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Is CBD a Supplement?

In recent years, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has skyrocketed as more people turn to this natural compound for its potential health benefits. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of CBD as a dietary supplement and its role in promoting general health and well-being.

We will begin by understanding CBD as a supplement, exploring the basics of CBD and its uses, and discussing how it interacts with the human body. We will also delve into the legal status and regulation of CBD supplements. Next, we will examine CBD's role in supporting general health, focusing on the endocannabinoid system's involvement in pain, inflammation and sleep.

Navigating the CBD market can be challenging, so we will provide guidance on choosing high-quality CBD products, understanding different types of CBD extracts, and determining the proper dosage and administration of CBD supplements. Furthermore, we will discuss the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations, including safety and quality control measures, labelling requirements for CBD supplements, and compliance and enforcement actions.

Lastly, we will address the potential risks and side effects of CBD dietary supplements, covering drug interactions and contraindications, common side effects and precautions, and concerns related to long-term use and dependency.

By the end of this article, you will thoroughly understand CBD as a supplement and be better equipped to make informed decisions about incorporating it into your daily routine.

Understanding CBD as a Supplement

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound derived from C. sativa L. plants. As a versatile and increasingly popular supplement, CBD has become a go-to option for individuals seeking alternative wellness solutions. In the UK, CBD supplements are available in various forms, such as oils, capsules, topicals, and edibles, catering to consumers' diverse preferences and needs.

In the following sections, we will look deeper into the basics of CBD, its uses, how it interacts with the body, and the legal status and regulations surrounding CBD supplements in the UK:

The Basics of CBD and Its Uses

Cannabidiol (CBD) is classified as a non-psychoactive compound, which indicates that it doesn't induce the euphoric effects typically associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another well-known cannabinoid. This makes CBD an appealing option for anyone looking to experience the potential benefits of hemp without the mind-altering effects. In the UK, it is estimated that around 6 million people have tried CBD supplements, with many users reporting improvements in their overall well-being.

CBD supplements are available in various forms, making them versatile and accessible to a wide range of individuals. Some of the most common types of CBD supplements and their uses are as follows:

  1. CBD Oils: These oils are typically taken sublingually (under the tongue) to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. CBD oils are often used for general well-being and to top up the endocannabinoid system. They contain CBD extract suspended in a carrier liquid such as hemp seed oil, MCT oil or hemp oil.
  2. CBD Capsules: Capsules provide a discreet and convenient method of consumption, making them ideal for those who prefer not to use oils or tinctures. They are often used for similar purposes as CBD oils, including promoting overall wellness and supporting a balanced lifestyle.
  3. CBD Topicals: Topical products, such as creams, balms, and lotions, are applied directly to the skin to provide localised relief.
  4. CBD Edibles: Edibles, such as gummies, chocolates, and beverages, offer a tasty and enjoyable way to consume CBD. These products are often used as part of a balanced wellness routine.
  5. CBD Vapes: CBD vape products are inhaled, allowing for fast absorption and a more immediate effect.

It is essential to note that the effectiveness of CBD supplements varies depending on factors such as individual body chemistry, appropriate dosing, and the specific issues being addressed.

How CBD Interacts with the Human Body


CBD's interactions with the body are primarily due to its relationship with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and other physiological systems:

Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system responsible for maintaining a healthy homeostatic balance within the body. It is composed of three primary components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. CBD interacts with the ECS in various ways:

Endocannabinoids: Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the primary endocannabinoids found in the body. When CBD is present, it can inhibit endocannabinoid signalling, producing a range of modulating effects on several body systems. CBD also raises the concentration of AEA and 2-AG by blocking the enzymes that usually metabolise them.

Endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors play a significant role in controlling neurological functions and immune response. CBD does not bind directly to either receptor; instead, it acts as a negative allosteric modulator, meaning it can change the receptor's shape, making it less responsive to other endocannabinoids and cannabinoids like THC. This results in a reduction of THC's psychoactive effects and enhances the therapeutic benefits of other cannabinoids. Allosteric binding also affects various endocannabinoid-like compounds, including Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), Noladin ether, Virodhamine, N-arachidonoyldopamine (NADA) and many more.

Enzymes: Endocannabinoid system enzymes, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids AEA and 2-AG. When CBD is present, it inhibits these enzymes resulting in a higher concentration of AEA and 2-AG available to bind to endocannabinoid receptors.

Other Methods of Interaction

Apart from the ECS, CBD also interacts with various other systems in the body:

Serotonin receptors: CBD can bind to the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which regulates mood, anxiety, and stress.

Vanilloid receptors: CBD can bind to the TRPV1 vanilloid receptor, which is responsible for sensing pain, heat, and inflammation.

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs): CBD can activate PPAR-gamma, which plays a role in regulating lipid metabolism and glucose homeostasis.

