If you’ve got a curious mind like we do, you’ve likely wondered before why we take CBD oil rather than just plain CBD by itself. I mean, if CBD is the only active therapeutic compound, why can’t we just jam a spoonful of it down our throat and be done with it?
Well, the body doesn’t really work that way, unfortunately. In order for things to be digested properly and the minerals/nutrients to be thoroughly absorbed for use, they have to be able to be broken down and absorbed through the intestinal wall.
While CBD by itself can be absorbed, it is done so much more efficiently (up to three times more efficiently, in fact) when it is ingested along with a carrier oil. Since cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) from the cannabis plant are fat-soluble (meaning they dissolve in oil rather than water), infusing them in a saturated fat enhances their bioavailability drastically.
But why is CBD oil made with coconut oil? We all know that hemp itself (where most CBD oils come from) produces a wonderfully nutritious natural oil from its seeds, so why don’t we just use hemp seed oil instead? Well, you’ll see that what it comes down to is FAT…
CBD + Coconut Oil = The Perfect Combination
As it turns out, coconut oil is pretty much the perfect carrier oil for CBD because of its saturated fat content. The way that cannabinoids work molecularly is, the higher the lipid content of the oil they are in, the better and more efficiently they can dissolve. And coconut oil is up to 90% saturated fat, as opposed to olive oil and hemp seed oil which are only around 14% and 11%, respectively.
But don’t worry; since the saturated fat content of coconut oil is composed largely of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) instead of long chain triglycerides (LGT’s), you don’t really have to worry about it clogging up your arteries.
As it goes, in fact, coconut oil is one of the only natural oils that has a high content of MCT’s. And while this serves as an excellent energy source that is much more easily metabolized than complex carbohydrates or LCT’s, it also serves as the perfect carrier for CBD.
So ultimately, this is the reason why most of the best CBD oils are made with coconut oil as opposed to hemp seed oil; since coconut oil has more saturated fat, it can break down and “carry” more CBD molecules, and ultimately deliver more of it to our cells for absorption.
Without coconut oil, a large percentage of the CBD molecules simply end up making their way to the liver, at which point they’d be treated as wasted and simply excreted through the urine. This is why you always want to select a CBD tincture that uses coconut oil over olive oil or some other kind of oil.
The Science Behind Coconut Oil and CBD
There have been a few studies done on why coconut oil acts as the perfect molecular carrier for CBD. While a lot of the scientific language can be pretty complex and confusing, what the research basically says is that when you ingest CBD that’s dissolved in a high saturated fat oil (like coconut or pure MCT oil), you’re getting the maximum possible absorption.
Here’s how it works. Lipids (basically the scientific word for fats) are known to stick to the walls of whatever internal transport system they’re traveling through. So think about our blood vessels, for instance: you’ve heard of clogged arteries and plaque buildup that causes heart disease of course. Well this is due in part to high amounts of “bad” saturated fat content in the system. These lipids stick to the walls of the arteries and are not easily broken down (metabolized), so they just sit there and accumulate.
The same thing goes for the digestive system: when we eat high-fat foods, they tend to stick to the walls of our intestinal gut rather than passing straight down into the “acid bath” of the stomach. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the type of fat that it is.
If it’s a “bad” saturated fat (like those found in french fries or bacon), then it is very hard for the body to metabolize them so instead they accumulate in certain “fatty” areas of the body – i.e. our stomach, thighs, etc.
If it’s a “good” saturated fat, on the other hand, they are actually absorbed very quickly and easily directly through the intestinal wall. Good saturated fats mostly included MCT’s like those that are found naturally in coconut oil.
Since lipid content is able to be absorbed directly through the intestinal walls rather than passing through the entire digestive system, this means the bioavailability of CBD is maximized when taken with coconut oil. Scientifically, this is referred to as “intestinal lymphatic transport.”
Lymphatic transport is crucial when taking certain medications (CBD included), as it means they avoid being broken down by the liver. If CBD were to enter the liver (as much of it does when taken with olive oil), it is metabolized into smaller components at which point it becomes virtually useless in terms of its therapeutic or pain-relieving potential. (And on a side note, this is also why liposomal transport is used to “deliver” certain medications – it allows them to be passed directly into the cells through the gut lining. Some companies are already experimenting with CBD liposome capsules for maximum absorption).
Final Thoughts on Why CBD is made with Coconut Oil
To be clear, not all CBD oils are made with coconut oil. There are plenty out there that are infused in olive oils or natural hemp seed oils, and they do indeed work just fine – depending on how they are extracted and processed.
From a scientific and molecular perspective, however, the high saturated fat (MCT) content of coconut oil provides for the maximum absorption rate of CBD into the body’s cells, by allowing it to pass directly through the intestinal wall instead of entering into the liver.
As you’ll find if you end up using CBD frequently, the vast majority of the best CBD oils and tinctures are infused in a quality coconut oil or MCT oil.