Before we talk about oil... what's CBD?
As a quick reminder (because we have a whole page dedicated to this). CBD is the shorthand for cannabidiol and is one of the many different cannabinoids that are contained in the cannabis sativa plant. CBD is often referred to as an antagonist to the more well-known active ingredient THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). More commonly known as marijuana, or 'pot'.
However, CBD is not a psychoactive substance and does not intoxicate the user.
The current focus on CBD is based primarily on the fact that users have experienced wide ranging benefits. Scientists are increasingly convinced of the potential uses of the active ingredients of the cannabis plant. The therapeutic potential of CBD can be related to many different diseases and ailments.
CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, works to keep the human body in balance and regulates processes such as pain, mood, appetite, and memory.
We will talk more here about CBD oils and how they're made, but before that we need to clarify a common misunderstanding between CBD oils and cannabis oils.
What is the difference between CBD oil and cannabis oil?
Well, it depends on what the oil contains. The two terms CBD oil and cannabis oil are often used interchangeably but it's important that you know what the oil actually contains. To comply with UK laws, CBD oils should not contain THC or or any other controlled substances.
Sometimes cannabis oils do only contain CBD and other non-controlled substances, but are named 'cannabis' either out of laziness or trying to appeal to a broader market.
Sometimes CBD oils contain cannabis or other controlled subtances and are named 'CBD' in order to dupe unsuspecting users.
Either way, cannabis oils generally do not contain enough THC to get you high. However, a cannabis oil (or CBD oil for that matter) may well contain more THC than is legal in the UK so this should always be checked on the ingredients.
For this article, we will stick to the term 'CBD oil' for consistency.
What are CBD oils?
CBD oils are extracted from the cannabis plant and can consist of various cannabinoids. These are the different active ingredients that the respective hemp plants contain. The best known cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The traits and differences between CBD and THC are explored on this page.
In contrast to THC, products with CBD have no psychoactive effect and are considered a safe.
As explained on our page explaining the legality of CBD, CBD products (without THC) are legal in the UK. This applies to CBD oils.
Despite the fact that the term 'cannabis oil' tends to lead people to think of the intoxicating effect of cannabis (caused by THC), most oils are based on CBD as the active ingredient, and therefore, do not get you high. But the devil is in the detail of how much THC is contained within the CBD (or 'cannabis') oil.
The active ingredient CBD can help with many different health or psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression and many other medical conditions.
Research is also continuing into whether CBD has positive effects on cancer, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's. Further information on what people are using CBD for is contained on our various informational pages.
CBD oils are usually sold in small bottles or tinctures (e.g. 10ml). These then contain a removable pipette, making dosing a little easier.
Some CBD oils are also available in the form of liquids or capsules. The latter are particularly interesting for people who do not like the smell or taste of the actual oil.
You can also vape CBD, this is particularly appealing for people who are trying to quite smoking. However, it is important that you buy e-liquids specifically made for vaping pens. You should not vape CBD oil!
CBD oil - the manufacturing process
There are various ways to produce and manufacture CBD oils. There is still no uniform manufacturing process. Each extraction method comes with it's own pros and cons.
Each manufacturer therefore decides individually which production process is best for making the oil.
The CO2 extraction process, or carbon dioxide extraction process, which is used for example by the manufacturer CBD Vital, has become particularly well known.
There are two possible types of CO2 extraction methods, supercritical CO2 extraction and subcritical CO2 extraction. Cannabis Tech do a great job of explaining the differences
In order to produce CBD oil, the manufacturer generally uses only the parts of female hemp that meet the applicable standards.
These parts tend to have both a naturally high CBD content and a very low THC content. Since the CBD is only present in the form of CBDA acid in a hemp plant, an extraction and subsequent conversion into pure CBD must be carried out.
The CO2 extraction process
One way that CBD oil is extracted is through the efficient CO2 extraction process.
In the first step, all substances, including cannabinoids, of the processing plant are released in their structures.
The second step is the called decarboxylation where the substances obtained from step 1 are heated again (alternatively, enzymatic catalysis can also be carried out). This is where the CBDA acid is converted into active CBD acid.
This process makes it possible to produce a CBD oil as efficiently as possible. A nice side effect is that the entire plant substance spectrum is retained in the extraction process, so that in addition to the CBD, other cannabidiols such as CBN or CBC are contained in the cannabis oil. Some of the CBD oils also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and various vitamins.
For this reason, oils that are produced by this process are also called 'full oils' or 'full spectrum extract'. What's more, the valuable entourage effect can be caused by the interaction of the active ingredients contained in the oil.
What is the entourage effect?
Researchers working on the cannabis plant believe that an interaction of different cannabinoids can be more effective and helpful than just an isolated substance.
In some cases, it is emphasised that a combination of CBD and THC would be an advantage, especially for more severe conditions. But the presence of terpenes in CBD products also has a positive effect on anxiety or acne.
So it seems that the substances interact with each other and support each other's effects. Therefore, it is of course worthwhile considering using CBD oils use full-spectrum extracts in order to achieve the greatest possible effect.
