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What is CBD Oil?

In a world increasingly leaning towards natural remedies and wellness, one product stands out for its rapid rise to prominence: CBD oil. This comprehensive article explores this fascinating supplement, derived from a mixture of CBD extract and carrier oil. We will dive into how cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted and transformed into oil, its potential health benefits, and its diverse applications.

Whether you're a health professional, a consumer intrigued by wellness trends, or just someone keen on learning about the latest developments in natural health, we hope this guide will enlighten your understanding of CBD oil.

Introduction to CBD Oil

As interest in CBD oil grows, it's essential to understand what it is, its history, and the science behind its potential benefits. This section will provide an overview of CBD oil, its definition, and its background.

Definition of CBD Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a natural compound extracted from the cannabis plant, specifically from hemp plants that contain low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana use. CBD oil is typically made by mixing hemp-extracted CBD with a carrier oil, such as coconut or hemp oil. The result is a product that can be consumed orally or by placing drops under your tongue.

History and Background of CBD Oil

CBD oil has a rich historical background that can be traced back to ancient times. Cannabis, the plant from which CBD oil is derived, has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Ancient civilisations such as China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome recognised and utilised the therapeutic properties of cannabis in their medical practices.

However, it was not until 1963 that CBD, the specific compound within cannabis, was isolated and identified by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. This groundbreaking discovery paved the way for further research into CBD oil and its potential benefits.

In more recent times, CBD oil in its current form started appearing on UK shelves in the early 2010s. The exact year of its widespread availability may vary, but it gained popularity gradually as interest in its potential uses grew. Evolving regulations surrounding cannabis-derived products also contributed to its introduction in the UK market.

Since then, the availability and variety of CBD oil products have continued to expand to meet the growing demand. CBD oil has gained recognition as a potential natural remedy and ongoing research seeks to uncover its full therapeutic potential.

The Science Behind CBD Oil

To fully understand CBD oil, it's crucial to explore the science behind how it interacts with the human body. This section will discuss cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and how CBD oil works within the body.

Understanding Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with specific receptors in the human body. The two main types of cannabinoids are phytocannabinoids, produced by plants, and endocannabinoids, naturally occurring compounds within the human body. The most well-known phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD, but there are over 100 different cannabinoids present in the cannabis or hemp plant, each with its unique properties and effects.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system within the human body that plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis or a state of healthy balance across various physiological processes. The ECS consists of three primary components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids (or human cannabinoids), such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), are produced by the body and bind to cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Enzymes then break down endocannabinoids once they have fulfilled their function.

How CBD Oil Works in the Body

CBD oil interacts with the ECS and other systems in the body to produce its therapeutic effects. Unlike THC, which binds directly to CB1 receptors, CBD is thought to work indirectly by influencing the activity of other cannabinoids and modulating the function of various receptors, such as serotonin and opioid receptors. The indirect way CBD interacts helps regulate numerous physiological processes, including pain perception, mood, appetite, and immune function.

Starting Material for CBD Oil

When it comes to producing CBD oil, there are two main starting materials: industrial hemp and high-quality hemp. Both of these materials play a crucial role in determining the quality, taste, and price of the final CBD oil product.

Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp is primarily grown for its seed and fibre, which are used in various applications such as textiles, construction materials, and food products. After the seed and fibre have been harvested, the remaining plant material is typically chopped up and used for extraction. This process results in low-quality CBD oil that is often cheaper but has a poor natural taste. The focus on seed and fibre production means that the CBD content in industrial hemp is usually lower than in CBD oil produced from high-quality hemp.

High-Quality Hemp


High-quality hemp is specifically cultivated for its flowers, which contain the highest concentration of CBD. This type of hemp is grown primarily to produce CBD products, including oil. Only the hemp flower is used during the extraction process, ensuring that the resulting CBD oil is of high quality and has a clean cannabis taste. Due to the focus on CBD extraction and the use of the flower, high-quality hemp produces superior, more expensive CBD oil.

Extraction Methods for CBD Oil

CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant and has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits. There are three main extraction methods used to obtain CBD oil: CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction, and olive oil extraction. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, which we will explore in the following sections.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction involves using a closed-loop system to isolate the CBD molecules from the plant material. This method utilises supercritical carbon dioxide as a solvent, which is easily available, inexpensive, non-toxic, and non-explosive. The process ensures gentle treatment of the product at moderate temperatures (<100°C) and allows for easy separation of the solvent and extract.


