A Guide To CBD In the UK (2021 ready)

CBD. Cannabidiol. You’ve heard of it. You’ve seen the ads for it on the internet. Heck, your best friend’s mom’s uncle might be using it. With brands like Blessed CBD taking over the market and quickly proving popular with users, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of CBD. If you’ve never tried CBD, or if you have but feel a bit lost in the wide world of cannabidiol, stay tuned!

There is so much conflicting information out there about CBD and its use, it is hard to know what is right and where to start. The internet is full of vague and confusing information. And of course, some of it is downright wrong. It is hard to judge what is right and what is not. In this guide, you will learn the basics of CBD. 

Where does it come from? Are there different types? How does it interact with your body if you use it? What are the effects and side effects? Is it legal in the UK? All of these topics will be touched on leaving you with a firm foundation of knowledge you can build on so you can feel confident in delving further into your journey.

Selecting the right product can be stressful. You may not have a clue where to start. Or maybe you want to know how to decipher some of the terminology used in the CBD world. By the end of this article, you should have enough knowledge to decide if CBD is for you and how to go about using it to benefit your life.

What is CBD?

Cannabis plants contain over 100 cannabinoids. Two of the most common that we hear about are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD (cannabidiol). Unlike its other common cohort, CBD is non-intoxicating, so users don’t experience a “high” that they would with THC. 

When used as part of a healthy diet, CBD is considered to be a safe food supplement. For thousands of years, people have used both the cannabis and hemp plants for many purposes. Their fibres, medicinal properties, and dietary supplements have been benefiting humankind for ages. 

  • These plant fibres are well known as being used for making rope or textiles.
  • The flowers and leaves of these plants have been widely used and held in high esteem for their medicinal properties.
  • Hemp seeds are nutrient-rich and can be ground into flour, pressed for oils, or eaten whole. 

Hemp is not to be confused with cannabis. While they both exist within the “Cannabis Sativa L” family, they are different varieties of plants. 

  • Hemp is a variety of plant that contains less than 0.2% THC. Its stalks can be used to create fibres. Flowers and leaves are used to create food supplements that are rich in CBD. Hemp seeds can be pressed to create cooking oils.
  • Cannabis is a variety of plant that is associated with recreational use because it contains higher levels of THC. As you can see, it is not as versatile as hemp.

There are both hemp oils and CBD oils available on the market today. They are not the same thing. CBD oil is derived from the entire plant whereas hemp oil comes from hemp seeds only and contains a very small amount of cannabinoids.

Hemp Oil – What To Know

  • Hemp oil is widely found in skincare products as a natural moisturizer. 
  • Hemp oil is consumed in raw form as a salad dressing or cooking oil and is high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Hemp oil is used for paints, fuels, and even bio-plastics.

CBD Oil – What To Know

  • CBD Oil is sold as gummies and extracts as a food supplement.
  • CBD Oil is used in e-liquids for vaping.
  • CBD Oil is used as balms or salves.

What Is Considered Good Quality? 

As with any product, not all CBD products are created equal. While there are many different types of CBD (Isolate, Nano-Isolate, Full-Spectrum, and Broad-Spectrum), there are some things to remember when looking for a good quality CBD oil. 

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-Spectrum CBD contains most of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in a cannabis plant. This means you’ve got an oil that is rich in other beneficial cannabinoids like CBG (Cannabigerol), CBGa (Cannabigerol Acid), CBN (Cannabinol), and CBDa (Cannabidiol Acid). 

There are large amounts of studies being conducted regarding all of the cannabinoids combined with the terpenes, waxes, lipids, chlorophyll, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients found within the plant and how they are believed to be even more beneficial when they all work together. This is called the entourage effect. If it contains the whole plant, that’s even better! This is why brands such as Blessed CBD have received multiple awards for their CBD oil (see below):

Safe Levels of THC

First and foremost, you want to keep things legal! Details and specifics of the current and past UK laws will be covered a bit later, but always check that a product you are considering purchasing has a certificate of analysis that proves its levels are legal. No certificate, keep on looking for another brand.

Measurable CBD Content

You will want to have the capability to accurately measure how much CBD you’re taking, so it is important that the product you choose has a measurable content level of CBD. Look for a brand that offers a milligram (10mg, 20mg, 50mg, etc) amount rather than a percentage (5%, 10%, 15%, etc). Percentages make it harder to decipher how much you are actually ingesting and are just plain not consumer-friendly.