Are there any other extraction methods?
There are of course numerous methods for extracting CBD. Here's a few:
Liquid solvent extraction
Liquid solvent extraction also uses liquid to absorb CBD oil, much like the CO2 extraction method. Liquid substances such as ethanol, butane, or isopropyl alcohol are be used. This is an easier and cheaper extraction method.
One disadvantage of this method however, is that some solvents can carry impurities, including chlorophyll, from the plant, this can affect both the colour and taste of the final product.
With the above CO2 extraction method, the CO2 is used as a solvent to extract the oil. This method does not carry the same impurities that the liquid solvent extraction does. This is why the CO2 method is often preferred, because no residue or contaminants remain.
An alternative, and more traditional, way to make CBD oils is by alcohol extraction. This is where the dried plant material is boiled down in alcohol.
However, the problem with such alcohol extraction is that it is more difficult to control how much CBD is extracted from the plant matter, which makes the entire manufacturing process less precise.
Isolation of CBD crystals.
In this method, the cannabidiol is isolated from the hemp plant and purified.
Those crystals usually have a very high proportion of CBD (99.9%). In order to produce a CBD oil, the CBD crystals are dissolved in an oil or in alcohol.
Because of the special manufacturing method, the products are finally called CBD crystals or CBD isolates.
It should be noted, however, that the crystals in this production variant are not rich in other cannabinoids or other terpenes. As a result, the otherwise valuable entourage effect is lost.
CBD isolates do offer other benefits though. For example, it contains 0% THC. This can be useful if people are required to pass a drugs test.
So... then the CBD oil is ready to use?
No. Once the CBD has been extracted, it is mixed with a 'carrier oil'. This is to help give your body what it needs to process the CBD.
The clue is in the name. A carrier oil helps to carry the CBD into your body. Without the carrier oil, your body would be unable to process the CBD properly. It needs to combine with fat molecules.
Whilst the carrier oil's job is predominantly to help your body process the CBD, the oil itself can offer various health benefits.
In addition to this, the combination of the carrier oil also helps to control correct potency, and therefore dosage.
Common carrier oils include coconut oil/MCT (Medium-Chain Triglyceride), Olive oil and hemp seed oil, but there are many others. With many opinions as to which one is the best.
Are there other oils as well as CBD?
In short, yes! Hemp seed oils and hemp oils are also known. They are characterised by the fact that they do not consist of the respective hemp flowers or hemp leaves, but are made from the seeds of the plant.
The hemp oil is usually obtained by pressing the seeds. Here too, seeds of hemp with only low levels of THC content are used.
The mostly bitter tasting hemp oils contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3 or omega-6. For this reason, they can also be used for serving salads or for cooking in general.
Concentration of a CBD oil
There are often differences in the concentration of the respective CBD oils. Most products on the market have 2%, 5% or 10% CBD content. However, you can get concentrations a lot higher than this.
Basically, one can say that the higher the CBD content, the more expensive the oils are. For your first experience with CBD oil, it is worth considering choosing an oil with a lower concentration.
Many people wrongly assume the higher the concentration of a CBD in an oil, the greater the effect. It’s really just down to the individual’s preference and needs.
5 Top tips for taking CBD oil
1. Choose the right dosage
It is clear that there is of course no universally correct dosage for everyone. Every organism reacts differently to CBD.
While 2 drops of a low-percentage oil are sufficient for one day, others need 3-5 drops of a stronger concentrate each morning and evening.
Ideally, you will find your own way slowly with the oil. If there is no noticeable effect, the dosage can still be increased later. Furthermore, manufacturers usually give a dosage recommendation, which you could use as a guide at the beginning.
2. Pay attention to the concentration
Different concentrated (mostly 2%, 5% or 10% CBD oils) oils are sold. The phrase "the higher the concentration, the stronger the effect" does not apply.
People who are experiencing CBD oil for the first time should choose a weaker concentration, which are also usually cheaper.
3. Side effects
According to the WHO and various other studies, CBD is considered safe, but taking CBD oil can still have side effects.
It is known that drowsiness, diarrhoea, loss of appetite or a dry mouth can occur with higher consumption.
People taking certain medications (e.g. diazepam, omeparzol) should discuss cannabidiol oil consumption with a doctor or pharmacist beforehand. Pregnant women are advised not to use CBD oil. If your medication states you shouldn't eat grapefruit, then you should NOT take CBD with it.
4. Pay attention to the THC content
The THC content is very important when buying a CBD oil. This also determines whether the CBD oil is being sold legally. As explained elsewhere on our website, the legal requirement for CBD products in the UK is to contain no THC or other addictive substances. This is explained on our page about the legality of CBD.
5. Pay attention to high quality
In order to get the maximum benefit from CBD oil, it may be best to get a full spectrum extract. Although these are often a little more expensive than "normal" oils, you will get the entourage effect, which can offer you additional benefits. It would be wise to request a third party lab report from the CBD company, if it is not openly offered already. This can really sort the men from the boys when choosing a high quality company.