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CBD Oil vs. Tincture: What’s the Difference?

dropper with CBD oil drops

CBD oil and CBD tincture are both liquid formulations that contain CBD derived from the hemp plant. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, it’s essential to know that these two products are not the same.

The main difference between CBD tincture and CBD oil is the base of the product. CBD tincture uses alcohol as a base and solvent to extract and suspend the CBD, and CBD oil is created by using CO2 or ethanol extraction methods before suspending the CBD in a carrier oil.

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What Is CBD Tincture?

CBD tinctures are alcohol-based extracts usually created using industrial hemp with high levels of CBD. Food-grade ethanol alcohol is most frequently used as the liquid solvent for tinctures as it can effectively extract CBD, which is not water-soluble.

A true tincture is made by steeping the plant material in high-proof alcohol (like ethanol) for six weeks or more. The plant material is then strained out, and the mixture can be transferred into dropper bottles or further refined. The final product contains ethanol as the alcohol base, and vegetable glycerin or other ingredients can be added to improve the flavor.

Some cannabis oils are also formulated using ethanol as a solvent to extract the CBD. However, these are not proper tinctures, as the alcohol is removed after extraction.

In this case, cannabis plant material is steeped in alcohol and heated gently. As the mixture is heated, the alcohol content evaporates, leaving behind oil enriched with CBD. Terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and a small amount of THC — 0.3% or less — will also be present if the plant material used contains whole plant cannabis.

How It Works

Tinctures are administered by using a dropper to deliver drops sublingually (under the tongue) as the area under your tongue contains a rich source of blood vessels.

Sublingual administration allows the CBD to travel through these blood vessels, bypassing the gut and liver and facilitating the rapid absorption of the CBD into the bloodstream. Ideally, the tincture should be held under the tongue for 90 seconds to two minutes to allow it to be absorbed effectively.


CBD tinctures are often highly concentrated CBD products that can be used in many ways. Once administered, effects usually kick in between 30 minutes to an hour. The effects of a CBD tincture usually last around six hours but may linger for up to 12 hours for higher doses. Due to these fast-acting but relatively long-lasting effects, CBD tinctures may be ideal for acute conditions such as flare-up of pain, inflammation, or the sudden onset of anxiety.

Potential Benefits

Tinctures offer some unique benefits as a CBD delivery method. They’re easy to dose, can be mixed with food and beverages, boast a rapid onset when consumed sublingually, and have long-lasting effects. Tinctures also typically have a longer shelf life than CBD oil as the alcohol protects against the oxidation of the active compounds.

Risks and Drawbacks

CBD tinctures also come with some drawbacks. True CBD or cannabis tinctures that contain alcohol can have a bitter taste, and they sometimes undergo a refinement process or add additional ingredients to the final product.

Additionally, tinctures are inappropriate for use topically and should only be consumed orally. And although CBD is well-tolerated by most people, it can also sometimes cause side effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, or fatigue.

What Is CBD Oil?

Many CBD products that are labeled as tinctures are actually oils. CBD oils are easier to find than tinctures and are usually made using a blend of CBD extract and a carrier oil, such as medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) coconut oil, olive oil, or hemp oil.

CBD is extracted from the hemp plant using CO2 or other extraction methods before blended with the carrier oil. CBD oils are available as full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum, or isolate formulations, and CBD-rich medical cannabis oils that contain varying amounts of THC. Sometimes other active compounds or additional ingredients, such as melatonin, are added.

How It Works

CBD oil is versatile and can work in or on the body in several ways.

Like a tincture, it can be placed under the tongue using the sublingual method. Additionally, since most commercial CBD brands manufacture CBD oil with a pleasant flavor, it can also be added to food or drinks. For example, some people like to blend CBD oil with their coffee.

And while it is designed primarily for oral or sublingual use, CBD oil can also be administered topically to the skin to help with things like nerve pain, arthritic pain, post-exercise soreness, and other ailments.


You can use CBD oil to treat various conditions similar to CBD tinctures.

People typically consume CBD oil to ease anxiety, relieve stress and tension, support sleep, reduce pain and soothe inflammation. Sublingually-consumed CBD oil can take effect within an hour and last six hours or more, and CBD oil that is consumed orally can take up to two hours to take effect but also lasts for six or more hours.

Potential Benefits

CBD oil boasts a number of benefits — there are even benefits to using CBD even when you’re healthy. As the oil is usually packaged in a glass dropper bottle, it’s very easy to dose and can be measured in drops. Those who don’t enjoy the taste of CBD oil can combine it with food or beverages to conceal the flavor.

As CBD oil is one of the most prominent CBD delivery methods, there’s a broad diversity of potencies, flavors, and formulations available, so it’s easy to find a product to suit your needs.

Finally, CBD oil usually contains minimal ingredients — just the CBD extract and a carrier oil, such as MCT oil, olive oil, or hemp seed oil.

Risks and Drawbacks

There are several potential drawbacks associated with CBD oil.

First, it can have a strong grassy flavor that some consumers may find unpleasant. Like CBD tincture, it can sometimes lead to side effects, such as a dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, or fatigue.

Finally, CBD oil can interact with other common medications when consumed orally, so it’s essential to check with your doctor if you’re already taking medication and are considering using CBD oil.

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Similarities and Differences Between CBD Tincture and CBD Oil

While “CBD tincture” and “CBD oil” are frequently used interchangeably in the CBD industry, oil and tincture are two different products.

CBD oil is a product that contains CBD extract suspended in a carrier oil, such as MCT coconut oil. CBD tincture, on the other hand, contains CBD extract suspended in alcohol. Some CBD oils that use ethanol (alcohol) to extract CBD before evaporating the alcohol and suspending the extract in oil are incorrectly labeled CBD oil tinctures.

However, CBD oil and CBD tincture also have several features in common:

  • Both are typically packaged in a glass dropper bottle.
  • Both products can be administered sublingually for rapid effects by bypassing the liver or consumed orally via the mouth.

How to Decide Which Is Best For You

CBD oil and tinctures interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and may offer a range of health benefits. When choosing between the two, personal preference will likely determine which is best suited to your needs.

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When to Use CBD Tincture

CBD tinctures are ideal for people looking for a product with a long shelf life that is less likely to oxidize. They’re also suited to people who wish to avoid oil or those who have a sensitivity or allergy to coconut oil, which is most commonly used as the oil base.

When to Use CBD Oil

CBD oils are perfect for individuals who wish to avoid alcohol, and it’s also an ideal option for those who prefer to blend CBD into their food or beverages.

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