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs): CBD can interact with GPR55 and GPR18, which are GPCRs involved in regulating blood pressure, inflammation, and immune response.

CBD supplements are legal in the UK as long as they meet specific criteria. According to the Misuse of Drugs Act, CBD products must not contain any controlled cannabinoids and must be derived from approved industrial hemp strains. Additionally, CBD supplements must not make any medicinal claims unless they have been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

To ensure compliance with these regulations, companies selling CBD supplements in the UK are required to apply for novel food authorisation from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This process helps guarantee that CBD products on the market are safe, accurately labelled, and adhere to the legal requirements.

CBD's Role in Supporting General Health


CBD has a unique interaction with the body, primarily through its engagement with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is critical in regulating various physiological processes, including mood, appetite, sleep, immune response, and stress management.

By working in harmony with this complex cell-signalling system, CBD helps maintain overall health and well-being. In addition to its interaction with the ECS, CBD also activates other pathways that contribute to general wellness.

The following points outline some of the key actions that CBD promotes to support good health and optimal body system function:

  • Balancing the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) - CBD is believed to help balance the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates various bodily functions such as mood, sleep, and immune response. Studies suggest that CBD works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down, allowing them to affect the body more.
  • Boosting Endocannabinoid Levels: By supplementing with CBD, individuals can potentially boost their endocannabinoid levels, further supporting the ECS. This may help address any endocannabinoid-related deficiencies and promote overall health.
  • Restoring Endocannabinoid Tone: CBD is thought to restore endocannabinoid tone by raising the level of endocannabinoids in the body, balancing receptor and enzyme activity. This activates and improves the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and helps maintain health. A well-functioning ECS is essential for overall wellness, making CBD a valuable supplement for those looking to support their body's natural balance.
  • Antioxidant properties: CBD has been shown to possess antioxidant properties, which help neutralise free radicals in the body. CBD can contribute to overall wellness and potentially prevent cellular damage by reducing oxidative stress.

The Endocannabinoid System, Pain and Inflammation

The endocannabinoid system is vital in modulating pain and inflammation throughout the body. It achieves this through the following mechanisms:

  • Modulation of pain signals: The CB1 receptors, found primarily in the central nervous system, help regulate pain signals' transmission. When endocannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors, they can inhibit the release of neurotransmitters, effectively dampening pain signals and reducing the perception of pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: CB2 receptors, found primarily in immune cells and peripheral tissues, modulate immune response and inflammation. When endocannabinoids bind to CB2 receptors, they can help suppress the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reduce inflammation.

The Endocannabinoid System and Sleep Improvement

The endocannabinoid system also plays an essential role in sleep regulation, contributing to maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle. It works to affect sleep through the following mechanisms:

  • Regulation of sleep-wake homeostasis: Endocannabinoids, particularly anandamide, have been shown to modulate the sleep-wake cycle by acting on both CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are involved in the regulation of sleep-wake homeostasis, ensuring a balance between sleep and wakefulness.
  • Modulation of circadian rhythm: The ECS helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which governs our sleep-wake cycle. By modulating the release of certain neurotransmitters and hormones, the ECS can influence our natural sleep patterns, promoting restful and restorative sleep.
  • Stress and sleep: The endocannabinoid system also regulates our response to stress, which can impact sleep quality. By modulating the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, the ECS can help maintain a healthy stress response, ultimately improving sleep quality.
  • REM sleep regulation: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is a crucial phase of the sleep cycle, during which dreaming and memory consolidation occur. The endocannabinoid system has been shown to influence REM sleep by modulating the activity of various neurotransmitters involved in this process. A well-regulated ECS can contribute to maintaining a healthy balance of REM and non-REM sleep, promoting overall sleep quality.

The CBD market has experienced rapid growth in recent years, attracting many consumers seeking its potential benefits. However, navigating this market can be challenging due to varying quality, complex jargon, new regulations, and contradicting news stories. As a consumer, it is essential to understand the challenges and make informed decisions when purchasing CBD products.

Choosing High-Quality CBD Products

To select the best and legal CBD supplements, consider the following tips:

  1. Look for third-party lab results: Reputable companies will have their products tested by independent labs to verify their safety, purity, and cannabinoid content. These results should be easily accessible on the company's website or through a QR code on the product packaging. Third-party testing is essential because it ensures that the product contains the advertised amount of CBD and is free from contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents.
  2. Follow FSA guidance: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides guidelines for CBD products, including recommended daily doses and safety precautions. Ensure that the products you choose adhere to these guidelines. The FSA also advises consumers to be cautious with products that make health claims, as CBD products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
  3. Check the source of the hemp: High-quality CBD products are derived from organically grown hemp, which is cultivated without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. Look for companies that use hemp sourced from countries with strict agricultural regulations, such as the United States or countries within the European Union.
  4. Opt for broad-spectrum CBD, narrow-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate: Full-spectrum CBD products, which contain all the natural cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in the hemp varieties of the C. sativa L. plant, are illegal because they don't meet the legal standard of not containing any controlled cannabinoids. Instead, the best option is broad-spectrum CBD products, which have a similar array of compounds but have had the THC (the psychoactive component) removed.
  5. Examine the extraction method: The method used to extract CBD from the hemp plant can impact the quality and purity of the final product. Supercritical CO2 extraction is considered the gold standard, as it preserves the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids without leaving any harmful residues behind.
  6. Look for transparent labelling: High-quality CBD products should have clear and accurate labelling that includes information about the type of CBD extract, how much CBD per serving, and the total CBD content. Labels should also list all ingredients and have clear instructions for use.
  7. Read customer reviews and testimonials: Before purchasing a CBD product, read customer reviews and testimonials to gain insight into the effectiveness and quality of the product. Be cautious of overly positive reviews, as they may be sponsored or fake. Instead, look for a balanced range of feedback from real customers who have used the product.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you are selecting high-quality, safe, and legal CBD products to meet your health and wellness needs.

Understanding Different Types of CBD Extracts

There are several types of CBD extracts available, each with its features and benefits:

  1. Whole plant extract: Contains all the compounds found in the C. sativa L. plant, including THC. However, UK regulations require supplements to be free from controlled cannabinoids, making whole plant extracts technically illegal.
  2. Full-spectrum extract: Includes all the components of the C. sativa L. plant, including trace amounts of THC. While full-spectrum extracts offer a wide range of benefits, they are also considered illegal in the UK due to the presence of controlled cannabinoids.
  3. Broad-spectrum extract: Contains most of the C. sativa L. plant compounds but without THC. Broad-spectrum extracts are the best choice for UK consumers, as they are THC-free but still contain a beneficial range of legal cannabinoids.
  4. Narrow-spectrum extract: Similar to broad-spectrum, but with a more limited range of cannabinoids.
  5. CBD isolate: The purest form of CBD, containing no other cannabinoids, other nutrients or plant compounds. It's sometimes referred to as pure CBD.

Proper Dosage and Administration of CBD Supplements

How much CBD you should take depends on factors such as body weight, sex, height, diet, exercise, endocannabinoid tone, and existing health conditions. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends a maximum daily dose of 70 mg for adults, although higher doses may be permissible under a doctor's guidance.

Effective CBD consumption times vary based on your endocannabinoid system (ECS) state. There are two main ways to take CBD food supplements:

  1. On-demand: For generally healthy individuals, take CBD on-demand when extra support is needed to maintain balance.
  2. At regular intervals: If you have a low endocannabinoid tone, consume CBD regularly throughout the day for up to 2 weeks to gradually build up your endocannabinoid levels.

Begin with a low CBD dose (10-20 mg) and gradually increase it, monitoring your body's response. Consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or take medications.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) Regulations

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is a UK government body responsible for protecting public health in relation to food. One of its roles is to regulate the CBD food supplement industry, ensuring that products are safe for consumption and that brands that sell CBD products comply with relevant legislation.

A key aspect of FSA regulation is the novel foods authorisation process, which requires companies to submit applications for CBD products on sale before 13 February 2020. This process ensures that CBD food products have undergone an independent safety assessment before being placed on the market.

Safety and Quality Control Measures

The FSA has implemented various safety and quality control measures for CBD products to ensure their safety for consumers. These measures include issuing consumer advice on the consumption of CBD for healthy adults and vulnerable groups, such as pregnant or breastfeeding individuals and those taking medication.

Additionally, the FSA requires that all CBD products comply with other legislative requirements, ensuring they are not incorrectly labelled, unsafe, or regarded as controlled substances.

Furthermore, the FSA advises local authorities to consider products on the list of CBD products linked to novel food applications when determining their enforcement priorities. This approach helps bring the current market into compliance and encourages companies to withdraw non-compliant products from the market voluntarily.

Labelling Requirements for CBD Supplements

In the UK, the FSA enforces labelling requirements for CBD products to ensure that consumers have accurate information about the products they purchase. One such requirement is the recommendation that healthy adults should not exceed a daily intake of 70mg of CBD. Sellers of CBD products should be aware of this information and be able to inform consumers about the recommended maximum daily limit.

Additionally, CBD products must be labelled correctly, providing clear information about the product's contents, including the concentration of CBD and any other ingredients. The label should also indicate whether the product is derived from approved industrial hemp and is free from controlled cannabinoids, as the Misuse of Drugs Act requires.

Compliance and Enforcement Actions

For a CBD product to comply with FSA regulations, it must meet specific safety standards and undergo the novel foods authorisation process. Companies that have not applied for authorisation or have been rejected from the process are expected to voluntarily withdraw their products from the market. If this does not happen, local authorities can use the list of CBD products linked to novel food applications to inform their enforcement decisions.

