What to look for in cbd oil

A beginner’s guide to CBD oil

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.

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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.

What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD

The FDA is working to answer questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD.

  • Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family and contains more than eighty biologically active chemical compounds. The most commonly known compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the component that produces the “high” associated with marijuana use. Much interest has been seen around CBD and its potential related to health benefits.
  • Marijuana is different from CBD. CBD is a single compound in the cannabis plant, and marijuana is a type of cannabis plant or plant material that contains many naturally occurring compounds, including CBD and THC.
  • The FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug product to treat seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome (DS), or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in people one year of age and older.
  • It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.
  • The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.
  • Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality.
  • The FDA will continue to update the public as it learns more about CBD.

Potential harm, side effects and unknowns

  1. CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it.
    • CBD can cause liver injury.
    • CBD can affect how other drugs you are taking work, potentially causing serious side effects.
    • Use of CBD with alcohol or other drugs that slow brain activity, such as those used to treat anxiety, panic, stress, or sleep disorders, increases the risk of sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries.
    • Male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of women who have been exposed, has been reported in studies of animals exposed to CBD.
  2. CBD can cause side effects that you might notice. These side effects should improve when CBD is stopped or when the amount used is reduced.
    • Changes in alertness, most commonly experienced as somnolence (drowsiness or sleepiness).
    • Gastrointestinal distress, most commonly experienced as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite.
    • Changes in mood, most commonly experienced as irritability and agitation.
  3. There are many important aspects about CBD that we just don’t know, such as:
    • What happens if you take CBD daily for sustained periods of time?
    • What level of intake triggers the known risks associated with CBD?
    • How do different methods of consumption affect intake (e.g., oral consumption, topical , smoking or vaping)?
    • What is the effect of CBD on the developing brain (such as on children who take CBD)?
    • What are the effects of CBD on the developing fetus or breastfed newborn?
    • How does CBD interact with herbs and other plant materials?
    • Does CBD cause male reproductive toxicity in humans, as has been reported in studies of animals?

Unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality

You may have noticed that cannabidiol (CBD) seems to be available almost everywhere, and marketed as a variety of products including drugs, food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and animal health products. Other than one prescription drug product to treat seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome (DS), or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in people one year of age and older, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any other CBD products, and there is very limited available information about CBD, including about its effects on the body.

The FDA recognizes the significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD. However, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD. The agency is working on answering these questions through ongoing efforts including feedback from a recent FDA hearing and information and data gathering through a public docket.

Despite the 2018 Farm Bill removing hemp — defined as cannabis and cannabis derivatives with very low concentrations (no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis) of THC — from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, CBD products are still subject to the same laws and requirements as FDA-regulated products that contain any other substance.

The FDA is concerned that people may mistakenly believe that using CBD “can’t hurt.” The agency wants to be clear that we have seen only limited data about CBD’s safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered. As part of the drug review and approval process for the prescription drug containing CBD, it was determined that the risks are outweighed by the benefits of the approved drug for the particular population for which it was intended. Consumer use of any CBD products should always be discussed with a healthcare provider. Consumers should be aware of the potential risks associated with using CBD products. Some of these can occur without your awareness, such as:

  • Liver Injury: During its review of the marketing application for Epidiolex — a purified form of CBD that the FDA approved in 2018 for use in the treatment of two rare and severe seizure disorders — the FDA identified certain safety risks, including the potential for liver injury. This serious risk can be managed when an FDA-approved CBD drug product is taken under medical supervision, but it is less clear how it might be managed when CBD is used far more widely, without medical supervision, and not in accordance with FDA-approved labeling. Although this risk was increased when taken with other drugs that impact the liver, signs of liver injury were seen also in patients not on those drugs. The occurrence of this liver injury was identified through blood tests, as is often the case with early problems with the liver. Liver injury was also seen in other studies of CBD in published literature. We are concerned about potential liver injury associated with CBD use that could go undetected if not monitored by a healthcare provider.
  • Drug Interactions: Information from studies of the FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex show that there is a risk of CBD impacting other medicines you take – or that other medicines you take could impact the dose of CBD that can safely be used. Taking CBD with other medications may increase or decrease the effects of the other medications. This may lead to an increased chance of adverse effects from, or decreased effectiveness of, the other medications. Drug interactions were also seen in other studies of CBD in published literature. We are concerned about the potential safety of taking other medicines with CBD when not being monitored by a healthcare provider. In addition, there is limited research on the interactions between CBD products and herbs or other plant-based products in dietary supplements. Consumers should use caution when combining CBD products with herbs or dietary supplements.
  • Male Reproductive Toxicity: Studies in laboratory animals showed male reproductive toxicity, including in the male offspring of CBD-treated pregnant females. The changes seen include decrease in testicular size, inhibition of sperm growth and development, and decreased circulating testosterone, among others. Because these findings were only seen in animals, it is not yet clear what these findings mean for human patients and the impact it could have on men (or the male children of pregnant women) who take CBD. For instance, these findings raise the concern that CBD could negatively affect a man’s fertility. Further testing and evaluation are needed to better understand this potential risk.
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In addition, CBD can be the cause of side effects that you might notice. These side effects should improve when CBD is stopped or when the amount used is reduced. This could include changes in alertness, most commonly experienced as somnolence (sleepiness), but this could also include insomnia; gastrointestinal distress, most commonly experienced as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite but could also include abdominal pain or upset stomach; and changes in mood, most commonly experienced as irritability and agitation.

