Carrier Oils for CBD: How to Choose the Best One
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City.
If you’ve ever used a CBD oil, you’ve gotten more from the product than just cannabidiol (CBD). For multiple reasons, manufacturers include a carrier oil, too.
As its name suggests, a carrier oil delivers (or carries) the contents of the active compound. In this case, it’s CBD. In the realm of beauty products, carrier oils dilute essential oils because the essential oil may be too strong on its own. (For example, a lavender reaction from lavender oil can cause the skin to itch, burn, or break out in blisters.)
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various reasons. For example, most of them are nut-based or plant-based, and you could be allergic to them. Oils that are taken orally may not taste good to you. Reading the label is a smart move—as long as you know what you’re looking for.
This article explains the purpose of carrier oils and the possible side effects. It also describes the six carrier oils you’re likely to see in stores and online, including their advantages and drawbacks.
Marketing Outpaces Science
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol. It’s one of 100-plus chemicals in the cannabis plant that may have health benefits. It’s widely assumed that CBD oil can relieve arthritis pain, chronic pain, and chronic nerve pain as well as reduce inflammation, ease anxiety, and improve sleep. Researchers are actively studying other uses for CBD oil, particularly in terms of slowing cancer cell growth.
Purpose of CBD Carrier Oils
CBD products use different carrier oils, sometimes alone and sometimes in combinations. They serve several important functions:
One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. CBD is fat-soluble, which means that it dissolves in oil rather than water. Fat-soluble substances are better absorbed when digested along with fat, even in small amounts.
When you digest water-soluble substances, like sugar or many vitamins and minerals, your digestive tract sends them directly into your bloodstream (because blood is a water-based liquid).
Fat-soluble substances can’t be absorbed this way. Instead, your digestive tract sends them into fatty tissues and they’re distributed through your body by the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Any excess is stored in your liver and fatty tissues for later use.
All carrier oils are fat-soluble, which means CBD dissolves in it. Then the oil carries the CBD into the proper tissues so they’re more accessible by your body.
Know Your Tinctures
CBD products have introduced consumers to a new lexicon. For example, concentrated CBD oil usually taken through a dropper is known as a tincture.
CBD is a potent chemical, which means you don’t need much of it for a medicinal effect. However, this poses a problem when it comes to dosing. To deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form).
Added Health Benefits
Carrier oils sometimes include health benefits all on their own. For example, olive oil has gotten a lot of attention for its heart-healthy benefits.
If there’s an oil you’d like to get more of in your diet, adding it to your CBD regimen is one way to get it. (This said, it remains debatable whether one or two droppers of carrier oil a day is enough to have any tangible effect on your health. This is another CBD-related topic that falls under the category of “more research is required.”)
CBD Products Come From Hemp
CBD products almost always are derived from hemp, which is botanically and legally different from the marijuana plant. By law, CBD products can’t contain more than 0.3% THC (short for delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol ), which is the chemical in marijuana that creates a high.
Side Effects and Precautions
Most people don’t have side effects from common carrier oils. Some oils, though, may not be right for people with certain illnesses or who take certain medications. Always check with your healthcare provider before adding anything to your dietary regimen—even a “natural” product like CBD in a carrier oil. Natural doesn’t always mean safe.
If you have tree-nut allergies or other food allergies, be especially diligent about selecting CBD products with carrier oils you know are safe for you. All ingredients should be specified on the label.
For topical preparations, know that some carrier oils or other added ingredients may cause an itchy, red rash called allergic contact dermatitis. Others may cause a skin reaction after sun exposure. Be sure you’re familiar with the potential side effects of whatever products you’re using. And play it safe by testing a miniscule amount of topical oil on an obscure patch of skin to see if you develop a reaction.
What About Essential Oils?
Carrier oils aren’t the same thing as essential oils used for aromatherapy. Essential oils are highly concentrated, which is why they have a strong fragrance. Many essential oils can cause poisoning when ingested or absorbed through the skin, even in small amounts. This is true even if the oil comes from something that is normally safe to ingest, such as nutmeg.
Essential oils are often used topically (on the skin) after being diluted by a carrier oil. Essential oils themselves, however, should never be used as a carrier oil. Some topical CBD formulations may include essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus oils because of their purported health benefits.
Before using these products, be sure you’re familiar with the ingredients and that you’re not allergic to any of them. Watch also for side effects, which can occur soon after using them.
