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

Illustration of CBD Oil and Tincture being compared.
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: November 8, 2023

The use of CBD is an increasingly popular but controversial topic, sparking numerous debates around the world. Previously misunderstood and held among controlled substances,  CBD is now said to have numerous benefits for our well-being.

In light of this, a myriad of CBD products keeps popping up in the market today — including CBD oils, tinctures, hair creams, gummies, soft gels, salves, vapes, and so on. Each of these forms has its pros and cons, but there are two product types that are notoriously confused with each other.  

We’re talking about CBD oils and tinctures.

Despite being two different products, they are often mistaken for each other due to a similar route of administration.  However, based on their method of extraction, taste, and other factors, they are miles apart.

In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at CBD oils and tinctures, what they are and how they differ. We’ll also cover their ingredients, health benefits, and how to use them. 

What is CBD?

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol — a natural compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s one of the two major cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana — the two sources that are used for extraction. As more research bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), continue to share information about the purported benefits and side-effects of CBD, scientists are fueling more resources into the research on its potential applications. 

CBD is said to have myriads of health benefits: 

  • Stress relief
  • Clearing of Acne 
  • Anxiety relief
  • Pain reduction
  • Improved sleep
  • Inflammation relief
  • Neuroprotection

What Is CBD Tincture?

A tincture is a herbal extract that is made by using alcohol and water to extract compounds from a plant. 

In the same vein, a CBD tincture is a herbal extract that is made by using alcohol and water to extract CBD from the Cannabis sativa plant. 

A CBD tincture is more or less a suspension of CBD in alcohol. CBD is usually suspended in about 60 to 70% distilled alcohol. Tinctures are incredibly bitter, so you can commonly find them loaded with additives to improve the taste. Such additives include cinnamon, vegetable glycerin, peppermint, sweeteners, or other flavorings. Other ingredients such as vitamins or supplements may be added to further support or boost the said health benefits of CBD.

Despite the taste, the use of alcohol in a CBD suspension increases the shelf life of CBD. CBD tinctures can be preserved for as long as three to five years. 

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is made from oils that have been extracted from different parts of the hemp plant such as flowers and leaves. When these oils are extracted, they are also suspended in a carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. Due to this method of extraction, CBD oils are the most potent and expensive CBD products. The extracted oil may also contain other substances such as adjunctive cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids,  proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

Ingredients Found in CBD Tincture vs CBD Oil

Ingredients in CBD Tincture

CBD Tinctures are less potent than CBD oils because of their composition. While CBD oils are a mixture of hemp extract  and carrier oils, CBD tinctures are made up of the following: 

  • Distilled alcohol (60-70%)
  • Herbs
  • Water
  • Chlorophyll
  • Essential vitamins
  • Essential oils 
  • Sweeteners 

Ingredients in CBD Oil

CBD oil is made from an oily resin containing cannabinoids and terpenes.   Other ingredients that you may find in CBD oils include:

  • Carrier oils
  • Supportive ingredients (vitamins, minerals, etc.)
  • Essential oils
  • Flavorings

Differences between CBD Tincture and Oil

CBD oil and tincture in bottles, a dropper, and hemp leaves

With the same active ingredient, CBD oil and tinctures have many similarities. Some of these similarities include their methods of use and their alleged therapeutic effects.  However, there are also some obvious differences, such as:

1. Taste

Both CBD oil and tinctures taste relatively bitter, although tinctures are said to have a stronger flavor. Since CBD oils are also diluted in a carrier oil, they taste milder than tinctures. For that reason, both formats are often flavored with essential oils or sweeteners.

2. Base

CBD oils have an oil base. It is usually made of carrier oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or hemp seed oil. 

CBD tincture has alcohol as its base. CBD is usually suspended in 60 to 70% distilled alcohol to make a tincture. 

3. Shelf Life 

CBD tinctures have a much longer shelf life than CBD oils. This is caused by the alcohol content of the tincture. Ethyl alcohol acts as a preservative and can make  CBD last for as long as five years. CBD oil does expire as it shows signs to determine if it has gone bad. An extra tip for the preservation of any CBD products is to keep them away from direct sunlight and heat sources. 

Which is Better: CBD Oil or Tincture? 

CBD oils and tinctures have the same uses and benefits. There is no clear-cut way to determine which is better than the other. It all depends on personal preferences and sensitivities. 

CBD oils may be a better choice if you do not fancy the taste of alcohol and are looking for something with consistent potency throughout batches. CBD tinctures might be better if you’re looking for a product with a longer shelf life and don’t mind the harshness of alcohol. 

How to Use CBD Oil and Tincture

The main route of administration for CBD oils and tinctures is through sublingual use. In other words, you need to take the extract under the tongue, where it gets absorbed through tiny capillaries in your mouth. This allows CBD to bypass the first-pass metabolism by avoiding the liver.

If you don’t like the flavor of CBD oils and tinctures, you can add a few drops to your beverages or mix them with food. However, this way, less CBD will enter your bloodstream because it will have to pass through the digestive system first.

