Cannabidiol – better known as CBD – is a naturally occurring compound said to promote better sleep, ease chronic pain, and soothe stress and anxiety. Despite being a cannabinoid (a derivative of the cannabis plant), it is perfectly legal in the UK.
The reason CBD is legal is because the addictive and psychoactive qualities associated with cannabis actually stem from a completely different cannabinoid: THC. CBD and THC are different compounds and although some CBD products contain a very small, legal amount of THC, this will not have any addictive effect and will not make you “high”.
If you’re confused about what all the different terms mean, don’t worry. We’ve put together this simple guide to decoding CBD labels:
Due to legal restrictions, CBD products are currently only approved as food supplements and not medicines. This is simply because insufficient scientific studies have been carried out to confirm their medicinal/therapeutic effects.
For this reason, you may notice that your CBD product is labelled as a “food supplement”.
The most common CBD product is CBD oil, which comes in a small bottle with a dropper. A small quantity is administered under the tongue and absorbs into the bloodstream.
CBD oil is not the same as cannabis oil, which can contain illegal quantities of THC. For this reason you should make sure the product you are buying is labelled specifically as CBD oil and not cannabis oil.
Hemp is a cannabis plant that – according to legal definitions in European law –contains no more than 0.2% THC.
Most CBD products will be derived from hemp, as this ensures that the concentration of THC is very low and within legal limits. If you see a CBD product that is derived from marijuana rather than hemp, it’s best avoided as it could contain illegal levels of THC.
“Full spectrum”, “broad spectrum”, “CBD isolate”
CBD products are often described as “full spectrum”, “broad spectrum” or “CBD isolate”. These terms describe what kinds of naturally occurring compounds are found in your CBD product.
Many different compounds occur naturally within the cannabis/hemp plant. It’s thought that, in combination with these other compounds, CBD can have a more beneficial effect.
Full spectrum CBD contains trace amounts of THC as well as other naturally occurring compounds. Broad spectrum CBD contains a number of naturally occurring compounds, but no THC. CBD isolate, meanwhile, contains only CBD.
“Cannabinoids”, “terpenes”, “flavonoids”
If the bottle doesn’t say full spectrum, broad spectrum or CBD isolate, you can check the ingredients list for other cannabinoids (e.g. CBDa, CBN), as well as terpenes and flavonoids.
All of these are compounds which naturally occur within the cannabis plant. They are completely safe to consume, and are thought to have their own therapeutic effects.
CBD products typically list their amounts in milligrams or as a percentage – or sometimes both. The number of milligrams (e.g. 500) indicates how much CBD is contained in the entire bottle; the percentage (e.g. 5%) indicates how strong the concentration is.
If a 10ml bottle of CBD oil contains 500mg of CBD then its concentration is 5%. This is because 10ml is equivalent to 10,000mg, which means 500mg represents just 5% of that 10ml bottle.
Looking at the percentage is typically more useful, as it indicates overall strength rather than the total amount of CBD. For instance, a 10ml bottle of CBD containing 500mg will have a higher strength than a 20ml bottle containing 500mg.
A mild concentration of CBD oil is 2.5-5% (e.g. a 10ml bottle with 250mg or 500mg); these strengths are said to help with anxiety, stress and insomnia. Stronger concentrations of 10-20% (e.g. a 10ml bottle with 1000mg or 2000mg) are said to help with chronic pain conditions as well as more severe anxiety or insomnia.
It’s best to buy CBD products from a trusted source such as an established high street chain. If you’re in doubt, you can check the product’s Certificate of Analysis which gives an accurate summary of the product’s ingredients.