Common Carrier Oils
Some CBD oils may contain one or more carrier oils. Some common carrier oils are:
- Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
MCT oil is the most common carrier oil for CBD products. It can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, but coconut is the most common source. On labels, it’s sometimes listed as fractionated coconut oil, which means it contains more liquid than solid compared to normal coconut oil, thanks to fatty acids.
Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acid that your body can quickly absorb because it doesn’t have to break it down via digestion before sending it off to the lymph system. It also absorbs easily through the skin.
Long-chain triglycerides require more digestion time. Short-chain triglycerides are often consumed by gut bacteria before they’ve had time to be absorbed. So MCTs are the most useful.
- Quick absorption due to molecular structure
- 90% saturated fat, which also aids absorption
- Light, thin oil
- Almost flavorless
- Doesn’t require chemical processing
- Less expensive than some carrier oils
- Slow to break down and go rancid
- Temporary digestive side effects (nausea, gas, diarrhea, vomiting) in some people
- Possible excessive build-up of ketones in the body (dangerous with poorly controlled diabetes)
- Not recommended for people with liver disease
- May interact with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
Additional Health Claims
Some scientific evidence suggests that MCT oil may:
- Help with weight loss by reducing your appetite, increasing metabolism, and making your body burn calories faster
- Have benefits for people with autism, epilepsy, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Activate the immune system to fight yeast and bacterial overgrowth
While promising, much of this research is preliminary. More research is needed before MCT oil can be recommended for these uses.
Scrutinize Coconut Oil Labels
If the label of a CBD product says “coconut oil,” it’s likely regular coconut oil and not MCT. While perfectly fine as a carrier oil, regular coconut oil may not have all of the same benefits of an MCT.
Hemp Seed Oil
It may come from the same plant, but hemp seed oil (sometimes called hemp oil) and CBD oil aren’t the same thing. CBD comes from the flower while hemp seed oil comes from the seeds. The seeds contain fewer beneficial chemicals (cannabinoids and terpenes) than the flower and in much lower concentrations. However, they do contain some hemp phytochemicals that aren’t present in the flowers.
Using hemp seed oil as a carrier oil for CBD may contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” which basically means that combining parts of the plant may make each component more effective than it would be alone.
This quality makes hemp seed oil a popular choice for “full-spectrum” products, which contain all of the component chemicals of the hemp plant rather than just CBD.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower inflammation
- Ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids
- High antioxidant levels
- Good source of fiber
- Contains magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc
- Possible entourage effect
- Lower solvency than MCT oil, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Higher priced than MCT oil
- Flavor (sometimes described as “sharp” or “herby”) may clash with some palates
- Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, throat irritation, slow heart rate, high blood pressure
Some companies try to pass off hemp seed oil as CBD oil. Be sure to check the ingredients and amount of CBD a product contains before you buy it. All reputable companies should provide this information on their labels and websites.
Additional Health Claims
Hemp seed has been used medicinally for a wide array of conditions, most of which have not been researched enough to say for sure whether they’re safe and effective. The conditions include:
, for its anti-inflammatory properties and blood pressure and other conditions involving skin inflammation
Olive oil is probably the carrier oil you’re most familiar with. It’s certainly the best researched. It’s become one of the most commonly used cooking oils because of its many well-established health benefits:
- High in iron, vitamin K, vitamin E
- Rich in antioxidants
- Highly trusted
- Absorbed by the skin even faster than MCT
- Its long-chain triglycerides are slower to absorb than MCT (but may absorb more efficiently)
- Lower solvency than MCT, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Thicker than most other carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Flavor is relatively strong and may be distasteful to some people
Additional Health Claims
Thanks to a significant amount of research, olive oil is known to:
- Boost immunity
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
- Prevent blood platelet clumping, which can cause heart attacks
- Aid in blood clotting
- Improve gut-bacteria balance
- Support proper nerve function
- Prevent cognitive decline
- Protect bones from thinning (osteoporosis)
Avocado oil has become more popular for a variety of uses, including cooking, as researchers have learned about its health benefits. As a CBD carrier oil, it’s used most often in topical products, but you can also find it in products that are meant to be ingested.
- Quickly and easily absorbed by your skin and digestive tract
- Nutty flavor may be more pleasant than some alternatives
- Especially good for topical uses
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in vitamins A, B, D, and E
- Much thicker than most carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Significantly more expensive than many carrier oils
- Higher allergy risk than many carrier oils
Additional Health Claims
Most of the research into avocado oil has been performed on animals, not people. Until researchers take this next step, preliminary evidence suggests that avocado oil may:
- Lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, which decreases the risk of heart disease
- Improve glucose tolerance and reduce insulin resistance, providing protection from diabetes
- Improve metabolic markers
Avocado oil is less likely than many oils to clog your pores, so it’s popular for topical use. Plus, its slow drying time may help it last longer than some topical preparations.