Type Of CBD Extraction

The type of extraction is also something to think about. The best type of extraction is considered to be CO2 Supercritical extraction because it follows that full-spectrum ideal. Containing over 100 cannabinoids as well as over 300 types of chemical compounds, the entourage effect is the highly sought after effect in the CBD universe. You’ll benefit from the entourage effect when using products that have been extracted with the CO2 supercritical extraction method. It also frees the oil from any chemical residues found in soil and the environment.

CBD Certified Free Of Toxins and Certified Organic

While a lot of brands out there claim to be organic, look for one that shows it is actually certified as such. What you are looking for is a company that used organic seeds and followed certified organic processes to harvest, extract, and bottle their product. 

They should be able to show documentation that their business is certified as an organic producer. And if they truly are certified organic, they will be proud to show off this information and have it readily available. If they claim to be but are lacking proof, well… you be the judge. A trustworthy provider will always be glad to offer insight into their ingredients and processes.

In addition, look for a brand that has been lab-tested and proven to be free of toxins. The plants within the Cannabis Sativa L. family are bio-accumulators. This means they can attract and accumulate all of the toxins found in their soil and environment. 

Some of these include heavy metals that naturally occur in the soil, or fertilizers and pesticides that are placed into and on the ground by farmers; nothing you want to be ingesting into your body. 

CBD Reviews and Third-Party Lab Tests

Any reputable brand or seller should be more than willing to show the full ingredients in their products offered by their company. If they aren’t, keep looking for a company that does. 

It’s easy to be fooled by CBD drops marketed to be of good quality but in fact, are synthetically created in a lab. CBD isolates, also known as crystal isolates are a lab-created synthetic CBD that contains no other cannabinoids found in a natural plant. No entourage effect here! 

Third-party lab testing is an important factor that companies can offer their consumers to prove their product is of good quality. It should be tested for those toxins we talked about in the section above. 

In a bit more detail, those are:

  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Mycotoxins
  • Harmful organic compounds
  • Bacterial contamination

The test should also include identification of the presence of all cannabinoids and the terpene profile, including the potency of these. Testing will show when synthetic cannabinoids or limited extracts have been used.

What Are The Effects Of CBD Use?

Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The Endocannabinoid System, or ECS, exists and is active in everyone’s body regardless of if they use CBD or not. When you use CBD, it binds to endocannabinoid receptors and proteins in both our central and peripheral nervous systems, specifically known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is believed that CBD attaching to the CB1 and CB2s may help your endocannabinoid system (ECS) work better. 

CB1 receptors are found in your brain and spinal column. CB2 receptors can be found in other parts of your body.

The ECS (endocannabinoid system) helps keep your body in a state of homeostasis, or a stable harmony between all of its components and processes. Simply put, it is a complex system that signals our cells to act a certain way. Are you too hot or too cold? Down and out in bed with a cold or the flu? Work stressing you out? Home ostatic functions in your body get to work right away to regain a balance in your system as fast as possible. Keeping your body in homeostasis helps prevent a wide range of diseases and chronic conditions. 

Research into the effects of CBD on the ECS is in its infancy. More widespread research is needed in order for the medical community to become supportive of the use of CBD. 

How Do You Feel After Using CBD?

Using CBD oil can be beneficial in a number of ways through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Unlike THC, CBD does not get you “high”. In turn, it is less likely that a person would become dependent on CBD, as compared to THC. CBD is non-intoxicating, and users usually describe a feeling of grounding and relaxation.

The strength of these effects depends on the person and the dose they are taking. Most users say they experience health benefits similar to that of other health supplements. 

It is important to remember that CBD is not a pain killer and most of the time does not offer an immediate effect.

The rate and speed at which your body absorbs the content of CBD are referred to as bioavailability. This is a good factor to consider when you’re weighing the pros and cons of different products because bioavailability determines how fast you feel the effects of CBD, and how long it will be present in your system.

How Do You Know How Much To Use?

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of how much CBD you should use. We are all individuals. Since everyone’s physiological makeup is unique, there are many different factors that affect how certain doses and forms of CBD will affect a person. 

Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Your body’s metabolism rate
  • Your diet
  • Your exercise and level of activity
  • Your amount and quality of sleep
  • Your stress level
  • Your physical environment (think climate, pollution, etc)
  • Your use of other supplements
  • Your use of medications

CBD product factors to consider:

  • What is the quality of the actual product (as discussed earlier, is it organic, natural, and full-spectrum or is it synthetic?)
  • At what rate is the CBD product absorbed based on the quality and type of product?
  • What kind of CBD product are you using and what method are you using to take it? (drops which are also knowns as tinctures, edibles such as gummies and other sweet treats, tea, vapes or e-liquids, topicals, etc)

If you are extremely sensitive to supplements, you may feel an immediate effect after using CBD, however, for most people, it takes time to begin to feel the product start to work. The length of time it takes for a person to start feeling results also depends on the type of product and method it is used.

