils. It’s green color (and the taste) comes from the chlorophyll.

The taste of CBD oil can be an acquired one. It can also leave a taste residue that some don’t appreciate. It tends to have a shorter shelf life compared to tinctures.

CBD oils can be extracted from the hemp plant, but often, CBD isolate is added to the carrier oil. In either case, the concentration (potency) of CBD oil tends to be higher than that found in most CBD tinctures.

CBD Tinctures

A tincture, as defined by classical herbalists, is an extract produced by soaking herb material in ethanol (Usually 90% ethanol). This is the main difference between CBD oils and CBD tinctures. Ethanol is an “amphipathic” solvent– it can dissolve both water- and fat-soluble substances so an alcohol extract can produce a product with more cannabinoids and plant terpenes in it. CBD tinctures also generally contain other cannabinoids and terpenes. CBD oils may also contain other cannabinoids and terpenes if it is extracted from the hemp plant and not made by using a CBD isolate.

CBD tinctures generally contain less CBD per mL– in other words, they tend to be less concentrated or potent than CBD oils.

CBD tinctures may also contain some additional ingredients such as flavorings, essential oils and sometimes sweeteners, vitamins or other supplements like melatonin, l-theanine or other herbs. The taste–because of the flavorings– is often more popular with consumers.

Other Differences Between CBD Oils and CBD Tinctures


Both forms of CBD can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) and by swallowing without leaving the liquid under the tongue.

Sublingual ingestion has some advantages because it avoids first pass metabolism by the liver and allows more CBD to enter your system. In this respect, CBD oils may be better because the oil is more easily absorbed when taken sublingually than is the ethanol-based tincture. The taste (and aftertaste) of the oil can be a drawback, however. If you take either a CBD oil or tincture under the tongue, you should keep it under the tongue for at least 30 seconds, though longer is likely to allow for more absorption.

There is likely little difference in the bioavailability between the oil or tincture form if it is swallowed.


High quality CBD oil is usually a bit more expensive than a CBD tincture, but lesser quality CBD oils are about the same cost as the tinctures.

Other Delivery Methods

CBD oil can be delivered orally, sublingually or by vaping. It can also be used topically (on the skin).

Tinctures are usually only used orally or sublingually– the alcohol in the tincture is usually too drying for skin applications.

Which is better?

There is no definitive answer for this because it depends on the individual and what that individual is trying to achieve. CBD oil has a small advantage in its bioavailability, but that requires sublingual use and keeping it under your tongue for at least 30-60 seconds. If you are someone that can’t deal with the taste, then the bioavailability advantage may be a moot point and you may prefer the flavored tincture form.

If you are using a CBD oil made from an isolate, an important consideration may be that you are losing out on the potential benefit of other cannabinoids and terpenes. We are just beginning to learn what those benefits may be.


CBD oil has some advantages in bioavailability especially if it is taken sublingually. The major drawback for many is the taste and aftertaste. It also can be more expensive than the tinctures but generally contains a higher potency of CBD per mL. It can also be used as a vape or for topical application. CBD oil tends to be less stable than CBD tinctures and has a shorter shelf life. Depending on how it is made, it may contain other cannabinoids and terpenes from the hemp plant.

CBD tinctures can come in a variety of flavors and can be taken orally or sublingually. It tends to be less concentrated and less expensive than CBD oils and may contain other cannabinoids and terpenes from the hemp plant. It tends to be more stable and have a longer shelf life.

References Cited

[1] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/

[2] Wang Y, Liu Z, Han Y, Xu J, Huang W, Li Z. Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. PLoS One. 2018 Feb 8;13(2):e0191182. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191182. PMID: 29420554; PMCID: PMC5805166.


[3] Rial SA, Karelis AD, Bergeron KF, Mounier C. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. Nutrients. 2016 May 12;8(5):281. doi: 10.3390/nu8050281. PMID: 27187452; PMCID: PMC4882694.


[4] Eckel RH, Hanson AS, Chen AY, Berman JN, Yost TJ, Brass EP. Dietary substitution of medium-chain triglycerides improves insulin-mediated glucose metabolism in NIDDM subjects. Diabetes. 1992 May; 41(5):641-7.


[5] Avgerinos KI, Egan JM, Mattson MP, Kapogiannis D. Medium Chain Triglycerides induce mild ketosis and may improve cognition in Alzheimer’s disease. A systematic review and meta-analysis of human studies. Ageing Res Rev. 2020 Mar;58:101001. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2019.101001. Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 31870908; PMCID: PMC7050425.


[6] Goulet ED, Aubertin-Leheudre M, Plante GE, Dionne IJ. A meta-analysis of the effects of glycerol-induced hyperhydration on fluid retention and endurance performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Aug;17(4):391-410. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.17.4.391. PMID: 17962713.


Dr. Zora DeGrandpre practices naturopathic medicine (home visits) in rural Washington and is a professional medical and scientific writer and editor, specializing in naturopathic, functional, botanical and integrative medicine. Dr. DeGrandpre has degrees in drug design, immunology and natural medicine and has extensive research experience in cancer and molecular immunology. In her practice, Dr DeGrandpre has found the use of CBD with elderly patients and others to be safe and clinically effective. She brings to all her writing a straightforward approach that is accurate, clear and authentic.

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