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A beginner’s guide to CBD oil
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CBD oil has become wildly popular in the US and UK in recent years.
According to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the UK CBD market is currently worth £300m and is expected to reach £1 billion by 2025.
High street stores now sell a wide range of CBD tinctures (concentrated CBD extract suspended in a base oil) and other oral/topical products.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and is one of over 110 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids which are found in the cannabis plant.
These chemicals act on cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body as part of its endocannabinoid system, which helps balance a whole host of bodily functions like pain sensation, mood, memory and appetite.
Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, which are the equivalent of those found in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system is self regulating, but many of us need a boost – this is where CBD supplements come in.
There’s a stigma around cannabis because it contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the illegal psychoactive component that gets you high. However, isolated CBD isn’t psychoactive whatsoever, and is not considered a controlled substance in the UK.
What does CBD do?
CBD was first isolated and identified back in 1940, while THC had its discovery in the 1960s. Despite CBD’s earlier unearthing, research has mostly focussed on THC, so there’s still a lot to learn about cannabidiol.
Several clinical trials have shown CBD as an effective treatment for epilepsy – late last year, the NHS approved two CBD-containing medicines for use in treating certain types of the illness.
There’s also evidence that CBD may help ease symptoms of other medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, arthritis and addiction. However, research is limited in these areas.
Under UK law, over the counter ingestible CBD products are classed as food supplements, therefore cannot make any medicinal claims. If a product claims it can cure all ills, it’s breaking the law.
This is why most CBD products are marketed as wellness supplements.
Are there any side effects?
According to Harvard Medical School, side effects of CBD can include nausea, fatigue and irritability.
It also states that ‘CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does’.
As with any supplement, speak to your doctor before taking CBD to ensure it won’t interact with any medication you’re on.
Although there are recommended maximum doses, a 2017 World Health Organisation (WHO) report states that it’s not possible to overdose on CBD. The WHO also advises that cannabidiol is not addictive in humans.
Is an oil tincture the best way to take CBD?
Oil tinctures are a popular way to take CBD.
Drops are administered under the tongue and held for around 60 seconds to allow maximum absorption.
As well as oil tintures, you can buy CBD sprays, capsules, vape cartridges, and edibles like infused gummies, chocolate and drinks.
The length of time a product takes to work varies per person. Getting to work instantly, vaping CBD is the fastest way to feel its effects, however health risks have been raised about vaping.
Edibles generally take a bit longer than tinctures to start working their magic – while oils taken sublingually can kick in after 15 minutes, anything that has to pass through the digestive tract may take from 30 minutes to two hours to get working.
I’d assumed that gummies were a gimmick, but the Pollen CBD gummies, (£35 for 30 x 10mg) have worked wonders for me.
They come in different varieties e.g. one is supposed to energise while another soothes, but I can’t personally tell the difference between them.
Each gummy tastes delicious and is infused with 10mg CBD – they’re a really convenient (albeit incredibly expensive) way of taking CBD as the dose is accurate and there’s no chance of them leaking in your bag, unlike with an oil. (However, an army of – I assume now blissed out – ants discovered my stash, so it’s worth decanting them into a jar.)
I find a gummy in the morning and evening helps with my anxiety and allows me to get on with my day.
What’s the best strength and dosage for me?
We’re all different, so there’s no one size fits all. It’s best to start at a lower dose and see what that does for you, before gradually increasing to find your optimal amount.
‘The area where there is least known about CBD is around dose, particularly for different purposes,’ explains Al Overton, Planet Organic’s UK Buying Director, who oversees CBD products the store stocks.
‘I would say typically advise with taking a 10% oil (it’s quite bewildering because you can get 5%, 10%, 15%, 40% etc) and with a lower dose and building up until you find something that works.
‘There’s no point in buying a huge expensive oil and burning through it in three days if you can get the effect you’re looking for with a lower dose.’
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The world of CBD can be confusing – I spent hours researching strength and dosage when I bought my first bottle of CBD oil.
Brands will usually tell you the amount (in mg) of CBD in the entire bottle, and the percentage. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be told how many mg is in each drop. Not all brands do this so it can be hard to compare different products.