There are also products like capsules and edibles such as gummies, both of which can contain CBD oil or tincture as a base. Finally, you can infuse CBD oils and tinctures into topical formulations if you’re looking for relief from localized problems.

CBD tinctures and oils should never be vaped because they are not suitable for this consumption method. There are special CBD vape oils made from distillates and terpenes; however, food-grade tinctures and oils contain additional ingredients that may turn out toxic when you heat them, so always make sure that you’re vaping a product that’s designed specifically for that purpose.

How CBD Oils and Tinctures Work

After absorption into the body, CBD oils and tinctures interact with the endogenous cannabinoid system, also called the endocannabinoid system. 

The endocannabinoid system is a cell-signaling system that was discovered in the 1990s. It is not as extensively understood as other systems in the body such as the central nervous system. More research needs to be carried out to learn more about it. 

The endocannabinoid system works through the synergistic actions of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids produced by the body, and enzymes. Two of the most important endocannabinoids produced by the body are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). 

Two of the major cannabinoid receptors discovered thus far are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system. The CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system, such as the cells of the immune system.

Endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain effects on the body. The type of effects depends on the location of the cannabinoid receptor.

When they are done with their work, the endocannabinoids are broken down by enzymes. The enzymes responsible for this are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which degrades AEA and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which degrades 2-AG.

At the moment, researchers have found out that the endocannabinoid system affects several aspects of our well-being such as our appetite, digestion, sleep, fertility, and memory. It is said to exert effects on the central nervous system and immune system as well. 

CBD oils and tinctures work on the endocannabinoid system as exogenous cannabinoids. They mimic the actions of the endocannabinoids produced by the body by binding to the cannabinoid receptors and eliciting effects on the body. 

This is especially beneficial when the human body is lacking in these endocannabinoids. A deficiency in endocannabinoids is said to cause illness in some people.

How to Choose CBD Oil and Tincture

close-up image of a man's hand holding a bottle fo CBD extract with a blurry hemp leaf background

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  regulations on CBD are not as straightforward as they are with many other foods and drugs — so it’s important to be diligent and do your research on whatever brand you intend to purchase from. And no, a celebrity or influencer’s promotion of a product does not count. 

1. Hemp Source

It is important to know the sources of the hemp plants used to source the CBD used in oils and tinctures. You want to be sure the CBD is of good quality. You also want to be sure that you are getting good value for your money. Manufacturers of CBD oils and tinctures should be transparent about the sources of the hemp plants they use. US-grown hemp plants are the preferred option.

2. Third-party Testing

Third-party testing simply means testing that is carried out on CBD oils and tinctures by a lab that is not affiliated with the manufacturer’s company in any way. These independent labs check that the level of THC is less than 0.3% and for the presence of contaminants such as pesticides or heavy metals. Third-party lab testing is an extra source of confirmation that you are purchasing a safe product. As such, it is very important for you to ensure that any CBD oils or tinctures you buy have undergone third-party testing.

3. Cannabinoid Spectrum

Other cannabinoid compounds can be present in some oils and tinctures. The labels and the actual ingredient list must show the same thing. For instance, a product that is labeled a CBD isolate should have CBD as the only cannabinoid listed. Products that have been labeled broad-spectrum products will have other cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) and terpenes, but not Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Products that are labeled full-spectrum will have a small amount of THC, less than 0.3%.

4. Customer Feedback

Whatever CBD brands you are trying to purchase should have a lot of positive reviews. A lot more positive ones than negative at least. These customer reviews should also be easy to find. There should be feedback on their website and perhaps on their social media as well. Customer feedback can help you know what to expect from a particular manufacturer. You can even get insights on additional information such as their delivery times, etc. In the case of negative comments, it is a good opportunity to see how they respond and hopefully resolve the issues. Signs of attempts to stifle customer feedback such as limiting comments on Instagram posts should make you very suspicious.


CBD oils and tinctures are two different products with similar uses and routes of administration. They differ based on their methods of extraction,  carriers,  shelf life, and taste. 

If you don’t mind a stronger flavor, tinctures are a good option for a long-lasting product due to their longer shelf life. However, they also contain chlorophyll and other plant compounds that bind with alcohol — and they aren’t necessary to maintain the therapeutic value of CBD.

That’s why many people prefer CBD oils over tinctures. Not only do they taste milder, but they also are more consistent when it comes to potency and the overall phytochemical profile of the product. They are also carefully filtered to get rid of unwanted plant matter.

Since the FDA regulations concerning CBD products are unclear compared to other foods and drugs, it’s important to do your research if you want to choose safe products. Some pointers to help you purchase safe CBD products include organic hemp, third-party testing, positive customer feedback, and information about the cannabinoid spectrum.


  1. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. The Permanente Journal, 23.
  2. Hurd, Y.L., Yoon, M., Manini, A.F. et al. (2015). Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage. Neurotherapeutics 12.
  3. Flachenecker, P., Henze, T., & Zettl, U. K. (2014). Nabiximols (THC/CBD oromucosal spray, Sativex®) in clinical practice-results of a multicenter, non-interventional study (MOVE 2) in patients with multiple sclerosis spasticity. European neurology, 71(5-6), 271-279.

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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