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Research on cannabidiol (CBD) and inflammation is ongoing but promising so far. The best CBD tincture or oil for you may depend on the type — whether isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum — and potency level.

CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. And it’s rapidly becoming popular for health concerns like inflammation.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t have an intoxicating effect. Those seeking pain relief might prefer CBD to THC, which has a distinct “high” associated with its use.

CBD is available in a range of products, including oils and tinctures. They come in several forms:

Full-spectrum CBD includes several different compounds found in the cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, and THC. The amount of THC can vary, but federally legal CBD products will always have less than 0.3%.

Thanks to the entourage effect, full-spectrum CBD may offer additional benefits over broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. But broad-spectrum and isolate products can still be good options for those who want to avoid THC.

Read on to learn more about the research for CBD and inflammation and get our picks of the best CBD products out there.

Tinctures vs. oils

While the terms “CBD oil” and “CBD tincture” are often used interchangeably, they describe two different products. CBD oil is made via an extraction process that separates CBD from the plant matter. It’s then diffused into a carrier oil. CBD tinctures, on the other hand, have an alcohol base.

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We chose these based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made by a company that discloses the source of its hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3% THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, like:

Lastly, although some CBD oils have additional anti-inflammatory ingredients, like turmeric, we steered clear of these. It’s not currently known how CBD interacts with vitamins, minerals, or supplements, so it may be best to opt for CBD-only oils unless a doctor gives the OK to combine them with other substances.

Research on CBD is still in the early stages, and there’s a lot we don’t know yet. But some of what we know so far is promising.

Some research suggests that CBD reduces inflammation by affecting activity in the body’s endocannabinoid receptors.

This research addresses CBD’s effect on acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. A 2017 study on rats found that CBD reduced inflammation in rats with osteoarthritis. A 2009 review shows CBD may also reduce acute inflammation, which is most often the body’s reaction to an injury.

Keep in mind that more research is needed before we can confirm CBD’s effects on inflammation or any other condition.

The immune system creates inflammation in the body as a defense mechanism against infection, disease, or injury. But there can be other causes too. These may include:

  • chronic and acute conditions
  • foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and processed meats
  • alcohol
  • some medications
  • exposure to materials or irritants that the body has trouble getting rid of

CBD tinctures and oils are similar products, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. But there are distinctions between the two.

CBD oil is made with an extraction process that separates CBD from the plant material and then diffuses it into a carrier oil. CBD tinctures are typically made by soaking cannabis in alcohol and heating it to infuse the alcohol with CBD. Then, it’s either boiled or diluted.

Because the extraction and production processes differ, so does the finished product. CBD oils tend to have higher potencies than true CBD tinctures and can sometimes be used topically. CBD tinctures, on the other hand, often have a longer shelf life. However, you wouldn’t want to use them on your skin.

Pros

  • designed for precise dosing
  • rapid onset of effects when used sublingually (under the tongue)
  • can be added to foods and beverages
  • easy to buy online

Cons

  • unflavored options may be off-putting to some
  • offer full-body effects instead of relief like topical CBD products do
  • can be pricey
  • more research is needed to confirm the effects
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Many people consider trying CBD because of its versatility. From different types and potencies of CBD to options for consumption, there are lots of ways to explore CBD. Plus, more recently, CBD is being used to address a range of symptoms, including inflammation.

Still, that doesn’t mean it works for everything. Before you get started, think about what you’re hoping to achieve. Research is still limited on the efficacy of CBD. If you have a specific goal in mind, be sure to read the available research so you understand the results.

If you want to try CBD for inflammation, consider testing both oral and topical forms to see if either works for you. But remember to check in with a doctor or other health provider before taking CBD, especially if you also take any medications or supplements.

If you’re hoping to relieve inflammation, you may wonder whether CBD oils and tinctures are more effective than aspirin.

After all, aspirin is one of the most common over-the-counter medications for treating pain. It’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). This class of drugs includes ibuprofen and naproxen. They all work to reduce the amount of prostaglandin in the body.

This substance is released when you’re injured. It contributes to the inflammation response, which may include symptoms like fever, increased sensitivity to pain, and swelling.

CBD tinctures and oils work differently via the endocannabinoid system. This complex system in the human body helps regulate a number of functions, including appetite, sleep, immune response, pain, and others.

Whether you use cannabis or not, your body produces neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids. They bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the nervous system.

CBD may help reduce inflammation by influencing activity in these receptors.

You might consider CBD over aspirin because of the risk of side effects associated with NSAIDs, which may include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and heartburn. Serious side effects are rare, but include allergic reactions, salicylate toxicity, and bleeding in the stomach.

CBD is generally well tolerated, though side effects can include diarrhea, fatigue, and changes in weight or appetite.

There’s no shortage of CBD oils and tinctures on the market. But because the FDA doesn’t currently guarantee the safety, quality, or effectiveness of any over-the-counter CBD products, it’s important to shop carefully.

Any product you consider should have a current and comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab. This is a good way to check that a product’s label is accurate. You can also confirm that the product is free of contaminants like:

  • mold
  • pesticides
  • heavy metals

As you shop, look for a company that’s committed to being transparent about its hemp. You should be able to find out where the hemp is grown and how the products are made.

Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD products contain THC. If you want to avoid THC, look for isolate or broad-spectrum CBD products instead. Those will be as close to THC-free as you can get, though it’s important to know that they may still contain trace amounts of the cannabinoid.

CBD tinctures and oils are often designed to be taken beneath the tongue (sublingually) for the most rapid onset. But you can also swallow them directly or mix them into food or drinks.

Dosing CBD is largely individual, but it’s best to start with the lowest dose you can find. That way, you can see how your body responds before you try something more potent.

This is particularly true if you’re new to CBD or using a particularly potent product. Keep in mind that it can take some time before you notice any improvements.

Research from 2017 suggests that CBD is generally considered safe for human consumption. But some people may experience side effects. These may include:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • appetite changes
  • weight changes

There’s some evidence that consuming CBD products by mouth alongside high fat meals can increase CBD blood concentrations, which increases the risk of side effects.

Keep in mind that CBD may also interact with some medications, so it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor before you incorporate CBD into your wellness plan.

Additionally, if you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s best to avoid CBD products.

Research is still preliminary, but evidence suggests CBD may offer anti-inflammatory benefits when it’s used orally or topically. There’s also anecdotal evidence of its efficacy for inflammation.

Taking CBD orally or using it topically may be effective for inflammation. That means CBD oils and topical products are worth exploring.

It depends on the type of CBD you’re using. Oral CBD can be taken sublingually, or beneath the tongue. It can also be added to foods and drinks. Either method will result in a body-wide effect. For localized relief, a topical CBD product can be massaged directly into the skin.

CBD oils that include beneficial terpenes may be best for inflammation. Since terpenes may offer their own anti-inflammatory benefits, combining them with CBD could offer a boosted effect.

A topical CBD oil will offer targeted inflammation relief, while an ingested oil has a more general, body-wide effect.

Administering CBD oil beneath the tongue means a rapid onset of effects. The mucous membranes here are thin, so medications are absorbed into the bloodstream much faster than those that are swallowed and must move through the digestive system.

If you have chronic or acute inflammation, a CBD product may be worth investigating. Research is still in the early stages, but what’s available suggests CBD may be able to help. Talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional before trying CBD.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.


Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.