I had no idea how strong to go so after much deliberation, I ordered a bottle of The Original Alternative 1500mg blue edition oil (£58.20 for 30ml). This equates to 5% per bottle, and 2.5mg per drop.
I started taking by four drops (10mg) every morning, but discovered I needed more.
I’m all about less is more, so I amped things up by testing out the Provacan 2400mg CBD oil (£119.99 for 10ml) which equates to a whopping 24% CBD (plus an additional 6.2% phytocannabinoid content), and 12mg per drop.
I find that one drop in the morning is enough to clear my fog of anxiety, and a drop at night sends me into a blissful slumber. However, this potent oil is definitely not one to start your CBD journey with – try it only once you’ve tested lower strength oils.
If you’ve tried various strengths of reputable CBD and find it does nothing for you, your genetics may be to blame.
A 2017 study found that some people naturally produce more endocannabinoids than your average human, so taking extra CBD may not actually affect them.
Should I buy CBD isolate or broad/full spectrum?
To add to the confusion, it’s not just about the strength of CBD in your product – it’s whether the CBD is flying solo or with other cannabinoids.
CBD isolate is the purest form of naturally occuring CBD, and broad/full spectrum oils contain a range of other cannabinoids.
Scientists first coined the term ‘the entourage effect’ in 1998, with research suggesting that cannabinoids work alongside CBD to increase its effect in the body’s endocannabinoid system.
There have been further studies both proving and disproving this theory, so the official jury is still out.
While you may need more CBD isolate to feel the desired effects, its advantage is that it won’t contain any THC whatsoever, whereas many broad spectrum products contain a trace.
When should I take CBD?
Some people find CBD relaxing while others find it stimulating, so it’s a case of trial and error.
Try taking it at different times of the day and keeping a diary of how you feel. You might also prefer taking a few smaller doses over 24 hours, rather than all in one go.
‘The therapeutic level of CBD that you take can accumulate through the day so you don’t necessarily need to take one big dose,’ explains Planet Organic’s Al.
I generally take some in the morning to help calm the anxiety I wake up with, and again in the evening to help me sleep, with a dose in the middle of the day as needed.
There is evidence to support that using CBD as part of a fitness regime can aid muscle recovery, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Metro.co.uk contributor and CBD enthusiast Miranda Larbi tested Impact for Women 1600mg CBD oil (£79.99 for 10ml), a supplement that claims its unique formulation of cannabinoids can complement your fitness regime.
‘It’s amazing; it’s really good at relaxing you. I ran a half marathon then I took it and had no DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for the day or the next day,’ says Miranda.
‘I usually find it hard to sleep after intense exercise but it definitely feels like it helped.’
It’s worth incorporating your regular CBD oil into your exercise schedule to see if it helps, before you fork out on a sport-specific version.
Should I buy flavoured or unflavoured CBD oil?
‘I think unflavoured oils are fine for most people,’ advises Al.
‘Generally the taste of it is not the CBD itself, it’s the oil it’s suspended in. So what you’ll generally get is a taste of hemp oil.
‘The taste is not dissimilar to taking a spoonful of linseed oil as a supplement. You can get CBD oil suspended in a fractionated coconut oil which has a much more neutral flavour or you can get all sorts of flavours.’
CBD is usually suspended in either hemp, coconut or olive oil.
Miranda tested the Love Hemp lemon flavour 1200mg CBD oil spray (£59.99 for 30ml), which is suspended in organic MCT oil.
‘Despite the lemon flavour, I actually prefer oils that aren’t flavoured,’ she says.
‘However, this spray is great and perfect to carry around in my bag all day.’
I tried the Bud & Tender 1000mg CBD oil (£80 for 10ml) which is unflavoured and suspended in organic MCT oil. It’s much fresher than previous hemp oil products I’ve tried (which taste quite bitter), and at 3.3mg per drop, I find eight drops spread throughout the day lessens my anxiety.
1CBD 20% silver edition 1000mg CBD oil (£79.99 for 5ml) is unflavoured and suspended in hemp oil, yet doesn’t have the bitter taste of other hemp products I’ve used.
How do I know which brand to trust?
‘This is the question I get most often with CBD and it’s not dissimilar to taking any other supplement,’ Planet Organic buyer Al tells Metro.co.uk.
