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CBD Oil vs. Tincture: What's The Difference?


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The primary difference between a CBD oil and a CBD tincture is that CBD oil is made by infusing cannabis in a carrier oil, while CBD tincture is traditionally created by soaking cannabis in alcohol to extract the compounds.

Tincturing is an age-old method involving soaking herbs in ethanol alcohol, which has the properties to extract both fat-soluble and water-soluble compounds. The result is a potent solution designed to be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for fast and effective absorption of active compounds.

With modern cannabinoid extraction methods, it's now possible to get high cannabinoid-content CBD oils, which means alcohol-based CBD tinctures aren't the only way to get high doses of CBD sublingually.

This is where we get “CBD oil tinctures,” and they're popular — so popular, in fact, that the word "tinctures" is more commonly associated with CBD oils.

In this article, we'll examine the nuances of CBD oils, tinctures, and other hemp extract products.

Woman holding a jar and dropper of CBD tincture

The Differences Between Tinctures and Oils in Herbal Medicine

In the realm of herbal medicine, tinctures and oils are two distinct forms of herbal extracts, each with its unique preparation method and uses. 

Consider this a very basic crash course on herbal medicine:

Tinctures: Traditional Alcohol-Based Extracts

Woman holding a dropper and jar of CBD tincture

Tinctures are made by soaking herbs in ethanol, which acts as a solvent to draw out a wide range of biologically active compounds from the plant material. To prepare this, you would macerate the herbs and allow the alcohol to dissolve both fat-soluble and water-soluble components for several weeks.

This gives ethanol tinctures a high extraction potency, making them concentrated solutions with a long shelf life due to the preservative properties of alcohol.

The high-proof alcohol content also aids in rapid absorption when taken sublingually, delivering the herbal compounds directly into the bloodstream.

Oils: The Soothing Infusions

Dropper of CBD Oil with a drop almost falling

Herbal oils are created by infusing herbs in carrier oil such as olive, coconut, or hemp seed oil. This process often involves gentle heating, which facilitates the extraction of fat-soluble components from the herb into the oil.

These herbal infusions were traditionally used for topical massages, skin treatments, and aromatherapy applications but could also be ingested.

Unlike alcohol-based tinctures, oil infusions could only extract the fat-soluble compounds, which means it may not have been as potent as its tincture counterparts.

Modern Interpretations: CBD Tinctures Vs. CBD Oils

2 brown bottles of CBD oil and tincture surrounded by hemp seeds and leafs

In contemporary language, terms like "CBD oil" and "CBD tincture" are used somewhat interchangeably, though they can refer to different extraction methods and carrier substances.

For instance, the term "tincture" is now an umbrella term for CBD extracts dissolved in various carrier oils meant to be taken sublingually.

How we talk about CBD products is also shaped by how they're marketed and what consumers prefer. For instance, "oil" sounds more friendly and natural to many people than the word "tincture," which might seem more severe or medical.

As more people become interested in CBD, companies are tweaking their language to make it more welcoming and accessible, which keeps our CBD vocabulary growing and changing.

CBD Oil & Tincture Extraction Methods

The CBD industry has seen significant advancements in extraction methods, with supercritical CO2 and ethanol extraction leading the way.

These modern techniques are designed to produce concentrated cannabinoid oil safely and effectively, which forms the basis of the CBD products we know and love.

Let's take a closer look at these processes.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide in a supercritical state, making the gas behave like a liquid solvent to "wash" the hemp plant material, effectively separating cannabinoids, terpenes, and fatty acids from the larger organic plant matter.

The benefit of this method is that CO2 is non-toxic to workers and the environment, and sophisticated machinery allows for precise control over the extraction of specific cannabinoids and terpenes [1].

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction involves soaking the cannabis plant material in ethanol to extract the CBD on an industrial scale. The solution is then processed to separate the CBD-rich extract from the ethanol.

Compared to CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction can be more cost-effective, especially for larger operations.

Both methods are significantly safer than older solvent-based extraction methods, which often involve harmful chemicals. Modern extraction techniques are conducted under strict quality control conditions, ensuring the resulting CBD oil is safe for consumption.

The concentrated cannabis oil obtained from these extraction methods is typically too potent to use directly, which is why it's often combined with carrier oils or other ingredients to create a variety of CBD products, including CBD gummies, CBD Pills, and CBD Topicals.

What’s the Difference Between CBD Drops and Tinctures?

While shopping for CBD products, you may have encountered CBD oil drops and tinctures and wondered, "What's the difference?"

The short answer is that there isn't a difference, and the terms for CBD tinctures and drops are often used interchangeably.

Both CBD drops and tinctures commonly come in amber glass dropper bottles. The amber glass helps protect the CBD oil from light, which can degrade its quality, while the dropper allows for accurate and convenient dosing.

The difference primarily lies in branding and marketing preferences rather than the product. This choice is often influenced by marketing strategies aimed at different consumer preferences and perceptions.

“Drops" can evoke a sense of precision and ease of use, highlighting the product's application method — typically, a dropper for administering CBD oil drop by drop.

Whether labeled as drops or tinctures, these products usually contain CBD extract in a carrier oil. They may be available in various concentrations and flavors, and the recommended use for both is generally the same: they're to be administered sublingually (under the tongue) for efficient absorption into the bloodstream.

What's the Difference Between CBD Tinctures and Extracts?

CBD tinctures are essentially hemp extracts combined with a carrier oil (MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil, hemp seed oil, or glycerin). The carrier oil not only dilutes the extract for ease of use but also aids in the absorption of CBD into the body.