The FDA is actively working to learn more about the safety of CBD and CBD products, including the risks identified above and other topics, such as:

  • Cumulative Exposure: The cumulative exposure to CBD if people access it across a broad range of consumer products. For example, what happens if you eat food with CBD in it, use CBD-infused skin cream and take other CBD-based products on the same day? How much CBD is absorbed from your skin cream? What if you use these products daily for a week or a month?
  • Special Populations: The effects of CBD on other special populations (e.g., the elderly, children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women).
  • CBD and Animals: The safety of CBD use in pets and other animals, including considerations of species, breed, or class and the safety of the resulting human food products (e.g., meat milk, or eggs) from food-producing species.

Unproven medical claims, unsafe manufacturing practices

Some CBD Products are Being Marketed with Unproven Medical Claims and Could be Produced with Unsafe Manufacturing Practices

Unlike the FDA-approved CBD drug product, unapproved CBD products, which could include cosmetics, foods, products marketed as dietary supplements, and any other product (other than Epidiolex) making therapeutic claims, have not been subject to FDA evaluation regarding whether they are effective to treat a particular disease or have other effects that may be claimed. In addition, they have not been evaluated by the FDA to determine what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs or foods, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

Misleading, unproven, or false claims associated with CBD products may lead consumers to put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care. For that reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best way to treat diseases or conditions with available FDA-approved treatment options.

In addition to safety risks and unproven claims, the quality of many CBD products may also be in question. The FDA is also concerned that a lack of appropriate processing controls and practices can put consumers at additional risks. For example, the agency has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed. We are also investigating reports of CBD potentially containing unsafe levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, THC).

CBD products are also being marketed for pets and other animals. The FDA has not approved CBD for any use in animals and the concerns regarding CBD products with unproven medical claims and of unknown quality equally apply to CBD products marketed for animals. The FDA recommends pet owners talk with their veterinarians about appropriate treatment options for their pets.

The FDA’s top priority is to protect the public health. This priority includes making sure consumers know about products that put their health and safety at greatest risk, such as those claiming to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate, or cure serious diseases. For example, the agency has warned companies to stop selling CBD products they claim are intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate, or cure serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders and diabetes. While we have focused on these types of products, we will continue to monitor the marketplace for any product that poses a risk to public health, including those with dangerous contaminants, those marketed to vulnerable populations, and products that otherwise put the public health at risk.

Evaluation of the regulatory frameworks

The FDA is Continuing to Evaluate the Regulatory Frameworks for Products Containing Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Compounds

The FDA continues to believe the drug approval process represents the best way to ensure that safe and effective new medicines, including any drugs derived from cannabis, are available to patients in need of appropriate medical therapy. The agency is committed to supporting the development of new drugs, including cannabis and cannabis-derived drugs, through the investigational new drug and drug approval process.

We are aware that there may be some products on the market that add CBD to a food or label CBD as a dietary supplement. Under federal law, it is illegal to market CBD this way.

The FDA is evaluating the regulatory frameworks that apply to certain cannabis-derived products that are intended for non-drug uses, including whether and/or how the FDA might consider updating its regulations, as well as whether potential legislation might be appropriate. The information we have underscores the need for further study and high quality, scientific information about the safety and potential uses of CBD.

The FDA is committed to setting sound, science-based policy. The FDA is raising these safety, marketing, and labeling concerns because we want you to know what we know. We encourage consumers to think carefully before exposing themselves, their family, or their pets, to any product, especially products like CBD, which may have potential risks, be of unknown quality, and have unproven benefits.

Our Consumer Update includes a practical summary of what we know to date. As we learn more, our goal is to update you with the information you need to make informed choices about CBD products. Also, as the regulatory pathways are clarified we will take care to inform all stakeholders as quickly as possible.