‘If you were choosing a vitamin C supplement, you can’t get it and hold it up to the light and see that it’s 500mg as claimed.
‘You need to buy from a brand or retailer that you trust. The challenge with CBD is that most of the brands are quite new so you’re not buying one from your long trusted supplement brand.’
There is a serious lack of regulations regarding CBD oil in the UK and with so many new products popping up, it’s hard to know who to trust. There’s a real chance the product you’re buying isn’t what it claims to be.
The current laws regarding CBD products in the UK state that they cannot contain more than 0.2% THC.
A trustworthy brand should be able to provide a third party lab report, though if you’re not scientifically qualified to understand it, it may seem meaningless.
There’s also the issue that some labs are better than others at picking up certain cannabinoids.
‘There aren’t that many labs in Europe that are capable of testing CBD products properly,’ Al tells Metro.co.uk.
‘However, with the products that [Planet Organic is] listing, we ask for lab test results that confirm the amount of the spectrum of the CBD components, and that it doesn’t contain THC etc.’
Michael Winniczuk, director of 1CBD agrees: ‘The lab reports are a bit of a misnomer, as it depends what lab you go to.
‘If there was one lab and everyone went to that lab, it would be an even test. The challenge you’ve got is that every lab tests for different cannabinoids (there are about 26 or 30) and most of the labs test for six. What about the others?
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‘Some CBD companies are saying there’s no trace of THC when it may just be that that lab didn’t find any because their equipment isn’t good enough.
‘For our own due diligence we use three labs which feels a bit over-egged, but we feel the need to do it.’
Last year, researchers at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis blind-tested 30 CBD oil products readily available in the UK.
Only 11 of the products were within 10% of the advertised CBD content and 11 actually contained less than 50% of the advertised CBD.
One product – which retailed for £90 in a high street pharmacy – had 0% CBD.
Seven of the oils contained contaminants from the solvent extraction process, at a level above food safety limits (although within permitted pharmaceutical limits).
One of the products tested contained 3.8% ethanol, meaning it should legally be classed as an alcoholic drink.
Another factor to consider is where the hemp in your product was grown.
‘The US has so much more experience with growing the crop than anywhere else and the way they grow it and the way they extract it,’ 1CBD’s Michael tells Metro.co.uk.
‘They don’t use pesticides or chemicals. The hemp plant was used to clear up Chernobyl – it soaks up everything from the ground.
‘So if you’re spraying pesticides on a crop, then it’s going to soak it up and giving it to the consumers in your CBD oil, unless you extract it.’
Farmers in Italy have previously used hemp to clean up contaminated soil.
You also want to check how the CBD in your product has been extracted – CO2 extraction is considered the best method as it doesn’t leave behind harmful residue, which solvent extraction can.
However, CO2 extraction is expensive, which is why it may be shunned by smaller companies, in favour of cheaper alternatives.
There are plenty of CBD startups cropping up all over the show, but it’s worth buying from an established brand.
‘As a consumer, I wouldn’t be buying it from a market stall or a store that’s just opened in an empty unit on my high street that I’ve never seen or heard of before,’ says Al.
‘I’d choose a retailer or brand I’ve had dealings with in the past.’
While cheaper offerings on sites like Amazon may seem tempting, it’s not a good idea to buy CBD from third party sellers on there – you’ll never know if what you’re getting is legit.
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Can I travel overseas with CBD?
It’s wise to only take CBD to countries where it’s legal. Exercise caution when travelling through airports in places where CBD is illegal.
Your product may say it contains little to no THC but you could find yourself in hot water if it’s tested and found to contain the controlled substance.
Last year, a woman was arrested at Disney World, Florida for possession of CBD oil that was found to contain THC (even though it was labelled as being THC-free).
There have been several arrests at Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas after passengers were found to be carrying CBD products containing THC.
Research CBD regulations in destinations and connecting airports thoroughly before travel.
Until tighter regulations are put in place, it’s best to do your research before investing in a CBD product, as at best you make an expensive mistake, and at worst, you get arrested for unintentional possession of a controlled substance.
CBD oil has become wildly popular in the US and UK in recent years. According to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the UK CBD market is currently worth £300m and…