What is CBD Oil?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of the two major compounds found in the cannabis or marijuana plant (there are over 100 compounds in total). The compound is extracted from the cannabis plant and then infused into a carrier oil before being sold.
CBD is also available in a number of other formats apart from oil - for different purposes or preferences you can also buy CBD tinctures, gummy sweets, edibles, creams, lotions, capsules and vapes. However, for many people, their first encounter with CBD will come in the form of one of the most popular CBD oils.
What are the Benefits of CBD Oil?
Research into the medical benefits of CBD is still in its infancy, but what research there is seems highly promising.
CBD is often used by people seeking to treat stress, anxiety, PTSC or insomnia, and is known to induce a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing.
Many people also find CBD oil useful for treating chronic pain and inflammation, including joint pain.
Researchers have discovered that CBD binds to neurotransmitters in your body’s endocannabinoid system, which is the bodily system that regulates - among other things - pain and sleep. CBD also interacts with serotonin receptors in your brain; serotonin is a key brain chemical involved in mood and emotional wellbeing, and it is thought that this is how CBD can be effective for people suffering from depression and other mood disorders.
Will I Get High Taking CBD?
CBD does not contain any psychoactive properties. The other major compound found in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short, is largely responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects.
You cannot get high taking CBD products, which makes this a great option for anyone who wants to enjoy the emerging health benefits of cannabis or marijuana but doesn’t want to experience the altered state of mind a psychoactive drug can bring.
Types of CBD - Deciphering the Jargon
When you first start to look at CBD oils and other products, the jargon can be overwhelming. There are, however, just three main types of CBD you need to be aware of:
These products contain only CBD and no other compounds from the cannabis plant. If you’re not sure where to start, this can be a good option.
Broad Spectrum CBD
These products contain mostly CBD and no or only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound). However, they do contain other compounds from the plant.
Full Spectrum CBD
These products contain CBD, other compounds from the cannabis plant and small amounts - less than 0.3% typically - of THC.
Research has demonstrated that the more compounds present in a CBD product, the more effective it is likely to be. This has been dubbed ‘the entourage effect’ - essentially, the closer the product is to the plant nature produced, the more likely you are to gain the full spectrum of healing benefits. For this reason, many people who may start with CBD isolate products do eventually move to broad or full spectrum products once they can judge CBD’s effectiveness for themselves.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp CBD Oil and Cannabis CBD Oil?
Many producers sell hemp CBD as well as or instead of cannabis CBD - which can be highly confusing, because cannabis and hemp are, botanically speaking, the exact same plant, the Cannabis sativa plant.
However, while biology may not distinguish them, the law definitely does - according to the 2018 Farm Bill, a plant is classed as hemp if it has less 0.3% or less of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC content by dry weight. More than that, and it is classed as cannabis.
Generally speaking, hemp plants have a greater proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) per plant while cannabis plants yield a greater proportion of THC. This means that CBD can be extracted from both hemp and cannabis - but which should you choose, and why?
CBD derived from hemp is federally legal but illegal under some state laws; by contrast, cannabis-derived CBD is federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Depending where you live, therefore, this may not be an issue because you may have no choice. If you do have a choice, however, it may surprise you to know that CBD from hemp and CBD from cannabis are identical at a molecular level.
What does make a difference is the potential contamination of hemp plants, which are often grown on an industrial scale and subject to very little regulation. For this reason, some people prefer cannabis-derived CBD where they have the option.
Some people also prefer cannabis-derived CBD because in a full-spectrum product, you will also gain therapeutic benefits from additional terpenes which are not present in hemp.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal choice and availability.
CBD Products versus THC Products
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis; THC oils and other THC products may therefore induce a high in the user, in a similar manner to the high people experience when taking cannabis recreationally.
For this reason, laws around THC products tend to be stricter than those around CBD products - always check the law in your country or state before buying either product.
Generally speaking, however, THC strength in most commercially available products is relatively low. THC oils, vapes and edibles have all the same health benefits as CBD oils and products, and in addition, THC has been found to be effective in treating mental health disorders and severe pain. It is also believed to have neuro-protective properties, helping your brain to stay healthier for longer.
Ultimately, whether you choose CBD or THC will come down to a matter of the law where you live plus your own personal preference.
What to Look for When Choosing CBD Oil
Look for a CBD oil which displays its COA (certificate of analysis) and where the COA has been produced by a third party, not by the selling company. This is your independent guarantee that the product contains the amounts and quantities of CBD and/or other compounds that it says it does. COAs will also list potential contaminators such as heavy metals or pesticides.
Try to choose CBD oil which has been produced in an accredited lab, to ISO standards. Any reputable CBD company should be able to provide customers with that information.
Avoid companies that make excessive health claims, or which only provide vague information on what the product includes.
Before starting to shop for CBD oil, think about the format of CBD which best suits your needs and your lifestyle. CBD oils are justifiably popular as they are easy to use and relatively quick and simple. If you’re looking for something more discreet, however, you may prefer CBD gummies or edibles. Arthritic pain and other joint issues may be best soothed with a topical cream or lotion application, whereas severe chronic pain tends to be best treated via oils. Having an idea of what you’re looking for and why will help to narrow down your choices from what can otherwise be quite an overwhelming marketplace.
