CBD oil vs. CBD tincture: what's the difference?

CBD products come in many formats, but oils and tinctures have key distinctions you should know about. Here’s the breakdown and why it matters.
CBD Oil vs. CBD Tincture: What's the Difference?
minute read

Hemp extracts have come a long way, with dozens of unique product types now available to the public. However, as new categories emerge, we run the risk of mixing up ideas and terms, causing us to lose sight of the differences between products.

CBD oil and CBD tincture are two formats that are commonly subjected to this mix-up, and understandably so. They’re both liquid substances derived from hemp and can be used for similar reasons and use cases. On the surface, they appear to be interchangeable, but there are some key distinctions that separate them in the world of hemp.

This article will explore all the points that make CBD oil and a CBD tincture different, from the production process to physical characteristics, effects on the body, applications, and more. You’ll be an expert on both product types by the end, and well-equipped to make the next addition to your hemp-enhanced lifestyle. Let’s get started.

What is CBD oil?

CBD oil is one of the most popular hemp products in the market. Even as the hemp industry has evolved, you’ll probably still hear people refer to any liquid hemp product as “CBD oil” regardless of its exact composition and purpose.

However, a closer look at CBD oil reveals that it’s a distinct product type with key features and a few limitations. In fact, you’ll discover that many products labeled “CBD oil” are something else entirely, so this info will keep you in the know when making your next purchase. 

CBD oil is a liquid hemp product that combines hemp extract with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, MCT, or others. The active cannabinoids are suspended in the oil, allowing for quick and effective administration and absorption. Because carrier oils tend to be thicker than water and other liquids, CBD oil tends to have a more dense look and feel, which some consumers prefer.

Hemp extract is the main ingredient in CBD oil, delivering the expected benefits of soothing, relaxation, and calm. Depending on the exact formula and cannabinoid profile, CBD oil will produce different results and will be applicable in unique circumstances.* 

How is CBD oil made?

CBD oil starts with the cultivation and harvesting of real hemp plants — cannabis that contains high amounts of CBD and low THC content. Once the plants are harvested and dried, the extraction process begins. This can involve methods such as C02 extraction, ethanol extraction, or other solvents. 

From there, the CBD oil undergoes a purification process that will remove unwanted plant materials from the mix. This step filters out compounds like waxes, fats, and other substances that don’t directly contribute to the active cannabinoid profile.

Once a clean and balanced hemp extract is isolated, it’s mixed with a carrier oil that complements the extract and enhances the product for functionality and flavor. The result is a smooth, versatile, liquid hemp extract that can be used in a wide range of applications. 

Formulas and accessibility

Since CBD oil is one of the most mass-produced products in the hemp marketplace, we get to enjoy a wide variety of formulations and unique blends. For instance, you’ll find broad spectrum CBD oils with virtually zero THC, but these still contain a rich array of cannabinoids and terpenes.

On the other hand, full spectrum CBD oil can contain up to 0.3% THC by weight, triggering a more potent entourage effect as multiple cannabinoid types work in synergy. You’ll also find that CBD oils may include many different plant compounds, making them a great choice for trying unique herbal blends for specific goals or activities. 

What is a CBD tincture?

CBD tinctures use alcohol as a solvent to extract active compounds from high-CBD plant material. The result is a more watery, liquid product that many users find more suitable or palatable, but ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. 

CBD tinctures tend to be more limited in scope as the alcohol content may restrict the producer’s ability to incorporate other ingredients and properties. However, today’s CBD tinctures are catching up to oils in terms of variety and accessibility, meaning you can choose from many great options to fit your needs.

How is a CBD tincture made?

The alcohol extraction process defines the tincture production process. This requires the plant material to be soaked in ethanol for a clean, efficient extraction of valuable compounds. The process can take anywhere between several days to weeks at a time, ensuring that cannabinoids and terpenes are obtained.

Plant material is then strained out of the ethanol and filtered multiple times to remove residual plant matter and unwanted substances. Some producers add an extra evaporation step at this point, removing most of the alcohol content to provide a smoother flavor in the end product. 

While some tinctures are sold with filtered water or natural flavorings, others add carrier oils that you might find in a traditional CBD oil. This makes modern tinctures and oils closer than ever, and it’s important to take note of the production process to determine which one you’re buying.