- Safe and environmentally friendly

- Can produce very high-quality, pure CBD oil

- Non-toxic and non-flammable


- Expensive equipment and high energy consumption

- Longer processing time compared to other methods

- Potential loss of beneficial phytochemicals

Selective extraction refers to the ability to extract specific compounds from the plant material, while mass extraction involves extracting all compounds present. CO2 extraction can be fine-tuned for elective extraction to target specific compounds, allowing for a more refined end product.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction involves soaking the hemp plant in ethanol to extract the CBD molecules. This method is relatively simple and cost-effective, making it popular among small-scale and high-throughput producers.


- Faster processing time compared to CO2 extraction

- Less expensive equipment

- Can extract a broader range of compounds


- Flammable solvent, requiring additional safety precautions

- May extract undesirable compounds, such as chlorophyll

- Potential loss of volatile terpenes due to heat exposure

Warm ethanol extraction involves using ethanol at higher temperatures, which can result in a full-spectrum concentration of cannabinoids and other compounds. Cryo ethanol extraction, on the other hand, uses cold ethanol to produce a more concentrated distillate with fewer undesirable compounds.

Olive Oil Extraction

Olive oil extraction involves soaking the hemp plant in a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut or hemp oil, to extract the CBD molecules. This method is simple and natural, making it popular among home producers and small-scale operations.


- Natural and non-toxic solvent

- Simple and inexpensive process

- Suitable for small-scale production


- Lower efficiency compared to other methods

- May result in a less potent end product

- Carries a significant amount of plant material through the press, which can negatively impact the quality of the final product

Types of CBD Oil

There are five main types of CBD oil: whole plant CBD oil, full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum CBD oil, narrow-spectrum CBD oil, and isolate CBD oil . Each type has its own unique properties, pros, and cons. In the UK, to be considered legal, CBD oil must not contain any controlled cannabinoids, such as THC. As a result, the best legal type of CBD oil is broad-spectrum CBD oil.

Let's explore each type in more detail:

Whole Plant

Whole plant CBD oil, also known as raw CBD oil, is extracted from the entire cannabis sativa plant, including leaves, stems, and flowers. This type of CBD oil contains all the natural compounds found in the plant, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids but also contains waste material such as fats, waxes, lipids and chlorophyll.


- Offers the full range of compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant

- May provide an entourage effect, where the various compounds work together for enhanced benefits


- May contain trace amounts of THC or other controlled cannabinoids, making it technically illegal in the UK

- Can be low quality due to the high amounts of waste material present

- The presence of other compounds may cause unwanted side effects for some users


Full-spectrum CBD oil is similar to whole plant CBD oil, but it undergoes additional processing to remove unwanted waste compounds like chlorophyll. It still contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant, including trace amounts of THC.


- Provides a wide range of beneficial compounds

- May offer an entourage effect


- Contains trace amounts of THC or other controlled cannabinoids, making it technically illegal in the UK

- May cause users to fail a THC drug test


Broad-spectrum CBD oil is created by further refining full-spectrum CBD oil to remove THC and other controlled cannabinoids. This type of CBD oil still contains a wide range of beneficial compounds but without the risk of the psychoactive effects associated with THC.


- Offers a wide range of beneficial compounds without the presence of THC

- Legal in the UK as it does not contain controlled cannabinoids

- May provide an entourage effect


- The refining process may remove some beneficial compounds

- May not be as effective as full-spectrum CBD oil for certain conditions because there is no THC present.


Narrow-spectrum CBD oil is similar to oil made with a broad-spectrum extract, but it contains a more limited range of cannabinoids and other compounds. This type of CBD oil is very refined and usually designed to target specific issues or conditions by including only the most relevant compounds.


- Tailored to address specific health concerns

- Legal in the UK as it does not contain controlled cannabinoids


- May not provide the same range of benefits as other types of CBD oil

- May not offer an entourage effect


Isolate CBD oil is made from pure CBD, containing 99% or more of CBD and no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids. This type of CBD oil is created through a process that isolates CBD from all other compounds found in the cannabis plant.


- Contains the highest concentration of CBD

- Legal in the UK as it does not contain any controlled cannabinoids

- Suitable for users who want to avoid any potential side effects from other compounds


- Does not offer an entourage effect

- May not provide the same range of benefits as other types of CBD oil


Most of the cheaper CBD oils available in the UK are made from an isolate. However, these isolate oils do not benefit from the entourage effect like a broad-spectrum oil does and as such have limited effectiveness.