When you first begin taking CBD, it is best to start with a low amount and gradually increase until you achieve the desired effects. CBD is generally considered safe, so there is plenty of wiggle room for experimenting when you are trying to figure out what amount works best for you. 

The maximum daily dosage recommended for an adult is 200mg of CBD. Higher amounts should be consumed or administered only under the supervision of a medical professional. 

A good starting point is taking 10mg twice daily for a week. Then the following week, raise your dose to 20mg twice daily. Once you start taking CBD and feel what it does to your own body, you’ll be able to judge just how much and how often you should use it to reach your desired effect. 

You can use three to four times daily as long as you do not exceed that maximum of 200mg per day. If you’re worried about figuring out dosing on your own, you can always ask your doctor for advice.

Remember how you read about looking for mg instead of percentages when it comes to content in your product? Well, this is important here because it is much easier to know how much you are taking if the product volume is listed in mg per ml. Finding this will allow you to choose the product that is best for your needs.

For example, maybe 10ml of one product contains 1000mg of CBD. You can then calculate how many drops are in a bottle and how many you would need to take in order to get the dosage you desire. You might also see a 10ml product that contains 2000mg of CBD. This simply means that the concentrate is higher in the second product. 

Good quality brands should have simple and clear information regarding the contents stated on their product labeling. 

What Are The Different Types of CBD Products?

In the UK, there are seven main forms in which you can purchase CBD. All of these forms have a different bioavailability (speed and rate of absorption), so it’s important to learn about each of them in order to make an informed decision regarding which you will purchase. 

Everyone develops their preference, but it might take a few tries before you find what is right for you. Take your time. Try some things out. Eventually, you’ll get there and have your favs nailed down.

  1. CBD Capsules

Bioavailability: Absorbed through the GI tract, CBD capsules usually take between one to two hours to take effect, however, users of capsules feel the effects for longer (up to eight hours). 

Capsules can be taken daily just as a multivitamin would be and some people prefer that familiar form. Users often dislike the taste of drops. If you are one of those people, capsules may be your way to go. 

In addition, many users find capsules to be an easier way to make sure they are taking the right amount of oil, as opposed to the sometimes tedious task of counting drops and making sure you get the right amount out of that dropper. 

Capsules are easy to take with you. They fit easily in your purse or even in a pocket so you can carry them with you discreetly on the go.

Another tip — empty capsules can be purchased from the pharmacy, so if you have already purchased drops but dislike that hemp aftertaste, you can fill empty capsules and not let that bottle of drops you spent your hard-earned money on go to waste. 

2. CBD Oil Drops (Tinctures)

Bioavailability: CBD oil drops, otherwise known as tinctures, are taken orally. Sublingual application is recommended, which means before a meal, you place the desired amount of drops under your tongue and hold it there for at least a full minute. You then swallow the drops with a drink and then follow with a meal. The CBD oil is absorbed directly into your bloodstream via mucous membranes. This application has the fastest rate of bioavailability (increased by up to 36% as compared to swallowing on top of the tongue, mixed with food, etc).

When taken by mouth, effects can be felt within thirty minutes to two hours. It is possible they will last up to eight hours. The use of CBD drops is the most popular way to consume cannabidiol. You’ll want to hold the dropper close to your mouth so you don’t end up missing and having unnecessary waste of your product. Most people do this in front of a mirror so they can see what they are doing.

CBD oil drops that are full-spectrum, organic, and come from the whole-plant have a strong hemp flavor. Many people dislike this flavor. Drops can be mixed inside food or in a smoothie if the taste is too strong for your liking. Taking right before a meal can help with the aftertaste as well, and actually increases the rate of absorption. 

3. CBD Spray

Bioavailability: While CBD sprays are milder in concentrate, they are also applied sublingually (under the tongue) so they are also absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Sprays are usually diluted and thinned so they can be placed in a carrier oil. Coconut oil is commonly used. They come in a variety of flavors, so they are especially popular with people who dislike that natural hemp taste and smell. 

While typically diluted and milder, some stronger sprays are starting to be released on the market.

Another perk for sprays is the convenience of the spray bottle versus drop bottles that might leak. 

4. CBD Balms, Creams and Salves

Bioavailability: Topicals such as CBD balm, CBD cream, or CBD salves are applied to the skin and absorbed by the blood vessels within. Open pores will increase the level of penetration so it is best to apply after a shower. While damp skin is best, you could also rub the topical of choice into the skin vigorously. This method of application will warm the skin and open the pores for better absorption. 

Typically mixed with other essential oils, balms, creams, and salves receive a boosted effect. 