Formulas and accessibility

Tinctures have certainly gained momentum and popularity in recent years as more brands are gaining trust and familiarity with the ethanol extraction process. 

Many tinctures are minimal in their composition, featuring simple CBD isolate or a stripped-down broad spectrum blend. On the other hand, some manufacturers have unlocked the key to full spectrum CBD tinctures, or have started adding carrier oils to deliver the best of both worlds.*

Sunmed’s flagship hemp extracts are found in this grey area between oils and tinctures, as we use pure hemp extract and MCT oil to create a simple, clean product. However, we label most of our products as “tinctures” because they include other plant compounds to assist in specific areas like sleep, focus, energy, and more. 

How are CBD oil and CBD tincture similar?

CBD oil and CBD tincture share many things in common, mainly the fact that they both begin with real hemp plant materials. The quality and chemical profiles of these plants can vary, however, based on the producer’s choices and investment. That’s why you should always select a brand that sources the highest-quality plant materials available, like Sunmed.

CBD oil and tinctures also share a similar delivery method, whether via digestion or sublingual administration. You can use either product to deliver CBD directly under the tongue, allowing for rapid absorption and fast-tracking the time it takes to feel the desired effects.

In some cases, CBD oils and tinctures are so similar that they’re difficult to distinguish. Our full spectrum CBD oil tincture is an example, as it’s made with a tincture production process but has the addition of carrier oils. Now that we know CBD oil and CBD tinctures are nearly one and the same, make your aim to prioritize quality and transparency in production and consistency.*

How are CBD oil and CBD tincture different?

CBD oil and CBD tinctures are now difficult to separate in most cases, but you can find out more about these products by simply looking at the labels.

For example, you’ll know that CBD tincture is true to its name if you see that the product was made with an CO2 or ethanol extraction process. On the other hand, a CBD product that features a carrier oil like coconut or MCT can be correctly categorized as an oil, regardless of the production process.

At Sunmed, we know that quality reigns supreme over these minor differences in labels and names. Our products draw cannabinoids and terpenes from USA-grown hemp, and we strategically add ingredients to our formulas that help you feel and perform your best.

While some of our tinctures fall into the “all-purpose” category, each product we make is designed with a specific purpose in mind. You can use our Broad Spectrum Sleep CBN Tincture to relax the body and mind before bed, or try our Broad Spectrum Rise CBG Tincture to tackle the morning with energy and drive.* 

How can you use oil or tincture?

CBD oils and tinctures are relatively easy to use, even if they come with a slight learning curve compared to formats like capsules or gummies. While a CBD gummy is easy to ingest as a quick snack, you need to approach tinctures with a bit more precision and intention.

For instance, you should always measure the amount of tincture or oil you administer sublingually or add to a drink or recipe. This means knowing the total cannabinoid content in your bottle, and referencing the serving size to understand how much you’re taking at a time.

While it might take a few tries to familiarize yourself with this process, you’ll ultimately benefit from a more precise and controlled approach to hemp that other formats don’t necessarily provide.* There’s no better way to get the latest and greatest hemp extract formulations in such an efficient method, so take the leap with oils and tinctures today.

The bottom line

There is still a notable gap in the hemp marketplace between oils and tinctures, as outlined in our discoveries today. 

CBD oils can be made with a wide range of production methods and tend to feature rich carrier oils to add body and texture to the final product. CBD tinctures, however, may contain a variety of terpenes adn other plant material along with the CBD. 

Depending on the brand you choose and the route you take, you’ll find a way to benefit from CBD oil and tincture, aligning with your wellness and health goals.* We believe oils and tinctures are a tried-and-true way to experience the best in modern hemp, and Sunmed will stay on the cutting edge to provide you with top-tier products in every category.


A comparison of advertised versus actual cannabidiol (CBD) content of oils, aqueous tinctures, e-liquids and drinks purchased in the UK | NIH

Effects of Two Cannabidiol Oil Products on Self-Reported Stress Relief: A Quasi-Experimental Study | NIH

Cannabidiol use and effectiveness: real-world evidence from a Canadian medical cannabis clinic | NIH

Polarisation effects on the solvation properties of alcohols | PMC