Health Benefits of CBD Oil

CBD oil has been associated with a variety of positive effects on overall well-being. In this section, we will explore some of the key benefits of CBD oil.

  1. A Natural and Non-psychoactive Alternative

One of the main advantages of CBD oil is that it provides a natural and non-psychoactive alternative to other treatments. Unlike THC, the other main cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, CBD does not produce any mind-altering effects. This makes it an appealing option for those who want to experience the potential benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive side effects.

  1. Balancing the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

CBD oil has been shown to help balance the ECS, which plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis within the body. By inhibiting endocannabinoid signalling in a dose-dependent manner and increasing the brain's endocannabinoid levels, CBD can help maintain balance during times of change or stress.

  1. Versatility in Consumption Methods

Another benefit of CBD oil is its versatility in consumption methods. The most common method is sublingual consumption, where the oil is held under the tongue for 3 to 9 minutes before swallowing. However, CBD oil can also be swallowed or applied topically. This flexibility allows users to choose the method that best suits their needs and preferences.

  1. Wide Range of Potencies and Formulations

CBD oil is available in a wide range of potencies and formulations, making it suitable for various needs and preferences. From low-dose options for stress management to higher concentrations for more severe conditions, there is a CBD oil product for everyone. Additionally, CBD oil can be combined with other natural ingredients, such as essential oils or herbal extracts, to create tailored formulations for specific purposes.

  1. Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Production

The production of CBD oil is often more sustainable and environmentally friendly compared to other treatments. Hemp, the plant from which CBD is extracted, requires less water and fewer pesticides than many other crops. Furthermore, hemp can be grown in a variety of climates and has a relatively short growing cycle, making it an eco-friendly option for producing CBD oil.

  1. Legal and Accessible in Many Regions

As the legal landscape surrounding cannabis and its derivatives continues to evolve, CBD oil has become increasingly accessible in many regions. In countries where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, CBD oil can be easily obtained. Even in places with stricter regulations, hemp-derived CBD products are often available, as they typically contain little to no THC.

  1. Growing Body of Research and Potential Applications

Finally, the growing body of research on CBD oil and its potential applications is another significant benefit. As more research and clinical trials are conducted, our understanding of the potential uses of CBD oil continues to expand. This ongoing research not only supports the existing benefits but also opens up new possibilities for future applications of CBD oil in promoting overall health and well-being.

Potential Side Effects of CBD Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has gained popularity in recent years for its potential therapeutic effects. However, it is essential to be aware of the possible side effects and risks associated with its use. In this section, we will discuss the common side effects, drug interactions, and precautions and warnings that should be considered when using CBD oil.

Common Side Effects

Although CBD oil is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience side effects. The most frequently reported side effects include dry mouth, diarrhoea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. It is important to note that the severity and occurrence of these side effects may vary from person to person and depend on factors such as the type and dosage of CBD used.

Drug Interactions

CBD oil can interact with other medications, potentially leading to altered concentrations and effectiveness of the drugs. For example, CBD inhibits the hepatic enzyme CYP2D6, which is responsible for metabolising selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, and opioids.

As a result, the serum concentrations of these medications may increase, leading to subtherapeutic effects or increased risk of side effects. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before using CBD oil, especially if you are taking other medications.

Precautions and Warnings

Individuals considering using CBD oil may wish to consult their doctor, particularly if they have underlying medical conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, epilepsy, heart problems, or a weakened immune system. Additionally, the UK Food Standards Agency advises that pregnant or breastfeeding women and children should avoid using CBD oil due to the need for more research and clinical trials on its safety and potential adverse effects in these populations.

CBD Oil Dosage and Administration


In this section, we will discuss the factors that can affect the dosage of CBD oil, how to calculate the appropriate dosage and the importance of starting with a low dose. It is essential to note that individual experiences may vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a medical professional before using CBD oil.

Factors Affecting Dosage

Several factors can influence the optimal dosage of CBD oil for an individual. These factors include:

1. Intended use: The purpose for which a person is using CBD oil can impact the required dosage. Different conditions may require different dosages to achieve the desired effect.

2. Body weight: A person's body weight plays a significant role in determining the appropriate dosage of CBD oil. Generally, heavier individuals may require higher doses than lighter individuals to experience the same effects.

3. Individual body chemistry: Each person's unique body chemistry can affect how they respond to CBD oil. This means that two people with similar body weights and intended uses may still require different dosages to achieve the desired effects.

