Many people talk about CBD oil for medical treatment. I bought some at a dispensary and the label says ingredients: 100% cannabidiol. But is it really an oil? Since the word ends with -ol and the chemical structure includes an OH group, this suggests it's an alcohol. As far as I know, an alcohol cannot be an oil.

  • 2
    This is probably better in chemistry or biology but is a good question. I would rec including a pic of the chemical structure and a source for your definition of "oil" to boost quality of the question.
    – DoctorWhom
    Jun 20, 2019 at 0:13
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    Have you read this? I agree with @DoctorWhom that Chemistry would probably be a better place to ask but I think they're going to expect a little more research on the basics. I can migrate the question there for you but adding the stuff DoctorWhom suggested first would probably make it more welcome.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jun 20, 2019 at 5:04
  • I have been reading after I posted, and the non-water-soluble part suggests it is in fact an oil.
    – Elliott B
    Jun 20, 2019 at 5:07
  • @ElliottB Do you know that you are allowed to answer your own questions?
    – Arsak
    Jun 20, 2019 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


Oil is:

any nonpolar chemical substance that is a viscous liquid at ambient temperatures and is both hydrophobic (does not mix with water, literally "water fearing") and lipophilic (mixes with other oils, literally "fat loving").

Cannabidiol has high lipophilicity (Fasinu et al., 2016; Ohlsson et al., 1986) and is extremely hydrophobic (Stinchcomb et al. 2004), therefore it is an oil.


The term "water-soluble CBD" has lately been extensively used throughout the medical cannabis industry. "Water-soluble" means able to homogeneously incorporate into water by separating into molecules or ions (dissolve like sugar, alcohol or salt). Oily substances, however, are repelled by water, which forces them to stay separate from it.

CBD, THC and many other oils can, however, be made water compatible if they are formulated as micro- or nanoemulsions, which are stable and visually homogeneous oil/water mixtures. (Source)

See the NCBI on medical uses of nanoemulsions as an advanced mode of drug delivery system (Jaiswal et al. 2015) and the Wikipedia article on microemulsions for more information.


Fasinu, P.S., et al. (2016) Current Status and Prospects for Cannabidiol Preparations as New Therapeutic Agents. Pharmacotherapy, 36(7): p. 781-96. doi: 10.1002/phar.1780 Free PDF: https://www.alchimiaweb.com/blogfr/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Current-Status-and-Prospects-for-Cannabidiol-Preparations.pdf

Jaiswal, M., Dudhe, R., & Sharma, P. K. (2015). Nanoemulsion: an advanced mode of drug delivery system. 3 Biotech, 5(2), 123–127. doi: 10.1007/s13205-014-0214-0

Ohlsson, A., et al. (1986) Single-dose kinetics of deuterium-labelled cannabidiol in man after smoking and intravenous administration. Biological Mass Spectrometry, 13(2): p. 77-83. doi: 10.1002/bms.1200130206

Stinchcomb, A. L., Valiveti, S., Hammell, D. C., & Ramsey, D. R. (2004). Human skin permeation of Δ8‐tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and cannabinol. Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology, 56(3), 291-297. doi: 10.1211/0022357022791

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