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Best CBD oil in the UK: the top brands reviewed

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Once a completely banned substance, cannabis has made its way into our everyday lives in the form of CBD oil – extracts taken from the plant parts of hemp that may offer relief from a variety of mental and physical health problems without the hard-hitting hallucinogenic dosage of full-blown cannabis.

What was once seen as a controversial substance has become a well-established part of popular health culture – but is it worth the hype? We set out to try “miracle medicine” for ourselves. With trouble sleeping, relaxing and switching off, we hoped it might provide a natural antidote to the constantly switched-on, anxiety-inducing world we live in.

But where to start? There are so many different strains and strengths of CBD on the market, and the UK seems to be in a constant state of confusion over the legality of these products. Even the CBD producers themselves describe it as “a semi-cowboy market” that “somewhat resembles the Wild West.”

Trial and error is a necessary part of the process to find a product that works for you because what works for one person won’t necessarily have the same effect on others.

There are also a few very important things to consider before buying CBD oil. So, let’s start with the basics.

CBD oil (also known as cannabidiol) is made from the stalk, stems, leaves and flowers of the hemp plant, which contain high amounts of active, therapeutic cannabinoids. This is not to be confused with hemp oil used in food and beauty, which is made from the seeds of the same plant.

CBD oil cannot “get you high” as the Home Office “only issues licenses for cultivation of plants from approved seed types with a THC content not exceeding 0.2 per cent”.

Gemma Colao, Founder of OTO explains, “CBD is one of the main cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. It is similar to cannabinoids naturally produced in our own bodies, which help to promote homeostasis – or balance – in the body. They also help regulate physiological functions like pain, inflammation, sleep, mood, stress and anxiety – to name just a few.”

Colao reveals, “CBD is a non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive component found in the cannabis plant – it does not contain THC. Unlike THC, it will not get you high and is not addictive.”

What are the benefits of CBD oil? What is CBD used for?

As CBD is only just beginning to be taken seriously in the medical industry, there are currently very few conclusive scientific studies on the topic. However, CBD is believed to have significant therapeutic properties.

The World Health Organisation claims that CBD oil is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”. Some studies suggest it may be able to offer relief for victims suffering from:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Cancer (and related treatments)
  • Diabetes
  • General pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

OTO’s Colao adds, “Our own cannabinoid levels can deplete, and as a result, our sleep may suffer, or we may feel higher levels of anxiety or pain. By supplementing our natural cannabinoids with plant-based CBD, it can help restore the balance. This is why CBD is commonly used to alleviate pain, relieve anxiety, and improve sleep.”

What to look for when you buy CBD oil

The first CBD oil we ever bought turned out to be a fake. Lesson learnt: Don’t cheap out. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

To avoid making the same mistake, look out for these buzzwords:

  • Non-GMO and organic: For the sake of purity, you will want your CBD oil to be free from pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers and solvents.
  • The concentration of CBD: There should be a lab certificate of analysis (either packaged with the product or on the brand’s website) showing the amount of CBD in the product. The lowest is about 300mg (3%), but this personally did not affect me. Depending on the severity of what you want to treat, I would recommend starting on 600mg (6 per cent) or 800mg (8 per cent).
  • The percentage of THC: If there is more than 0.2 per cent THC in the product, then it is illegal in the UK and unregulated.
  • Supercritical CO2 extraction: This is generally considered the cleanest, purest, non-toxic and most efficient method of extracting CBD, but it is expensive and can hike the price up.
  • Full spectrum CBD:  This means that a wide range of cannabinoids are present in the oil (including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein, chlorophyll, terpenes and flavonoids) which is thought to be more effective at fighting pain and inflammation, with a longer lasting effect than isolates.
  • Trusted brand: Always do your research, read reviews and check the reputation of the brand.

How long does CBD oil take to work for anxiety?

“There is no definitive answer to how long it takes for CBD oil to work for anxiety”, says Colao. “Some people report feeling the effects almost immediately, while others find that it takes a few days or weeks of regular use before they notice a difference. It is most effective to take CBD oil daily, and that will ensure an optimum, consistent level (CBD is processed in your body like any other supplement). If you are concerned about a specific health issue or other medications, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.”

How to use CBD oil for pain

Colao tackles this too. She explains, “Living with pain and discomfort has both a physical and emotional component. CBD molecules absorbed by the skin can reach the hypodermis, where they interact with the receptors that mediate pain and inflammation.

“CBD is an antioxidant and therefore has an anti-inflammatory effect on joints and muscles when applied topically. It can also have an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect by reducing our perception of the pain. Applying CBD topically is an effective way to benefit a particular area, as the absorption into the body is faster and more effective.”

Is CBD oil legal in the UK?

CBD is legal in the UK. According to The Home Office, the legal limit for cultivation is 0.2 per cent TCH and 1mg for products. It has also been declared safe by the World Health Organisation.

OTO’s founder details that “In the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA)‘s business guidance on cannabidiol listed under a ‘novel food’, it states that the sale of over-the-counter CBD products in the UK is allowed only for existing brands that are included in the CBD Public List.”

Are CBD vapes, tinctures, capsules or edibles better?

CBD oil is available in four main forms in the UK:

  • Vaping allows you to feel the benefits of CBD the fastest, but scientists warn that we still don’t know what the long-term effects of vapes are.
  • CBD tinctures are the most popular, as they can be used to dispense as many drops of the oil as you wish under the tongue and gradually increase your dosage over time.
  • Capsules are a great option for those who don’t like the flavour of CBD oil, however, they are confined to a fixed dosage.
  • Edible chocolates, sweets and lozenges can be taken to mask the flavour, but do not allow as much flexibility with dosage.
  • CBD balms have also become more popular due to the peripheral cannabis receptors on the body that may be triggered to reduce inflammation.

CBD oil dosage

Our endocannabinoid systems all react differently to various types and strengths of CBD oil. Therefore, if you haven’t taken CBD before, it’s best to start on a fairly low dosage and gradually build it up.

The FSA has recently slashed the recommended daily intake of CBD from 70mg to just 10mg. CBD oil is not addictive and you cannot “overdose” on it, however, Ian Budd, Clinical Lead and Pharmacist for Chemist4U, explains that “the long-term use of higher dose CBD could cause thyroid issues and liver disease. These conditions are both thought to become more likely the more CBD you consume over the course of your life”.

He continues, “While the recommended dose of CBD is no more than 10mg a day, the right amount of CBD is different for everyone. Some may find that they are more comfortable taking lower dosages, while others may prefer to take the maximum 10mg. CBD products come in many different strengths, so naturally, the highest dose you can take per day will differ depending on the product”.

The real challenge is to find a CBD oil that is as pure and potent as possible. It’s worth spending more money on a strong CBD product that you’ll only need a few drops of each day, than going for something cheap that is likely to be low quality and ineffective.

The pharmacist stresses that “If you feel that you are being negatively affected by the CBD you’re taking then you should stop taking your supplements as soon as possible”.

How to take CBD oil

Use the tincture to dispense droplets under your tongue and hold them there for 60 seconds before swallowing. This will help the CBD to enter your system and get to work faster.

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