By Steven Voser

One thing many CBD newcomers often struggle to wrap their heads around is how different carrier oils affect the quality of CBD oil.

Understanding CBD Carrier Oils

Carrier oils play a crucial role in CBD oils; chiefly, they help deliver the CBD, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds in cannabis extract into your body. Some of the most common carrier oils used in CBD products include:

  • Olive oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Coconut oil
  • MCT oil
  • Black cumin seed oil

To better understand how carrier oils work, it helps to first look at how CBD oils are made. It all starts with an extraction process that separates cannabidiol and other active compounds from dried cannabis or hemp flowers.

CBD oil manufacturers then take this extract and dilute it with a carrier oil to create the final product. Not only does this allow them to create products with varying concentrations of CBD, but it also helps to improve the absorption and bioavailability of the compounds in the CBD extract.

CBD Bioavailability

The bioavailability of CBD (in other words, how much CBD your body is actually able to absorb) changes depending on the carrier oil used in a particular product, and on how that product is administered.

Studies[1] have shown that inhaling CBD via a vaporizer boasts the highest bioavailability of any administration method, ranging from 34–46% (or as high as 56% in some cases[2]). Sublingually administered CBD oil, on the other hand, comes in second with a bioavailability ranging from 13–35%. Finally, swallowing CBD oil or ingesting CBD edibles (like gummies, for example) has the lowest bioavailability (aside from topical absorption), ranging from 6–20%.

Most Common CBD Carrier Oils: Benefits and Drawbacks

Carrier oils can also have a direct impact on the bioavailability of CBD products, as different oils are absorbed more or less efficiently by the body. While MCT is considered the best carrier oil for CBD (simply because it is easily digested by the body and has the best bioavailability), other carrier oils (like olive oil or hemp seed oil) have unique properties that can enhance the overall wellness benefits of your CBD oil.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a staple in many people’s diets. In addition to being an incredibly tasty and versatile cooking oil/condiment, olive oil has been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial properties.

First and foremost, olive oil is extremely rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to reduce inflammation[3] and, in some studies, even inhibit tumour cell proliferation[4]. Olive oil is also rich in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which are important components of cell membranes and precursors to many vital compounds that help regulate inflammation and blood pressure.

Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, and may help reduce the risk of stroke (due to its high concentration of monounsaturated fat).

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil (sometimes simply called hemp oil) is made, you guessed it, from hemp seeds, a superfood revered for its high concentration of plant proteins, vitamins, minerals, and more. It's extremely rich in omega-3 and 6, and, while less studied than olive oil, has also been shown to have a unique range of health benefits.

Thanks to its high concentration of omega-3 and 6, hemp seed oil may have anti-inflammatory properties[5]. Studies have also shown that hemp seed oil may be effective in the treatment of skin conditions, including acne[6], psoriasis[7], and more. Finally, research also shows that hemp oil is rich in plant-based protein, and may help reduce the risk of heart disease[8].


MCT oil is made of medium-chain triglycerides. Unlike long-chain triglycerides (which are found in most of the fats we eat), MCTs are smaller molecules and much easier to digest. This is why MCT oil is one of the most common carrier oils used in the CBD market.

Because it is much easier to digest than other carrier oils, MCT oil is believed to improve the bioavailability of CBD oil. This means your body is able to extract more CBD from a dose of an MCT-based oil than it would from a product with another carrier oil.

Some studies also suggest that MCT oil (derived from coconut oil) works as a mild appetite suppressant[9] and may help stimulate metabolism[10], making it an attractive option for people looking to use CBD oil to help with weight loss. Some research[11] has also explored the use of MCT oil in the treatment of symptoms related to autism, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease.

Black Cumin Seed Oil

Black seed oil (also known as black cumin seed oil, black onion seed oil, or kalonji) is derived from the seeds of Nigella sativa, a small flowering shrub native to eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia.

After discovering these seeds in the tombs of King Tutankhamun, scientists believe that black cumin seed has long played a central role in medicine and cooking. Studies suggest, for example, that black cumin seed oil is super rich in antioxidants[12] and may help relieve inflammation (when ingested or applied topically to the skin).

What’s the Best CBD Carrier Oil?

We’re firm believers that there’s no “better” or “worse” when it comes to choosing a CBD carrier oil. What you choose will mainly come down to your preferences and unique reasons for using CBD oil in the first place.

If you’re planning on using CBD oil as a regular wellness supplement, you may opt for an olive oil or hemp seed oil-based oil, as these two carriers provide a whole range of beneficial properties that may benefit your entire body.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for maximum bioavailability or plan to include CBD in your weight-loss regimen, you may want to look into an MCT-based oil. Finally, for something a little different, with a distinct range of benefits, you may want to look into black cumin seed oil.

External Resources:
  1. Cannabidiol bioavailability after nasal and transdermal application: effect of permeation enhancers - PubMed
  2. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics
  3. Role of oleic acid in immune system; mechanism of action; a review - PubMed
  4. Antitumor effect of oleic acid; mechanisms of action: a review - PubMed
  5. Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial
  6. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes
  7. Diet and Psoriasis: Part 3. Role of Nutritional Supplements
  8. Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial
  9. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men
  10. Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber - PubMed
  11. Mechanisms of action for the medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diet in neurological and metabolic disorders - ScienceDirect
  12. Chemical composition of Nigella sativa Linn: Part 2 Recent advances
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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