4. Concentration of CBD: The concentration of CBD in the oil or product being used can also impact the dosage. Products with higher concentrations of CBD will require smaller doses to achieve the same effects as products with lower concentrations.

Starting with a Low Dose

When beginning to use CBD oil, it is recommended to start with a low dose and gradually increase it over time until you find the dosage that works best for you. This approach allows your body to adjust to the CBD and helps you determine the optimal dosage for your specific needs.

For example, you might start with a daily dose of 10 to 20 milligrams and increase it by 5 milligrams each week until you achieve the desired effects. Keeping track of your dosage and any changes in your symptoms can help you fine-tune your CBD oil intake and ensure you are using the most effective dosage for your needs.

Calculating Dosage

Calculating the appropriate dosage of CBD oil can be a bit tricky, especially when dealing with oils and tinctures. To determine the correct dosage, it's best to start by selecting a low daily amount in milligrams. From there, you can use the concentration of the CBD oil to determine how much oil you need to take.

Example 1:

You want to start with a daily amount of 10mg CBD.

Your CBD oil is in a 10ml bottle containing 500mg CBD.

Therefore 1ml of oil will contain 50mg CBD. To take 10mg, you will need to hold o.2ml of oil under your tongue.

Example 2:

You want to start with a daily amount of 10mg CBD.

Your CBD oil is in a 10ml bottle containing 1000mg CBD.

Therefore 1ml of oil will contain 100mg CBD. To take 10mg, you will need to hold o.1ml of oil under your tongue.

Most CBD oils will indicate the amount of CBD per drop on the packaging or the pippete will have markings on it making it easier to calculate the dosage.


Approaches to Taking CBD

There are two primary strategies for taking CBD:

  1. On-Demand Consumption: This involves taking CBD oil as needed in response to specific needs or symptoms. It can be a single dose or multiple doses over a few days or weeks until the need subsides. This approach suits individuals who prefer using CBD during stressful moments or when symptoms flare up.
  2. Regular Consumption: CBD is taken consistently as a daily supplement, typically 2 to 4 times per day, over an extended period. This strategy is used by individuals with impaired endocannabinoid systems who require a constant supply of cannabinoids. Regular dosing helps manage symptoms more effectively for these individuals.

The choice between these approaches depends on individual needs and how the body responds to CBD. The goal is to find the most suitable system that delivers maximum benefits for each person.

In this section, we will explore the legal status of CBD oil in various aspects, including its classification, THC content regulations, novel food regulations, medicinal use, advertising, and travelling with CBD oil.

Understanding the Classification of Cannabis and CBD

Cannabis is classified as a Class B controlled drug under Part II, Schedule 2, of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA 1971)in the UK. However, CBD is a compound found in cannabis and is considered legal as long as it contains no controlled cannabinoids. This distinction is crucial as marijuana derivatives, which typically contain THC, are not legal for purchase, use, or possession.

THC Content Regulations in the UK

To be legal in the UK, CBD oils must not contain any amount of controlled cannabinoids, including THC. Since 2020, CBD food and drink products also require a Novel Food authorisation issued by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Novel Food Regulation and CBD Oil

CBD oil is considered to be a novel food, meaning it cannot be legally sold until a safety assessment has been completed and authorised. Applications for authorisation of CBD food products are required, as these products are considered novel foods with no history of consumption before May 1997. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently working on establishing the safety of cannabidiol (CBD) as a novel food due to data gaps and uncertainties about potential hazards related to CBD intake.

CBD Oil in Medicinal Products and Prescriptions

While you can buy CBD oil as a supplement, its use in medicinal products and prescriptions is subject to different regulations. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) oversees the licensing and regulation of medicinal products containing CBD. These products must meet specific safety, quality, and efficacy standards before they can be prescribed by healthcare professionals.

Selling and Advertising CBD Oil in the UK

Selling and advertising CBD oil in the UK is subject to certain restrictions. Retailers must ensure that their products don't contain any controlled cannabinoids. Additionally, they cannot make any medical claims or promote CBD oil as a treatment for specific conditions. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in penalties and legal consequences.

Travelling with CBD Oil within the UK and Abroad

Travelling with CBD oil within the UK is generally allowed, provided the product meets the legal requirements regarding THC content and sourcing. However, when travelling abroad, it is essential to research the destination country's laws and regulations on CBD oil, as they may differ significantly from those in the UK.

Future Developments and Changes in Legislation

As the popularity of CBD oil continues to grow, legislation and regulations surrounding its use will likely continue to evolve. Consumers, retailers, and medical professionals need to stay informed about any changes in legislation to ensure compliance and safe use of CBD oil products.