Enforcement actions may include removing non-compliant products from the market, fines, or other penalties. The FSA works closely with local authorities to ensure that CBD food products are subject to food laws and that any safety concerns are addressed through appropriate enforcement action.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBD Supplements


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is generally considered safe and well-tolerated. However, it is essential to recognise that there are some risks and side effects associated with CBD supplements. This section will explore these concerns and provide information on minimising potential adverse effects.

Drug Interactions and Contraindications

One of the primary concerns with CBD supplements is their potential to interact with other medications. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises against taking CBD if you are using other medications, as it may lead to unintended consequences.

Many of these interactions are linked to the cytochrome P450 enzyme system, a group of enzymes responsible for metabolising various drugs in the body. Studies suggest that CBD can inhibit the activity of the cytochrome P450 enzymes, specifically the CYP3A4 enzyme, which metabolises around 60% of clinically prescribed medications. As a result, CBD can interfere with the metabolism of certain medications, leading to increased drug concentrations in the bloodstream and potential side effects.

The grapefruit effect is a well-known example of this interaction. Like CBD, grapefruit and grapefruit juice contain compounds called furanocoumarins, which can also inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme. When the enzyme is inhibited, the body is less able to break down medications, causing their levels to rise and potentially increasing the risk of adverse effects.

Some examples of medications that may be affected by the grapefruit effect and CBD include:

  • Blood thinners (e.g., warfarin)
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (e.g., statins)
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine)
  • Anti-seizure medications (e.g., clobazam)

By being aware of these interactions and working closely with your healthcare provider, you can minimise the risk of complications and safely incorporate CBD into your health and wellness routine.

Common Side Effects and Precautions

Although CBD is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience side effects. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has provided guidelines on CBD usage, which can help individuals make informed decisions about incorporating CBD into their daily routines.

Potential Side Effects of CBD:

  1. Dry mouth: CBD can cause decreased saliva production, leading to a dry, uncomfortable sensation in the mouth. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated while using CBD products to alleviate this.
  2. Diarrhoea: In some cases, CBD may cause gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhoea. This is typically associated with high doses or sensitive individuals. Adjusting the CBD dosage or switching to a different product may help.
  3. Reduced appetite: Some users may experience a decrease in appetite when taking CBD, which can lead to unintended weight loss. Monitoring your food intake and maintaining a balanced diet can help counteract this effect.
  4. Drowsiness: CBD can have a sedating effect on some individuals, particularly when taken in high doses. Be cautious when using CBD if you need to stay alert, and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you feel drowsy.
  5. Fatigue: Some users may experience fatigue or lack energy after consuming CBD. This side effect can be managed by adjusting the dosage, changing the time of consumption, or discussing alternative treatment options with a healthcare professional.

Precautions and Guidelines for CBD Use:

  1. Start with a low dose: Begin with a low CBD dosage and gradually increase it, paying close attention to how your body responds. This approach allows you to find the most effective dose with minimal side effects.
  2. Choose high-quality products: Select CBD products from reputable sources that provide third-party lab testing results, ensuring the product's safety, purity, and cannabinoid content.
  3. Follow FSA guidelines: Adhere to the FSA's recommendations for CBD use, including the maximum daily dose of 70 mg for adults. Be cautious of products making health claims, as CBD products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

By considering these side effects and precautions, you can safely and effectively incorporate CBD into your health and wellness routine.

Long-Term Use and Dependency Concerns

As scientific studies on CBD (cannabidiol) continue to evolve, questions regarding long-term use and dependency have emerged. While some human studies have reported potential risks associated with prolonged CBD use, such as liver toxicity and reproductive and developmental effects, it is important to note that these findings are not conclusive and more research is required. Furthermore, CBD is not considered habit-forming or addictive, making it a viable option for those seeking alternative treatments for various health concerns.

According to a 2017 Pre-Review Report by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD does not exhibit any effects indicative of abuse or dependence potential. This is primarily because, unlike THC (delta-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce intoxicating effects. In fact, a small study conducted in 2016 involving 31 adults showed that while active THC produced significant physical and psychological effects, CBD did not affect heart rate, blood pressure, or cognitive function.


Our analysis has shown that CBD can indeed be considered a natural supplement for overall wellness. We have highlighted CBD's potential in promoting general health by examining its interactions with the endocannabinoid system. Furthermore, we have provided practical guidance on navigating the CBD market, including its legal status and regulatory considerations.

While CBD shows promise in promoting overall well-being, it's important to approach its use with caution and do your own research before incorporating it into your daily routine. With proper guidance and a commitment to quality, CBD can be a valuable addition to a balanced, healthy lifestyle.