Avocado allergies are possible. If you experience itching in your mouth after ingesting avocados or avocado oil, don’t ingest any more before talking with your healthcare provider about it. Some allergies tend to occur together. People with avocado allergies may be especially sensitive to:
- Other fruits and vegetables
If you have an allergic reaction to any of these things, you should be tested for a reaction to the others as well.
Extreme Symptoms Are Possible
Extreme allergy symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, are uncommon (but possible) with avocados because digestive enzymes tend to break down the allergen before it’s absorbed into your body. Get emergency medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various health reasons. One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. Besides, to deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form). Carrier oils also may have health benefits all on their own. Four common carrier oils are medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, hemp seed oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.
A Word From Verywell
Many people are quick to ask: “Which CBD carrier oil is the best?” Now you know that the answer depends on several factors, including the type and uses of the CBD product, whether you have allergies or certain health conditions, and your personal preferences. So look at it this way: If you try one oil and don’t like it, you can always try a different one. Meanwhile, be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice along the way.
Does CBD oil help with weight loss? Here’s how CBD plays a role in your fitness
Let’s be honest, CBD oil has become a recent craze in the health and wellness industry. Also known as cannabidiol, the second-most prevalent ingredient in cannabis, CBD is growing in popularity thanks to its lack of a “high” feeling — as well as a laundry list of purported health benefits — which has led both consumers and researchers to ask: Can CBD oil help with weight loss?
While the verdict is still out on whether or not CBD oil can support a weight loss or fitness routine, here’s what you need to know.
What is CBD oil?
CBD is one of the two main cannabinoids (or active compounds) found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the more commonly known THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is a non-intoxicating extract, which means that it doesn’t cause the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use. While recreational use of cannabis has made many skeptical of CBD, it continues to rise in popularity thanks to its many potential health benefits — including treating pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder.
So how does CBD oil help? Researchers believe that it might work with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) — a system that’s still being heavily researched — but is known to play an important role in the modulation of sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and hormone function.
“The endocannabinoid system’s main function is homeostasis: homeo meaning same, stasis meaning state,” says Dr. Jeff Chen, who is the founder of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative as well as the CEO and CoFounder of Radicle Science. “So the endocannabinoid system’s job is to maintain an equilibrium state in light of changing conditions. For example, if there is inflammation, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce inflammation. If there is excessive neuron firing that is signaling pain, endocannabinoid release is triggered to reduce neuron firing and pain signals.”
According to Dr. Chen, there are have animal studies suggesting that CBD can help slow the breakdown of endocannabinoid. But there isn’t any conclusive evidence that proves CBD has the same impact on humans because we’re still learning about how exactly CBD works.
5 ways CBD oil may help with weight loss
While a direct link between CBD usage and weight loss is still being researched, there are a few ways that CBD oil might be effective in supporting weight loss.
One of the most well-known uses of CBD oil is as an analgesic, AKA a pain reliever. A 2012 study indicates that CBD oil may be an effective treatment for those suffering from chronic pain, and other studies have also explored the effects of CBD use on patients with arthritis, noting a significant decrease in pain and inflammation with no adverse side effects.
This means if chronic pain has been preventing you from being able to exercise, CBD may provide you much-needed relief to restart your fitness journey, which in turn can help with weight loss.
While CBD’s stress-relieving properties might not seem like they’d directly impact weight loss, experts suggest otherwise.
“It can lift your mood and give you more motivation to do your workout,” says Dr. Felecia Dawson, a physician and cannabis advocate. Even better? “It can decrease pain and inflammation associated with exercising.”
How? Because CBD can improve your overall mood — with initial research suggesting that CBD might be a good treatment for anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder — as your general mental health and sense of wellbeing improves, you’re far more likely to hit the gym. Motivation is a critical factor in whether or not many people reach their fitness goals, which is why supplementing with CBD might give you the boost you need to actually do your workout and stick to your fitness plan.
Boosting the metabolism
While CBD might have an indirect effect on weight loss, initial research suggests that it might benefit weight loss by increasing our metabolism. That’s because CBD impacts both our CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system that are associated with metabolism and hunger. Unlike CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors are not always active, but CBD can help activate them. When active, the CB2 receptors have been shown to have anti-obesity effects.
