what is cbd oil

CBD Oil: A Beginner’s Guide [2023]

6 min read |

The CBD wellness industry is booming.

CBD oil is being credited for improvements in pain management, relief from depression and anxiety and general overall improved wellbeing.

But with new products coming onto the market all the time and with scientific studies into CBD’s actual benefits still only in their infancy, it can be hard to know where to start and what to take.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help it all make sense so that you can decide whether CBD is right for you.

Here’s a summary of what we will cover in this article:

  • CBD is a chemical compound derived from the cannabis or marijuana plant called Cannabis sativa. It is not the same as THC which is a psychoactive substance that gets you ‘high’ when taken. 
  • The CBD market is growing exponentially as CBD has been shown to have holistic health and wellness benefits.
  • CBD is sold in a range of products from oils and gummies to teas and creams. All of which can be used to improve mental and physical health conditions.
  • CBD also interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) which helps regulate vital daily functions such as sleep and cognition.
what is cbd oil

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil, or cannabis oil, is a substance made from the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa.   

You may also see CBD referred to as Cannabidiol because it’s a chemical compound that is derived from the plant.

These chemical compounds are called cannabinoids and there’s more than 100 of these.

Some of these 100+ cannabinoids are psychoactive, such as THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol).

THC is what makes users feel ‘high’ when consumed. The chemical compound CBD is not psychoactive. 

Discovered as a cannabinoid in 1940, CBD is now being widely used as a wellbeing supplement with varying results.

To be fit for consumption, CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and then refined through distillation.

The finished product is sold in a variety of forms.

You can buy CBD oil, capsules, pills, and edibles such as gummies and chewing gum. 

farming cannabis

Is CBD the same as marijuana?

A question a lot of people ask is, if CBD is from the cannabis plant, then surely it is the same as marijuana?

The simple answer is, no. CBD is different from marijuana.

Let’s look at this in more depth.

There are more than 100 chemical compounds in cannabis and until recently the most well-known was THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

THC is psychoactive and is what makes users feel ‘high’ when consumed. When heat is applied to THC (when a person smokes it or uses it in cooking) it breaks down and produces ‘mind-altering’ effects.

THC is the most active constituent of marijuana.

Marijuana farmers selectively bred their cannabis plants to contain high levels of THC. These types of cannabis farms are illegal in most countries.

Hemp farms (another name for cannabis) are legal in some places but the cannabis plants grown must have very low levels of THC (often less than 0.05% and in some cases 0.02%) to qualify as hemp. 

In the US farming hemp production was introduced into the 2018 Farm Bill and in the UK it is governed through the Home Office.

Once legally grown, this type of cannabis plant can then be used to extract CBD, a chemical compound that is not psychoactive and is being used, with varying levels of success, to support wellbeing.

how do you take oil?

Is CBD Oil Legal?

Yes, CBD oil is legal both in the UK, the US and most of Europe.

In the UK, the vast majority of cannabinoids are listed as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act because of their THC content, but CBD oil is not.

You can buy CBD oil legally in UK high street shops and other online retailers.

If any particular brand of CBD oil contains THC then it is illegal. It must not contain THC.

In the US, CBD oil is legal in all 50 states.

The current status (January 2020) is that CBD oil is legal across Europe with the exception of Slovakia.

CBD oil is legal in many other countries worldwide and we recommend checking the legal status per country for accurate and up-to-date information.

How does CBD work?

Within our bodies we have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which plays an important role in regulating some of our daily functions such as sleep, appetite and our moods.

It’s a type of complex cell-messaging system, consisting of naturally occurring chemical compounds known as endocannabinoids. (They are also called human cannabinoids.)

These endocannabinoids send signals to special cannaboid receptors  – the receptors receive instructions telling our cells what to do. 

Within the ECS there’s also important metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used.

Although it is not known exactly how, it is thought that CBD interacts with our ECS system and improves how it functions.

Let’s look into this a little further.

There are two types of cannabinoid receptors – CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.

CB1 receptors are mostly found with the central nervous system and the brain. These have been linked to emotions, memory and cognitive functions, coordination and movement amongst other functions.

CB2 receptors are thought to be connected to inflammation and are found within the immune system.

The ECS was identified in the early 1990s but many more scientific studies are needed to fully understand how the ECS works and what impacts it.

The ECS and how it functions also varies between individuals. For example some people naturally produce more endocannabinoids than others. 