Extracts are the concentrated forms of CBD (and other cannabinoids and terpenes) obtained through various extraction processes from the hemp plant, producing a potent product.

The Types of Hemp Extracts

  1. Full Spectrum: This CBD extract type includes all cannabinoids, terpenes, and other hemp compounds, along with trace amounts of THC (0.3%). This combination of hemp plant components is believed to strengthen the effects of CBD in what's called the entourage effect, offering synergistic effects on the endocannabinoid system than CBD can do alone [2].
  2. Broad Spectrum: Similar to full spectrum but with all THC content removed, offering a THC-free option while maintaining other cannabinoids and terpenes. Because of the other cannabinoids, this extract type can still deliver the benefits of the entourage effect, though weaker due to the absence of THC.
  3. CBD Isolate: The purest form, containing only CBD and no other cannabinoids or terpenes. Many people find that this gives a purer CBD experience. However, it tends to be weaker. You may need higher doses of CBD isolate to achieve the same effects as your broad spectrum CBD or full spectrum CBD products.

These hemp extracts are then used to create various CBD products, including the tinctures mentioned above/oils/drops in different potencies of CBD, which are labeled in milligrams (MG).

What’s in Hemp Tincture vs. CBD Tincture?

The terms 'hemp tincture' and 'CBD tincture' often lead to confusion, but in many cases, they refer to the same type of product.

It's more about how brands name their products than what's actually in them.

While 'CBD tincture' explicitly references the presence of CBD, 'hemp tincture' may be perceived as more holistic, potentially encompassing a more comprehensive range of hemp plant compounds.

Both hemp tinctures and CBD tinctures typically contain a significant concentration of CBD, as it is one of the most abundant and sought-after cannabinoids in hemp.

In addition to the hemp extract, these tinctures usually include a carrier oil like MCT, hemp seed, or olive oil and may contain other ingredients like flavorings or herbs.

In the versatile world of hemp extracts, it's possible to create specialized tinctures that focus on specific cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, or even THC. This is achieved by selective breeding hemp plants or refining extraction processes to concentrate on particular compounds.

Let's take a quick look at a few popular hemp-derived minor cannabinoids:

  1. CBN Hemp Tincture: CBN, or cannabinol, is known for its calming properties. A CBN hemp tincture targets these effects, making it a popular choice for individuals seeking better sleep or relaxation.
  2. CBG Hemp Tincture: CBG, or cannabigerol, is often called the 'mother of all cannabinoids' and is prized for its potential to support healthy inflammation and brain health [3]. CBG hemp tinctures are designed to harness these specific benefits.
  3. THC Hemp Tincture: While THC is commonly associated with marijuana, hemp plants can also contain THC in trace amounts. A THC cannabis tincture might focus on providing the potential wellness benefits of THC, like discomfort relief, nausea reduction, and mellow psychoactive effects, while maintaining a low enough THC concentration to meet legal hemp standards [4, 5.

The most reliable way to understand what's in your tincture is to look at third-party lab test results. These tests provide an unbiased analysis of the product, detailing the exact concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids, as well as the presence of any contaminants.

Third-party testing not only clarifies the cannabinoid profile of the tincture but also ensures that the product meets safety standards and is free from harmful substances like pesticides or heavy metals.

Navigating Hemp Oil and Hemp Tincture Scams on Amazon

First of all, Amazon prohibits the use of all cannabinoids on its platform.

When shopping for CBD oil or tinctures online, knowing some sellers' misleading practices is crucial. Unfortunately, there are products out there marketed under the guise of being beneficial, like CBD products. Still, in reality, they are nothing more than overpriced hemp seed oil.

Some sellers use terms like 'hemp extract' or 'hemp tincture' in a way that suggests these products have the same benefits as CBD oil. However, these could merely be hemp seed oil, which, while nutritious, does not contain CBD or other cannabinoids.

The Takeaway: CBD Tincture Vs. CBD Oil

Machine filling a bottle of CBD oil

Historically, tinctures have been a staple in herbal medicine.

While the CBD industry has roots in herbal medicine, the terminology has changed significantly, reflecting a blend of traditional practices, modern innovations, and marketing strategies.

Understanding these nuances and the importance of third-party lab testing is crucial in navigating the market and making informed choices about CBD products. This awareness ensures you can reap the full benefits of CBD, whether through oils, tinctures, or other forms.

Resources:

  1. Jozwiak, A., Brzozowski, R., Bujnowski, Z., Chojnacki, T., & Swiezewska, E. (2013). Application of supercritical CO2 for extraction of polyisoprenoid alcohols and their esters from plant tissues [S]. Journal of Lipid Research, 54(7), 2023-2028.
  2. Ferber, S. G., Namdar, D., Hen-Shoval, D., Eger, G., Koltai, H., Shoval, G., ... & Weller, A. (2020). The “entourage effect”: terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Current neuropharmacology, 18(2), 87-96.
  3. Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants, 9(1), 21.
  4. Bains, S., & Mukhdomi, T. (2021). Medicinal cannabis for treatment of chronic pain.
  5. Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-1422.
BY
Jan Brandrup

M.Eng Electrical & Mechanical Jan Brandrup is a Denmark born leader who has actualized multiple of his entrepreneurial businesses to success. Committed to excellent standards of functional craftsmanship, his work spans globally from Scandinavia to South Africa, Turkey, Russia, the Middle Eas...


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