While the effects of CBD on the metabolism have largely only been studied in animals, a 2015 study on rats showed that CBD oil activated the CB2 receptors producing “a profound reduction in body weight gain” — even without reduced food intake. While much is to be explored about the ECS and CB2 receptors, this suggests that CBD usage might play a significant role in boosting our metabolism.
A further look into CBD’s effect on our metabolism reveals something researchers call fat “browning.” Typically, adults have an abundance of white fat cells — responsible for storing fat — located beneath the skin and in the abdominal cavity. The second type of fat cells, known as brown fat cells, are sparse and located in regions like the shoulder blades and spinal cord. More brown cells in the body are associated with overall better health and are known to encourage weight loss.
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A 2016 study revealed that CBD may interact with these fat cells in a huge way: fat “browning.” CBD in the body can promote a process known as transdifferentiation in which white fat cells are converted into brown fat cells. As more white fat cells become brown fat cells, lipid metabolism (aka fat burning) is increased.
Another promising weight loss area that CBD oil might impact is its potential to increase energy or wakefulness. However, more studies need to be done to confirm whether or not this is true.
While this isn’t directly linked to weight loss, having more energy typically translates to more energy being expended. If you feel an increase in energy after using CBD, you’re might be more likely to go for a walk around the block or make it to your workout class.
Improved sleep quality
As an added bonus, CBD oil can also help improve your sleep. Not only does this mean you’ll wake up feeling more rested when your alarm goes off for your morning workout. Better sleep can actually play a direct role in improving your weight loss.
In fact, experts suggest that sleep is one of the most critical — and most overlooked — factors in weight loss. A lack of sleep can translate into increased appetite, slower metabolism, reduced exercise levels, and more — all of which can greatly diminish your weight loss.
Sleep also plays an important role in recovery, meaning your night-time CBD use isn’t just helping you relax. It’s also making it easier for you to hit your fitness goals.
How to use CBD oil for weight loss
If you’re ready to incorporate CBD into your fitness routine, Dr. Dawson recommends starting with an organic or Clean Green Certified product that is third-party tested. She suggests using broad or full-spectrum CBD to get better results at a lower dose — especially when compared to an isolate.
As for when you should take CBD? It’s really up to you.
“If you want to absorb as much as you can from an oil, consume it after a meal containing fat post-workout. If you want to consume before the workout, a tablespoon of coconut oil may help you absorb more of it,” Dr. Dawson says. “If you want to inhale it, I recommend an electronic vaporizer made for dry herb before or after the activity. An ethanol-based tincture can be held under the tongue and can be used before or after the activity.”
While CBD oil has many positive effects, research is still pending for a direct connection between its usage and weight loss. CBD oil isn’t meant to be a holy grail product — or a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle.
Dealing with loose skin after weight loss
Have you lost a significant amount of weight and are looking for an effective skin tightening solution for the saggy skin left behind?
Getting rid of loose skin after weight loss isn’t easy, but there are steps you can take to improve the look of excess skin and hopefully get your confidence back.
Who might get loose skin?
After losing weight, loose skin can seem like the final hurdle.
First, we hope you’ve taken a moment to congratulate yourself. Weight loss can be tough – and losing a large amount of weight is a journey you can only truly understand if you’ve been through it.
The rewards of bringing your weight down to within a healthy range include a reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers, as well as more energy, less back pain and a general better quality of life to name just a few. 1
However, after the hard work of losing weight, loose skin can remain in places where you once had excess fat – such as stomach, thighs, chest, arms, and neck – which can range from a barely-noticeable few millimetres to several highly visible inches.
What causes excess skin after weight loss?
The skin has a remarkable elastic ability which enables it to expand and shrink when our weight changes. However, gaining and losing large amounts of weight can put too much strain on the skin and cause permanent changes to the structure and elasticity of the skin.
The top layer of our skin is called the epidermis. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, which is full of elastin and collagen, the fibrous cords which anchor the skin to the fat cells beneath.