How does CBD connect to ECS?

How CBD interacts with the ECS is also not fully understood – different research shows different results and there is no current consensus on what happens. 

Some researchers think that CBD prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down, which means they can have more impact. 

Other researchers think that CBD can modify the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids, improving networks and cell communication.

Whilst it is not known how it works, there are studies that suggest CBD can relieve numerous symptoms such as pain, nausea, inflammation across multiple conditions.

how can you have cbd?

How is CBD consumed?

CBD comes in a variety of forms with new products coming on to the market all the time.

These are some of the best CBD oils in the UK.

CBD Oils (tinctures)

The most popular form is CBD oil as a tincture. You place the required number of droplets under your tongue. The tincture is thought to have a systemic effect, which means work holistically across your body rather than targeting a specific area.

The dose that you take depends on the CBD concentration of the tincture and these vary by product. Do your research carefully and choose the product that best suits your needs.

The recommended starting dose also varies. Some brands suggest beginning with a small amount per day and then build up to your required dosage. Others recommend starting higher.

Some people add the CBD drops to their smoothies or use it in their food.

As research is still in its early phases there’s no official guidelines on how to take CBD in tincture form. You’ll need to spend time figuring out what works best for you.

CBD Capsules

CBD capsules are very easy to take. Just like any other pill you’re used to taking simply pop one in your mouth and swallow with a glass of water. 

The dosage is set per capsule which means there’s no measuring out or guess work involved.

Some consumers report that they don’t like the taste of CBD oil as a tincture and prefer to use capsules as there is no significant taste to them.

Similar to tinctures they have a systemic effect on your body.

CBD Gummies

CBD gummies and CBD gum come in a variety of flavours and sizes with different CBD concentrations.

Once consumed they are also thought to have a systemic effect and work over your whole body. 

Gummies are liked for their convenience. Consumers often find them easier to take throughout the day as they don’t have any specialist storage requirements and can be taken to work or used whilst travelling.

They’re also easy to dose, you don’t need to measure out drops but this also means you’re less flexible about dosage – you can only take the dosage or multiples of the dose that is contained in the gummies.

And try our CBD oil dosage tracker to help you out with this.

CBD Creams

CBD cream is applied directly to the skin rather than ingested. It is thought to have a similar effect as drops or capsules and works with the ECS system.

Although we may not normally think of it in this way, our skin is the largest organ in the body. An organ that is full of cannabinoid receptors.

Advocates of CBD cream say that it is particularly effective at tackling localised issues. Instead of interacting with the whole of our ECS, you can apply it directly to the area in question. Such as a swollen knee or painful ankle.

Don’t forget you can also buy CBD as skincare, bath bombs, vape oil and in many other forms.

What are the benefits of CBD?

Initial studies into CBD are reporting numerous benefits to its usage over a number of different conditions. 

Here’s a brief overview of some that it may help:

  1. Pain Relief

Successful studies have revealed that CBD can be helpful in reducing chronic pain, symptoms of arthritis illnesses, and pain experienced in multiple sclerosis. 

These results are not unsurprising because the ECS  is responsible, in particular, for pain signalling in the body.

  1. Anxiety

Some research results suggest that CBD prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down. 

For example, CBD may inhibit the enzyme which breaks down anandamide, a feel-good neurotransmitter produced naturally in the brain. 

Increased anandamide levels can be a useful strategy for treating anxiety disorders.

Although no formal prescription drug has been made from CBD to treat anxiety, these are the best CBD oil for anxiety.

  1. Reducing Depression

Similar to anxiety, although no formal drug has been produced for depression, CBD is thought to improve the body’s overall health condition and wellness

CBD is not addictive, like some medicines described for depression can be, so it is showing promising results in providing mental health support.

CBD oil is thought to be able to positively impact the brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating feelings and sociablility.

Conditions that are also thought to be benefitted by CBD oil:

  • Epilepsy
  • Skin complaints, including acne
  • Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons
  • Heart health
  • Cancer related symptoms and side effects from treatment, such as nausea, vomiting and pain.


It’s important to know that the research into CBD oil is in its infancy and much more needs to be understood about how CBD works with the ENS. 

Scientists need to discover more about why individuals vary in their response to CBD and whether the initial benefits shown by early studies can be replicated at scale.

For the time being, the best way the consumer can see whether CBD has a positive impact on wellbeing is to test out the various products and see what their individual responses are.


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