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What is CBD oil?

The cannabis plant (the Plant) Cannabis sativa contains over 500 natural compounds including terpenes, flavonoids and 113 known phytocannabinoids.


Phytocannabinoids are lipophilic molecules, synthesised in the glandular trichomes of the unfertilised female Plant flower and are able to modulate our endocannabinoid system due to molecular similarities to anandamide and 2AG.


The best-known and most widely studied of these phytocannabinoids are CBD (main cannabinoid in CBD oil) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).


CBD is a non-psychomimetic or non-psychotropic cannabinoid and is of great research interest due to its multi-modal properties in various medical conditions.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is responsible for the main psychotropic effect of cannabis.



Over the counter CBD oil

Over the counter CBD oil which can be bought without a prescription is primarily extracted from the dried female flower tops of hemp or from the leaves and stems – a fast growing strain of the Plant sativa that has been selectively bred over time for its industrial properties.


Hemp strains of the Plant contain substantially less THC and higher levels of CBD than other Plant strains and the trace percentages of THC have almost zero chance of causing a psychomimetic effect.



CBD oil vs Hemp seed oil


CBD oil is sometimes confused with hemp seed oil but there are distinct differences.


Hemp oil is extracted from hemp seeds and has only trace amounts of CBD of the hemp plant, whereas the CBD that is in CBD oil is produced in glandular trichomes of female flowers and to a lesser extent from the leaves and stems; the carrier oil (the oil) that the CBD is mixed with to act as a 'carrier/delivery solution' can then be either MCT oil, hemp seed oil or olive oil.

Hemp oil is similar to olive oils and vegetable oils and contains a rich source of nutrients including fatty acids, omega 3 and 6, vitamins and minerals.


Hemp oil is widely used as an addition to cosmetics, balms and skin creams and in its refined form has a number of useful industrial applications.



Cannabis based medical products (CBMP)


Chemovars, also known as chemotypes, refer to the breakdown of a plant species according to chemical composition.


The Plant chemovars have been selectively bred over centuries to produce active compounds such as THC, CBD and other lesser known minor cannabinoids and terpinoids in different but much smaller concentrations and proportions.


All Plant sativa chemovars produce active compounds, but each variety produces these compounds in different concentrations and proportions.


The major difference between over-the-counter CBD oils and cannabis based medical products is that the latter can contain varying concentrations of THC, above the 1mg amount allowed in OTC products.



In November 2018, cannabis-based products for medical use (CBPM) were moved from Schedule I to Schedule 2 classification of Misuse of Drug Regulations.

The re-scheduling meant that CBPM could be prescribed medicinally by any doctor on the GMC specialist register for an unmet clinical need. 


GPs can continue to prescribe CBPMs under shared care arrangements.


The Government has defined a CBPM in humans as a product which:


     1.is or contains the Plant, Plant resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative (not being dronabinol or its stereoisomers);


     2.is produced for medicinal use in humans; and




        (i) a medicinal product, or


        (ii) a substance or preparation for use as an ingredient of, or in the production of an ingredient of, a medicinal product (1).


Home Office and MHRA approvals require the content and ratio of THC/CBD to be declared, a certificate of analysis, a valid GMP certificate from the site of manufacture, a justification for special clinical need and prescription by a doctor registered on the GMC Specialist register.


All CBPM are Schedule 2 controlled drugs and are subject to the full controlled drug requirements of any other Schedule 2 drug which includes strict rules around labelling, storage and prescriptions.