Below that is the hypodermis. The hypodermis is where our fat cells are, and as they expand with weight gain, the other two layers which sit above the hypodermis stretch to accommodate the increase in fat beneath. 2 This stretching causes tiny ruptures in the collagen and elastin of the skin. This micro-damage won’t necessarily show when you’re carrying the extra weight (although it may show in the form of stretch marks, especially on the stomach area). However, when you lose the weight, the stretched skin doesn’t have the cushioning of the expanded fat cells, so the increased surface area can cause skin to appear to ‘hang’ off the body. 3 The older you are and the longer you’ve been overweight are factors which affect your skin’s ability to regain its original form after weight loss. Further, your skin’s overall health, including factors such as sun exposure and damage from smoking which damage collagen, can play a role in how easily it bounces back. 4
How to get rid of loose skin
During the 20 th century, the cosmetics market cottoned on to the fact that many people wanted firmer, tighter skin. This revelation launched a million skin creams with claims ranging from the eradication of cellulite to disappearance of ‘bingo wings’.
The truth is there is no quick answer to the question of how to tighten skin, but you can improve the appearance of your skin’s tone and texture, as well as address mild sagging, with a cream.
Nourishing, hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, lanolin, argan oil, cocoa butter help keep moisture in and plump up the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) which will improve the look of the loose skin. 5 Look for firming creams with active ingredients, such as caffeine. Caffeine is able to penetrate the skin barrier and become absorbed by the blood vessels close to the surface of the epidermis (the top layer of skin). 6 Caffeine constricts the blood vessels which stops the area of skin from being swollen by removing excess fluids from the area. 7
Further, to see long-term benefit, you’ll have to commit to regular application of firming creams as many have ingredients, such as retinol, which take several weeks to have an effect.
Loose skin can be improved with exercise, specifically strength (resistance) training exercise. This works by building the muscles underneath the skin, to create stronger and more stable foundation for the skin to sit on.
You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment for strength training. You can do it at home with resistance bands, or even using household objects such as large filled water bottles for exercises such as weighted squats and lunges.
Exercises such as press-ups and planks can be done without any equipment at all, although we recommend a soft, firm mat such as a yoga mat to protect knees and elbows.
Collagen makes up around a third of your body’s protein. 8 Collagen is made up of strong chains of amino acids which are what give firm skin its plumpness and resilience. In the skin, collagen is found in the middle layer (the dermis). 9
With weight gain, especially significant weight gain, the collagen chains in the dermis can become stretched and damaged to accommodate the pockets of fat below.
Then, if we lose lots of weight, the damage to our skin’s natural collagen becomes apparent in visible loose skin.
One method which might help restore some of the bounce and structure to your skin after weight loss is to take collagen supplements.
A clinical trial conducted in 2019 demonstrated significant improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, and density in participants after twelve weeks of taking oral collagen supplements. 10 The best type of collagen for improving skin density is Type I collagen – found in fish and marine life. 11
If you’ve tried creams and exercise but haven’t seen results, or if you have lots of loose skin and need a more drastic solution, there are a range of non-invasive dermatological and surgical treatments to try. These include:
This treatment involves a qualified practitioner making hundreds of tiny pricks in the surface of your skin down to the second layer (the dermis). This causes micro injuries which your body will then begin to heal, triggering the production of new collagen and elastin and tightening the skin tissue as a result.
The results can be excellent but there will be a few day’s downtime while the skin heals. The procedure isn’t cheap, starting at around £150 per session – and you’ll need several sessions. 12
There are different types of laser therapy for loose skin, from non-invasive infrared lasers which heat the cells to stimulate collagen but don’t remove any layers of skin, to ‘ablative’ surgery which peels off the top few layers of the epidermis. This might sound a little scary, but in the hands of a trained professional, it’s safe and very effective for loose skin. 13
Again, there is downtime of several days and the cost can be several thousand for large areas such as stomach, thighs and arms.
If you’ve tried other methods and haven’t seen results, or if you have significant amounts of loose skin that you feel is negatively affecting your life, you might be wondering about surgery.
Surgery can offer the most dramatic and visible results, but like all surgery, it’s not without risks.
Excess skin removal requires a general anaesthetic and surgical aftercare, which usually involves an overnight hospital stay and several weeks downtime. 14
Private loose skin removal surgery is a good option, although it is expensive and all risks should be carefully considered.
In the UK, the NHS does offer loose skin surgery, but it’s not available from all NHS trusts so it depends on where in the UK you live. There are also criteria you’d have to meet to be eligible, for instance in some trusts you will only be approved if your current BMI is between 18 and 25, or if you’ve lost at least half your body weight or if you can demonstrate that the loose skin is affecting you functionally in your daily life. 15
You should never rush into surgery. If you’re considering a surgical solution for your loose skin, see your GP for a chat to discuss your options and decide whether it might be right for you.