Cannabis Basics

What Is Cannabis Oil?

Explore the basics of THC and CBD cannabis oil: what this cannabis extract is, how to take it, its potential effects, and what to consider when using it. 

Cannabis Oil: What It Is, Pros & Cons

Cannabis oil is a cannabis extract that is mixed with a neutral oil. Packaged in a bottle with a spray top or a dropper, it’s meant to be taken orally. Consuming cannabis oil is an alternative to smoking or vaporizing dried cannabis.

How is cannabis oil made?

Cannabis oil is made from cannabis extract, a concentrated form of cannabis that contains cannabinoids and other active ingredients that have been pulled from cannabis flower material. The extract is dissolved into a neutral oil, such as sunflower, olive or medium-chain triglyceride (commonly abbreviated to MCT), which is often derived from coconut oil.

Types of cannabis oil

Depending on the product, bottled cannabis oil can contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD), as well as minor cannabinoids, such as CBC and CBG. Products may also call out the ratio of specific cannabinoids. For example, a balanced THC:CBD oil may be labelled as “1:1” because it offers similar amounts of the two cannabinoids.

Other types of cannabis oil available from and Authorized Cannabis Stores include:

  • Full-spectrum oil: Contains a wide variety of cannabinoids, terpenes and other active ingredients that can give it a strong flavour.
  • Isolate and distillate: Refined to contain only specific cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, these oils will have a more neutral taste that’s influenced by the particular carrier oil that’s used.

Find out the differences between hemp CBD oil and hemp seed oil.

How to take cannabis oil

Cannabis oil is taken orally. Oral absorption involves placing drops of cannabis oil in your mouth — either under your tongue (called sublingual consumption) or in your cheek (buccal consumption) — and holding them there for a few seconds. This allows the cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) to absorb into the mucosal layer under your tongue or in your cheek and travel into your bloodstream.

Another way to take cannabis oil is to add it directly to food or beverages. When oil is ingested in this way, it’s processed through the digestive system and may have a slower onset of effects.

Some helpful tips for taking cannabis oil:

  • Shake bottle well to evenly mix the extract with the oil.
  • Use the included dropper, spray or dosing tool to measure an exact dose. Read the label carefully to understand how much THC, CBD and other cannabinoids are in the dose.
  • Use for oral consumption only. This type of cannabis oil is not intended for vaporizing, dabbing or smoking.

Potential effects of cannabis oil

Although specific data on cannabis oil is limited, we know that consuming a product containing THC can produce health effects, many of which are temporary.

The potential short-term effects of consuming THC oil include:

  • Feelings of calm, relaxation and/or euphoria
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Reduced reaction time and loss of coordination
  • Time distortion and perception changes
  • Impaired memory and ability to pay attention
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Seizures (in rare cases)
  • Changes in heartbeat
  • Increased appetite

Long-term daily or near-daily cannabis consumption can impact your memory and concentration and increase your risk of developing cannabis use disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia and cannabis hyperemesis syndrome.

Learn more about the health effects of cannabis consumption on our evidence-backed information hub, Cannabis Made Clear.

Pros and cons of cannabis oil

As with any cannabis product, cannabis oil may not be the right choice for you. Here are some pros and cons to consider when choosing to consume cannabis oil.

Advantages include:

  • It’s portable.
  • Because it’s usually odourless and flavourless, you can add it to food and beverages.
  • It’s a smoke-free way to consume cannabis.
  • It’s highly concentrated, so you only need to consume a small amount.
  • Its format allows you to precisely measure each dose.

Disadvantages can include:

  • When cannabis oil is ingested, you may not feel the effects as quickly as you would when inhaling cannabis because your body processes ingested cannabis in a different way.
  • The onset of effects is slow, increasing the potential for overconsumption.
  • You may also feel the effects longer (for 12 hours or more) than you would with inhalation.
  • There is a risk of accidental ingestion by children or pets if cannabis oil is not stored properly.

How much should I take?

How much cannabis oil you should take depends on you. Whether you are consuming CBD oil, high-THC cannabis oil or a balanced product in a bottle or oral spray, there are lots of factors to consider, such as your age, weight, recent food consumption, history of cannabis consumption and current health.

If you are consuming cannabis oil for the first time or trying a new product, Health Canada recommends starting with a low amount of THC, such as 2.5 mg THC or 0.2 mL of oil, and waiting until effects become apparent (around 30 minutes to two hours) before consuming more.

The product label provides information on how much CBD and THC is in the oil. Ensure you read it carefully to understand the potency and the dose in each spray or drop of oil.

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