5. CBD Vapes / E-Liquids

Bioavailability: The use of CBD vapes has a high rate of absorption. Even higher than using orally. Because it is being absorbed through your respiratory system, it takes as little as five to ten minutes to reach your bloodstream. With that being said, vaped CBD only stays in your system for a max of three hours (as opposed to up to 8 hours when taken orally). 

Vapes and e-liquids are similar to sprays. They are placed in a carrier solution, this time usually a type of vegetable glycerine. This allows the active ingredient, CBD, to be vaporised and breathed into the lungs. 

If you choose to vape or use e-liquid, you will have the added cost of purchasing an electronic vaporiser. These vaporisers are offered in many different styles, shapes, and sizes. CBD vapes and e-liquids, like CBD sprays, come in a variety of flavours. Users report that the flavours in this form are much more effective at masking the hemp flavour than with other methods.

6. CBD Edibles (Gummies and sweets)

CBD gummies and other forms of sweet edibles are a nice treat if you want to break up the use of other forms. Another reason to try gummies is if you’re wanting to get away from the hemp taste altogether. However, some of these gummy and sweet edible products contain added sugars, downgrading the ‘health’ factor. 

Because of their sweet taste, these edibles can be tempting to eat, eat, eat. Make sure you are keeping track of the number you consume so you don’t take in too high of a dose. 

Keep out of reach of children, as these gummies could easily be mistaken for candy and ingested en masse by an unknowing child with a sweet tooth. Other adults are not immune to this either! Make sure if you keep gummies in your house, you find a way to store them safely.

7. CBD Hemp Tea

It’s tea time! A cup of hemp tea actually contains high levels of CBDa. When you brew dried cannabis components such as leaves, seeds, stems, buds, or flowers, you get a different set of those phytonutrients, terpenes, and cannabinoids than you do from oil extracts. 

Dried hemp can also be smoked, vaporised, inhaled, or cooked. Some add hemp to their baking ingredients as well. 

If not used alone, hemp tea can be a good partner of CBD oil, and this combo is best consumed close to a meal that is rich in healthy fats in order to ensure the best results.

The taking of hemp tea is becoming more and more popular. It is arguably the most affordable and enjoyable way to take cannabinoids. And who doesn’t like a nice cup of tea?

Is CBD Oil Legal In The UK?

The short answer is yes. Most CBD products on the market today can be legally purchased in the UK. Manufacturers have to follow tight regulations in regards to the production of their products, the contents of their products, and the way in which they market them to the public. 

For example, in order for CBD oil to be marketed legally in the UK, it cannot claim to have medicinal benefits. Businesses with medicinal products are required to have proper marketing authorisation in order to be legally sold, advertised, or supplied in the UK, unless exempt. 

So what does exempt mean?

Exempt products are food supplement products that are sold without the intent of medical use. There are certain criteria set in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (otherwise known as MDR 2001) that products need to meet in order to be exempt and legal. 

In a nutshell, you can purchase any hemp product that follows these three guidelines:

  • The product is not marketed as a medicine or having medicinal properties
  • The product contains less than 1mg of controlled substances THC, CBDV (cannabidivarin), and CBN (cannabinol)
  • The controlled substances THC, CBDV (cannabidivarin), and CBN (cannabinol) cannot be recovered from the product. 

What about cannabis oil?

As of November 2018, UK government officials announced cannabis oil could be legally obtained with a prescription from a medical professional. This was a result of a widespread campaign of families with children who suffer from a rare form of epilepsy like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, which have proven to be drug-resistant. Families were desperately seeking the benefits cannabis oil could have for their ailing children to be legalized and their efforts paid off!

Before November 2018, the only people legally permitted to possess cannabis oil were MS sufferers. It was only possible (but not probable) to receive a prescription for a cannabis spray containing both CBD and THC called Sativex. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence concluded the product was not cost-effective because of its high price tag.

Without a prescription, the purchase or sale of cannabis oil (defined as having detectable levels of THC) is illegal in the UK. This is the opposite in countries like the Netherlands, where cannabis oil is widely available but CBD oil isn’t. Thankfully, brands like Nutra CBD have been able to successfully supply the Netherlands market with premium quality “CBD olie” (deutch for CBD oil).

Congratulations! You Made It!

You have reached the end of the guide! Pat yourself on the back. Today you learned all about CBD including what CBD is and where it comes from, the different types of CBD, how it interacts with your body and the effects it has on it, and what is legal in the UK. Knowledge is power and keeping yourself informed and in the know is essential! You now have the proper foundation of CBD information needed to move forward with confidence. But if you do want to take it a step further, check out the helpful CBD content on HerbMighty.