How Do I Take CBD Oil?
The most common way to take CBD oil is to simply put the required number of drops under your tongue and hold it there for 30 seconds or so before swallowing. The rich capillary network under your tongue will help the CBD oil get into your system fast. Many CBD oils are flavored so if you don’t like the natural taste, that’s no problem!
However, you don’t have to take CBD under your tongue.
If you prefer, you can put it in a smoothie or other drink, or even in coffee. Some people use it in salad dressings, or mix it into homemade cookies.
If you’re taking CBD oil for joint or muscle pain, you may prefer to blend it with coconut oil or beeswax and rub it directly into your skin.
CBD comes in other formats too, apart from oil. It can be smoked or vaped, taken in tablet form, as a liquid or tincture or in gummy sweets - many people find that gummies and other CBD edibles such as cookies are a discreet way of taking their daily dose.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Take?
This depends partly on the strength of the oil you’re taking, why you’re taking it, and your personal preference. A good idea is to start with just a couple of drops a day and you can adjust it from there. For best results, however, you should take CBD oil on a daily basis.
CBD for Pain Relief
CBD has shown promise in a number of studies on its effects against chronic pain or post-surgery pain. If you’re suffering ongoing pain from arthritis, muscle injury, fibromyalgia, nerve damage or back problems, taking CBD in one form or another could help to ease your symptoms. Studies suggest that CBD for pain relief interacts with pain receptors in the spinal cord, helping to block signals of chronic inflammatory pain. It may also boost the effects of natural cannabinoids in the body which help to reduce pain.
CBD for Epilepsy and Seizures
Research into using CBD for epilepsy and seizures is ongoing, but studies have shown that CBD can sometimes result in up to a 50% reduction in seizures, particularly in children with rare types of epilepsy. Some patients have become completely seizure-free. If you are interested in using CBD to control your epilepsy, however, you should seek medical advice first in order to ensure that you don’t inadvertently interfere with the effectiveness of any existing prescription drugs you may be using.
CBD for Anxiety, PTSD and Depression
This is another area where CBD is showing great promise in research. The use of CBD to help treat anxiety disorders, depression and other mental health issues is on the rise, and many people feel that it has definitely helped them. Research studies have found clear evidence that CBD has an anti-stress effect on the body, and some antidepressant effects too. Crucially, evidence shows that it takes effect quickly, helping people to find fast relief from these conditions. In patients with PTSD, studies have shown that CBD can help to relieve nightmares and flashbacks.
CBD for Dementia and Neurodegenerative Disorders
Dementia, Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and motor neuron disease are some of the most distressing conditions anyone can face, and also some of the hardest to treat, with most having no known cure. CBD research in this area is in its infancy still, but some studies have shown promise that CBD may be able to slow or halt damage to nerons, and it appears to exhibit certain neuroprotective qualities which may have use as a preventative measure too.
CBD for Alcohol and Drug Addiction
CBD itself is not psychoactive (as opposed to THC, which is) and it does not appear to be addictive in any way. However, for people who are suffering with addiction to alcohol or other drugs, early signs are that CBD could help. It has been shown to reduce cravings in those addicted to opioid drugs, and this together with its anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties may also help those in recovery avoid future relapses.
Where Can I Legally Buy CBD Oils?
Cannabis-related laws around the world are complex, and becoming ever more so. Here’s a quick ready-reference guide to the situation in Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe and the UK, but it is the buyer’s responsibility to check your local laws before purchasing.
Buying CBD Oil in Australia
CBD oil was legalized in spring 2021 in Australia, so technically customers are free to buy it from any Australian store carrying it. In practice, however, as of April 2021, no product has yet been approved for sale, although this will surely change.
Buying CBD Oil in Canada
Canada decriminalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use in 2018. You might think that this means CBD oils are perfectly legal, right? Yes - but also no. The situation with CBD in Canada is complex, and an oil’s legality depends entirely on which parts of the plant were used to extract it. If buying CBD oil in Canada, check the details carefully.
Buying CBD Oil in the UK
Cannabis for medicinal purposes was legalized in the UK in 2018. CBD oils and other CBD products can be sold, but only where the THC content is 0.2% or less. In theory, patients should be able to obtain CBD products free of charge on prescription via the NHS - but in practice, this is extremely difficult and prescriptions are usually only granted to people with severe epilepsy or who are suffering severe side effects from chemotherapy.
Buying CBD Oil in Europe
For European countries within the EU, sale of CBD oil and other products is subject to EU law, and then to the interpretation of individual countries. Many EU countries do allow the sale of CBD products, but most insist on 0% THC content. For European countries which are not members of the EU, the situation varies widely. Switzerland, for example, permits products with up to 1% THC, while in Sweden CBD is completely illegal.
Buying CBD Oil in the United States
CBD products are illegal in the following states:
Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota
CBD products are allowed only for certain medical conditions or with very low THC content in the following states:
Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
CBD products are legal with a medical prescription in the following states:
Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia
And finally, the following states have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes, including CBD oil:
Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Washington DC