Choosing a Quality CBD Oil Product

When it comes to selecting a high-quality CBD oil product, there are several factors to consider. It's essential to do thorough research and understand the various aspects that contribute to a product's quality and safety. In this section, we will discuss the importance of third-party testing, choosing reputable brands and manufacturers, and reading labels to understand the ingredients in your CBD oil product.

Third-Party Testing

One of the most crucial factors in determining the quality of a CBD oil product is third-party lab testing. This process involves independent laboratories analysing the product to verify its purity, potency, and safety. By checking for a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) provided by these labs, you can ensure that the product contains the correct amount of CBD, is free from harmful contaminants, and adheres to legal THC limits. Always look for products with readily available and up-to-date lab reports to guarantee their quality and safety.

Reputable Brands and Manufacturers

Another essential aspect of choosing a quality CBD oil product is selecting a reputable brand and manufacturer. A trustworthy company will prioritise transparency, providing detailed information about its sourcing, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures. Look for brands with positive customer reviews, a strong online presence, and a commitment to producing high-quality, safe products. Additionally, consider companies that offer excellent customer support and are willing to answer any questions or concerns you may have about their products.

Reading Labels and Understanding Ingredients

Finally, it's vital to read labels and understand the ingredients in your CBD oil product. This includes not only the CBD content but also any additional ingredients such as carrier oils, flavourings, or additives. Make sure the product lists CBD or hemp extract as an active ingredient and avoid products that only mention hemp seeds or hempseed oil, as these do not contain CBD. Check for full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate (pure CBD) designations to understand the range of cannabinoids and other compounds present in the product. Additionally, be aware of any potential allergens or artificial ingredients that may be included.

By considering these factors – third-party testing, reputable brands and manufacturers, and understanding the ingredients – you can confidently choose a high-quality CBD oil product that meets your needs and preferences.

The 3 Ways to Access CBD Oil

While research is still ongoing, it is important to understand the different ways one can access CBD oil. In this section, we will explore three primary methods of obtaining CBD oil: as a supplement with no THC, through private medical prescriptions containing THC, and via the NHS for specific medical uses.

Supplement (No THC)

One way to access CBD oil is by purchasing it as a supplement, which typically contains no THC. These products are available over-the-counter in health stores and online. It is crucial to note that the quality and content of these supplements may vary, so it's essential to research the product and company before making a purchase. Dietary supplements containing CBD oil are often used for general wellness purposes and do not require a prescription.

Private Medical Prescription (with THC)

Obtaining CBD oil with THC content through a private medical prescription is another avenue available in the UK. Referred to as medical cannabis, this form of CBD oil can only be obtained with a prescription from a qualified medical professional. To assess its suitability for your specific needs and conditions, it is crucial to consult with a doctor prior to considering medical cannabis as an option.

NHS – Only for Certain Medical Uses

Lastly, CBD oil can be accessed through the NHS for specific medical uses. In the UK, certain cannabis-based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. However, these products are only prescribed when other treatments have not worked or are not suitable, and it is believed to be in the patient's best interests. It is important to note that this option is likely to apply to a very small number of patients, and a specialist referral is required to access medicinal cannabis through the NHS.


Having explored the world of CBD oil from its historical context to its scientific foundations, its diverse types, potential benefits and side effects, legal status, and best practices for choosing a high-quality product, it's evident that this natural extract has a wide range of applications and potential. CBD oil, a product that once was misunderstood and stigmatised, is now being studied for its potential therapeutic properties, with a growing body of research suggesting a multitude of potential applications (although more research and clinical trials are still required in some areas).

Weighing the Pros and Cons of CBD Oil

Like any health supplement, CBD oil has its pros and cons. On one hand, it offers possible health benefits, including balancing the ECS and providing a natural and non-psychoactive alternative for relief. It also comes in a variety of potencies and formulations, making it versatile and adaptable to individual needs. On the other hand, there are potential side effects to consider, and certain precautions must be taken, particularly regarding dosage and possible drug interactions.

Consulting with a Healthcare Professional

Given the complex nature of CBD oil, its interaction with the body, and the potential for side effects and drug interactions, consulting with a healthcare professional before starting a CBD oil regimen is advisable. They can provide personalised advice based on your health status and goals. As we've seen, CBD oil holds a great deal of promise, but like any substance that interacts with our bodies, it should be used responsibly, with knowledge and understanding of its potential effects.